Council housing for life and ‘fairness’

It is being reported this morning (e.g. on Today) that security of tenure for council tenants will be reduced to two and a half years. In what is a fairly typical pattern for DCLG these days, there is nothing in the way of more information or a press release on the website.

It seems that after 2 years or so all tenants will be assessed for whether they ‘need’ council housing anymore; perhaps their income has risen or their household has become smaller. If they don’t ‘need’ it, they’ll have six months to move out. Again, the government will wheel-out a ‘fairness’ argument: why should people receive a subsidised property when they have the means to afford one in the market (probably private rented market) while there are others in need on the waiting list? So far so good?

But this surely is a bit of a disaster for making work pay and providing incentives to get into work; the major problem which IDS and George Osbourne are trying to solve? The government’s basic criticism against social housing is that is underpins dependency, poverty and worklessness: people get a cheap social home for life, with no conditions and no incentive to improve their circumstances.

But surely this reform runs completely counter to this? If you are on a low-income or without a job and you get a social tenancy from next summer onwards, why on earth would you strive to get a job or increase your income? You’d know that it meant, in a couple of years’ time, you’d lose your home because of it. 

If you did get a job, most likely not a well paid one, isn’t there quite a big incentive to ‘lose’ it just before you get assessed by the tenancy police?

People’s homes are pretty important to them, especially if they’ve been on a waiting list for years to get one. The unstable and poorly paid jobs that people often get as they first move into work, may well be sacrificed so they can keep their home.

This is such an obvious counter argument that I’m sure there is a government fudge on the issue on the way.

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4 Responses to Council housing for life and ‘fairness’

  1. Pingback: A welcome shift but Shapps still needs his snoopers | Red Brick

  2. Good article.

    This policy was originated by the Tories in my Borough and is part of a series of radical but ill-informed policies the Coalition are currently announcing. The Tories have a rather insulting notion that social housing tenants are “locked into a culture of dependency and expectancy.” They believe this and their other policies will tackle that (I wonder if they’ll have a go at Trust Funds next?). We have to dissuade them of this simplistic premise if we hope to have the slightest chance of halting any of this.

    The Tories knew how unpopular these plans would be which is why they avoided any interviews with any of the many journalist I had asked to chase them on this matter prior to the general election.

    You can see links to the videos and articles about this in this article here:

    http://thecowanreport.blogspot.com/2010/11/camerons-lies-accusations-rebound.html

  3. Monimbo says:

    We need to get the message across that ‘subsidised’ housing is only subsidised in the sense that it charges sub-market rents. With the HRA determination just announced, the Treasury will be pulling in around £300m in surpluses from councils in the next year. And after that, council housing will be self-financing. It is true of course that tenants get HB, but the average cost of HB in the private sector is £20pw higher.

    Most people presumably think that ‘subsidy’ means it’s a burden on taxes. Not only is this wrong, but if poor tenants had to be subsidised in the private sector it would be a lot more expensive.

    • It is subsidised in the sense in the sense government grant subsidised the construction of the home. That’s why rents can be low and the government still take a surplus from the social housing business. You’re right that subsidising homes rather than people’s housing costs doesn’t create a long term call on the taxpayer – one of the things that’s wrong with the shift from bricks and mortar to personal subsidy.

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