Residents have objected to making people in overcrowded homes less of a priority on the housing waiting list in Lewisham.  

The council is reviewing its housing allocation policy, the rules it follows when deciding who should be housed from the waiting list and in what order.  

One proposal involves moving households overcrowded by one person down a priority band.

A consultation report on the plans states: “The demand for social housing in Lewisham continues to outstrip supply.  

“There were 7,830 households on the housing register at the end of March 2013 , as of March 2021 there were 10,088.  

“The council made 1,562 lets in 2012/13. Since then an average of 1,137 lets per year have been made – a 27 per cent decrease.” 

A number of changes are being considered, including changing the banding structure to allow the council to give some groups more priority than others, introducing a new ‘overcrowded by three bed’ group, a new ‘homeless with additional need’ priority group, and allowing people to bid for multiple properties each week. 

The current banding system is divided into Band 1: Emergency, Band 2: High, and Band 3: Priority.    

The proposed banding is Band 1: Emergency, Band 2: High, Band 3: Medium, and Band 4: Low. 

Band 1 includes those being moved out of estates set for regeneration, those leaving care, and those leaving a home – this would remain the same. 

A new classification ‘Homeless with additional need’ would be put in High, current rehousing reasons within the High band would be placed in Medium, and ‘medical high’ would be moved in to High instead of Medium.  

The proposed new ‘overcrowded by three bed’ rehousing reason would be placed in High, while ‘overcrowded by one bed’ would be placed in the new Low priority band.  

A ‘smart letting’ scheme could be introduced, whereby 20 per cent of available homes will be ringfenced for transfer applicants who are already living in social housing, and it would ensure that the home they leave is given to someone living in the private rental sector (PRS) or TA.    

The council also plans to increase how many bids someone can make so “that they can bid for multiple properties per week”.  

If the child of a parent is over 21, they would be excluded from the ‘overcrowded by three bed’ rehousing reason, “unless they are a dependent or are caring for another adult or adults in the household”. 

The council is proposing to reduce the number of properties it’s obliged to offer people from three to two. 

More than 1,000 residents took part in a consultation on the proposed changes, which ran from November to February. 

Some concerns were raised that those in the new band 4 would be given “unrealistic expectations” of being rehoused. 

Overall, the majority of people backed most of the proposals, though it varied between different groups.   

For example, social renters were the most likely to disagree withing moving ‘overcrowding by one’ into the new band 4.  

Those in temporary accommodation were slightly more likely to agree to this proposal (44 per cent) than disagree (40 per cent), and only home owners and those in supported housing agreed by more than 50 per cent. 

Two of the proposed changes were opposed by the majority of respondents to the consultation.  

They included the proposal to move ‘overcrowded by one bed’ to the new band 4, essentially moving it down in importance.  

One quoted respondent said it would mean longer waiting times, potentially five to six years, for families living in overcrowded housing.  

“This is not right for the families’ mental well-being. I think the number of years on the register should be considered as priority for all overcrowded homes,” they said. 

Respondents were also against proposals to not include adult children when calculating the new ‘overcrowded by three band’.  

One person said: “Where does the council expect these adult children to go when there is a shortage of truly affordable housing?  

“It would be ethically wrong to make them homeless in their own right and put them to the bottom of the list.” 

Bidding for multiple properties a week received huge backing – more than 90 per cent over agreed with the plans.  

The consultation report is set to be discussed by Lewisham’s housing select committee on Monday (June 7).