Gov­ern­ment has hit so­cial hous­ing

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - OPINION -

THERE is a real short­age of all types of hous­ing in the UK and this is par­tic­u­larly felt here in the South East.

There has never been enough so­cial hous­ing for ev­ery­one who needed it, but over the years good qual­ity, se­cure homes at rea­son­able rents, have helped many in­di­vid­u­als, fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties to pros­per; many never hav­ing any other al­ter­na­tive choice or op­por­tu­nity.

So the chan­cel­lor’s an­nounce­ment in the bud­get re­gard­ing Right to Buy (RTB) for Hous­ing As­so­ci­a­tion ten­ants, the ‘pay to stay’ pro­pos­als for the more suc­cess­ful so­cial ten­ants and a re­duc­tion of so­cial rents over the next four years, won’t help re­lieve the im­me­di­ate hous­ing cri­sis, but are rather, ide­o­log­i­cal ac­tions to fur­ther resid­u­alise so­cial hous­ing and marginalise its ben­e­fi­cia­ries.

The gov­ern­ment’s clear as­pi­ra­tional mes­sage – to im­prove your sit­u­a­tion and en­sure your fam­ily’s self-suf­fi­ciency, could have a per­verse in­cen­tive for those ten­ants earn­ing £30,000 as they would be re­quired to pay much higher rents.

What hap­pens if they fall on hard times – does their rent go down again?

Lit­tle thought seems to have been given to the prac­ti­cal or op­er­a­tional re­quire­ments to make it work. Who pays for the ad­min­is­tra­tion pro­cesses in­volved?

An in­come of £30,000 is hardly a high one in this part of Buck­ing­hamshire and in­suf­fi­cient to en­able most lo­cal house­holds to buy or rent pri­vately with­out hous­ing ben­e­fit.

It is likely to en­cour­age those more af­flu­ent ten­ants, whom the gov­ern­ment be­rate for liv­ing in homes at sub­sidised rents, to buy their homes un­der the RTB pro­pos­als. So they re­ceive a sub­sidy/ dis­count of over £100,000 to buy a prop­erty that was built with a sub­sidy, man­aged and main­tained with a sub­sidy, all to stop them ben­e­fit­ing from a sub­sidised rent.

The dis­count is to come from coun­cils selling their most ex­pen­sive homes as they be­come empty, but where are these in our area, since most coun­cil hous­ing has been trans­ferred to hous­ing as­so­ci­a­tions?

The gov­ern­ment’s prom­ise of one-for-one re­place­ment of so­cial homes is not cur­rently be­ing met. We need more homes, not re­place­ment homes for those that are be­ing sold off.

As­pi­ra­tions for home own­er­ship can be met now in other ways, rather than giv­ing away those prop­er­ties that are and will be needed by those who will never be in a po­si­tion to buy their own home.

Re­duc­ing so­cial rents by 1%pa for the next four years means that hous­ing as­so­ci­a­tions who are pro­vid­ing a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of the new homes in the UK will have less money to in­vest in homes and are likely to pro­vide 27,000 fewer in that pe­riod.

Good, af­ford­able, se­cure hous­ing is es­sen­tial to the well­be­ing of all UK res­i­dents, and value-for-money in ex­pen­di­ture on health, ed­u­ca­tion and em­ploy­ment is of­ten un­der­pinned by it.

So­cial hous­ing is one im­por­tant source of this hous­ing, but is our great tra­di­tion of so­cial hous­ing, that has made a pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence to so many lives for at least a cen­tury, to be di­min­ished and dis­man­tled in the pur­suit of a po­lit­i­cal ide­ol­ogy?

Are we to view all those in so­cial hous­ing, usu­ally al­lo­cated on the ba­sis of hous­ing need and af­ford­abil­ity, as liv­ing on the taxpayers’ char­ity, like the Poor Law of old?

So­cial jus­tice, equal­ity, and na­tional as­sets are truly un­der threat af­ter to­day’s bud­get.

FRANCES KNELLER CHE­SHAM LIB­ERAL DEMO­CRAT

MEM­BER Ridge­way Close

Che­sham

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