Saturday, 31 January 2015

Shapps defends ‘radical’ social housing reforms

The Communities and Local Government department had an ‘enormous’ and ‘over-bloated’ budget before it was cut in half, according to the housing minister.

Grant Shapps said the department would have needed an unrealistically huge budget if it had set out to build enough homes to halve the housing waiting list. ‘You would need £50 billion quid to do this,’ he said.

He said there was ‘no way’ that was realistic even in the most benign conditions.

The government’s comprehensive spending review, published yesterday, cuts the CLG budget by 51 per cent by 2014/15. If £1.6 billion devolved to local authorities is taken out of the equation, the department’s budget falls 33 per cent, with capital spending cut 74 per cent.

Mr Shapps added plans to introduce new forms of fixed-term tenancies, where future tenants would pay up to 80 per cent of the market rent, were ‘clearly the most radical shake-up [of housing] since the war’.

But he said the plans would not mark a death of the existing function and concept of social housing.

‘It doesn’t destroy what’s there, it builds on it. We have got 4.2 million affordable social homes at the moment. They are not going to disappear. In the spending review period we are building more.’

He said that he did not foresee that tenants would ever have to leave their homes once their fixed-tenancies were up – even if their circumstances had improved dramatically. They may have to pay more than an 80 per cent share if they were no longer in housing need, he said.

‘There would be no problem staying in your home,’ he said. ‘It would be illogical for a landlord to say I have got 80 per cent or I have got 90 per cent [of market rents and ask people to leave]. There is no reason to think you would have landlords chucking people out.’

The new tenancies would still give people certainty, he said: ‘What you know is that for the 10 years you can expect your tenancy to cost up to 80 per cent of the market.’

Mr Shapps also denied that he had backtracked on pledges made before the election to maintain security of tenure for social tenants.

‘Read our lips,’ he said. ‘We said we would respect the security of tenure of social tenants. Anyone who is a social tenant… nothing has changed. It can’t make sense to then say “right, we will never, ever change the way that we do social housing in this country forever”.’

Readers' comments (22)

  • Lee Page

    Here we go again. The CSR isn't even a day old and already Shapps is saying something different from what was announced. It was clearly stated that there would be fixed term tenancies and a check on whether they were still required at the end of the period - the aim of which was to residualise sorry, increase flexibility to the social housing sector.

    Now it appears this has changed and tenants won't be asked to move out but could stay at higher rents. this is something completely new and, to be honest, not a bad idea. Can't we just have someone stating clearly what on earth it is they actually intend to do?

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  • Eric Blair

    I don't like his patronising, 'Read our lips' comment. We are all intelligent adults, and we can understand plain English. We can also make sound evidence-based judgments.

    Assuming tenants have to pay rents with a threshold up to 80% of the private rented sector, this is likely to mean less affordable social housing.

    It doesn't add up, as housing benefit has effectively been reduced, and job cuts are now a reality. Tenancies can be secure on paper, but not in reality. In the end a tenancy agreement is a piece of paper. Remember how effective that was in preventing World War II?

    The coalition think if they keep using the word 'radical' it will hide the fact that their actions are amoral, foolish and driven by ideology rather than reason.

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  • It's all smoke and mirrors, spin and lies with these Tories.

    During the Election David Cameron accused Labour of "scaring voters with false claims about Tory policies". In an interview with Inside Housing he said Labour had made allegations about his party’s intentions which were ‘simply untrue’. He said there were 2 false allegations - that the Conservatives would end security of tenure for future social tenants and put up rents of existing tenants.

    IH reported: "Mr Cameron said the ‘compassionate Conservative Party’ believes in the importance of social housing ‘and the security it provides’. He said: ‘We support social housing, we will protect it, and we respect social tenants’ rights.’ A spokesperson for the Conservatives added that the party had ‘no policy to change the current or future security of tenure of tenants in social housing’."

    CURRENT OR FUTURE - NO ROOM FOR DOUBT. So Shapps is simply not telling the truth now, and what is worse they had the policy all planned, done and dusted by Shapps and his pal Greenhalgh when the latter did his Centre for Social Justice report recommending just these policies.

    What a bunch of charlatans.

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  • Are CLG & DWP able to appreciate that families on low income taking on a new tenancy at 80% of market rents will qualify for housing benefit? How will this compete with rent to buy schemes where tenants get back 20% of the rental income as a deposit when they staircase into home ownership?

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  • hey Dave-DONT FORGET THE CIH when listing promoters of ending secure tenancies-dont tell me you never knew?

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  • Rick Campbell

    I know the CSR is less than 24 hours old but instead of me being my normally confused self I am now super-confused because it appears to me that it's all a heck of a mess!!!

    Smoke and mirrors, spin and lies are not confined to political parties as the same would perhaps apply to organisations who "get into bed with landlords" and not underpin the tenant cause (whatever that may be as in most cases the tenants keep their gobs shut and leave the ranting and raving to others).

    Grunt Crapps will always talk a load of shapp apparently - it's all he is ever doing, allegedly!!!

    We, as tenants, are a dying breed, an endangered species and, even worse, Crapps and his puppet masters have turned into DALEKS as when you mention "tenant" they trot out the mantra "EXTERMINATE, EXTERMINATE, EXTERMINATE"!!!

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  • Rick Campbell

    I just had a quick thought .....

    Around here a private 3 bed house costs around £680 a month.

    Around here a 3 bed house (with my landlord) costs less than £360 a month.

    Next April (RPI is 4.1%, so 4.6% plus £2-17) ours will be around £400 a month. If it was to be 80% of market rent it would be around £525.

    When's the next General Election? If the government was to fall because one of the partner parties withdrew and fought for tenants interests, I could be convinced that the withdrawing party was actually not so bad after all.

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  • Sorry to disappoint you, Mr Campbell, but it is more than likely that the Labour party essentially approve of what's taken place and won't disturb it if they return to power.

    After all, it was the party which deployed "affordable housing" - 100% MR - as its fundamental housing policy offer, and stayed well clear of any return to council house building.

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  • michael barratt

    Shapps and colleagues are in effect telling the disabled and poor 'to go forth and multiple' I am sure that many will be motivated to take him and his friends literally.

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  • * +

    it's not just the disabled and poor, but also anyone who is young, single and at risk of becoming poor through jobs loss or bad fortune.

    I find it quite ludicrous that they will only now pay the single room rate to anyone 35 or under.

    Single people are arguably at the greatest risk if they become unemployed as they have no-one to fall back on, and are unlikely to be able to get assistance if they become homeless. at 35, most people will not be able to fall back on their parents!

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