Government has hit social housing
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