Hills' 21st century vision
Social housing faces a dramatic shake-up to make it fit for the 21st century.
New tenants could lose the automatic right to a tenancy for life as one of a raft of proposals in Professor John Hills' long-anticipated review of social housing.
Tenants need more flexible tenancies and more ownership options, Professor Hills suggested.
His review said the government should offer more support for tenants to find employment and create a better income mix in deprived neighbourhoods.
Speaking at the launch of the review, communities secretary Ruth Kelly said that a tenancy for life would be appropriate for many people.
‘But for others, we should consider whether the social sector should be seen more as a stepping stone at a time of change in their life,' she said.
‘There could be other options that may be more suitable for them.'
Homeless 16 and 17-year-olds with no employment prospects rarely had their problems solved by a lifetime tenancy, she said.
Professor Hills told Inside Housing that people must be offered a greater variety of answers to their housing difficulties.
‘I hope that when someone presents with what appears to be a housing problem there will be different types of solution to that problem,' he said.
But he admitted that putting that approach into practical effect would be ‘a challenge for the sector'.
Professor Hills and Ms Kelly refuted reports that existing tenants would lose their right to a tenancy for life.
Tim Dwelly, policy consultant and editor of last year's Smith Institute report, which suggested ending lifetime tenancies for new tenants, said the link between homelessness and a secure tenancy had to be broken.
‘My view is that we should no longer be offering new secure tenancies,' he said. ‘We need to change the homelessness route and stop concentrating on people's problems as if they are permanent.' Sarah Webb, deputy chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, said it would be helpful to have a greater range of housing options to put before applicants.
Jenny Edwards, chief executive of Homeless Link, said broadening the options for homeless people was ‘the right sort of approach'.
‘[But] that flexibility is very hard to deliver for public services,' she warned.
But Jamie Carswell, executive member for housing at London Councils, said it could be difficult to match people up with the right package of support.
Ms Kelly has begun assembling an expert advisory panel to examine how ideas put forward by the review can be put into effect. Professor Hills, Ms Webb, Ms Edwards and National Federation of Tenant Management Organisations chair Terry Edis have all been asked to take part.