It’s unfair that someone earning more than £40,000 can gain access to council housing
Here at Hammersmith & Fulham Council, we believe that honest residents on modest incomes who make a positive contribution to society deserve to be prioritised for social housing.
We also believe that social housing should be a platform of aspiration that enables progression into other forms of housing, such as low-cost homeownership, rather than a destination in its own right.
That is why we are proposing to prohibit applicants with a household income which is greater than £40,200 and the means to buy from accessing the housing register, and to introduce fixed-term tenancies.
In this borough, 33 per cent of housing is social rented, compared with a London average of 25 per cent. Just over 2 per cent is intermediate.
We have 14,000 council properties, of which just 500 become vacant each year - to meet a waiting list of 10,000 applicants.
With that in mind, it is patently unfair that someone earning in excess of £40,000 is able to live in a council home and pay a social rent of around £100 a week, while at the same time, someone earning £25,000 has to pay £250 a week to live in the private rental sector because they cannot get a council home.
In fact, the weekly rent for a council one-bed flat is now £88.86, compared with a private rent of £298.05 in the borough.
In extreme cases, there are people like Bob Crow, of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, who is living in a council home in London while earning £145,000 a year.
Clearly, we need to be sensible and flexible about how we approach this. If someone was to earn £38,000 and was allocated a house and then got a pay rise, we would not force them to leave. Instead, we would perhaps look to direct them towards low-cost homeownership.
As the ‘borough of housing opportunity’, we have already helped 700 residents into homeownership through a number of innovative, low-cost initiatives. We will continue to do this by directing suitable tenants towards right to buy, especially now the maximum discount has been increased to £75,000.
We are also one of the first councils in the country to get back into building homes, after a 30-year absence. These properties are sold at a discounted market rate to those who might struggle otherwise to get on to the property ladder.
This borough has one of the highest proportions of social housing in London. It is not a case of needing to build more social housing, but of using our existing stock better.
Andrew Johnson is cabinet member for housing at Hammersmith & Fulham Council