This is the first in a planned series of posts looking at the Government’s consultation document on social housing reform.
First up: security of tenure.
Security of tenure was introduced surprisingly recently for social housing tenants – 1980, by the first Thatcher government. It means tenants can stay in their homes indefinitely, unless they breach their tenancy agreement in some way (eg; not paying the rent, anti-social behaviour, eating their housing officer).
The Government heavily trailed an intention to allow social housing landlords to evict tenants whose income meant they could afford their own place to live. This was the talking point of the day for many politicians and commentators.
This is not what the consultation is proposing. All that would require is adding a statutory ground allowing a social landlord to claim mandatory possession having demonstrated the tenant’s means and income are above a certain level.
The consultation is proposing something entirely different: fixed term tenancies. The social landlord can then chose not to renew a tenancy for whatever reason they please. For example, currently if a social landlord is planning to demolish and rebuild a scheme they have an ongoing commitment to their tenants. With fixed term tenancies this is no longer the case. How convenient! You don’t have to be psychic to guess how many fixed term tenants will get rehoused and compensation if their home is being demolished.
Or central government can issue guidance – as the previous Government trailed at one point – not to renew tenancies for feckless claimants who’ve failed to secure employment. Or whatever they want. Social housing tenants will become a football to be kicked around at the whim of their housing officer, landlord, council and government.
Some might argue that’s a good thing, but at least let’s have an open discussion about it rather than sneak it in disguised as a measure to stop rich people living in social housing.