ANYONE wanting to join Southend Council’s housing waiting list will need to have worked in the borough for at least three years under new plans.

Southend’s new ruling alliance is reviewing the housing allocation policy, which determines who can qualify to join the social housing waiting list.

It includes amending what constitutes a “local connection”, with the amount of time someone needs to have worked in the borough before being eligible expanded from one year to three.

The reforms will also see people who have been in rent arrears or who have behavioural issues no longer qualify to join the list, under plans to scrap what is known as the “low level” band.

However, several other groups will now qualify, including those impacted by council regeneration schemes who have been served a 12-month demolition notice and households spending more than a third of their income on rent.

Council leader Ian Gilbert said: “There are changes here that will increase the number who can apply but it also could work in the opposite direction, we want to make sure everyone is treated fairly and according to their circumstances.

“There have; been issues particularly with people who are struggling to pay rent and enduring considerable hardships to do so but do not qualify for support, which is perhaps unfair when you compare that to others who aren’t making their payments and perhaps are eligible. This change is all about fairness.”

Southend’s waiting list currently has more than 1,500 people registered and Mr Gilbert said if the changes cause that to expand, he is “confident” the administration will still be able to make improvements.

The overhaul comes as the administration is also looking to spend £4.3million on buying properties from the private sector to be used for social housing.

The leader said the purchases will be funded through money obtained from the right-to-buy scheme, which has allowed council house tenants to purchase the properties they have been provided. If that money is not used by the end of the financial year it will be lost.

He said: “We don’t know how many homes we will be able to purchase yet as it will depend on the size of the properties and whether we are buying whole blocks or individual houses and flats. But this money needs to be spent or it will be lost and given Southend’s housing need that would be criminal.”

Members of the cabinet will discuss the plans during a meeting on Tuesday.