Royal Navy, army and RAF veterans in Portsmouth will be given priority for housing
ARMED forces personnel will be given priority for both social and affordable housing in Portsmouth as part of new council policy.
Next week the council's head of housing, Councillor Darren Sanders, is set to rubber-stamp plans that would see current and former servicemen and women in urgent need of homes banded in the most high needs category.
The change comes in line with a national pledge made by housing secretary James Brokenshire earlier this year to ensure troops, in particular those with PTSD and other mental health problems, would not be left homeless.
For retired soldier Stephen James, co-founder of Portsmouth-based armed forces organisation All Call Signs, the commitment was a long time coming. 'I think it's a great initiative but it's well overdue for armed forces personnel,' he said.
However, he had concerns that more than just housing was needed to help forces personnel adjust to civilian life. Stephen added: 'There has to be some sort of after-care as well. Housing is great but part of the issue is social isolation.
'There has to be initiative to make sure they can get themselves back into the community, like getting them signed up to a GP, helping them meet people in the local area outside of their families and helping them find jobs.
'It could be that they haven't lived there for between 10 and 22 years. They're not going to know anyone.'
Stephen was also worried that the cost of living in the city was too high for some servicemen and women.
'We have had instances where people who have lived in Portsmouth had to move up north when they left the forces because they couldn't afford to live in the city,' he said.
'Just this weekend we had an ex-forces guy who had moved up north. He didn't cope even though it was cheaper and easier to afford. He struggled with loneliness, he turned to drink and drugs and we had to relocate him.
'It is good though that PTSD will be more recognised when helping troops get housing, that's how it should be. If it was a physical disability no-one would raise an eyebrow if they were given priority.'
Cllr Sanders explained that the new legislation made prioritising troops easier for councils. He said: 'We know housing can be a real problem for people both in the armed forces and coming out of the armed forces.
'We have always wanted to make sure that they get preferential treatment.
'We have been trying our best to help them but the new legislation that has been written has increased and improved what we can do, and that is really helpful.'
The new 2019 housing allocation scheme also stipulates that priority will be given to other people vulnerable people including those with links to Portsmouth, families threatened with homelessness and care leavers.
There are currently 30 servicemen and women on the council's housing waiting list.