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Housing of Commons: Housing options for serving and ex-military personnel 04/02/2016

The House of Commons Library has produced a briefing paper outlining the options available to serving and ex-military personnel which ARCH members may find as a useful reference for elected members and officers.


The principal responsibility for providing housing information and advice to Service personnel lies with the armed forces up to the point of discharge. These services are delivered through the Joint Service Housing Advice Office (JSHAO). The GOV.UK website lists the type of assistance on offer to service personnel who are planning to leave the armed forces and require housing assistance.


The government published the Armed Forces Covenant on 16 May 2011. This document is described as 'an expression of the moral obligation that the Government and the Nation owe to those who serve or have served in our Armed Forces and to their families'.


In recent years, the government have implemented various measures aimed at strengthening the position of ex-military personnel when seeking to access housing. These measures have included the addition of a new "priority need" category under Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996 (the part which governs homelessness) and changes to the rules on local connection to ensure that barriers are removed for ex-military personnel. Ex-military personnel have also been prioritised for government-backed low-cost home ownership initiatives.      


In June 2012 the government revised the statutory guidance on housing allocations for local authorities. This guidance now emphasises the flexibilities authorities have to prioritise applications from ex-service personnel.


Every local authority allocation scheme must ensure that 'reasonable preference' is given to certain categories of applicant as set out in sub-section 166A(3) of the Housing Act 1996. Regulations, which came into force on 30 November 2012, provide that 'additional preference' must be given to applications from certain serving and ex-members of the armed forces (and reserve forces) who come within the reasonable preference categories defined in sub-section 166A(3) of the 1996 Act and who have urgent housing needs.


On 21 June 2007 the then Minister for Housing, Yvette Cooper, announced the government's intention to amend the local connection provisions 'to resolve this disadvantage that members of the Armed Forces have been experiencing in accessing social housing'. The Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 received Royal Assent on 22 July 2008. Section 315 of this Act amended the local connection test in section 199 of the Housing Act 1996 to enable Armed Forces personnel to establish a local connection in an area through residing there by choice, or being employed there, in the same way as a civilian.


If a former member of the armed forces becomes homeless they may make an application for assistance with housing to a local authority under Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996 (as amended). Authorities must assess whether homeless applicants are unintentionally homeless and in 'priority need.' These 'priority need' categories are set out in section 189 of the 1996 Act and include vulnerable former members of the armed forces.


View the briefing.

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