A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The end of lifetime tenancies?

I'm not impressed by David Cameron's idea of fixed term tenancies for social housing: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/aug/03/lifetime-council-tenancies-contracts-cameron

His ministerial colleague Grant Shapps has outlined a "right to move" (http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/aug/04/grant-shapps-council-house-swap-scheme). There needs to be a "right to stay put" too.

Cameron's remarks echo those of IDS a few weeks ago about people uprooting themselves to find jobs (rather than government helping create jobs where the people are).

The Cameron proposal seems to ignore the fact that for tenants their flat or house isn't just housing, it's a home.

They might over the fixed period Cameron proposes grow to like living there, to put down roots in a community through participating in local organisations and getting to know friends and neighbours locally. Their kids will probably be settled at a local school, again with a circle of friends.

I moved house when I was seven and changed school, ironically because my parents after waiting for years finally got a housing association house. It's quite traumatic changing schools and neighbourhoods. You wouldn't want to make people do it unnecessarily.

I've also moved involuntarily as an adult - in my case because disability meant my home was no longer accessible. Again its very disruptive, even though in my case we only moved across the street! You don't want to make people move involuntarily if you can possibly avoid it.

How would Cameron feel if the situation was reversed and the commissars of Kensington came and told him that he had lived in his nice Notting Hill pad for too long (indeed he had access to two other houses in Downing Street and Chequers) and they would like to terminate his ownership in order to hand it over to people more socially deserving?

The Cameron proposal runs completely counter to two of the key thrusts of his own government's policies. It contradicts their welfare-to-work aspirations because it provides a disincentive to getting a job as that could mean you lose your tenancy. And it contradicts the "Big Society". How will you ever build stable, sustainable communities with high levels of voluntary activity on council estates if the residents with jobs, the ones most likely to have the skills and enthusiasm to become tenants association officers, run the after-school sports club or organise a street party are kicked out of their tenancies after a fixed period?

It's the exact opposite of the right-to-buy policy which sought to make council estates more mixed communities including home owners. It will just make estates holding pens for the very poorest rather than long-term communities made up of family homes.

If I was cynical I would suggest it was an attempt to break up communities that tend to vote Labour.

It's certainly looks like it has been dreamt up by people who have never been social housing residents themselves and see estates not as people's homes and communities that they care about and are rooted in, but as a commodity - a set of boxes with roofs to be dished out to the poorest for urgent shelter then taken away from them once they get jobs.

The only way to deal with the housing waiting lists we have is to build more socially rented homes. Labour was to its shame only just starting to address that after 13 years in power. The Coalition don't even seem to get what needs to be done.

15 Comments:

Anonymous not a trot said...

The only way to deal with the housing waiting lists we have is to build more socially rented homes. Labour was to its shame only just starting to address that after 13 years in power.

Shame you spend the preceding 13 years shouting "trot" at anyone who suggested it may be something Labour should address.

12:48 pm, August 04, 2010

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Don't think I ever did that.

I'm a member of a council - Hackney - that is actually building new social housing including our own new stock.

12:51 pm, August 04, 2010

 
Anonymous Joe Jordan said...

so... you agree with Simon Hughes?

http://waugh.standard.co.uk/2010/08/simon-hughes-on-the-warpath-over-council-tenancies.html

I have to say this idea (which isn't policy) initially struck me as stupid, for some of the reasons you mention, but when I read what he actually said I felt it was less crazy.

For a start, he isn't proposing kicking people out as soon as they get out of work, like cutting people's benefits; he is proposing reassessing their situation after 5 or 10 years.

It shocked me to realise that people aren't reassessed for tax-subsidised housing on the basis of need : it seems very wasteful of public money to let people keep their very cheap home after their Children have moved out and even after they have found a well paid job; especially if we're short of the housing.

As someone who has always rented in the private sector since I left home, I don't see it as scary or insecure; that's what tenancy agreements are for.

BUT What we really need is more council housing as you say; and I'm glad to hear Hackney is doing something about it (although it would be good if you had the courage to put up my council tax to fund it harder).

1:10 pm, August 04, 2010

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Joe you've made a good argument for people's rent going up based on means testing, not for them having to move. There are already schemes to incentivise people to downsize to smaller homes if they are under-occupying.

1:20 pm, August 04, 2010

 
Anonymous Joe Jordan said...

hmm, perhaps, but only if supply is not a problem; which is the real issue to be solved!

You arguments against people moving, in terms of community & uprooting, are perfectly valid (and indeed shared with Simon Hughes,) I agree evicting people is rarely a solution to anything.

1:30 pm, August 04, 2010

 
Anonymous Gerald said...

Typical Tory twaddle - not content with threatening to cut sickness benefits, now they want to turn council house tenants into gypsies. Good news for anyone who owns a furniture removal firm though.

2:37 pm, August 04, 2010

 
Anonymous not a trot said...

It shocked me to realise that people aren't reassessed for tax-subsidised housing on the basis of need

Depending on how you calculate it (of course) actually council tenants subsidise the taxpayer rather than the other way around. The revenues taken by the Treasury exceed the spending every year.

3:44 pm, August 04, 2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know council tenants in Hackney who have sub let their council flat and bought a house. I also know of council tenants who have holiday homes in Spain. Hackney Council doesn't care and doesn't investigate these types of cases, while thousands wait on the list for a decent home.

7:54 pm, August 04, 2010

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Anon

If you have alleged cases of illegal sub-letting you know of, please email the details (anonymously if you want) to my Hackney council email address and I will take them up with Hackney Homes.

10:21 pm, August 04, 2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If you have alleged cases of illegal sub-letting you know of, please email the details (anonymously if you want) to my Hackney council email address and I will take them up with Hackney Homes."

Luke, you kmow and I know and next doors Dog knows that Anon will not provide any detail cos he has none.

GW

12:11 am, August 05, 2010

 
Anonymous Pat said...

There are solutions really. The government and the people should really work together for better options. We should always hope and act of course to get to the most reasonable solutions. By the way, if you think it's time to have your own place in Nottingham, why not try this great option of rent to own homes. It's the best option you have these days. Good luck in everything!

3:22 am, August 05, 2010

 
Anonymous Rich said...

I can see that it might help some people willing to move to find work but moving isn't just about changing where you live. Plus there may well be plenty of jobs in the south but how many of these jobs are suitable for the long term unemployed.

The real problem is that there are too many people needing social housing. And more importantly we are running out of land for homes. We can't just keep building on green belt land because our infrastructure can't cope as it is. We are running out of water, space on our roads and public transport is choked.

We need to raise the standard of living and bring down the cost of housing. This means better jobs and a massive property slump. Painful I know but it's the only way.

8:25 am, August 05, 2010

 
Anonymous Stuart Bruce said...

Disagree strongly with you on this one Luke. What I find most shocking is that the Tories, in amongst all their horrific and ignorant cuts, have actually managed to come up with what on the face of it appears to be their only sensible idea so far.

It's nowhere near as traumatic as you talk about to 'move home'. I did it about five times between the ages of three to 14. And in most/all of the places we lived our family was a real part of the community and participated in it.

It's essential to encourage a culture of mobility. As a councillor the type of case work I found most depressing was the sort where someone wanted a council house move to be 'nearer to their family', yet they already only lived a few streets away. What I wanted to do most was raise people's aspirations, so many of them were capable of achieving more with the right support and encouragement. Improving mobility in social housing is an essential part of that.

9:13 am, August 05, 2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The only way to deal with the housing waiting lists we have is to build more socially rented homes. Labour was to its shame only just starting to address that after 13 years in power."

A welcome bit of contrition from Luke there. But the Labour government did manage to find the money for rubbish like ID cards and Trident replacement.

5:32 pm, August 05, 2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1) I've worked in Oouncil housing for 22 years and there has never been a time when my mortgate repayments were higher than rents.

2) Is there the slighest reason to suspect that Coucil tenants are less mobile than Owner-Occupiers? Councils can easily check how old their tenancies are, perhaps they should publish some statistics.

3) Joe Jordan "It shocked me to realise that people aren't reassessed for tax-subsidised housing on the basis of need" They are; that's called Housing Benefit. Security of Tenure is something else.

9:56 pm, August 06, 2010

 

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