Service Users Forum
Have you got a burning question that you would like to ask? Would we all benefit from knowing the answer?
This page is an interactive forum, where you ask us questions about any aspect of the housing service we deliver. We will post the answer on this page for everyone to see.
No specifics please!
Please make sure your questions are about general housing issues here - we cannot answer questions about your particular case on this forum. If you do want to ask about your specific case, please contact HOS directly.
How to post a question
Use this form to ask us your question. This will not be displayed immediately, so don't worry if it does not appear straight away.
Once we have received the question, we will investigate and will post a response within ten working days. Keep checking back to look for your answer.
Lets get started
To get us started, we have posted the answers to some questions raised at the recent Service Improvement Group meetings.
What is the Home Finders Scheme and who qualifies?
Anyone accepted as homeless and living in temporary accommodation can use the Home Finders Scheme to help pay for the cost of finding a privately rented home. The scheme offers a cash grant depending on your household size. You can use this grant for rent in advance or a deposit.
If you find somewhere else to live through the scheme, the tenancy must be for at least 12 months. Your housing application will be cancelled as you will no longer be homeless. The exception to this is if we have accepted that your current temporary home is no longer suitable for you and have agreed to transfer you to another property, in which case we will keep your application open.
We are looking at this scheme again and will let you know of any changes in the future. Find out more
What is our temporary accommodation transfer policy?
Under our Allocations Scheme we transfer households living in temporary accommodation if their accommodation is no longer suitable.
We consider all transfer requests on a case-by-case basis, but the general groups are: families living in B&B, high medical need, fear of violence, severe overcrowding, and if a child in the household is required to attend a specific school in Westminster. Read our temporary accommodation transfer policy
Why do you offer us temporary accommodation outside Westminster?
A large proportion of our temporary accommodation is out of borough, mainly in east London. This is because there is a lack of available housing for us to lease in Westminster, coupled with the high cost of leasing property in the borough.
Most of our temporary accommodation is within zone 3. We generally take the view that London has a good public transport network and it is normal to have to travel to work or to see relatives and friends. In most cases, we offer temporary accommodation in Westminster to households which have special support needs that can only be met in Westminster.
Why is the rent in temporary accommodation so high?
A few years ago, there were thousands of homeless families with children living in B&Bs. The Government changed the law in 2004 and made it illegal for Councils to house homeless families with children in B&Bs unless it was an emergency. Councils throughout the UK leased property from private landlords and families with children were moved out of B&Bs.
In Westminster, we no longer house families with children in B&Bs (except in emergencies) and have stopped using some of the B&Bs that we considered to be offering the poorest standards. Councils are paying out a lot of money to private landlords to lease properties, paying housing associations or agents to manage the properties, and paying staff to collect the rents, procure or inspect properties.
As the Government had changed the housing benefit rules, these costs were passed onto the temporary accommodation tenant through the rent. That is why the typical rent for one of our temporary accommodation units is now £441pw (2006-7).
The overall income from the rent is pooled among the whole stock. This means we can procure more expensive units in Westminster as well as the smaller cheaper units in out of borough locations. If you are eligible for maximum housing benefit, this problem will not affect you, until you want to work.
Our research shows that tenants are better off if they work as you are eligible for some housing benefit until you are earning a very high salary. There are other costs to bear in mind (such as child care and travel expenses), but generally you will be better off.
However, we can see that high rents can be a disincentive to work. So we are talking to Government about this issue at the moment. There will be changes in the future, but not for a while yet.
How do you monitor the condition of temporary accommodation?
When we take on new temporary accommodation units, we specify that the provider must meet certain condition standards. We visit all new properties and then carry out about 90 inspections a month. We insist that the providers' managing agents carry out regular inspections. If you think your property has fallen into disrepair and the managing agent is not doing anything about it, contact us and we will follow it up.
Why is my waiting list suspended from bidding at the moment?
Every year, we set re-housing quotas, or 'projections' so all of our priority groups get a slice of the available housing. When these quotas are met, we prevent certain groups from bidding to give others a chance.
For example, during 2006 / 07 we deliberately set a small quota of 2-bedroom re-housings for homeless applicants so we could give transfer applicants living in overcrowded conditions a chance. When the quota of 2-bedroom homeless re-housings was met, everyone in that category was prevented from bidding.
How quickly will you respond to my letter?
If you send us a letter or e-mail, we will respond in 10 days. If you do not receive a reply within 10 days, please contact us at HOS or online to complain. There is no excuse for not responding to letters.
Was this useful?
Whatever your interest, Westminster City Council welcomes and encourages you to get in touch with suggestions for improvements to the site. Please tell us how useful this page was to you.