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.