KEY workers from across Oxfordshire and those who foster and adopt will get higher priority for social housing across Cherwell.

The changes have been drafted in by Cherwell District Council and got rubber stamped at a meeting of the authority’s executive this week. 

The Housing Allocation Scheme, how the council sets out who gets priority for social housing, operates with four priority bands with band one being the highest. 

It comes at a time when competition for social housing has peaked with 1,800 households now on Cherwell’s housing register, up from 1,150 at the start of 2021.

The council’s report shows 739 homes were let in 2019-20, falling to 666 in 2020-21 with 214 let in the first six months of 2021-22. Between 50 and 60 applications for social housing are received by Cherwell each week. 

Councillor Lucinda Wing (Con, Bicester South & Ambrosden), lead member for housing, cited “a reduction in available properties in the past 18 months, partly because of the pandemic and partly because of a reduction or delay in new-build delivery” for the increased demand. 

On the changed priorities, she said: “We are proposing to improve access to social housing to single homeless people, this is off the back of some of the research done by charities. We will give them band two priority if they have a connection to Cherwell as per other homeless households.

“We are also proposing to relax some of the barriers to getting on the housing register. This includes where people have had previous rent arrears. We will do this by providing prospective tenants with the necessary support so they do not need to be tenancy ready before being offered a home to help prevent and resolve homelessness in the district.

“We have made changes to give additional priority to members of the armed forces and their families and we propose to give foster carers and adoptive parents band one status to enable them to find properties as quickly as possible to sustain or take a role for the benefit of the children involved.

“The pandemic has shone a light on our fantastic key workers. We will consider any key worker in Oxfordshire for band two priority if they need to move to take or continue key worker employment.”

Councillor Sean Woodcock (Lab, Banbury Ruscote), leader of the opposition, praised the changes, particularly for those who foster or adopt.

“While this change might only affect a small number of applications directly, the wider indirect social benefits are obvious and I want to commend the council on that,” he said.