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Council Housing

Volume 502: debated on Wednesday 16 December 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether he expects the new duty to tackle socio-economic disadvantage proposed in the Equality Bill to require local authorities to (a) adjust their housing waiting list policies and (b) complete an equality impact assessment of changes they propose to make to their housing waiting list policies; and whether he has made an assessment of the likely effects on the powers of local authorities in respect of the priority given to local residents in such policies. (306752)

The provision in the Equality Bill would require local authorities to give due regard to the desirability of tackling socio-economic inequalities when making strategic decisions about how to exercise their functions. We would expect this duty to apply to authorities when framing their allocation scheme and the new statutory guidance on social housing allocation issued to local authorities on 4 December made this clear. However, this will not be the only factor authorities will need to take into consideration when developing their allocation policies; local authorities will need to balance several strategic objectives, such as promoting the local economy, and promoting community cohesion.

We would expect and strongly recommend that local authorities carry out an equality impact assessment of any significant change to their allocation policies to ensure compliance with the authority's legal equality duties.

We recognise that local authorities may wish to adopt allocation policies which give greater priority to people with a local connection to the district. We do not believe that the duty to tackle socio-economic inequalities should affect a local authority's power to do so. Indeed authorities may decide that local disadvantage should be addressed by giving more priority to local people with housing needs.