Well, no actually. This seems to be top of the urban myths whenever the subject is raised. And with demand for council homes at an all time high – and homes in a better condition than ever before – Wigan & Leigh Housing, which manages the council’s 23,000 homes, is keen that these myths are kicked into touch once and for all.
Councillor Fred Walker, housing cabinet member, says: “If there are 6,000 households on the waiting list, and 2,000 properties available, how do you decide who should get a home?”
Housing staff must grapple with this dilemma each year in line with government rules.
“It’s important to remember that all applicants have a right to equal access to accommodation fairly, regardless of their background or ability,” says Cllr Walker. “Currently Wigan and Leigh Housing assesses all applicants in four bands depending on need.”
The highest priority are those who are in urgent need, often because of serious health and welfare concerns, or are actually homeless. The lowest category is for those needing a little extra space or who own their own home.
Now the allocations policy is being looked at by tenants and councillors and a set of new rules have been drawn up to make the system easier to understand.
There will be just three bands and among the proposed changes are rules which would make it more difficult for those who have caused anti-social behaviour or run up rent arrears to get a council house.
Other suggestions would give more priority to ex service men and women. The new rules are also designed to give priority for existing council tenants who live in a large property but wish to swap it for a smaller bungalow or flat.
Tenant board member Jo Bennett explains: “The new policy is hopefully fairer and simpler. It will help those with most need to move much quicker. It will also help those who wish to move to a smaller property, freeing up larger homes for families.
“We are looking at ways to reward excellent tenants and good neighbours, while penalising or excluding those who commit anti-social behaviour. It’s all part of our aim to make our estates safer and happier places.”
Even these proposed changes means there will still be many frustrated people waiting. There are other options apart from council or other social housing, and the borough’s two property shops, in Leigh (01942 404091) and Wigan (01942 404128) can help.
When it comes to allocating a council home, everyone is dealt with based on their individual circumstances:
- Some single parents may well get priority for housing – but this is not because they are a single parent, it is because of their own housing circumstances.
- Priority isn’t given to people because they are on benefits, but in the majority of cases people who have a regular, well paid job do tend to buy their own home.
- Asylum seekers are not entitled to social housing. If they are granted a ‘positive’ decision by the Home Office then they become refugees and entitled to apply for council accommodation.
Their application for accommodation is assessed in the same way as everyone else’s.