Basic Guide to Common Housing Registers. This Guide has been produced with grant funding from the Scottish Executive

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1 Basic Guide to Common Housing Registers This Guide has been produced with grant funding from the Scottish Executive

2 TIS Publications The Tenants Information Service regularly produce Basic Guides and Information Notes on housing and related issues that are recommended to tenants and residents groups and federations. These guides funded by the Scottish Executive are free of charge and are available to groups on request or from our website. Guides and Information Notes include: Basic Guides Basic Guide to Alternative Landlords This guide explains the main features of the different landlord options available in Scotland. It will help you consider the issues involved and make comparisons with your current landlord. Basic Guide to Housing Inspection This Guide contains a summary of how Communities Scotland s Housing Inspection process works and how tenants can get involved. Basic Guide to Anti-social Behaviour This Guide explains what is meant by the term anti-social behaviour and provides a summary of the current legal measures for tackling anti-social behaviour. Basic Guide to Developing Tenant Participation in Supported Accommodation This guide identifies good practice in developing tenant participation in supported accommodation across Scotland. Basic Guide to Involving Tenants in Regeneration This guide explains the stages involved in regeneration and how tenants can be involved. Basic Guide to Starting a Tenants and Residents Association This updated Guide provides information on setting up a tenants and residents group, becoming a registered group with your landlord and useful tips on organisation. Information Notes (Information Notes are only available from our website or on request from TIS) Information Note on Stock Transfer This Information Note explains why stock transfer is happening in Scotland. It examines what stock transfer could mean for public sector tenants. Tenants who have not yet experienced stock transfer will find it of particular use. Information Note on the role of the Treasurer This Information Note explains in practical detail how to carry out the duties of a treasurer. Information Note on the role of the Secretary This Information Note explains in practical detail how to carry out the duties of a secretary. Information Note on Neighbourhood Management This Information Note explains what Neighbourhood Management is and how tenants can get involved. TIS Website Address TIS Office Address Suite , Baltic Chambers, 50 Wellington Street, Glasgow, G2 6HJ Tel:

3 Contents Introduction and Aim of this Guide...page 4 Part 1 Introduction to Common Housing Registers...page 5 What is a Common Housing Register?...page 5 Why do we need Common Housing Registers?...page 5 Features of a Common Housing Register...page 6 Benefits of a Common Housing Register...page 6 Summary Advantages and Disadvantages of a Common Housing Register...page 7 Part 2 Tenant Involvement in the Development of Common Housing Registers...page 8 Why is Tenant Participation so important to the development of CHR s?...page 8 What should landlords do to ensure that tenants are effectively represented and involved in the development of a Common Housing Register?...page 8 A Checklist for Tenants...page 9 Part 3 Common Housing Registers How Do they Work?...page 10 No two Common Housing Registers are the same!...page 10 Who manages the Common Housing Register?...page 10 Who administers the Common Housing Register?...page 10 What is the best model of Common Housing Register for your area?...page 11 Part 4 Conclusion...page Suite , Baltic Chambers Wellington Street, Glasgow G2 6HJ Additional Information...page Tel: Fax: Jargon Buster...page Website: 12 Further Reading...page 13 Useful Contacts...page 14 Appendices...page 15 Page 3

4 Introduction and Aim to this Guide This guide is for tenants who want to know more about what s involved in setting up a Common Housing Register in your area and the role that tenants can play. Common Housing Registers (CHRs) aim to create a simpler, more straightforward way for individuals to apply for social rented housing. It involves landlords creating a single application form that can be used to register housing need with all the landlords involved in the Common Housing Register, often providing applicants with one source of housing information and advice. Landlords then select applicants from a single pool which improves the use of housing stock and is more effective in meeting local need. The Scottish Executive has been actively supporting the development of Common Housing Registers since the National Framework for CHRs (available from the Scottish Executive) was published in March The Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 includes a power for the Scottish Ministers to instruct a local authority- together with its housing partners to submit plans as to how they would develop a CHR for their area. The aim of this guide is to: Describe what a Common Housing Register is and how it works; Provide information on what is involved in developing a CHR; Identify ways in which tenants can get involved and influence the process of developing a CHR; and Provide a checklist for tenants to use to assist them to participate in CHR development This guide is in four parts: Part 1 Provides background information and an introduction to CHRs. Part 2 Details ways in which tenants can get involved in the development of a CHR. Part 3 Looks at how a CHR works. Part 4 Conclusion. There is also a jargon buster, contact list and further reading list at the end of the guide. Page 4

5 Part 1 Introduction to Common Housing Registers What is a Common Housing Register? Common Housing Registers represent an innovative approach to housing allocations. Basically, a CHR is: A group of landlords devising a single housing application form by which anyone seeking housing in their area can register their need and say what housing they want. Participating landlords then prioritise and select housing applicants from this one housing waiting list. Scottish Executive This involves creating a single, shared application form to cover all social landlords operating in a particular area. This means that an applicant only needs to complete a single form which will be considered by all participating landlords. Suitable applicants for particular property vacancies are then drawn from the single pool of applicants. Most CHRs involve prioritisation of applicants according to each participating landlord s own allocation policy. Why Do We Need Common Housing Registers? 1 Social rented housing is provided by a larger number and range of organisations than ever before. Access to this expanding group of housing providers is much more complicated than it was 20 or 30 years ago. While in the past, anyone seeking housing would apply to the council, applicants are now faced with many different landlords including Housing Associations and Housing Cooperatives. Suite , Baltic Chambers Current systems where each landlord has 50 Wellington its own individual Street, waiting Glasgow list G2 are 6HJ based on lengthy paper application forms and home visits and can Tel: mean 0141 that 248 there 1242 are Fax: unnecessary barriers or problems for the applicant seeking housing. Applicants need to find out about Website: - and apply separately to - all the different landlords offering housing in their area. An applicant s ability to work through this difficult system is not related to their housing need but creates more stress and takes up more time as they need to shop around for a house. In Scotland, the development of Common Housing Registers (CHRs) has been influenced by the fact that landlords have realised the potential benefits to applicants and that landlords should work with others to broaden access to their housing. This development has been actively supported by the Scottish Executive. The Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 does not make CHRs compulsory, but sets out powers for Scottish Ministers to require local authorities to submit proposals for establishing and maintaining a CHR.There is also provision requiring Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) to cooperate with any reasonable request by a local authority in connection with establishing a CHR. (see Appendix 1). 1 Housing Options Guide Page 5

6 Key Features of Common Housing Registers Key features of CHRs can be summarised in the table below. Feature Basic Optional Common Application Form Common Allocations Policy Scope for applications to be made through all participating landlords Centrally maintained applicant / vacancy database Scope for centrally maintained database to be accessed electronically by all participating landlords Scope for applications to be re-ordered according to different allocations policies Common needs assessment process Table 1 Key Features of Common Housing Registers. Benefits of a Common Housing Register 2 Some of the benefits of CHRs identified by the Scottish Executive are: For applicants, CHRs provide simpler and fairer access to housing than current systems, under which applicants need to apply separately to a large and increasing number of landlords. Tenant focused CHRs will help to ensure that applicants are able to access housing more easily in areas where there are a growing number of landlords. For existing tenants, a CHR can help promote choice within the housing available, allowing social rented landlords to meet the needs and wants of existing tenants seeking to move. For applicants and tenants alike, the creation of a CHR will deliver greater choice of landlords, housing areas and house types, contributing to developed neighbourhoods in the long term. For local authorities and other social landlords, the creation of a single list of people actively seeking housing within a given area - both as first-time applicants and tenants seeking to transfer - provides a more systematic picture of housing need than a system of many waiting lists with lots of repetition. A single register can also deliver important benefits in strategic planning within the housing market area, assisting the local authority to ensure that housing needs are being effectively assessed and met, under duties introduced in the Housing (Scotland) Act A CHR improves use of the social rented housing stock. Within a single pool of applicants and vacancies, there is greater scope for making successful matches and for matching demand and supply in local housing markets. A CHR can also be more efficient and effective as running a shared system reduces the repetition of staff effort. The cost of administration of the applications and the assessment process is met from rental income therefore housing organisations have a responsibility to tenants to ensure efficiency in the service provided. Staff time can therefore then be spent other activities. 2 Housing Options Guide Page 6

7 A CHR can also contribute to improved performance in housing management functions, reducing void periods, meeting nominations targets where councils have nominations rights to a RSL waiting list and providing accommodation for homeless applicants. It provides a springboard for new ideas such as marketing of lower demand stock, promotion of shared ownership options and other joint initiatives. Advantages and Disadvantages of a Common Housing Register A Summary The advantages and disadvantages to both tenants and landlords are summarised in the table below. Advantages Simpler and more convenient for applicants as it helps to simplify access to housing in areas where there are many different landlords Fairer because pooling of applicants makes it more likely that those with the greatest need will be re-housed most quickly More efficient as smaller landlords do not have to maintain their own housing lists Wider choice for applicants of landlords and property types Disadvantages Applicants may not have all the information they require about the different landlords within the scheme Different allocation policies. Not all landlords have the same allocations policies and this could cause confusion for applicants Complex systems mean that all records may not be up to date and an applicant may slip through the net, for example, at a time when considering an offer Applicants may not have all the information they require about the house types and services of each landlord Table 2 Advantages and Disadvantages of a Common Housing Register Suite , Baltic Chambers 50 Wellington Street, Glasgow G2 6HJ Tel: Fax: Website: Page 7

8 Part 2 Tenant involvement in the Development of Common Housing Registers The Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 places a legal duty on landlords to consult with tenants on any changes or proposed changes to housing management, policies or conditions. Therefore tenant participation is crucial in the development of Common Housing Registers. Why is Tenant Participation so important to the development of CHRs? The key principles of tenant participation as outlined in the National Strategy for Tenant Participation (see Appendix 2) can be applied to the development of a CHR. Common Housing Registers will affect the housing service provided to all tenants and therefore landlords have a legal duty to consult with tenants and Registered Tenants Organisations (RTO s) as independent tenants organisations. In order for tenant participation to be meaningful, tenants should be involved throughout the whole process of developing a CHR, from setting the agenda through to decision making Sufficient time should be allowed for tenants to consider the issues properly. Individual tenants and RTOs should be able to influence relevant issues and the decision taken by their landlord on developing a CHR. The processes of decision making should be open, clear and accountable. Tenants should be provided with appropriate resources, information and advice to participate in the process, in partnership with their landlord. What should landlords do to ensure that tenants are effectively represented and involved in the development of a Common Housing Register? There are a number of issues for tenants, tenants representatives and RTOs regarding their involvement in the development of a CHR. In order for this to be effective and meaningful the landlord should: Prepare for tenant participation and involvement in the CHR development by referring to the organisation s Tenant Participation Strategy which should outline the methods/structures of participation. Liaise with tenants representatives from RTOs and Federations (if appropriate) and staff responsible for tenant participation in the organisation to determine the best ways of involving tenants. Use a variety of methods to provide clear information, eg newsletters, meetings, factsheets etc. Provide tenants and RTOs an opportunity to give their views on how a CHR is set up, influence decisions and how it develops. Page 8

9 Invite tenants representatives onto their CHR Working Group. Encourage involvement from RTO representatives who can give the views of their group and feedback information. Create maximum opportunities for tenants to influence the process within reasonable and clear boundaries. This includes being clear about non-negotiable aspects. Provide tenants, tenants representatives and RTOs with resources, support and training to develop the skills to participate effectively at meetings. The landlord should offer appropriate training before and during the process of CHR development. Ensure that tenants and RTOs understand the CHR system by providing appropriate and clear information on the process so tenants can make realistic decisions. Ensure tenants are fully aware of the implications of the choices they are making. Strive to reach a consensus with tenants and explain reasons on behalf of the landlord when agreement cannot be reached. Provide information on all participating landlords, including Rent levels Repairs service Housing management Allocations policies. A Checklist for Tenants This checklist is a useful tool for tenants and RTOs to use to identify the level of participation in the development of a CHR and where further work may be required to ensure effective participation. YES NO If your landlord is considering or in the process of setting up a CHR? Have applicants, tenants and RTOs received advice, information and training on CHRs from their landlord? Suite , Baltic Chambers Have tenants and RTOs had the opportunity to give their views about how a CHR 50 Wellington Street, Glasgow G2 6HJ should be developed? Tel: Fax: Have tenants and RTOs been involved from the start? Website: Have tenants and RTOs had an opportunity to decide the level of involvement they wish in developing a CHR? If a CHR working group is to be set up (or is already), are tenant representatives involved in this? Are tenants and RTOs being supported and resourced to participate fully? Have tenants and RTOs had the opportunity to influence decisions about how the CHR develops? Are tenants and RTOs fully involved in how the CHR is or will be monitored and reviewed? Are all tenants being kept informed of how the CHR works? Page 9

10 Part 3 Common Housing Registers how do they work? No Two Common Housing Registers Are the Same! So far this guide has explained what a Common Housing Register is and outlined some of the associated benefits. But what it will actually look like, how it will operate, and how will it affect how the landlord operates? Common Housing Registers have two essential outcomes: First, they offer a single route of access to housing for applicants, who by completing a single form, can be considered for housing by a range of landlords. Second, all those seeking housing in a given area are held on a single information database. The way in which these outcomes operate could differ widely from one area to the next. Furthermore, different types of Common Housing Registers could deal with a range of other aspects of their services in very different ways. Although CHRs are becoming increasingly common in Scotland, the organisation and running of CHRs are varied and reflect the needs of different CHR partnerships. However, as long as a CHR contains the two essential outcomes it can be organised and delivered in any number of ways. Local partnerships need to make a number of decisions about the style of the CHR they are trying to develop. It is important to meet the needs of their area and the tenants, and therefore adapt a Common Housing Register to suit their own local areas. Who Manages the Common Housing Register? A successful Common Housing Register must be based on an effective partnership, therefore no individual partner should be seen as having total rights over or ownership of the CHR. However, it may be that one organisation is chosen to manage the CHR on behalf of the partnership. In many examples in Scotland, it has been seen as common sense for the local authority to provide overall management of the CHR. This may be because the local authority is the largest partner, where it has funded the development of the CHR, or where its owns computer software is capable of hosting the system. However, this is not the only option and a range of other possibilities can also be considered by the partnership. Who Administers the Common Housing Register? The administration of the Common Housing Register can be different in different areas - especially in terms of who takes responsibility for dealing with applications. This will be one of the decisions, which new local CHR partnerships will need to make in deciding how they would like their CHR to run in practice, and how they want to be involved in the day-to-day tasks associated with it. For example, all the application forms and updates of information could be undertaken by one organisation in one location or this task could be shared by a number of landlords. With shared administration, a range of participating landlords could be involved in processing applicant information. This means that applicants could have a choice of several different landlords Page 10

11 and offices to approach. The organisation which is visited first by the applicant would then act as gatekeeper for that particular applicant. They would deal with updating the application to take account of any change of circumstances, as advised by the applicant. An applicant making further enquiries about their situation would also be referred back to the gatekeeper organisation for their application. Shared administration in this example is only possible for partners who can remotely access a central computer database so that they can put in information from different locations. The choice between central or shared administration has cost implications, eg will partners give money and staff to run a central unit. If the Common Housing Register is to involve a central administration unit, then this will need to be physically accommodated and adequately staffed, and it is likely that the cost of this will be shared amongst the partners. On the other hand, it would be possible to rotate the staffing of the unit using staff seconded from the partner organisations. What is the best model of CHR for your area? Remember, any CHR must provide two essential outcomes - a single route of access for applicants and a single database of all those seeking housing. Within these boundaries, there are many different choices to make about the style of the CHR. It is up to local CHR partnerships - and within that, individual participating landlords - to decide how they want to be involved in the CHR, as well as how and by whom certain key tasks should be carried out. No particular CHR model is better than another, and it does not mean that the more detailed the CHR, the better it is. Different features may be seen as advantages or disadvantages in different areas. Therefore local CHR partnerships need to decide what type of CHR will work best in their own area. Part 4 Conclusion Suite , Baltic Chambers 50 Wellington Street, Glasgow G2 6HJ Tel: Fax: Website: In conclusion, this guide introduces how Common Housing Registers are being developed in Scotland. It explains the Scottish Executive support for their development in relation to the current law and regulatory position. The features, benefits and advantages and disadvantages outlined provide useful information to tenants on CHRs. As CHRs are developing throughout Scotland it can be seen that no two CHRs are the same in terms of their operation, management and administration. However, all CHRs have two essential outcomes: They offer a single route to housing for applicants, who by completing a single form could be considered for housing by a range of landlords and All those seeking housing in a given area are held on a single information database. It is essential that tenants are fully involved in developing a CHR and this guide provides a useful checklist for use by tenants and landlords in planning effective participation. Page 11

12 Jargon Buster Scottish Executive (Scot Exec) This is a collective term for Scottish Government that includes Ministers and civil servants. Choice Based Letting (CBL) Choice based letting is a system whereby tenants are offered a choice of available houses in a move away from a traditional points based system. CBL works by landlords advertising available housing (eg in newspapers, on the web or in housing offices) then tenants choose a house they see advertised then apply for it. Common Application Form (CAF) One application form for individuals applying for a house, which is used by the social landlords within a CHR partnership. Common Housing Register (CHR) A group of landlords devising a single housing application form by which anyone seeking housing in their area can register their need and say what housing they want. Participating landlords then prioritise and select housing applicants from this one housing waiting list. Common Housing Register Partnership A group of individual landlords and other relevant organisations responsible for the development and or management of the Common Housing Register. Communities Scotland (CS) A Government agency that regulates landlords, provides funding for new build housing, carries out research on housing issues, and provides support to landlords and tenants groups on tenant participation. Confederation of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) CoSLA is the forum for Local Authorities to discuss issues, and the views of the authorities will be represented to Government and the public through CoSLA. Equal Opportunities Not discriminating against a person on the basis of race, disability, sex, religion or sexual orientation,. All landlords and tenants organisations are required to have a commitment to equal opportunities under the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 and other equal opportunities legislation. Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 An Act of Parliament introduced by the Scottish Executive which sets out the law regarding housing in Scotland. Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) SFHA is the representative body of housing associations (HAs) or Registered Social Landlords (RSLs)and owner co-operatives in Scotland. Registered Social Landlord (RSL) A non profit making landlord - housing association or ownership co-operative registered with Communities Scotland. Registered Tenants Organisation (RTO) Tenants (and residents) group registered with their landlord in accordance with the tenant participation sections in the Housing (Scotland) Act Page 12

13 Regulation & Inspection (R&I) One of three divisions of Communities Scotland, responsible for the regulation of Registered Social Landlords in Scotland and the inspection of the housing services of RSLs and Councils. Performance Standards (PS) Set of uniform standards developed by CS, CoSLA & SFHA which sets out expectations for the performance of all social landlords and homelessness functions. Self-Assessment Criteria Details of performance standards to assist landlords carry out their own assessment for their performance in relation to services. Scottish Secure Tenancy (SST) A unifying tenancy for tenants of Councils and Registered Social Landlords Single Regulatory Framework (SRF) The Single Regulatory Framework was introduced in the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 to bring a common set of standards and a common inspection approach for all social housing tenants in both RSLs and Local Authorities. Social Rented Housing Rented housing provided by Local Authorities or Councils and Registered Social Landlords. Gatekeeper An agency within a partnership or group of organisations which processes information on behalf of the partnership or group. Further Reading The following Scottish Executive publications provide more information on Common Housing Registers and are available from the Scottish Executive website or by contacting the Scottish Executive: Suite , Baltic Chambers CHR Guide - Building a Common Housing 50 Register, Wellington Practitioner s Street, Glasgow Guide G2 6HJ Tel: Fax: The National Framework for Common Housing Registers Website: Third (2001) Common Housing Registers - Considering the Options CHR Factsheet 1 CHR Factsheet 2 CHR Factsheet 3 CHR Factsheet 4 CHR Factsheet 5 First Steps Avoiding Pitfalls in Developing a Common Housing Register Establishing a Common Housing Register Working Group Different Types of Common Housing Registers Tenant Participation in Developing Common Housing Registers Page 13

14 Useful Contacts Contacting Tenants Information Service (TIS) Tenants Information Service Suite , Baltic Chambers, 50 Wellington Street, Glasgow, G2 6HJ Telephone: , Website: Contacting Communities Scotland Communities Scotland Thistle House, 91 Haymarket Terrace, Edinburgh, EH12 5HE Telephone: , Contacting Scottish Executive Scottish Executive Social Housing Division Victoria Quay, Edinburgh, EH6 6QQ Telephone: , More Useful Contacts Tenant Participatory Advisory Service Saltmarket, Glasgow, G1 5LD Telephone: , TIGHRA Fairfax House, 64, Market Place, Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, AB51 3XN Telephone: , Scottish Federation of Housing Associations 38 York Place, Edinburgh, EH1 3HU Tel: , Legal Services Agency 3rd Floor, Fleming House, 134 Renfrew Street, Glasgow, G3 6ST Tel: , CoSLA Rosebery Hous, Haymarket Terrace, Edinburgh, EH12 5XZ Tel: , Chartered Institute of Housing in Scotland 6, Palmerston Place, Edinburgh, EH12 5AA Tel: , Tenant Participation Development Team-Communities Scotland Thistle House, 91 Haymarket Terrace, Edinburgh, EH12 5HE Tel: , Page 14

15 Appendices Appendix 1 The Current Law and Regulatory Position Regarding CHRs 3 The Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 does not make CHRs compulsory, but sets out powers which require local authorities to submit proposals for establishing and maintaining a CHR. The Single Regulatory Framework (SRF) sets a priority for all social landlords to work with others to make the most of and simplify access, and specifically mentions CHRs. Activity Standard 1.1 states we work with others to maximise and simplify access routes into housing, and one of the features Inspectors will look for is active consideration of working with others to establish a common housing register. The regulatory expectation therefore is that all RSLs should be actively taking part in the development or operation of a CHR. If a landlord has chosen not to participate in a CHR, Communities Scotland s Regulation and Inspection will want to see examples of the ways in which that landlord ensures the best access to its own houses and those of other social landlords. The Regulator views maximising access at local level as a very real way of achieving social inclusion, providing people with a genuine choice over where they live and who their landlord is. Appendix 2 National Strategy for Tenant Participation Key Principles TP requires a culture of mutual trust, respect and partnership between tenants, elected and committee board members, and housing officers at all levels, working together towards a common goal of better housing conditions and services. TP practice should be seen a continuous process where information, ideas and power are shared; common understanding of problems are strived for and a consensus on solutions is worked out. Good TP allows all parties to contribute to the agenda. All participants require to have all the information needed to consider the issues properly; that information requires to be clear, timely and accessible and take account of equal Suite opportunities , Baltic concerns. Chambers Processes of decision making should be 50 open, Wellington clear and Street, accountable. Glasgow G2 6HJ Tel: Fax: Adequate time should be given to tenant representatives to consider Website: the issues properly. Tenants should have the opportunity to work out a common view in advance of meeting the landlords representatives. Good tenant participation requires the landlord to recognise the independence of tenants organisations. Good working relationships evolve gradually and are flexible to adapt to local circumstances. Tenants organisations require adequate resources for organisation, training and support. Tenant participation in rural areas must be tailored to suit the particular circumstances and needs of tenants in such communities. 3 Housing Options Guide Page 15

16 Page 16 Suite , Baltic Chambers 50 Wellington Street, Glasgow G2 6HJ Tel: Fax: Website:

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