Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Shapps rules out flexible tenancy changes

The housing minister has rejected calls to amend the Localism Bill to specify that social tenancies should normally be for a minimum of five years.

In a letter to shadow housing minister Alison Seabeck, Grant Shapps argues that directions to the social housing regulator are the correct place for the rules to be set out.

Last week the government amended proposed directions to the regulator to add that five years should be the usual minimum length of a tenancy, and the lower limit of two years should only be used in ‘exceptional circumstances’.

The original version of the directions stated that two-year tenancies would be exceptional, but did not mention five-year tenancies, despite previous assurances from Mr Shapps that this would be the usual minimum.

The revisions to the directions to the regulator prompted Ms Seabeck to accuse Mr Shapps of making a policy u-turn. She also wrote to him asking if he would table an amendment to the Localism Bill ‘to remove any reference to tenancies of as little as just two years’.

In his reply, Mr Shapps rejects this demand, and says the directions to the regulator are the best place to clarify rules on flexible tenancies ‘not least because putting such provisions on the face of the bill would cover only local authority, not housing association landlords’.

He also calls on the Labour Party to clarify is position on flexible tenancies and affordable rent ‘as this will be important for registered providers and others to know’.

Last month Ms Seabeck indicated a Labour government might keep the affordable rent product – which allows social landlords to charge up to 80 per cent of market rent – because of the impact scrapping it would have on the ability of social landlords to borrow money.

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