London Colney veteran’s overseas service scuppers social housing bid

Former armed forces personnel struggle to get social housing after serving overseas

THE inability of a London Colney man to qualify for social housing because of time spent overseas while serving in the armed forces has been branded “truly shocking” by a district councillor.

Ex-service personnel returning to St Albans from the forces after several years away are disadvantaged when applying for social housing upon their return because they struggle to prove a local connection.

St Albans district councillor for London Colney, Jacob Quagliozzi, said that as there is a shortfall in social housing, conditions are placed to determine who has priority to obtain the accommodation.

One of these criteria is proof of a connection to St Albans – for example how long people have lived in the district.

Cllr Quagliozzi said it was “truly shocking” that a local ex-serviceman who had lived in Ministry of Defence properties and moved around for all of his 22 years in the forces had suffered when trying to settle permanently in the district.

The councillor’s push for a fairer system to help former servicemen and women settle in the area won unanimous support at a full council meeting last Wednesday.

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The council confirmed it believes employment and residence for former residents who have served in the forces should be equal to the local connection test for civilians obtaining social housing.

It will conduct a feasibility study into the impact of setting aside a set number of housing stock for ex-service personnel, with a report expected to be considered by cabinet in Spring 2012.

The council will also work with Hertfordshire County Council to develop an armed forces community covenant for the county, which would involve all public service providers including the police, local businesses and the voluntary and community sector.

The proposed covenant would focus on supporting members of the forces currently living or looking to live in Herts, for example by helping them access social housing, develop skills and qualifications, and by finding work with local employers.

After the meeting Cllr Quagliozzi said: “The district council does not at present record the number of service personnel who apply for social housing.

“In my private conversations with the Royal British Legion, I learnt that in terms of housing the Legion provides assistance with the payment of rent and by providing deposit guarantees.

“The Legion also informed that they found that the vast majority of their clients seek private rental accommodation as they do not qualify for social housing although some may be considered vulnerable due to underlying issues such as mental health concerns [and] illness.”