In Ipswich the Borough Council owns a significant amount of council housing.
It is great that we have this council housing stock to provide homes for people who desperately need them and who can be some of the most vulnerable in our community. However, when it comes to the allocation of council homes in Ipswich, we strongly believe that local people with a strong connection to our town should come first. In other words, “local homes for local people”.
Ipswich Borough Council do not operate a local residency requirement to join their housing register. Meaning that people with no connection to Ipswich are able to join the Ipswich Borough Council Housing Register to secure council housing. We can’t support this. That is why Ipswich Conservatives have made clear in our local election manifesto that we would introduce a local residency requirement of at least 6 years residency for council housing and housing association homes. Your local Conservative MP, Tom Hunt, has already been vocal in proposing this and there would of course be an exemption for military veterans from this requirement.
It has been wrongly suggested that we do actually have a local residency requirement because there is a preference for those who live in our town, but in reality this does not always result in fair outcomes for people who have lived or worked here for many years.
The guidelines make sure to outline what qualifies and what does not qualify as a ‘Local Connection Applicant’ but applicants who do not have a local connection are still permitted to join the housing register anyway. ‘They will be placed in the band that is one lower than if they had a local connection.’ For example, if someone is assessed and would ordinarily be placed in Band B, if they don’t have a local connection, they will be placed in Band C instead.
The result of this is that while there is a preference for local people, it does not guarantee them a place ahead of someone who is coming from a completely different area of the country with zero connection to our town.
If, for example, you have lived in Ipswich your whole life but were band C, and someone came along who was not local according to the criteria but fulfils the Band A requirements, then they would be demoted to Band B but would still get a place above you. As such, the status quo is not a local residency requirement, but rather it is just one factor that goes into the calculation.
We don’t think this is acceptable. There are many people who are really struggling in Ipswich, who are members of our local community from a range of different backgrounds and who should not lose out on a house to someone with no connection to the area.
There are examples across the country of councils that have local residency requirements and it works very well. For example, the London Borough of Havering has a requirement that you have to live in the Borough for over six years before you are able to qualify to join the local housing register. This is a sensible policy with great support locally and we believe that Ipswich Borough Council should adopt that policy here.
Ultimately, it is Ipswich council taxpayers who pay for the council housing so surely the housing register should be a service which puts them first. We are very glad that our Ipswich Conservatives local election manifesto makes precisely this commitment.