Council homes for life ‘to be scrapped’
Tenants face reviews in plan to free housing
Jill Sherman, Whitehall Editor
People living in council houses will no longer be entitled to a subsidised tenancy for life under Whitehall proposals to address waiting lists.
New tenants would have fixed-term contracts under the plans, with regular reviews every few years, The Times has learnt. If a tenant’s financial position improved he or she would be encouraged to take an equity share or to move to the private sector. If they refused they could face higher rents. The right to a council home is also likely to be tied to a requirement to have or be actively looking for a job.
The measures are being considered by Margaret Beckett, the new Housing Minister, in the most radical shake-up of the social housing system for decades to ensure that those who deserve council homes get them.
At the moment anyone allocated a council home can usually stay for life, irrespective of circumstances. People in council homes paying subsidised rents can end up relatively wealthy, and in some cases they can bequeath the tenancy to their children. Frank Dobson became a Cabinet Minister while living in a council flat in his London constituency.
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However, with nearly four million people, or 1.6 million households, on waiting lists for social housing, and only 170,000 coming available each year, the Government wants to ensure help for the most needy. In many poor areas, one in five people is waiting to be housed. The problem will worsen in the next few months as families fall into negative equity and their homes are repossessed.
Caroline Flint, the previous housing minister, drew up a Blairite set of reforms. These included the contentious plan to link council homes to a requirement to have or to be seeking a job, which The Times understands is still on the agenda.
The Green Paper on social housing was expected to be published this month but Mrs Beckett, who replaced Ms Flint in September, has delayed it until early next year to give her time to look at the options. Although she will be uncomfortable with any punitive proposals, Mrs Beckett is under pressure to produce reforms before the next general election.