I think we all – and especially Inside Housing – should stop using the term “tenancy for life”. It is inaccurate, and functions as a nasty smear, redolent of exactly that peevish envy that one of the original protestors commenting on the first CIH story accused people of. The term “job for life” is a sneer at people who can continue to earn large sums of money regardless of performance; and the more recently invented term “tenancy for life” is an attempt to transfer these connotations to social housing tenants, implying that they don’t deserve security of tenure.
In many circumstances, it is a tenancy for more than life, because on the tenant’s death rules of succession mean it may pass to another person – a widow or widower, or even another generation. (The rules are complex: sometimes the full tenancy will pass on, sometimes just the right to a suitable alternative tenancy). These didn’t come about by accident, through some perverse accidental legal judgement. They were designed, incorporated deliberately in the Housing Act 1985, by people who wanted to ensure that social housing tenancies – called Secure tenancies, and for a reason – met the needs of tenants. Not just their current needs, but their future needs; their hopes and ambitions, their ability to make reasonable plans, their desire to provide for their children, and quite possible their wish to live our their days amongst the familiar friends and neighbours of their community.
That is where the anger, disgust and contempt for this proposal comes from. And it isn’t all from tenants either, despite Inside Housing’s summary headline response. Many respondents are clearly housing professionals too; hence all the threats to resign CIH membership. The proposal is to replace a set of tenancy conditions designed to meet the human needs of tenants with one designed to meet the administrative needs of landlords and politicians. Possibly something darker and nastier too: the need of middle class property owners on the lower shakier rungs of the property ladder to continue recruiting – willing or not - new generations of investors to the failing Ponzi scheme called the housing market.