Thank you for your question. I'm sorry to hear that you have been waiting so long for a suitable property. The fact that you have been waiting so long suggests that there just aren't enough suitable properties available in your area.
It would be helpful if you could let me know what your current living arrangement is. Do you rent privately? Are you staying with family? This will help me to establish your current security of tenure.
Which local authority waiting list are you on? Who is the council that has assessed your housing needs?
Have you had an occupational therapist's assessment to determine what type of property you require and the adaptations you would need?
The Localism Act 2011 brought about changes which have impacted on housing considerably. Before the act there were rigid rules set by central government which could work in an applicant's favour and sometimes not. More powers have been given to local authorities under this act so that they can manage and adapt their housing stock to local needs. Prior to this act almost anybody could apply for social housing whether they needed it or not and this meant that applicants could be stuck on waiting lists for many years with no realistic expectation of ever being housed by their local authority. With the Localism Act Local Authorities now have greater freedom to set their own policies about who should go on the waiting list for social housing in their area. This means that they can prevent people who have no need for social housing from joining the waiting list. This is good in a sense because it then frees up the list to make sure that the housing goes to the most vulnerable in society and those that need it most. This is by far no excuse for the time you've spent on the waiting list and the lack of properties available but it might help explain why someone in one area might get housed quicker than someone else in a neighbouring area. Much depends on supply and demand and if you live in the South of England including London, it's really hard to access social housing.
Renting privately comes with its own problems, high rents, lack of security, poor conditions, letting agents fees and so on. It's hard to access this sector if you are on a low income and if you're disabled and need adaptations it might be hard to find a landlord who will allow such moderations. Anyone in receipt of benefits, even if they are working and only need a little bit of housing benefit can find themselves penalised and shut out of the main stream private sector and forced to live in housing which is in poor condition.
There is a housing association called www.habinteg.org.uk and they provide wheelchair accessible housing. This is something you can look into but for now I think it might be best if we can get you some local housing advice to help support you.
I look forward to hearing back from you.
Thanks for your reply. You really have been through it housing wise haven't you, you certainly have tried all means of finding housing. One of the difficulties you have now is that you are in privately rented accommodation, this is considered to be permanent housing despite the lack of long term security of tenure. Because you have statutory rights as an assured shorthold tenant including the right to a legally valid notice from your landlord if they want the property back; this means that you are currently well provided for (even though the property is not adapted for your needs). There are some provisions under homelessness legislation about whether it is reasonable for you to occupy the property but after all the changes over recent years it has become much harder to make a case on these grounds. You may benefit from talking to the housing and homeless charity Shelter www.shelter.org.uk but I suspect that the answer will likely be the same and they do not have a service in your area providing casework. Unfortunately a lot of legal aid funding for housing, debt and welfare benefits was lost in April 2013 and this has made it incredibly difficult to get legal advice in these areas.
It really is a case that there isn't any suitable accommodation available and unfortunately unless we start building homes this situation is not going to get any better.
I don't mean to depress you further but the Leonard Cheshire Disability Charity published a report last year about the 'Hidden Housing Crisis'. The charity claims that as many as five million people now need a disabled-friendly home and this is a number that is set to rise as the population ages. It does not make particularly pleasant reading but I wanted to share the report with you and the rest of the community to highlight how significant this problem is. Read the report by clicking this link http://www.leonardcheshire.org/sites/default/files/Hidden%20Housing%20Crisis%20July%2014.pdf
We hear in the media all the time about the lack of housing but rarely do we hear about how this affects disabled people. It is such an important issue and has many implications on other public services. For example, the NHS and Social Care departments. You may have a patient who becomes disabled say through an accident or a stroke and they need adapted, accessible housing because their current housing is no where near suitable for their newly acquired disability. A suitable care package might be needed before they can be discharged from hospital but due to the lack of suitable housing, a care plan cannot be implemented and the patient cannot be discharged; therefore a bed is being taken up in the hospital that could be used for someone else. The media reported problems with the A&E departments over the winter and it really did highlight the issues with social care cuts, there wasn't really much mention of the lack of housing but it was most definitely there in the background and is probably more of an issue than we all realise.
With regards to your OTs advice to taken any property offered which can then be adapted. Part of those adaptations can include access, so while a property might not be accessible at the time, it can be adapted (subject to planning, funding etc) to make it accessible and your OT would be able to assess the property when it is offered and tell you what can and can't be done and whether it would be suitable for you.
I'm afraid that there is no easy solution to this problem but I hope that the information I have given helps in explaining why there is no easy solution.
If your landlord wanted the property back and providing s/he served you the correct legal notice requiring possession then you would start going into homelessness territory, however it is highly unlikely that the local authority would consider you homeless until the landlord has taken possession of the property through the correct legal process i.e through the court. The possession process can vary in how long it takes and much depends on the type of tenancy you have, although in your case you probably have an assured shorthold tenancy. With ASTs although they offer little in the way of long term security of tenure it can be hard for a landlord to gain possession of the property if they do not serve the correct notice or if they do not protect your deposit in the right way (if you paid one). As there are so many issues relating to that it can take time to go through the process and really be considered homeless. I have dealt with homeless cases in the past where the housing department has not taken any action until the very day that the person has been evicted by court appointed bailiffs. Going through a homeless application can be very tough and if you are homeless, eligible and in priority need, the local authority will have a duty to provide you with interim accommodation while they make the rest of their enquiries to establish if they owe you a full housing duty. The interim accommodation could be a hostel, B&B or if this type of accommodation is lacking then yes it is possible for Adult Social care to arrange a temporary placement in residential care. Unfortunately the interim accommodation could be out of area, although I would not expect this for disabled people with extensive support networks however I could never guarantee this. It's incredibly complex and due to the lack of legal advice this makes it even tougher.
Private rented properties could be adapted but it could be difficult to find a landlord willing to allow this. Also one of the requirements of the DFG is that the disabled person receiving the grant will remain in the property for 5 years after the grant has been awarded. Some landlords might be happy with this but I have yet to come across any who would allow major adaptations and there are many reasons for this, not least the restrictions they may have on their mortgage.
In terms of getting offered properties, there is no easy answer to this. You may find yourself getting more offers if you find yourself at risk of homelessness but I cannot guarantee that this would not be preceded with a very long wait in temporary accommodation.
In terms of legislation and documents, there is Part 6 and Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996. Part 6 deals with Allocations of housing and Part 7 is regarding homelessness legislation. However you need to bear in mind that there are all sorts of other bits of legislation around that might impact on this and then add to it the Localism Act 2011 and this can confuse things even more. You could go through the homeless process only to end up being offered privately rented accommodation because the Localism Act allows for this to happen.
Shelter has some great information on their website by the way and it's still worth talking to them to see if they can offer any other guidance. You can also access advice from them via email. www.shelter.org.uk
Sorry to be Mrs Doom and Gloom. I know it's not fair and it's not right that we have such a lack of housing but I can't see any light at the end of the tunnel at the moment.
If you can access some housing advice in your area this might help but I can't guarantee this.
Thanks for sharing your story, it's been great to have this discussion.