Posted by: Tom Lloyd17/09/2012
The government’s consultation on whether high-earning social tenants should be charged more rent contained a series of fairly complex questions, but the Chartered Institute of Housing begun its response with a fairly simple comment: ‘No’.
The National Housing Federation was a little more circumspect in its criticism of the scheme, but its response basically comes to the same conclusion. It argues it should be optional, and only apply to new tenancies – effectively meaning it would apply to no-one, as anyone with the income levels required to fall foul of the scheme wouldn’t qualify for social housing in the current environment.
The Association of Retained Council Housing doesn’t even bother to answer the Communities and Local Government department’s questions, instead opting for a one-page response that says the idea is incompatible with localism, and councils should decide individually if they want to raise rents for high earners.
Both the Fed and the CIH go into more detail about why they don’t think it would work, and in so doing uncover the massive complexity that such a seemingly-simple concept would entail. The Fed, for example, raises the question of recovering grant.
If a property that had been built with grant was let at market rate – because the household breached the earning threshold – the property would no longer be a social home, so the grant would have to be paid back to the government. If the property later reverted to social housing, the grant would then have to be returned to the landlord.
The Fed’s description of this as ‘extremely problematic’ doesn’t even begin to address the scope of the difficulties.
‘Pay to stay’ is a classic example of a policy dreamed up to make good headlines. It sounds great on paper, looks great in a paper, but ignores a whole host of problems that would make it completely ineffective and unworkable.
Hopefully our new housing minister – who so far seems a little less concerned with headlines than his predecessor – will see the sense in the consultation responses and ditch the policy before it goes any further.
From House work
Examining the latest news on allocations, evictions, rents, anti-social behaviour, and a host of other day to day housing management issues