Wheeler briefing: the government’s plans for social housing

by Peter Wheeler

The government is consulting on proposed changes to the provision of social housing. These proposals can be downloaded from the department for communities and local government at www.communities.gov.uk and responses need to be returned by January 17 to housing reform@communities.gsi.gov.uk

Many of the proposals are permissive, allowing councils and housing associations to make changes rather than compelling them.

MAIN PROPOSALS

Security of Tenure

Existing tenancies would remain as now, although the government is asking if tenants who move should be given one of the new fixed term tenancies. Councils and housing associations will be able to give fixed term tenancies, with a minimum period of two years. These tenancies will be at social rent levels.

Succession

Rights to succeed to a tenancy for new tenants will be standardised for council and housing association tenants. Spouse/partner will have an automatic right to succeed (as long as the spouse/partner wasn’t a successor). Children and anyone else will be up to the landlord.

Affordable Rents

The government plan to introduce a new “affordable Rent” for housing associations to offer to new tenants from April 2011. These will be short term tenancies at a rent higher than the current social rent level – up to 80% of local market rents.

Allocations

Councils will no longer have to have ”open” short-lists, but central government will decide priorities.

Mobility

There will be a nationwide home swap scheme to improve mobility.

Homelessness

Councils will be able to meet their duty to the homeless with an offer of suitable private rental accommodation.

Council Housing Finance

Current arrangements will change to a self-financing arrangement with councils keeping all the rent money they raise and spend it locally on services.

IMPLICATIONS

1. That the changes are permissive means that the decisions ostensibly will be taken locally. Labour needs a clear, consistent policy to respond to these changes at a local government level.

2. The attack on security of tenure reflects the Tory view that social housing is “poverty housing”. Depending on the criteria adopted we could see tenants moved on at the end of two years if their circumstances improve.

3. This will act as a disincentive to people improving their conditions, make it harder to develop strong communities and risk creating ghettos of poverty.

4. Restrictions on succession raise the possibility of families being evicted on the death of a parent.

5. “Affordable Rents” could see major increases in rents for new tenants. Perversely, much of the increase will be met by housing benefit. Setting rents in this way means the level of housing association rents can be skewed by local areas of affluence. Salford Quays, for example, will artificially inflate the average rent level. It appears that this provision only applies to housing associations/Almos.

6. The changes to housing finance appear to allow cash-strapped councils to use rent revenue to subsidise other services.


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4 Responses to “Wheeler briefing: the government’s plans for social housing”

  1. It is worth noting, that in order for the coalition to achieve its aim of building 150,000 new homes, under the proposals, all of these would have to be rented at the maximum 80% “flexible” rent. 1 in 4 re-lets would also have to be let at this level.

  2. Im happy with the national home swap.
    I’m unhappy that councils will be able to spend the revenue on other stuff. This is intended to take money out of social housing.
    The fact that national governments should decide priorities is yet another example of centralised top-down Toryism.

    Look on the bright side, guys. For years the Labour Party has spoken to itself about social housing, causing us to be unrealistic about what we can acheive. At least the Tories have entered the debate.

  3. Lyn Langford says:

    Fixed term tenencies as standard, ridiculous! So the tenant who is offered a home, for a fixed term, is not going to be doing too much to maintain it. Also, people living in council/social housing bring up families, and still have grown up children with them, even grandchildren, especially in todays climate of economic depression. What is it with the UK’s attitude to social housing? We have all been brainwashed into thinking social housing is somehow inferior, and that home ownership is the goal we should all aim for, get real UK. People need to feel secure, that is what helps family life, and this coalition government need to face the fact that a secure tenancy forms part of the fabric of a stable family.

  4. Jull says:

    A new “affordable Rent” made me especially happy, first you get the for social housing and immediately after that turn to the internet lending service to pay the rent, without even speaking about maintaining the housing you’ve got for a short term.

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