Council housing - Your questions answered

We receive hundreds of calls asking how to get a council house.
Here we aim to answer some of your questions.

Does the council have homes for all who want them?

No. There are 2,438 people on the housing register, and last year only 276 (11% of the total) were given a council home. Tenants were given the right to buy their council home at a discount in the 1980s, and since then our council housing stock has fallen from 32,000 to 8,000 homes. Without the money to replace all the sold homes, the waiting list has grown. Stevenage Borough Council is building new council homes, aiming to complete at least 500 within ten years.

Do you have to wait 20 years to get a council house?

No. The average wait for smaller properties is four years. However, it depends whether you are assessed as a priority. In 2016, of people granted tenancies for two bedroom houses, the shortest wait was four weeks and the longest 12 years. You should have a shorter wait if you have severe medical needs, which makes you a high priority. If you are assessed as a low priority the council cannot guarantee you will be offered a property at all. No low priority households were given a council house in Stevenage in 2015-16.

Is it true you can get a council house even if you are single?

Yes. Our priority banding system makes housing allocations fair and transparent. You are less likely to get a council house if you are single and have no medical issues, are working or on benefits and can afford to rent privately or buy. But you are more likely to qualify for help if you are vulnerable, have medical needs or a disability, or have suffered domestic violence. Overcrowding is also considered, and former armed forces personnel, particularly those injured on duty, are given special consideration. Find details of the Housing Allocations Scheme online, through the link at www.stevenage.gov.uk/housing

Is it true that newcomers can go to the top of the list?

No. We want to give homes to Stevenage people. People have to have a strong local connection, normally because they have lived in the town for at least five years, before they can join the housing register. There are a few exceptions, including social housing tenants who move to the town to take up a job or older applicants willing to accept a hard-to-let sheltered property.

Is it easier to get a council house if you are homeless?

No. All councils have a duty to provide emergency accommodation if people are homeless, and are classed as a priority because they have dependent children or medical needs. People also need to be a UK citizen or with permission to stay in the UK, with a strong connection to Stevenage, and need to show they have not made themselves intentionally homeless. Given the shortage of council homes, people can face several years in emergency and temporary accommodation, even if they are pregnant or have children, before being rehoused in social housing. The council can offer private rented sector accommodation to meet its homeless duty.

Are refugees being offered council homes?

No. You may have heard myths about an influx of refugees. Stevenage has offered to support 20 individuals from Syria, in family groups, as part of a national Government programme. Having been shocked by reports of people forced to flee their homes, the council is committed to welcoming refugees seeking sanctuary and providing the support they need to help rebuild their lives. Refugees accommodated in Stevenage are housed in the private rented sector.