FOI request (FOI-74063196)
Housing affordability assessments
Requested Fri 27 April 2018
Responded Wed 09 May 2018
Request for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 Policy and practice documents concerning housing affordability assessments Shelter would like to request information from your authority's housing department, under the provisions of the above Act. We would like to request copies of all your authority's documents currently in use relating to how housing officers assess whether household's last settled accommodation was affordable for them, when they present in need of housing advice and assistance. 1. Please can you send us copies of all documents currently used by your housing officers to conduct these housing affordability assessments (such as guidance notes, briefings, training sessions and template forms). If any of these documents are already in the public domain, please can you send a link to where we can retrieve these exact documents? These documents could include (but not be limited to): guidance for housing officers on how to carry out affordability assessments, training materials on how to assess affordability, template income and expenditure forms, details of what costs are regarded as essential living needs, and costs of essential living needs, for different family types, used in affordability assessments. 2. If not included in the above documents, please can you send us the following information: a list of items that are regarded as essential living needs, for the purpose of assessing affordability, and a list of costs of essential living needs, for different family types, that are used for the purpose of assessing affordability. Please can you send us your response electronically to: ShelterFoI@shelter.org.uk. Exemptions Section 12 I understand that a request for information can be refused where 'the authority estimates that the cost of complying with the request would exceed the appropriate limit'. If the request above is at risk of being reused under Section 12, I would respectfully ask for you to provide as much information as is possible within the cost limit. Section 16 Further, I am available to help and assist, and would be happy to refine the request, in order to reduce the time needed to provide the information requested. I would respectfully ask that the department consider its duty 'to provide advice and assistance' as set out at Section 16 of the Act. The Information Commissioner states in advice that the 'a public authority should consider in these circumstances...how it can provide advice and assistance to help an applicant narrow, reform or refocus their request'. Section 21 If any of the information requested above is already publicly available and therefore exempt under Section 21 of the Act, I respectfully request that the department inform me to where specifically it can be found. Public Interest I do not believe that any of the Freedom of Information Act exemptions should apply to the information requested. However, in the case that the department believes otherwise I would submit that the information is in the public interest because it is vital for those needing help with housing to understand how and on what basis a local authority would consider a property to be affordable. This information is particularly important at present with the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act and the new prevention and relief duties for local authorities.
Please see attached copy of the income/expenditure assessment form which applicants are required to complete in order for housing officers to consider households financial circumstances.
The Homelessness (Suitability of Accommodation) Order 1996 offers guidance on what local housing authorities should consider when assessing affordability. The Homelessness Code of Guidance 2018 (CoG 2018) provides guidance on what housing officers should consider when taking into account affordability. This is documented in the CoG 2018: * Chapter 6 * Chapter 14 * Chapter 16 * Chapter 17 Case law: Samuels v Birmingham City Council 2015. Housing officers will assess each application on a case by case basis and will consider whether or not the households declared living expenses are considered reasonable in the circumstances presenting.
There is no 'black & white' guidance to determine whether expenses are considered reasonable or not as each case will be unique.
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