No easy answer to home misery for Falkirk tenants

Red tape can lead to housing misery
Red tape can lead to housing misery

Finding your perfect home is most people’s ambition, but for thousands of people across Falkirk being able to secure a property of the size they aspire to and in their favoured location is only a pipe dream.

With the number of council houses declining – despite a recent change of policy leading to new affordable housing being built – the situation has almost reached crisis point.

Since 1984 when ‘right-to-buy’ legislation was introduced and tenants were allowed to purchase their discounted council homes, the number of Falkirk Council three-bedroom properties has dropped by 60 per cent of the total stock available.

But still the waiting list of people looking for a new home grows.

Some want bigger houses for their expanding families, while others want to downsize. But their ‘wish list’ of other criteria they consider essential, whether it be garden space, downstairs bathroom or location, often make it an almost impossible task to match up applicants with properties.

Last year, councillors agreed to proposals to radically shake up the allocations policy and help tackle the shortage of suitable council housing across the district.

They agreed to spend up to £10 million buying back former ‘right to buy’ properties with a target of up to 100 over two years.

At the time, Councillor Gerry Goldie, housing convener, said: “It’s an ambitious project but one that will make a real impact in some areas as we open new doors for tenants.”

Changes to Homespot, the council’s “choice based” system of letting houses, were also introduced from last October.

Available houses for let are advertised and people can decide which ones they want to be considered for.

These changes resulted in applicants only being able to bid for properties in their applicant group. There are three of these:

Homeseekers are considered homeless in terms of homeless legislation and the local authority aims to let half its vacant houses to people in this category.

Home Movers are tenants of either Falkirk Council or a housing association or a registered social landlord in the council area. The aim is to let 25 per cent of vacant lets to those in this category.

Home Starters include those who have been assessed as being under threat of homelessness within the next two months.

Within these categories there are four levels of priority with Band One being those in most need, including those who have been made unintentionally homeless, leaving the Armed Forces or overcrowded.

A spokesperson for Falkirk Council said: “The policy aims to give priority to people in greatest need, give people more choices and make best use of the housing we have available.

“However, with a depleted housing stock the council is unlikely to meet the needs and aspirations of all applicants on the housing list and there will always be some applicants disappointed with the policy.”

Around 1200 council properties are available to let each year and there are currently 9500 applicants on the housing register.

The spokesperson added: “Demand for council housing is high and the availability is low, and increasingly it is the case that applicants will require to consider options other than council housing to meet their needs.”