Proposals by Sandwell Council to open up access to housing for young people by removing the age restrictions on some of its flats have been welcomed by councillors.
Currently in Sandwell, just over half of the council’s housing stock of one and two-bedroom flats (4,586 properties) is reserved for people over a designated minimum age of either 25 plus, 35 plus or 40 plus.
A report to members of the Safer Neighbourhoods and Active Communities Scrutiny Board stated that 70 per cent of applicants for one and two-bedroom flats are under 40, leading to a significant imbalance in the supply and demand for such housing in the borough.
The report also stated that a consultation carried out among council housing applicants in early 2020 showed that nearly three-quarters (74 per cent) of those asked either strongly agreed or agreed that more flats should be available to people under 40.
Members of the board were asked for their views on plans to remove the 25-plus age restrictions on blocks. The members present at last week’s board meeting supported in principle the proposals to take forward the current review of the council's age restricted housing stock to help make best use of existing stock and to ensure compliance with equality duties. Councillor Thabiso Mabena, Chair of Safer Neighbourhoods and Active Communities Scrutiny Board, said:
“The comments and recommendations made at the meeting were all positive.
“The removal of restrictions would ease overcrowding and enable under 25s to start planning about their future at an earlier age and support their independence.”
Councillor Zahoor Ahmed, Cabinet Member for Housing, added: “It’s important the council makes the best use of its housing stock.
”By removing some of the age restrictions, we’re making it easier for younger people to rent a property.
“Reducing age restrictions from 25 years to 18 years would bring around 800 one and two-bedroom flats back into our general stock and would increase the one-bedroom stock available to the 18-25 age group from 38 per cent to 49 per cent.
“I would like to reassure existing tenants that any age changes do not mean they would have to move out, only that when any vacancies do occur, we have more applicants from which to select a suitable tenant.”
The Scrutiny Board was informed that following consultation on the proposed changes with affected tenants in July, there were some concerns over a perceived potential for an increase in anti-social behaviour.
Anti-social behaviour data collected by the council shows there is no significant difference in the number of anti-social behaviour incidents reported in the two years 2019/20 and 2020/1 between age-restricted blocks and non-age restricted blocks.
The report states that if age restrictions are removed, appropriate support and post-tenancy checks on new tenants will be carried out and that the age profile of tenants in flats will only change gradually as it is dependent on properties becoming available for rent.