Exclusive: Caroline Flint outlines Labour’s housing policy ahead of conference
Labour: workers to get social housing priority
The Labour Party is drawing up a national housing policy that will give people with jobs priority for a social home.
The opposition party gave the first indications of its future housing policy ahead of next month’s annual conference in Liverpool in an article written exclusively for Inside Housing.
In it shadow communities secretary Caroline Flint attempted to place clear water between Labour’s approach to social housing and that of the coalition government. She said councils would be able to use social housing to reward people in work and create mixed communities.
Ms Flint, who heads up Labour’s housing policy review and sparked controversy when, in 2008, as housing minister, she said social tenants who did not work should lose their tenancies, co-wrote the article with Newham mayor Sir Robin Wales. He is already championing this approach in the east London Olympic borough.
The move to prioritise those in work as well as housing need, has also been adopted by councils which Labour considers ‘progressive’. These include Barnet, Brighton & Hove, and Manchester.
Ms Flint argued that Labour’s new approach is in ‘stark contrast’ to that of the coalition’s plans to end security of tenure for new tenants and introduce fixed-term tenancies instead.
She said the government’s policy was ‘attacking aspiration by introducing new rules that could see people kicked out of their social homes when they get a promotion or a pay rise’.
She added that current use of social housing was ‘undermining aspiration and discouraging responsibility’.’We should move on from the idea that social housing is the solution to every housing problem,’ she said.
The article suggested ‘councils could also become players in the local [housing] market and act as private landlords, driving up standards’, something Sir Robin revealed Newham plans to do in his interview with Inside Housing last month.
Bill Payne, chief executive of 38,000-home, London-based Metropolitan Housing Trust, a member of the G15 group of London housing associations, said: ‘It’s good news that this is recognised as an issue and the G15 already has our own model [which offers 5 per cent of homes to those in jobs training] in place.’
Mr Payne added that Labour should, however, ‘keep things in proportion because waiting lists have to meet a myriad of need’.
Rod Cahill, chief executive of 20,000-home Catalyst Housing Group, added: ‘The policy is great, but it will be difficult to implement without an increase in housing supply.’
Ms Flint’s article came as housing minister Grant Shapps this week wrote to shadow housing minister Alison Seabeck denying that the coalition had created disincentives to work and accusing Labour of failing to offer an alternative to the government’s housing policies.