Ex-Service Personnel 'Should Get Housing Priority'

Mary Macleod wants Hounslow to change current policy


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Ex-service men and women should be given a higher priority for social housing, according to local MP Mary Macleod, who has called on Hounslow Borough Council to bring its housing policy into line with new Government measures.

The MP for Brentford and Isleworth has written to Hounslow Council requesting that they consider offering ex service men and women the highest priority for social housing. Other London Councils had a system that was preferential to the Armed Forces, and she hoped Hounslow would follow suit.

"These individuals are usually disadvantaged because they move around the country from base to base and are on overseas tours. Current procedures in place mean that they can lose their housing qualification rights as result, which is an unfair penalty for serving the UK so bravely."she commented.

The London Borough of Barnet has recently announced plans to change their allocation policy to give preferential treatment to ex servicemen and women. Those who have lived in Barnet for six months before enlisting will be given special status which will push them up the housing waiting list. Hounslow should also offer such preferential treatment, which is in keeping with the special relationship that this Borough has with the Armed Forces, she added.

The Government has also announced a number of measures to assist Armed Forces personnel in gaining suitable housing.

In a statement, Hounslow Council said its policy was currently under review.

"Our current allocation policy has no specific provision for awarding priority to existing or former members of the armed forces. We do, however, award additional priority to those with an urgent housing need, with each case being assessed individually.

“We do take account of advice from the Government that says service personnel who have been seriously injured or disabled in action, and have an urgent need for social housing, should be awarded priority.

“Since this guidance was issued in 2009, there have been no changes to homelessness legislation giving ex-service personnel priority need. We therefore have to assess all applicants under the existing legislation, which states that they would have to be vulnerable as a result of their duties in the armed forces.

“Our allocation policy is currently under review and we are actively considering addressing how we can help support ex-servicemen and women. The council recognises the valuable contribution & sacrifice ex-service personnel have made and will do everything it can to ensure that ex-service personnel living in the Borough are treated equitably and fairly in recognition to their service to the country.” said the statement.

The new Government guidelines for dealing with ex servicemen and women in need of social housing include:

  • placing members of the Armed Forces at the top of the priority list for Government funded home ownership schemes, including FirstBuy, and instructing special agents to visit military bases to promote such schemes;
  • consulting on plans to change the law so that former personnel with urgent housing needs are always given high priority for social housing, and personnel who move from base-to-base do not lose qualification rights;
  • issuing statutory guidance to councils on the allocation of social housing, setting out how their allocation schemes can give priority to current or ex-service personnel, including using local preference criteria and local lettings policies;
  • working with specialist agencies to prevent homelessness amongst ex-service personnel, including through enhanced resettlement support for early service leavers;
  • providing Disabled Facilities Grant funding so that home adaptations can enable disabled service personnel to live independently. DFG will rise to £185m by 2014/15;
  • launching a £1.5 million fund to support the successful integration of retired Gurkha soldiers and their dependants, who, having served in the British Army, now wish to settle in the UK.

December 1, 2011