Families living in cramped conditions and waiting for bigger homes from the council could be helped by changes in rules around providing social housing, a leading councillor has said.

Changes designed to cut the social housing waiting list were approved by Bracknell Forest Council leaders on Tuesday, April 23.

They include giving priority on the housing waiting list to existing tenants looking to move into smaller homes – freeing up bigger ones for families. However, new rules also mean that teenagers will have to share bedrooms.

Councillor Helen Purnell said the changes ‘will no doubt improve the situation of those waiting in serious overcrowded conditions waiting for a larger family home'.

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She added: “It is reassuring that also included in this policy is a higher priority for those looking to downsize their home, making larger properties available for families most in need.”

Under previous rules, teenagers and young adults in families on the housing waiting list were allocated one bedroom each.

New rules now say siblings of the same sex aged between 10 and 20 will have to pair up and share two to a bedroom. Pairs of children under 10 will also have to share regardless of their sex.

Non-dependent adults aged 21 and older will have to apply for housing in their own right – although the council says this doesn’t mean they will be made to move out.

Instead, it means they won’t be taken into account when assessing a household’s housing need.

The changes come as analysis by the National Housing Federation this week said Bracknell’s housing waiting list could take almost six years to clear.

And the council said last year that waiting times are ‘disproportionately longer for families with 3+ children, compared to smaller properties.'

Other changes to the rules include introducing a maximum income and removing working households' priority over those not in work.

Caps will be introduced at a gross annual income of £38,272 for a one bedroom home, £47,869 for two bedrooms, £61,031 for three bedrooms and £76,589 for four.

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Meanwhile, the length of time someone will have had to have lived in the borough before being able to apply has reduced from four years to two.

Megan Wright – the councillor in charge of housing – said the changes will make sure the housing waiting list is fair for everyone.

She said: “The new housing allocation policy has been designed to ensure consistency and fairness for everyone. It has been formulated around the needs of Bracknell residents.”

Councillor Wright added that people with more ‘complex’ needs would still have their case assessed individually. She said: “We look forward to seeing fairer housing allocation across the borough.”