‘A SUSTAINED ATTACK ON THE POOR’ – Tories assault on council housing condemned


Homeless charity Shelter yesterday condemned the planned ‘radical reform’ of council housing as ‘a deliberate attack on the poorest in society’.

Announcing the measure, housing minister Grant Shapps attacked ‘a lazy consensus about the use of social housing’.

He announced plans for evicting new council house tenants after two years, putting an end to tenancies for life, and stopping children inheriting new tenancies.

Councils are also to be given powers to move the homeless to areas outside borough limits in a bid to stop council housing becoming an alleged ‘poverty trap’.

‘Social landlords’ will be allowed to charge a higher rent for shorter term tenancies, of up to 80 per cent of local market rents.

Campaign group Defend Council Housing, said: ‘The government’s proposals to reduce lifetime tenancies to only two years are not the answer to the housing crisis.

‘They would just create a revolving door where for every person in need given a home, someone else is thrown to the wolves of the private market.

‘Ministers must rethink this madness now, and start an emergency programme of building new council homes – the only way to meet housing need and create sustainable communities.’

Shelter chief executive Campbell Robb said: ‘The government’s response to our affordable housing crisis, both through these policies and those we have already heard on cuts to housing benefit, social housing investment and legal aid, has seen the poorest and most vulnerable in society penalised again and again in what begins to feel like a deliberate attack.

‘From Shelter’s 40 years of experience in dealing with those in housing need we know that very few people go from homeless to self-sufficient within two years.’

Housing minister Grant Shapps described the plans as ‘the most radical reform of social housing in a generation’.

Once the changes come into practice, councils, rather than central government, will be given decision-making power over tenancy arrangements.

Shapps is also implementing a new National Home Swap Scheme. He is scrapping the Tenant Services Authority in favour of a new system of tenant panels, which landlords will be expected to support.

Stressing that council tenancies for life are no longer an option, the Department of Communities and Local government claimed: ‘In some instances those tenancies can be inherited by family members who may be in no need of housing.’

A key feature of the proposals is that a household’s changing financial circumstances should be periodically assessed to see if the housing requirement should change – with councils and housing associations having to evict people if they refuse to go.

A TUC spokesperson said: ‘There is a real danger that weakening the security of those in local authority housing could have the unintended side-effect of making it harder for council tenants to pursue the fullest possible range of employment opportunities.

‘Fear of losing your home would be a strong incentive not to take any risks.’

Housing associations’ organisation, National Housing Federation chief executive, David Orr said: ‘It’s difficult to imagine a more powerful disincentive to do well than the threat of losing your home if you start earning too much.

‘We must ensure that this does not happen. People need the stability and security of a safe home.’

The government complained: ‘In many cases, homelessness may be the result of a temporary crisis caused by, for example, relationship breakdown or being asked to leave accommodation by family or friends.’

It argued that the only way to end this is to force applicants to take private accommodation – even if it lies in another part of the country.