Shake-up planned on Gosport housing rules for armed forces

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PLANS to change housing allocation for members of the armed forces and those deemed to be ‘under-occupying’ will be decided next week.

Councillors in Gosport plan to give serving and former members of the armed forces an extra 20 points when applying for council homes.

Points are used to bid for homes and bidders get them through various criteria.

To qualify for the points, members of the armed forces must be at risk of being made homeless, have medical or welfare needs, have unsatisfactory housing or be undergoing hardship.

They must also have less than six months left in their current home.

Tory Councillor Derek Kimber is the Armed Forces Champion at Gosport Borough Council and vice-chairman of the Community Board.

He said: ‘This is one positive step to helping our servicemen who are in need of accommodation and to get them on the housing list.

‘We’ve still got a lot to do to the housing waiting list.’

As previously reported in The News, the scheme aims to boost members of the forces up the waiting list so they can find a place to live.

In a public consultation – to which 15 people responded – eight agreed with the plan, six disagreed and one person did not know if they agreed or disagreed.

The meeting next Monday will also hear changes to deal with plans to reduce housing benefit for those who live in larger houses than the council says they are eligible for.

From April, approximately 200 families in the borough will have their housing benefit deducted as they live in homes with more bedrooms than they occupy.

Tenants face losing a portion of their housing benefit if they do not move.

The council now plans to give each family that receives housing benefit and is ‘under-occupying’ additional points to move into smaller homes.

For each room ‘under-occupied bedroom’ 50 points will be awarded, up to a maximum of 100 points.

As a result, the council expects a surge in demand for two-bedroom properties in the borough, with a reduction for those wanting three-bedroom homes.

Cllr Kimber said he expects that section of the proposal to be contentious.

He said: ‘What we’re trying to do is to get everybody who is in oversized accommodation put in correct size bedrooms to suit them.

‘I’m afraid at the moment we’ve still got a number of people who are by choice living in three-bed who really don’t need it.

‘We’re trying to encourage them to come out and get a building more suitable.

‘There’s always a problem with council accommodation, no matter what we build we never seem to get the fit right.’

The public consultation saw 11 people agree with the plan, two disagree and two don’t know if they agree.

Labour housing spokesman Cllr Jill Wright said she had concerns over the number of smaller properties available.

She said: ‘The council still don’t have an actual number of people who are under-occupying.

‘With 200 people suddenly wanting to move to smaller properties, how is that going to affect people on the waiting list?

‘And what happens in the meantime when they can’t afford the difference?’