How West Cheshire Homes offers social housing options

The West Cheshire Homes scheme advertises social rented homes which are available to rent from the council and housing associations in Cheshire West and Chester.

The scheme aims to give applicants more choices about available homes and advice on other housing options.

Applicants are assessed according to housing need and are given a housing band which indicates the house type they are eligible for.

Find out the details here!

Social housing on the Greenbank Estate, Northwich, Cheshire.

How West Cheshire Homes works

The process for becoming council tenants starts with registering to apply for social housing in Cheshire West & Chester via an online application form. You’ll then be allocated a banding. In some cases, additional evidence will be requested. The assessment process will take approximately 28 days. Factors taken into account before you’ll be allocated a new home by West Cheshire Homes include bedroom requirements and proof of Child Benefit must be provided if children are on the application, along with proof of any relevant Residence Order or Legal Guardianship.

Common Allocations Policy

All local authorities must have a housing allocations policy that clarifies how they allocate social housing, in accordance with the requirements of The Housing Act 1996 (Part VI) as amended. West Cheshire Homes is the name of the Cheshire West & Chester allocation scheme. It’s a choice-based letting scheme that gives applicants housing options by enabling them to bid for advertised properties. West Cheshire Homes is a partnership between the council and registered providers of housing stock. These are:

  • Cheshire West & Chester Council
  • ForHousing
  • Sanctuary Housing
  • Weaver Vale Housing Trust
  • Muir Group

Because these registered providers, or housing associations, have signed up for the scheme, all applicants are assessed via one route, and vacant properties are advertised through the scheme. The partners have agreed on rules for applicants to be accepted onto the housing register and where individual cases don’t fit the criteria, a panel will hear the case and make a decision.

Cheshire West & Chester Council offices.

Key aims of the West Cheshire Homes scheme

These are to ensure:

  • Fair allocation of social housing to those in greatest need.
  • A common housing register for social housing.
  • A high-quality service.
  • A realistic choice of houses.
  • Improved local mobility across the area.
  • Contribution to balanced and sustainable communities.
  • That everyone is treated fairly and consistently, including older people, regardless of race, sex, gender, or religion.
  • A fair and transparent policy.
  • That the local authority meets its obligations, and that priority is given to customers who fall within the Housing Act `reasonable preference categories.’
  • The council and its partners consider the council’s Homelessness Strategy, Housing Strategy and Tenancy Strategy.
A two-bedroom flat at St Catherine’s House, Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, is allocated by West Cheshire Homes.

The Common Housing Register

This is a list of applicants across Cheshire West & Chester, plus those from outside the area who meet the local connection criteria and have been accepted onto the scheme. It includes new applicants and existing social housing tenants wishing to move.

Over 16s are eligible if their current address is their only home or sole residence and they’re not already registered on someone else’s housing application. Applicants aged under 18 will not usually be offered a tenancy: different rules apply to those living in foster homes or in residential care provided by social services.

How to apply

Register via West Cheshire Homes’ website, www.westcheshirehomes.co.uk. A telephone or office appointment can be offered to those without internet access.

If accepted, applicants will be told:

  • Their property band.
  • The application date.
  • The size and type of property they are eligible to bid on.
  • Their application reference number.
  • How to appeal against their banding.
  • Joint applications are treated as one application.
  • Applications are reviewed annually.
  • Applicants will be told about their housing options by text and email property alerts. Applicants must inform the council of any change of circumstances such as change of address, medical condition, additional family members to add to their application or major changes to income or savings.
Kohima Crescent in Saighton, Chester has a 2-bedroom flat available to social housing tenants.

How the West Cheshire Homes banding system works

Band A – for those with urgent housing need to move. It applies to applicants moving on from care, the statutory homeless, those with high medical needs, suffering from domestic abuse, fostering/adopting, meeting armed forces criteria or suffering from extreme violence.

Band B – for those with a statutory housing need to move. This applies to applicants who are statutorily homeless and owned a statutory homeless duty, or where housing conditions exacerbate a serious medical condition/disability.

Other reasons include overcrowding with an insecure accommodation arrangement, domestic abuse victims, welfare issues, unsatisfactory housing conditions, moving on from supported housing, meeting armed forces criteria, and exercising a Right to Move.

Applicants in Bands A and B can bid for properties while other applicants are supported by the `assisted choice’ system.

Band C – the housing options band. Those in this band can’t bid for properties as they are unlikely to get an offer. They can access up-to-date information about properties and some affordable rented units may be eligible.

Bidding

When your registration is confirmed, you can bid for a property – you don’t need to pay any money to do this. You can make a maximum of three bids at any one time and adverts run for between 4-7 days. To bid, log onto your West Cheshire Homes account and sign in. You can swap or withdraw bids and if you’re successful, you’ll be contacted by the housing association that owns the property.

Offers

Properties will be let to those in the highest banding. If two or more households with the same banding bid for a house, priority goes to the one waiting longest. A landlord can ask for further information before making an offer. Once you have an offer you can view the property and decide if you want to make it your new home.

Other housing options

Social housing is not an option for some people and other options include:

  • Care leavers accommodation scheme
  • Help for those suffering from domestic abuse
  • Private Rented Sector
  • Extra care
  • Sheltered housing
  • Affordable rent – newer rented property available at a 20% discount on market rent
  • Rent to Buy – rent at a 20% discount from a housing association until you can buy the property
  • Shared ownership – part rent, part buy
  • Discounted market sale/starter homes
  • The government’s Help to Buy scheme
  • Mutual exchange – exchange your home with another tenant
Social housing flats in Harding Avenue, Tattenhall, Cheshire.

Who is eligible?

Everyone, except those who:

  • Come under the government’s `persons from abroad’ eligibility rules.
  • Do not live in the Common Travel Area (UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man, or the Republic of Ireland) for tax purposes.
  • Do not have a right to live in the UK.
  • There are other categories that the government may decide are not eligible for housing assistance.

The Local Connection rule criteria

An applicant must prove this rule by:

  • Having chosen to live in the area continuously for the last two years.
  • Being permanently employed in the area – either being in paid employment for 16 hours or more a week or able to demonstrate self-employed work for 16 or more hours a week.
  • Having close family (mother, father, brother, sister, son, daughter) who have lived in the area for a minimum of the past five years, and they must need to give essential support for the foreseeable future – this is to be decided by the council.
  • Having an exceptional need to move to the area.

Exemptions to the Local Connection rule include:

  • An applicant who is homeless and Cheshire West & Chester has accepted a duty to them under the Housing Act 1996 (as amended) Section 193(2).
  • Applicants who are owed a Section 189B relief duty by the council for as long as that duty is owed to them.
  • Applicants who are owed a Section 195 prevention duty by the council for as long as that duty is owed to them.
West Cheshire Homes operates a two-bedroom flat at Guernsey House in Hoole, Chester.

Reasons for not being eligible for social housing

Homeownership or legal interest in homeownership

Applicants who own a residential property in the UK or elsewhere, either leasehold, freehold, in joint or shared ownership, are not eligible to apply to the register.

Financial resources

If you’re assessed as being able to buy suitable accommodation in Cheshire West and Chester, you will not qualify – this means having enough capital to buy, or income to raise a mortgage to buy, or a combination of both. Savings limits are:

  • Applicants (both single and couples) under 55 with savings/investments of £25,000 or more.
  • Applicants (both single and couples) aged 55 and over with savings/investments of £125,000 or more.
  • Applicants whose gross household income from all sources exceeds £45,000 per year or more for single people, or a joint income of £60,000 or more (couples).

It doesn’t rule out an applicant being considered for a low-cost home ownership scheme such as Rent to Buy, shared ownership/equity, discounted market sales, and starter homes or lower demand properties offered to applicants registered for housing options Band C. There are exemptions for some cases.

Disqualification rules apply to applicants who:

  • Refuse three reasonable offers in a 12-month period: they will be placed into Band C and not included in the active bidding register for 12 months.
  • Refuse an offer made under statutory homelessness duty.
  • Don’t bid on any property for 12 months: they will be removed from the register.
  • Give false information.
  • Have housing-related debts.
  • Are guilty of unacceptable behaviour.
  • Fail checks into court cases or have unspent criminal convictions.
  • Have deliberately worsened their housing circumstances.

Appealing against a disqualification decision

An applicant can request that the decision is reviewed by the Cheshire West and Chester Council.

Have you used the West Cheshire Homes scheme?

If you have experience with the scheme and would like to leave a comment about it, please use the comment box below.

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