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Housing: Armed Forces

Volume 503: debated on Wednesday 6 January 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what powers and responsibilities local authorities have to rehouse armed forces personnel who have served in Afghanistan and their families. (308646)

The Government recognise the immense contribution of the armed forces and are committed to ensuring that current and ex-service personnel have access to the accommodation they and their families need.

Local authorities have powers to provide social housing (either within their own stock or by nomination to housing associations in their district) for any armed forces personnel (or people who have left the armed forces) and their families who choose to make an application.

Local authorities must allocate social housing according to their allocation scheme. Statutory guidance published by this Department last month (“Fair and flexible: Statutory guidance on social housing allocations for local authorities in England”), makes clear that those in greatest housing need must be given priority. But it also gives councils more freedom to allocate their homes according to needs specific to their local area.

To improve access to social housing, we have changed the legislation to enable service personnel to establish a ‘local connection’ in the district in which they are serving. Changes to the local connection provisions were made by the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 and were brought into force on 1 December 2008. These changes enable service personnel to establish a local connection with the district where they live or work while serving in the forces. These changes improve the position of service personnel by ensuring that their priority for social housing is not undermined, and that they are treated on the same basis as civilians in a similar situation.

Under the homelessness legislation, local authorities must secure suitable accommodation for applicants who are eligible for assistance (certain categories of person from abroad are ineligible), homeless through no fault of their own and who fall within a priority need group. The priority need groups include people who are vulnerable as a result of having been a member of Her Majesty’s regular naval, military or air forces.