Norwich council house system shake-up planned

Families looking for social housing in Norwich should not see too much disruption despite the end of a system through which people are allocated council homes, according to the leader of the city council.

Norwich City Council is looking to set up its own scheme to replace the one currently used to find social housing for people in Norwich, Broadland and South Norfolk. That Home Options scheme was set up in 2007 with the aim that a single system would be used to find social housing for people in the three districts, but is on the brink of being scrapped.

Broadland District Council has decided to pull out of the scheme, after a report by South Norfolk Council concluded it was wasteful and not good value for money. The system sees people apply on the internet for the type of housing they want. Once on the housing register – and about 14,000 people are – they are given a banding ranging from emergency to low, through gold, silver and bronze.

They can then 'bid' for properties when they come up on the Home Options website, and landlords, either a housing association or the city council, offer the property to the applicant who falls into the highest banding and who has been registered the longest. But concerns about the cost of the system and the amount of duplication means tensions have been created between the three council involved.

With Broadland having pulled out, Norwich City Council's cabinet will tomorrow agree City Hall should withdraw from the scheme. The cabinet will be asked to agree to the creation of a Norwich home options service starting from April next year to run for a year.

Brenda Arthur, pictured, leader of Norwich City Council, said: 'We are trying to ensure that people do not see any difference in the way they use the system. The banding system will remain the same when the new system starts in April next year and there will still be a way to exchange between the three councils. But during the next year we are planning to review the whole process.'

There has been some criticsm of the way the system relies on people accessing the internet to make their bids on properties, but Ms Arthur said: 'If people do have difficulties, then we can make arrangements to help them. It is principally online because that's about value for money, but if people are really struggling, they can get paper copies and officers will help them through the process.'

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