North Yorkshire Home Choice: Evidence Summary

Posted on Thursday 1st November 2012

 In July 2011 seven of the eight local authorities in the predominantly rural county of North Yorkshire introduced a new system for allocating social housing called North Yorkshire Home Choice. Under this scheme people can bid for available properties rather than waiting to be made offers as under previous systems. Furthermore they can bid across all of the participating authorities within the social housing stock of partner landlords.

Since then Professor David Mullins has been working with Pat Niner from the School of Social Policy, University of Birmingham and Dr Filip Sosenko from Heriot-Watt University to evaluate the impact of this new scheme. Five Evidence Papers have now been published to help the North Yorkshire Home Choice Partnership with an internal policy review. These papers were presented to the Home Choice Partnership Board on October 24th and are now freely available to download.

The evidence in these papers will inform a final evaluation report by the University Team to be published by Joseph Rowntree Foundation early in 2013. The papers each provide an introductory explanation of what evidence is included and how it is relevant to the evaluation and to the policy review. Each paper also has either a key point summary or a summative conclusion and recommendations.

David Mullins said, "These evidence papers together provide an overview of some significant changes that may be associated with the introduction of Home Choice. As this summary indicates there are some clear trends, some surprises and some major challenges for the Home Choice partnership. We are now interested to hear from people working on the ground in North Yorkshire and will be inviting local support agencies to comment before we reach our final conclusions".

Three clear trends have emerged from the evidence papers:

  • An increased level of movement across local authority boundaries as some people have bid strategically to move to lower demand areas or to find work or to be closer to family.
  • A significant number of applicants have taken the opportunity to bid for and get properties slightly larger than they strictly ‘need’ but this is likely to lead to them losing housing benefit under the welfare reforms being introduced in April 2013.
  • A third and welcome finding is that ‘vulnerable’ groups including homeless people do not appear to have been disadvantaged by the scheme or to have ended up in less popular properties. Indeed 'vulnerable' households such as people with mental health problems and learning difficulties have priority under the scheme and have generally received the support they need to exercise choice.

Among the surprises is an increase in the number of homeless young people housed, but a reduction in non-homeless young people housed under the scheme. Homeless young people have benefitted from better links to move-on opportunities from supported housing for those ready for independent accommodation. Many applicants welcome the increased 'choice' offered by the scheme, although unsuccessful bidders are more sceptical, and some people preferred the old system. The research found that support agencies outside the Home Choice partnership were vital in enabling vulnerable households to exercise choice and continued involvement of these agencies is therefore vital.

However, the most challenging finding is that Home Choice cannot reduce the overall scarcity of social housing and there are some worrying indications that the 62% of the register in the lowest priority (bronze) band, who received only 13% of lettings last year, feel an increasing sense of futility. Across the study lower priority applicants were the least satisfied and most likely to regard the scheme as unfair. There is a pressing need to provide new options and solutions for this group, including possibly developing Home Choice as a gateway to wider housing and employment options. This challenge along with changes needed to enable more strategic bidding, through improved IT design and functionality and more personal support for users are amongst the more detailed recommendations for improvement arising from the evidence papers.

Further Information

Contact David Mullins d.w.mullins@bham.ac.uk

Have your say

We would welcome feedback on these evidence papers. Please use the feedback form available alongside the evidence papers and return to d.w.mullins@bham.ac.uk by 10 December 2012.