Friday, 03 July 2015

Tenure reforms are 'attack' on vulnerable

Housing organisations have attacked the government’s plans to scrap lifetime tenancies as ‘naïve’ and a ‘deliberate attack’ on vulnerable people.

A consultation on reforming tenure published yesterday proposes offering fixed-term tenancies of a minimum of two years. But housing charity Shelter urged the government to reconsider this minimum term, saying few tenants would be able to improve their circumstances in such a short period of time.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: ‘The government’s response to our affordable housing crisis, both through these policies and those we have already heard on cuts to housing benefit, social housing investment and legal aid, has seen the poorest and most vulnerable in society penalised again and again in what begins to feel like a deliberate attack.

‘From Shelter’s 40 years of experience in dealing with those in housing need we know that very few people go from homeless to self-sufficient within two years. The proposal for a minimum of this period shows the government’s naivety in how quickly people are able to get back on their feet, and we urge them to reconsider this in favour of at least a five-year minimum.’

The Chartered Institute of Housing said it would work with the government on developing the plans. Sarah Webb, chief executive, said: ‘If landlords choose to use fixed-term tenancies, they will need to be clear what length is most suitable. Just two years may be appropriate for a small number of tenants going through a short-term transition in their lives, but how realistic is this for most people to be asked to move on from their tenancies after such a short period?

‘We believe people should be able to stay in their own homes as circumstances change, even if the terms of their tenancy change.’

The National Housing Federation said the plans could provide a disincentive for people to take on better-paid jobs. Chief executive David Orr said: ‘It’s difficult to imagine a more powerful disincentive to do well than the threat of losing your home if you start earning too much.’

Councils and housing associations will be able to choose whether or not to offer secure lifelong tenancies or the new fixed-term agreements. Philippa Roe, cabinet member for housing at Westminster Council, said: ‘We will absolutely take the government up and offer fixed-term tenancies, but I don’t think security of tenure is really the issue.

‘If you want to create mixed communities, you need to keep tenants who are earning more in their homes. I would be much more in favour of staircasing rents as someone’s circumstances improve.’

Brian Johnson, chief executive of housing association Moat, said: ‘We do not believe that moving people on when their circumstances improve is the way to tackle the pressure on social housing.

‘We are calling on government to rethink its plans and reform rents so that people who can pay more do, but that no-one is asked to leave their home just because their circumstances have improved.’

The Local Government Association warned the plans could lead to a postcode lottery in housing provision. Gary Porter, chairman of the LGA environment and housing board, said: ‘Some of the issues raised in the government’s consultation present councils with practical challenges that will often be hotly contested politically at a local level.

‘For example, there needs to be consideration of the implications of councils in the same housing market adopting different approaches. We will be considering these issues carefully with our membership during the consultation period.’

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