Gateway to Homechoice Annual Report 2022 - 23

This report is intended to summarise the main outcomes for the last year of the Gateway to Homechoice system of choice-based lettings.

Contents

Introduction

Section 1 - The number of properties let in each local authority through Gateway to Homechoice from 2016 - 2023

Section 2 - Total number of properties let in each local authority in 2022 - 23 split by type of rent

Section 3 - Total number of properties let in 2022 - 23 split by the number of bedrooms in the property

Section 4 - Proportion of property lettings in 2022 - 23 made through Gateway to Homechoice split by age of the main applicant

Section 5 - Total number of properties let in 2022 - 23 made through Gateway to Homechoice split by the band awarded to the applicant

Section 6 - Types of applicants

Section 7 - Applicants housing in 2022 - 23 through Gateway to Homechoice split by applicant type

Section 8 - Properties let through Gateway to Homechoice in 2022 - 23 to people with a stated accessibility need

Section 9 - Waiting times broken down by Band in months

Section 9a - Waiting time broken down by property size in months

Section 10 - The movement of households housed through Gateway to Homechoice in 2022 - 23

Section 11 -  Ethnic groups housed through Gateway to Homechoice in 2022 - 23 compare with overall ethnicity in the Gateway area

Section 12 - Gateway to Homechoice Armed forces data

Section 13 - Gateway to Homechoice 'Active applicants' data by Band as of April 2023

Section 14 - Gateway to Homechoice 'Active applicants' data by Band as of April 2023 compared to the total nmber of properties let in each local authority area in 2022 - 23

Section 15 - Comparison of the proportion of new and existing properties let in each local authority in 2022 - 23

Section 16 - The proportion of lets made in the Gatewat to Homechoice area in 2022 - 23 split by the number of bedrooms in the property and the primary applicant's age group

Section 17 - The proportion of lets made in the Gateway to Homechoice area split by the type of property

How the Scheme Operates

Gateway to Homechoice is a choice based lettings system, where social housing properties are advertised in the Local Authority areas of Babergh, Braintree, Colchester, East Suffolk, Ipswich, Maldon and Mid Suffolk. The scheme allows one point of access for customers to apply to a Local Authority housing register and be considered for available properties in any of the areas.

The 7 Local Authorities (LA) in the Gateway to Homechoice scheme advertise vacancies in rented social housing using the same system that operates as follows:

  • The Local Authorities (LAs) use a single IT system and website for registering applicants and advertising and allocating properties.
  • Each week, the vacant social housing in the area of operation of the 7 LAs is advertised on the Gateway to Homechoice website (www.gatewaytohomechoice.org.uk).
  • Applicants who re registered can indicate up to 2 properties they are interested in either online or by phone.
  • All the vacancies advertised through the scheme are owned by local authorities or housing associations.
  • All the LAs operate the same Allocation Policy.

The Allocations Policy sets out:

  • how to register;
  • how registered applicants can choose where they live; and
  • how the property is allocated to a specific household.
Qualification and Local Connection

People register with the LA where they live (or would like to live if they come from outside the sub-region of the scheme). Applicants with no local connection to any of the LAs are ‘demoted’ by one Band compared to someone with the same housing issue from within the area. An applicant will be considered to have a local connection to the sub-region if:

  • their only or principle home is in one of the participating districts; or
  • they were placed in specialised housing outside the sub-region, but previously lived here; or
  • they are in permanent paid work in the sub-region; or
  • they have an adult son, daughter, brother, sister, mother or father who lives here and has done so for at least 5 years.
Shortlisting

The principle of the system is that properties are normally let to the household that wants the property and has been waiting the longest in the highest Band.

Available properties are advertised on the Gateway to Homechoice website for one week, starting on Thursday morning and closing on the following Wednesday at midnight. As people place their bids for housing, the system automatically compiles a shortlist of applicants. The order of the applicants is from Band A down to Band E. If 2 or more applicants have the same Band, then the system will normally place the applicant with the longest date first.

The Gateway to Homechoice website address is www.gatewaytohomechoice.org.uk

The Gateway to Homechoice Project Board

The Gateway to Homechoice Project Board meets remotely every month to work collaboratively on the monitoring and development of the Gateway to Homechoice scheme.  It is a senior officer group of 14 representatives from the Gateway local authorities. Its objectives are to:  

  • Overseeing the management of the CBL Scheme. 
  • Determine the strategic direction of scheme (incl. but not limited to determining the advertising fee for the relevant period). 
  • Make key strategic decisions about the structure and operation of the scheme;
  • Confirm the appointment of any external partners or sub-contractors deemed appropriate to facilitate the operation of the scheme;
  • Monitor the financial aspects of the CBL Scheme ensuring that there are sufficient resources to operate the scheme;
  • Appoint the lead authority; and
  • Establish sub-groups, their membership and terms of reference.
The Gateway to Homechoice Operations Group

The Gateway to Homechoice Operations Group consists of 27 members from local authorities and Large Scale Voluntary Transfer (LSVT) representatives who meet every month.

The Operations Group are responsible for identifying issues and solutions to day-to-day operations, in addition to regularly reviewing and developing the Gateway to Homechoice scheme procedures and other projects, as identified by the Project Board.  

The Gateway to Homechoice RP Group

The Gateway to Homechoice RP (Registered Providers) Group consist of 26 representatives which are part of the Gateway to Homechoice Choice-based lettings scheme who meet remotely every 12 weeks for information exchange, updates, identifying issues and solutions and are involved with the development of the scheme’s policies and procedures.

1.     Number of properties let in each Local Authority through Gateway to Homechoice between 2016 – 23

The number of properties that become available to let each year is affected by a number of factors but the main ones are:

  • the number of rented social homes in the area and
  • the number of new affordable homes let in that year. 

The variations between the LAs reflects  mainly the size of their social rented sector. For example, Ipswich have the largest number of social homes, while Maldon has the smallest number. The changes from one year to the next within a Local Authority area usually reflect the variation in the number of new homes provided.

 

2. Total number of properties let in each Local Authority in 2022-23 split by type of rent

Social housing for rent can be let at social or affordable rent levels. Social rent is set using a formula that considers local earnings and house prices, while affordable rent is set at 80% of market rent. In general, affordable rents are higher than social rents and the gap between them is bigger for bigger properties.

Affordable rents are usually charged for all new social housing. Some housing providers also ‘convert’ properties from social rent to affordable rent when they become vacant. This raises money to invest in new affordable housing.

 

3.     Total number of properties let in 2022-23 split by the number of bedrooms in the property

There were also 2 five bed properties let during this year and 1 six bed property too.

4.     Proportion of property lettings in 2022-23 made through Gateway to Homechoice split by age of main applicant

About ‘Bands’

When someone applies for housing, the urgency of their application is assessed in line with the Allocations Policy, which can be viewed and downloaded from the scheme’s website. Applications are placed in ‘Bands’ from A to F, depending on the level of need. The main categories of need for each band are summarised below. (Please look at the website if you want a complete guide to the banding scheme).

Band

Main categories of need

A

  • Critical medical/welfare award
  • Downsizing from 3 bedroom or larger social housing property
  • Nominations from supported housing providers with agreed move-on arrangements

B

  • Serious medical/welfare award
  • Downsizing from 2 bed social housing property
  • Any homeless duty cases and some cases where homelessness can be prevented
  • Overcrowding in social or private rented housing

C

  • Moderate medical/welfare award
  • ‘Prevention’ or ‘Relief’ homeless applicants
  • Homeless households not in ‘priority need’
  • People sharing facilities with other households or lacking facilities

D

  • Applicants whose needs have been assessed as having a higher need but whose application has been given reduced preference. Examples include people with no local connection and households with a poor tenancy history (e.g. arrears, current or previous eviction action)

E

  • People with no immediate need to move

F

  • Applicants registering for schemes where qualification is based on an assessment of care needs (such as ‘Extra Care’ or ‘Very sheltered’ housing schemes).

5. Total number of properties let in 2022-23 made through Gateway to Homechoice split by the band awarded to the applicant 

 

6. Types of applicants

Applicants are split into five categories:

  • Transfer applicants - are those who are existing tenants of a council or housing association property within the Gateway area of operation
  • Homeless Prevention applicants – these are applicants to whom one of the POs owes the prevention duty under the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017
  • Homeless Relief applicants – these are applicants to whom one of the POs owes the relief duty as stated in the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017
  • Homeless main duty applicants – these are applicants to whom one of the POs owes the main housing duty under Part VII of the Housing Act 1996, as amended by the Homelessness Act 2002 and the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017  
  • Direct applicants - all other applicants

We want to house a reasonable balance between these groups. The scheme is designed to recognise how urgently people need to move while meeting our legal duties and promoting a reasonable flow of properties.

7. Applicants housed in 2022-23 through Gateway to Homechoice split by applicant type

Accessibility and Adaptations

Some disabled people need a home to have certain features for it to be suitable for them. Most commonly, people have limited mobility and need a property with level access (such as a bungalow or ground floor flat). It is also relatively common for people to need a level-access shower. A few people need a property adapted specifically for a wheelchair user.

We are committed to making sure that adapted homes are offered to people who need the adaptations in the property. We therefore operate a system where people identify their accessibility needs to us and if a suitable property becomes vacant, people needing the adaptations are given priority first.

8. Properties let through Gateway to Homechoice in 2022-23 to people with a stated accessibility need

Waiting Times

The table below shows the typical waiting time (in months) for housing, broken down by the band of the applicant. It is measured by recording how long people have waited when they are housed.

We have excluded those housed applicants who were awarded a downsizing or Armed Forces priority as well as those who were housed in a property requiring a local connection. This is because in all three examples, the waiting times give a false impression to people using the waiting times as a guide to how quickly they could be housed. The reasons for this are as follows:

  • Many people who are downsizing wait for a suitable property to become available in the area of their choice. Their waiting times are therefore longer than average.
  • The higher priority for people who have served in the Armed Forces is given to reduce their waiting time. The scheme therefore distorts the data for people who have no such priority.
  • Housing schemes (mainly in villages) requiring a local connection are often let to people in lower bands and with short waiting times.

By excluding these types of lettings before taking the average waiting times, we think the results are much more representative of people’s experience of waiting times. The following data shows the typical waiting times for people by Local Authority and by Band.

9. 2022-23 Waiting times by Band (in months)

9a. 2022 - 23 Waiting time by property size (in months)

 

Household Movement

Households register with the district where they live (or where they want to live if they are from outside the area of the scheme). Once registered, they can ‘bid’ for housing in any of the 7 local authority areas.

There are some exceptions to this policy. In particular:

  • If a Council accepts a homeless duty to an applicant, the applicant will normally be restricted to bidding for housing in the area of that Council.
  • New affordable housing is normally offered on first let to people with a connection to the Local Authority where it is built. On some rural sites, where there are s106 agreements, the local connection also applies each time they are re-let.

Imbalances between inward and outward movement can be controlled by advertising properties as available only for local residents for a period of time. This can be applied to specific property types, for example to 2 bed houses, so that a Council can restrict bidding until a better balance is reached.

The following table show the extent of cross-boundary movement between the Local Authorities. Some of the people who move between districts may have a connection (for example through work or family) to the area they move to.

10. The movement of households housed through Gateway to Homechoice in 2022-23

 

11. Ethnic groups housed through Gateway to Homechoice in 2022-23 compared with overall ethnicity in the Gateway to Homechoice area.

As above, but with the ‘White British’ ethnic group excluded:

12. Gateway to Homechoice Armed Forces data

We give additional priority to people who have served in the Armed Forces[1].

When we consider an application from someone who has a history of service, we use the same criteria as when we band all other applicants. When households bid for a property, the household with a service history automatically comes above all the people in the same Band. This means they are more likely to be housed than someone who has the same circumstances but has no history of service.

Note: Data in this section refers to the Local Authority (LA) where the applicant registered. Because applicants can move between LAs, totals here are likely to differ slightly from the number of property lettings in each LA in the tables at the beginning of this report. 

 

Local Authority where applicant was registered

Households housed with Armed Forces priority in 2022-23

Total households housed through GTHC in 2022-23

 

Babergh District Council

4

356

 

Braintree District Council

14

568

 

Colchester City Council

21

702

 

East Suffolk Council

21

865

 

Ipswich Borough Council

13

651

 

Maldon District Council

3

206

 

Mid Suffolk District Council

7

495

 

Total

83

3843

 

Overall % Housed

2.16%

100%

 

Local Authority where Applicant was registered

Active Applicants with Armed Forces Priority as at 01.04.23

Total Active Applicants as at 01.04.23

 
 

Babergh District Council

12

770

 

Braintree District Council

36

2254

 

Colchester City Council

58

2577

 

East Suffolk Council

65

4467

 

Ipswich Borough Council

31

2888

 

Maldon District Council

13

985

 

Mid Suffolk District Council

11

608

 

Total

226

14549

 

Overall % of Active Applicants

1.55%

100%

 

 

 

Priority Type

Overall Average Waiting Time in Months to be housed through GTHC in 2022-23
(exclusions apply – see waiting times chart above)

 
 

Households housed with Armed Forces Priority

8.8 months

 

Households housed with no Armed Forces Priority

13.2 months

 

13. Gateway to Homechoice ‘Active Applicants’ data by Band as of 1st April 2023

The number of applicants changes all the time as new people register and households move into accommodation or do not renew their application. Applicant numbers are therefore a ‘snapshot’ at a particular point in time.

All of the data for the report so far has related to the households that have been housed through the scheme and mainly looks back at the year from 01 April 2022 to 31 March 2023. The data below relates to people waiting to be housed. The report from which this was generated was taken on 1st April 2023.

The chart shows the number in each Band, in each local authority.

14. Gateway to Homechoice Active Applicants Data as of 1st April 2023 compared to the total number of properties let in each Local Authority area in 2023-23.

The data below compares the number of registered applicants on 1st April 2023 with the number of lettings made during the previous financial year 2022-23. The data shows the balance between the number of households waiting for social housing and the number being housed.

15. Comparison of the proportion of new and existing properties let in each Local Authority in 2022-23

The next chart compares lets of new housing with lets of existing properties:

Out of the 724 newly built properties within the Gateway, 16 were fully wheelchair accessible.

16. The proportion of lets made in the Gateway to Homechoice area in 2022-23 split by the number of bedrooms in the property and the primary applicant’s age group

The data shows the correlation between the age of the main applicant and the size of property let to them. This information can be helpful when planning what sizes of properties to build to meet future demand. The charts below exclude the 2 five bedroom properties and the 1 six bed property let this year.

The proportion of lets made in the Gateway to Homechoice area in 2022-23 split by the number of bedrooms in the property and the primary applicant’s age group:

17. The proportion of lets made in the Gateway to Homechoice area in 2022-23 split by the type of property

The “Specialist Older Person” category mainly comprises flats in sheltered housing schemes but also includes those properties let that are part of or are linked to sheltered schemes. It is quite common for a few bungalows to be linked to a neighbouring sheltered housing scheme and for the purposes of the graph below, they are included in the ‘specialist older person’ category. The “Bungalow” category in the chart therefore only includes those bungalows let that are not linked to a sheltered scheme.

Future Data Requests

If there is something you would like to see reported on now or in the future, please contact the Gateway to Homechoice team: gateway.coordinators@cbhomes.org.uk


[1] All references made to ‘Armed Forces’, ‘Regular Forces’ and ‘Reserve Forces’ throughout this document refers to all those who serve or have served in the Armed Forces of the Crown.