Consultation on Affordable Rented Housing: Analysis of Consultation Responses

Analysis of consultation responses to a Scottish Government consultation "Affordable Rented Housing: Creating flexibility for landlords and better outcomes for communities". The report summarises the key themses and highlights the range of views expressed.

2 Proposal 1: Creating More Flexibility For Social Landlords

Proposal 1: Create more flexibility for social landlords to decide who should get priority for their housing

2.1 Currently, the law sets out which priority groups social landlords must give 'reasonable preference' to when selecting tenants for their houses. These groups have remained much the same for about 45 years. It is felt by some people that they need updating, because a few of the groups do not reflect current housing needs. Whilst social landlords can give some priority to other people, these have to take secondary priority behind the legally specified groups. Some landlords have therefore asked for greater flexibility to decide who gets priority for their housing. In response to this, the Scottish Government have drawn up proposals to create more flexibility for social landlords to decide who should get priority for their housing. The proposals are set out below:

(Source: Consultation Document Page 11)

  • Remove the current 'reasonable preference' groups.
  • Replace them with a requirement on all social landlords to give reasonable preference to people whose needs are not met by the private housing market, or to other applicants where this would release housing for such people.
  • Within this constraint, give social landlords the responsibility to decide, in discussion with their communities, who should get priority for housing.
  • Social landlords would decide the relative priority between groups in their allocation policy.

However, we still want to make sure every landlord gives priority to certain groups. So we are also proposing:

  • That Scottish Ministers have the power to determine priority groups that every landlord must include in their allocation policy.

This would allow the groups to change from time to time to reflect changing demands. We will consult in more detail on which groups to include initially, and on any future amendments. We would expect to determine a few groups for people in greatest need of housing, including those who are homeless or threatened with homelessness.

2.2 An analysis of the responses provided to Proposal 1 is set out below.

Views on the Proposal (Q1)

2.3 Overall 57% of respondents who answered this question were in agreement with the proposal to provide increased flexibility to social landlords in the housing allocations process. In addition, 16% of respondents disagreed with these proposals and the remaining 27% were unsure. The proportion that were unsure was significantly higher at the regional events.

Proposal 1 - Do you think social landlords should have the flexibility to decide who gets priority for their housing?
Respondent Source Yes No Not sure
Number % Number % Number %
Written (n=207) 162 78 25 12 20 10
Events/Facebook (n=158) 46 29 34 22 78 49
Total (n=365) 208 57 59 16 98 27

2.4 The table below breaks down the 207 responses to this question via written questionnaires by respondent type.

Proposal 1 - Do you think social landlords should have the flexibility to decide who gets priority for their housing?
Respondent Source Yes No Not sure
Number % Number % Number %
Individuals (n=32) 21 66 6 19 5 16
Landlord Representative Groups (n=4) 4 100 0 0 0 0
Landlords (n=79) 72 91 3 4 4 5
Other Groups (n=26) 14 54 6 23 6 23
Tenants Groups (n=66) 51 77 10 15 5 8
Total (n=207) 162 78 25 12 20 10

*Note one landlord response was submitted from a landlord but also includes the views of the tenant group. It is classed here, and throughout the report, as a landlord response.

2.5 A large proportion of landlords (91%) and landlord representative groups (100%) were in agreement with the proposals, whilst tenant groups and individuals were less likely to support the proposals - although for both of these groups support was still 66% or above. There was less support amongst other groups where just over 50% of respondents agreed with the proposals, reflecting some of the negative views expressed by some bodies representing specific interest groups. These related to the potential negative impacts on certain groups by providing more flexibility to landlords (see section 12).

Benefits (Q2)

2.6 The consultation asked respondents to consider the proposed benefits of creating more flexibility for social landlords. A range of responses were put forward by respondents to this question, which centred primarily around four themes. These are as follows, with the percentages referring to the proportion of the 237 written responses:

  • Helps meet the needs of local communities (suggested by around 43% of respondents);
  • Improved and more efficient use of the available housing stock and its administration, for example it may reduce the scale and time of waiting lists and maximise the use of properties (about 24% of respondents);
  • It helps housing allocations to better meet the needs of individuals (about 20% of respondents);
  • Benefits the social landlords via greater confidence, power and/or knowledge which the flexibility provided by the proposals would enable (about 15% of respondents).

2.7 Some respondents (11%) suggested other benefits of creating more flexibility for social landlords, which do not directly relate to the key themes above. These include enabling priority to be given to those tenants who currently under-occupy their accommodation and helping to improve environments as landlords can choose to house - and remove - 'problem' tenants. Approximately 12% of respondents did not respond to this question and about 5% felt that there were no benefits.

Problems (Q3)

2.8 The consultation asked what the problems are with these proposals. A number of problems were considered by respondents. These are as follows, with the percentages referring to the proportion of the 237 written responses:

  • Confusion over who should have the priority to housing (suggested by about 25% of respondents);
  • The lack of transparency and clarity associated with the proposals and the potential for inconsistent approaches to housing allocation in different areas which could be confusing for tenants (about 21% of respondents);
  • The potential marginalisation of different social groups and specific members of society. A wide range of groups were referenced including the elderly, 'problem families', the economically active and the homeless, as well as the potential to segregate lower income families from higher earning families (about 17% of respondents);
  • The proposals do not address the shortage of housing supply to meet the demand, needs and aspirations of tenants and applicants (about 12% of respondents);
  • The potential to increase the number of people being classed by landlords as "problem tenants" as landlords bypass vulnerable or problem tenants and applicants. This will in turn lead to difficulties in terms of where to house these people (about 5% of respondents).

2.9 A series of other problems were identified by 17% of respondents, including the challenges associated with creating a Common Housing Register - respondents raised concerns that it will not meet local needs and swapping criteria may only have a brief impact on the allocation of properties. There were some issues with regards to the definitions used in the proposal, including concern with the wording used with regards to the private housing market potentially implying that social housing is the tenure of last resort and the fact that consideration of an applicant's income was required, meaning that the proposals were not wholly flexible.

2.10 There was concern that in some areas this would conflict with other legislation, for example homelessness legislation which has resulted in greater priority being given to homeless applicants over other preference groups and equalities legislation. These could conflict with greater flexibility being given to landlords. Some representative bodies for particular groups (e.g. older people and victims of crime) in particular suggested that the reasonable preference framework should be maintained and that under these proposals too much power would be handed over to individual landlords. Around 7% of respondents stated that there were no problems, whilst 12% did not respond and approximately 2% did not know.

Actions to overcome problems (Q4)

2.11 The consultation gave respondents the opportunity to suggest actions to alleviate any problems emerging from the proposal. Respondents suggested a number of key actions. These are as follows, with the percentages referring to the proportion of the 237 written responses:

  • There should be clear and more consistent legislation, guidelines and monitoring / inspection of social landlords under these arrangements (about 35% of respondents);
  • Housing should be allocated by taking greater account of specific individual and local community needs in the landlord's area of operation (around 20% of respondents);
  • The need to work closely with local communities - for example to jointly develop a locally based approach to prioritising need to ensure that communities are sustainable (about 13% of respondents);
  • The construction of more new housing which would help to overcome some of the issues raised previously (about 7% of respondents);
  • Adopting an approach which gives tenants/locals more rights, responsibilities and/or power (about 6% of respondents).

2.12 Whilst these were the key actions suggested in the consultation responses, 12% of respondents suggested a variety of other actions. These included providing even greater flexibility for tenants, greater education and training for staff of social landlords, as well as a responsibility to act to raise awareness amongst community groups of any problems. Furthermore, some stated that the proposal requires greater clarity and that the reasonable preference groups could be more clearly and widely drawn to meet local circumstances. Just less than 21% of respondents did not respond to this question.

Housing needs to be protected nationally (Q5)

2.13 Respondents were also asked to consider the housing needs which should be protected at a national level. A series of housing needs were suggested in the responses to the consultation. These are as follows, with the percentages referring to the proportion of the 237 written responses:

  • The needs of the homeless (suggested by about 39% of respondents);
  • Sub-standard housing (about 17% of respondents);
  • Vulnerable individuals and/or groups in society, in particular disabled people who require adapted housing (about 14% of respondents);
  • Housing for older people e.g. sheltered/amenity housing (about 10% of respondents);
  • Social housing generally, for example in terms of keeping it available for social rent and not for sale, and other forms of affordable housing e.g. affordable rent and affordable houses for sale (about 10% of respondents).

2.14 Other housing needs were also suggested by some respondents. These housing needs include: local people including neighbours; tenants affected by crisis; those in the armed forces; and tenants, particularly pensioners, who have been subject to abuse from "problem tenants". Some respondents suggested that everyone's housing needs should be protected, regardless of individual circumstances. About 22% of respondents did not provide a response, whilst 2% felt that there were no housing needs to be protected nationally.


Email: Alix Rosenberg

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