Cooper outlines her vision
Housing minister Yvette Cooper announced a raft of reforms this week, to turn social housing estates into platforms for employment.
Responding to Professor John Hills' review of social housing earlier this year, the minister said she wanted to increase housing mobility and choice, and integrate housing and employment advice services.
'Affordability and security are not enough,' she said. 'Social housing also needs to support opportunity and that's where we need to do more. At its worst, social housing gives people a roof over their heads but traps them in a home they really don't want to live in.'
In an announcement-packed speech on Wednesday, Ms Cooper outlined tougher overcrowding standards and pledged £15 million over the next three years to tackle overcrowding in the 38 most cramped parts of London and other major cities. Pathfinders in these areas will help households to move into family homes by making it easier for others to 'downsize'.
The housing minister also promised £3.8 million to help councils develop cross-authority choice-based lettings schemes. Ms Cooper will work with the Housing Corporation to help sub-regional schemes link together as a national mobility programme, she told Inside Housing.
Ms Cooper also announced five pilot 'housing options services', offering people a single door for housing advice on shared ownership and private sector lets, together with employment advice. A review of the private rented sector has also been pledged.
Chartered Institute of Housing chief executive designate Sarah Webb said the reform package could worry tenants. 'I know there's huge nervousness and sensitivity about security [of tenure] issues, but there's a grown-up debate to be had about incentivising packages that link services, support and tenancies. There's a need for some expensive hand-holding for people who have never worked.'
But Michael Gelling, chair of the Tenants' and Residents' Organisations of England, said he was wary of the government presenting the private rented sector as a viable alternative to social housing. He asked Ms Cooper: 'Why would I want to leave a sector that's regulated, where I have recourse to an ombudsman and where I have a regulated rent, and some security and go into the private sector, that has none of them?'