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Nomination Arrangements in Scotland - Research Findings

DescriptionThis research provides a detailed and national picture of how nomination arrangements are operating and how effective they are in meeting household need.
Official Print Publication Date
Website Publication DateDecember 29, 1998
Development Department Research Programme Research Findings No. 29 (1997)
Nomination Arrangements in Scotland

Anne Yanetta, Hilary Third, Hal Pawson
School of Planning and Housing
Edinburgh College of Art/Heriot Watt University

ISBN 0-7480-5976-8Publisher The Scottish OfficePrice £5.00
Nomination arrangements, which provide local authorities with the opportunity to propose applicants for housing association lets, have been in place for over 20 years, but have never been examined in any detail. This research, which was commissioned jointly by The Scottish Office and Scottish Homes, provides a detailed and national picture of how nomination arrangements are operating and how effective they are in meeting housing need. One key part of the research was to identify and recommend good practice.
Main findings
  • Most nomination arrangements were not formalised and in practice were rarely monitored.
  • In 40% of existing arrangements, the partner agencies differed in their descriptions of the arrangement (eg one partner describing it as formal, the other as informal).
  • The perception that lets to nominees are slower than lets to direct applicants is not borne out by the statistics.
  • Nominations were used in different ways and for different purposes; some local authorities used them solely to meet the aspirations of transferring tenants but other agencies routinely nominated homeless applicants.
  • There was a widespread lack of knowledge about nominations amongst tenants and applicants. This is important because most tenants join only one waiting list even in areas where there are many housing associations.
  • Only 7% of local authority applicants said they had been told about the nominations route although 75% of local authorities claimed they routinely inform applicants.
  • Most staff said they would have benefited from improved communication between agencies; joint training would have helped to ensure that staff were well informed about other local housing options and access procedures.
Nominations entitlements
In the vast majority of instances, nomination entitlements involved "50% of net lettings/vacancies". Exceptions to this general rule were Scottish Homes Districts and lets to special needs accommodation (often more than 50%) and co-ops, community based, and stock transfer associations (often less than 50%).
How common are nominations?
Across Scotland as a whole, nominees accounted for 34% of new lets, but there were striking geographical differences. Nationally, 15% of nominees were homeless households but in a quarter of local authorities no homeless applicants were nominated. Nationally, a quarter of nominees were existing council tenants. Organisations catering for tenants with "special needs" were more likely to let to nominees. Locally-based co-operatives were less likely to let to nominees. Overall, a much lower proportion of housing association lets were to nominees in Scotland than in England. However, there is no evidence that nominees receive poorer quality housing than other housing association tenants.
Applying for housing
There is still a real lack of knowledge and information about housing options; more than half of the respondents overall had only applied to one organisation for housing (70% of local authority tenants, 56% of nominees, and 40% of housing association direct applicants had joined only one list). Less than one in five local authority tenants had approached a housing association, but most housing association tenants had approached the local authority.
Knowledge of the nominations route
Only 7% of local authority tenants said that they were told about the possibility of nomination when they applied to join the council's waiting list. This contrasts sharply with the 75% of local authorities claiming to tell applicants about nominations. Elderly tenants were particularly likely to be unaware of the nominations route.
Conflicting eligibility criteria
One potential source of conflict and inefficiency in the nominations process is where the allocation policies of the nominating authority and the receiving housing agency do not match. Among housing associations, three quarters stipulated specific rehousing policy criteria to nominating local authorities (usually that nominees should be eligible for a tenancy according to the association's own allocations policy). In areas where local authorities persisted in selecting nominees according to their own allocation policies, there was conflict and disagreement.
Efficiency of the nominations process
It is widely felt among housing associations that letting properties to nominees is slower than letting to direct applicants. The research found that while the statistics bear this out as far as re-lets are concerned, the pattern is strongly influenced by nominations from one major local authority; in most areas, re-lets to nominees in fact take less time on average than re-lets to direct applicants, and the same is true of lets of new properties.
Are nominees distinctive?
Like local authority tenants, nominees were more likely than direct applicants to housing associations to have a medical, disability or mobility problem and to have been homeless in the last 5 years; nominees were the most likely to have been homeless or living in a B+B or hostel immediately before moving into their current home, but the numbers involved were quite small. Couples with children were much more common amongst nominees than amongst the other 2 groups of tenants; lone parents, on the other hand, were less common amongst nominees. Nominees were more likely than the other groups to pay rent without assistance from housing benefit; nonetheless two thirds of nominees received some housing benefit.
However nominees have very different characteristics depending on the local nominations arrangement, and the extent to which nominations are used - while a national concern - is strongly influenced by local needs and circumstances, and is best understood within local operational contexts. Poor monitoring of nominations locally means that outcomes are not usually known at local authority level.
Conclusions and recommendations
Nomination arrangements should play an important role in meeting local housing need, but nominations can also be used strategically by local authorities to help them make the best use of their stock. Housing needs should always be the basis of an allocation, but an agreed quota can be accommodated to meet aspirational lets. While nominations can be used to create vacancy chains, agencies need to ensure that the outcome is fair and accountable. When nominations work well they can have a very positive influence on other aspects of joint working arrangements.
Improving the nomination process would bring advantages for all players in the system. Housing agencies would have more efficient systems, cutting down on voids, refusals and contact with applicants who had since moved on. Staff would know what was required of colleagues in partner agencies and could develop clearer lines of communication. Applicants would be informed about housing options that may not be known to them and could thus find another route into housing.
The report recommends that:
  • Nominations should be given higher priority by housing managers, and should be viewed as part of the wider issue of allocations.
  • Nominations should be monitored along with other allocations.
  • Allocation systems nationally need to be reviewed, and local government reorganisation provides the ideal opportunity for this; nominations should have a key role in the review.
  • Nomination arrangements should be agreed and formalised in written agreements.
  • The guidance on good practice in nominations (based on this research) should be followed.
  • There should be joint training on nomination arrangements between local authorities and housing associations.
  • In view of the complex task it has, the housing management profession itself should be given greater recognition.
About the study
The research was carried out by Anne Yanetta, Hilary Third and Hal Pawson (all at the School of Planning and Housing, Edinburgh College of Art/Heriot-Watt University) between February 1995 and October 1996. It consisted of:
  • postal surveys of all bodies managing public sector housing in Scotland;
  • case studies in 14 areas, including interviews with strategic and operational staff dealing with nominations;
  • surveys of tenants in 4 areas to compare the characteristics of nominees with other tenants, and to illustrate the housing outcomes of different nomination systems.
Copies of the full research report "Nomination Arrangements in Scotland" are available, priced £7.50.
Cheques should be made payable to "The Stationery Office" and addressed to:
The Stationery Office
Mail Order Department
21 South Gyle Crescent
EH12 9EB
Telephone: 0131-479-3141 or Fax: 0131-479-3142.
Copies of the Good Practice Note on Nominations are available, free of charge, from:
The Scottish Office Development Department
Victoria Quay
Telephone: 0131-244-0149.

The report can also be ordered online

Further copies of this Research Findings may be obtained from:
The Scottish Office Central Research Unit
Area 2J
Victoria Quay
Telephone: 0131-244-7560