London boroughs' choice system for social housing gets thumbs up from the public

Smart projects: Locata web application replaces points-based system in West London

Locata web application replaces points-based system in West London.

Five London boroughs are providing details of vacant council homes to an online database that acts as a central lettings agency for most of West London.

The London boroughs of Brent, Ealing, Harrow, Hillingdon and Hounslow are channelling all their vacant residential properties through an independently managed web application called Locata.

Because all five boroughs use the same system to award council homes to prospective tenants, it means that people searching for social housing in West London have to check one system rather than five.

Locata holds details of 63,000 applicants for social housing and more than 56,000 properties. The properties on the database include all those offered by three registered social landlords that have also joined the scheme.

Every fortnight about 250 properties are marked for advertising by the eight different bodies. The eight, who call themselves the West London Alliance, publish the adverts in a full-colour fortnightly magazine. More than 25,000 copies of the magazine are distributed to more than 120 outlets across the West London boroughs.

People who have already been accepted for social housing can apply for the properties by post, internet, SMS, face-to-face or by telephoning a 24-hour automated phone system.

All the "bids" are collected by Locata and processed within two hours of the closing deadline.

Locata was originally paid for by a central government grant of £1.1m, which was awarded to test choice-based letting as a replacement for the points-based system that had been used by all councils previously.

West London Alliance said, "The choice-based lettings scheme exchanged the existing points-based system for one where properties are advertised and customers choose them based on their own particular situation."

Since Locata was set up, West London Alliance has surveyed the people bidding for properties.

Some 3,150 people out of 10,500 completed the survey - a 30% response rate. The proportion of people responding from ethnic groups identified as being vulnerable was even higher, at 44%.

The main finding was that more people were satisfied with the new service than the system it replaced. Some 69% of respondents said they were satisfied with the service.

Of those who bid for properties by text or telephone, 76% said they had used all the different channels to put their bids in.

West London Alliance is now building an interface with several of the London boroughs' customer relationship management applications. A self-service online assessment form is also being drafted.

Alongside the social housing system, a facility is being built within Locata for private landlords to advertise properties.


Read more on Business applications