A radical shake up of how council homes are handed out - so people who have jobs can leapfrog the unemployed on waiting lists - is to be introduced by a flagship Conservative council.
Westminster Council is believed to be the first local authority in London to “recognise positive contributions to society” by rewarding wage earners at the expense of the jobless. It hopes the new policy will encourage the unemployed to look for work, because having a job will cut an estimated three years off waiting times.
At present people must wait an average of eight years to secure a three-bedroom home in the borough.
The proposals, due to be adopted on April 1, will apply to households where at least one person has been working for two years or more. People with a “strong local connection” will also be prioritised - this means those who have lived in the city for 10 years, and they too will also be moved up the waiting list.
At present some 11,000 households registered for homes in the borough.
The move comes as the coalition Government cracks down on council housing, ending the concepts of a council flat for life and inheritance of council tenancies. If successful the Westminster proposals are likely to be emulated by other boroughs.
The council says it will continue giving priority to people who are disabled or sick, homeless, threatened with homelessness, or living in overcrowded housing. Households with a gross income of £37,400 or more are ineligible for council housing.
Cllr Philippa Roe, Westminster Council’s housing chief, said: “We are never going to be able to house all of those who come to us and if we just had a more equitable way of prioritising people … I think we would have a better system.”
However Ruth Davison, of the National Housing Federation, said: ”We recognise the desire of Westminster to build mixed stable communities which include both vulnerable people and working people. However, there’s no easy answer in this situation where the real villain of the piece is a lack of good quality, affordable housing in London.”