Many communities worry that when a housing association develops housing in their area, the community will have little or no say in how the houses are allocated, and that they will go to people who don’t live in the community but who have more housing need than local people. This can cause resistance to the housing association developing at all or can be an impetus behind communities wishing to develop themselves. However there are ways in which communities and housing associations can work together to ensure that new housing meets the needs of local people. At the most basic this can be ensuring that local people are on the waiting list or are registered with the housing association, but more formal “local lettings initiatives” can be agreed between the community and the housing association to give some priority to local people.
“ Orkney Housing Association implemented a local lettings initiative to make sure that the allocation of two new houses on the island of North Ronaldsay helped to support the needs of the community.
North Ronaldsay is a very remote island community which had just lost the last two pupils from its local primary school. The school was in danger of being closed and without a school there would be little prospect of reversing the depopulation from which it was already suffering. They identified the community priorities as increasing the school roll, bringing suitable skills to the island and having a demonstrable commitment to living in the island.The Association devised a points system which enabled them to quantify the extent to which households met these criteria and they allocated the houses to those applicants with the most points. In order to ensure compliance with legislative requirements they also awarded points to those for whom the statutory housing need criteria also applied.Due to the remoteness of the island and the difficulty of providing support services some exclusions were included in the local lettings initiative so that households with a history of requiring support to manage their tenancies would not be eligible. Families now occupy the houses, the school roll has increased from zero to 4 and both households are actively working in the community. Orkney Housing Association will be monitoring the local lettings initiative and believe there may be other vulnerable communities in Orkney for whom a similar process would be appropriate even though the actual criteria and priorities may be different depending on local needs.”
Other local lettings initiatives have been developed by Rural Stirling Housing Association and Albyn Housing Society. East Lothian Housing Association and others whilst not operating a local lettings policy do give some weight to need to be in an area in their allocations.