How Devon Home Choice helps locate suitable social housing

For people looking for council and housing association homes in Devon, there’s now an online system that can simplify the process, called Devon Home Choice.

Users can apply online to access all social housing across Devon, including homes offered by housing associations and local authorities.

New council and housing association homes are being built across Devon, with many expected to be completed later this year. They will be advertised through Devon Home Choice which works with many partners including housing providers, housing associations and local councils.

24H looks at how Devon Home Choice works.

Devon Home Choice is a county-wide facility.

First steps to finding social housing

If you’re looking for a Devon home provided by housing associations or other housing options, you need to complete an online form to register with Devon Home Choice. You will be allocated a banding related to your housing need and you can then select homes that you are interested in, and which fit your banding. Bear in mind that the waiting list for many applicants can be long and most people are not able to find a home quickly.

How to apply to Devon Home Choice

Anyone over 16 years of age can register via the Devon Home Choice website, but there are exceptions including:

  • People with limited rights to remain in the UK.
  • People who are not subject to immigration control and with a right of admission to the UK but have not been habitually resident in the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man, or the Republic of Ireland.
  • Those assessed by Devon local authorities as demonstrating unacceptable behaviour, such as significant rent arrears or anti-social behaviour.

How Devon Home Choice works

To find a Devon home, you need to visit the Devon Home Choice website, complete an online form and note your unique log-in reference number, password and memorable date. You can return to a partially-completed online application form at any time by entering this information, but the online form must be completed within 28 days of starting your registration. If you cannot apply online, contact the local housing team in the area of Devon that you live in.

For your application to proceed, you must fully answer all questions on the online form and provide any extra information which is requested to assess your social housing need. You should receive confirmation of your application within 20 working days of receipt of all the required information.

You will then be told:

  • What band your application is placed in and why according to your housing need.
  • Your band start date.
  • The size of home that you are eligible to bid for.
  •  Whether you need a certain type of social housing due to your needs.
  • Whether you need older people’s social housing.

You must inform Devon Home Choice if your circumstances change, as this may affect your housing need, band status and home choice.

1950s style social housing.

How your application form is assessed

There are 5 housing bands based on your housing need and whether you have a local connection to Devon. These are:

Band A – emergency housing need. This applies to applicants assessed as:

  • Having an urgent health or wellbeing need.
  • Living in a home that is assessed as being in a state of emergency disrepair.
  • Needing to move to escape violence, the threat of violence or harassment and there is an immediate risk.

Band B – high housing need. For people who:

  • Have been assessed as homeless by a Devon local authority and it is not possible to secure private rented accommodation.
  • Are homeless or facing the threat of homelessness and have been placed in the `Homelessness Reduction Act – Qualifying Applicants’ category by a Devon local authority, and private rented accommodation is not appropriate.
  • Are living in severely overcrowded accommodation.
  • Are a tenant of a Devon Home Choice partner landlord and want a home with fewer bedrooms.
  • Have been assessed as having a high health or welfare need.
  • Live in a home assessed to be in a state of high disrepair.
  • Have been assessed as ready to move from supported housing, meeting criteria in the Devon Home Choice policy.

Band C – medium housing need, for people who may:

  • Lack 1 bedroom.
  • Have been assessed as having a medium health/well-being need.
  • Live on or above the 4th floor with children aged under 8.
  • Have served in the UK armed forces and would otherwise have had their application placed in Band D.
  • Need to move for work more than 30 miles away.

Band D – for applicants with low housing need, relevant if you:

  • Have been assessed as not having a permanent home or at risk of becoming homeless. It includes rough sleepers, people with no fixed abode, `sofa surfers’, those finding it impossible to locate private rented accommodation, and people not in priority need or have made themselves intentionally homeless.
  • Are assessed as having a low health/well-being need.
  • Share facilities such as toilet, bath or kitchen.
  • Have a housing need but no local connection to Devon.
  • Are assessed as having deliberately worsened your situation.
  • Meet a local priority agreed by the local authority managing your application.

Band E – no housing need, if you:

  • Live in a house which meets your housing need.
  • Have income/capital to resolve your housing needs.

Exeter City Council, Teignbridge District Council and Torbay Council will not register applicants they assess as having no housing need and would otherwise have been placed in Band E. Such applicants in these council areas won’t be able to register with another Devon local authority unless they have a connection there.

Exeter City Council offices.

How are social housing homes advertised?

Available properties are advertised weekly on the Devon Home Choice website, on the Smartphone App which can be downloaded from the website, and in a newsletter available in various locations. Available properties are advertised from 12 noon on a Wednesday to 11.59 pm the following Monday. It’s not a first-come, first-served system – bids are assessed according to housing need, not the time that the bid is made. You can bid for a maximum of three homes in the weekly timespan. The house advert gives details of the landlord, house size, rent, and other features of the house, such as whether it’s adapted for those with mobility needs, and any special requirements the applicant must meet.

How to bid for homes on the Devon Home Choice website

You must `bid’ for a home to express an interest in it, and your application must have been accepted onto the Devon Home Choice register first. `Bidding’ does not mean parting with money to make the bid. You must also match the property requirements to be eligible to bid for your home choice. You can bid for homes until you are shortlisted for one – the process can take some time due to the demand for houses. There can be up to up 285 bids for some houses.

To bid for homes, log onto the Devon Home Choice website using your user ID and password, on the Smartphone App, or in person at the relevant council offices. When bidding on the website, log in and click `View Properties’ from the `My CBL’ page to see a list of homes meeting your housing need. To expand your home choice and investigate other housing options, click the `All’ option at the top of the Property Search page – you may be able to bid for available properties that don’t exactly match your assessed needs if the landlord is agreeable. If you see a suitable house, click the `Bid’ button on the advert. You will be taken back to the `Property Results’ page, where there will be a message to confirm that your bid has been made. You can check on your bid on the `My Details’ page by clicking on `My Current Bids.’

Council-owned tower block social housing.

What size of home can you bid for?

A separate bedroom is allocated to each:

  • Married or cohabiting couple.
  • Person over 16.
  • Pair of adolescents aged 10-15 years of the same sex.
  • Pair of children aged under 10 years of either sex.

How Devon Home Choice selects applicants for houses

At the end of each weekly bidding cycle, a list of eligible bids for each home is drawn up, listing applicants by:

  • The band they are in.
  • Their position on the waiting list.

To find out, log onto your account and click `My Bids’. You will see active bids for available properties still being advertised and any bids you have made for homes. The landlord will check the details of the top applicant for his house, such as:

  • Are their circumstances correct?
  • Are their rent payments up to date?
  • Are there reports of any anti-social behaviour?
  • Medical history.
  • Whether their requirements match their home choice.

If you pass these checks, you may then be invited to view the house, otherwise, the landlord will move to the next applicant on the list. You will be notified if your bid is not accepted – this is called `skipping’ – along with the reason, by logging onto your account and clicking on `My Bids.’

If you decide against a house you have put a bid on and want to consider other housing options, it will be offered to the next applicant on the list. If you are designated homeless by a Devon local authority and refuse a house, the authority may no longer have a duty to find you a home. If you go ahead with the home offered, you will be told when the tenancy agreement can be signed.

1930s council housing.

Bidding for homes in other parts of Devon

Devon Home Choice aims to make it easier for people to move within the county to be closer to work or support networks. The number of people moving between authorities is monitored to make sure certain authorities are not inundated with applicants. In these cases, a local connection is needed.

How to prove a local connection

If you are asked to do this, you must:

  • Have lived in Devon for 6 of the last 12 months, or 3 of the last 5 years.
  • Have worked in Devon for a minimum of 16 hours a week for 6 months.
  • Have close family living in Devon for 5 years – this means parents, siblings, and non-dependent children.

There are exceptions to the local connection rules for armed services personnel or veterans.

Aerial view of Exeter.

Common complaints about Devon Home Choice

Most people experience a long wait to get a house, as there are not enough social housing homes to meet demand. There are over 28,700 people on the waiting list and only 3,298 properties were let in 2021-22. Your chances may improve if you consider other housing options such as bidding for flats as well as houses as they are less popular. People may be confused when their bid position on a house changes as more bids are placed – this is because bids are ranked by the applicant’s banding, and how long they have been on a waiting list for a house.

Devon Home Choice partners

These include Clarion Housing, East Devon District Council, Exeter City Council, Falcon Rural Housing, Legal & General Affordable Homes, Mid Devon District Council, North Devon District Council, North Devon Homes, Plymouth City Council, Plymouth Community Homes, Salvation Army Housing Association, South Devon Rural Housing Association, South Hams District Council, Teignbridge District Council, Torbay Council, Torridge District Council, West Devon Borough Council and Westward Housing Group.

Have you used Devon Home Choice to find a home?

If you have, tell us about your experience of how Devon Home Choice works.

Did it help you to locate available social housing or accommodation from housing associations?

Get in touch by leaving a comment below.

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