Coalition faces rift over secure tenancies
David Cameron’s suggestion that new social tenants should not receive lifetime tenancies has threatened to divide the coalition government.
Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes spoke out against the prime minister’s proposals in an interview with the BBC.
He said the idea, which was floated by Mr Cameron during a public question and answer session in Birmingham this week ‘is not a Liberal Democrat policy, it is not a coalition policy, it is not in the election manifesto of either party, it was not in the coalition agreement’.
He added that while the prime minister is entitled to suggest ending secure tenancies ‘our party would need a lot of persuading that it has merit or could work’.
Mr Cameron suggested that social tenancies should be for fixed periods of five or 10 years. His ideas have met sharp opposition.
‘The real issue is the lack of new affordable housing and it is the government’s cutbacks in public expenditure that will make the situation worse.’
Dr Tim Brown, De Montfort University
Former Labour housing minister John Healey said ‘what is needed is more secure homes not less’.
He added: ‘Before the election Labour warned the Tories had a secret plan to get rid of secure tenancies and they accused us of scaremongering. Less than three months later we have the truth.’
Charity Crisis warned the plans could lead to an increase in homelessness.
Chief executive Leslie Morphy said: ‘This is likely to have the worst impact on the many vulnerable people in social housing for whom the stability it provides is really critical. What’s more these changes could penalise social tenants who move into employment and act as a real disincentive to work.’
Mr Cameron’s ideas were followed by an announcement from housing minister Grant Shapps on plans for a national scheme to allow social tenants to swap homes.
Dr Tim Brown, director of the Centre for Comparative Housing Research at De Montfort University in Leicester likened the moves to ‘rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic’.
‘The real issue is the lack of new affordable housing and it is the government’s cutbacks in public expenditure that will make the situation worse,’ he said.
In other quarters the suggestion of a mutual exchange programme for social tenants was better received.
David Williams, executive director strategy and new business at Circle Anglia, said: ‘The creation of a national database will be a huge step forward for social housing tenants. Poor mobility within the sector is currently preventing hundreds of thousands of people from moving home to take up employment, care for sick and elderly relatives and relieve overcrowding.’
Mr Healey gave a more cautious welcome. ‘Making it easier for tenants to exchange with one another for more suitable accommodation is of course a good thing but no substitute for building new housing,’ he said.
‘I also fear these measures could be taken as a green light by some to pressure people out of their homes - not least, as the announcement follows David Cameron letting the cat out of the bag on the Tories’ secret agenda to remove security of tenure.’