Armed forces personnel given housing priority in Wandsworth
Published: Thursday 12th January 17
The council’s policy of giving homeless ex-servicemen and women a higher priority on housing waiting lists has led to 27 being given council homes since 2011.
The figures emerged following a report by a leading armed forces support group which said some councils in London are failing to offer proper help to people who have served their country and later become homeless.
The report ‘Homeless veterans in London: investigating housing responsibilities’ was produced by the London region of the Veterans’ Advisory and Pensions Committee (VAPC).
The report’s authors found that only nine out of 33 London boroughs made an explicit online acknowledgement of their duty towards veterans and uncovered examples of housing allocations policies which did not comply with the law.
Lynn Verity, chairman of London VAPC, said: “This extremely valuable independent academic research shows much more could be done to help ex-servicemen and women who are homeless.
“This is not about how many of our veterans are on London’s streets nor why they find themselves there. Rather, it is about ensuring that any homeless veteran who goes to a local authority for help is treated fairly. This report suggests that, too often, they are not.”
Wandsworth introduced its own voluntary scheme in 2011 which preceded changes in national legislation.
Under the council’s scheme soldiers, sailors and air force personnel who find themselves in housing need have enhanced application rights when they apply for a new home in Wandsworth.
Giving servicemen and women higher priority is the borough’s way of saying thank you to people who have risked their lives for this country.
One former serviceman who was one of the first to be helped by the scheme after leaving The Royal Marines, said: “When you leave the forces you’re not given much advice about housing. The information was limited to just a list of numbers to call.
“It’s only through these kinds of reforms for people like me that I’ve got a home. The rules to help serving and ex-forces people are a really good idea. It’s great to know that people who serve their country have a chance when it comes to housing.
“Leaving the forces is a huge change, so knowing that if you’re in need of housing there’ll be some help out there makes it all the easier.”
As well as being awarded higher priority in the allocation of rented housing, servicemen and women are also eligible for additional help and support in finding and buying an affordable home under the borough’s various “right to buy” type schemes.
Cabinet member for housing Cllr Paul Ellis said: “With the nation placing such high demands on our armed forces and their families, councils should be doing all they can to support servicemen and women on the home front, especially when it comes to meeting their housing needs.
“This extra support is crucial for those leaving the army, navy or air force. The move to civvy street can be a difficult and challenging time and councils must do all they can to help smooth that process by ensuring their housing needs are properly met.
“Providing them and their families with a decent roof over their heads is just one small way in which we can begin to repay them.”