Greenhalgh says social housing should be a launchpad
Social housing should not be for ‘losers’ but should be a launchpad, Stephen Greenhalgh said.
The leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council, speaking to the annual Chartered Institute of Housing in Harrogate today, pointed to figures from research by academic John Hills showing that just 22 per cent of social housing tenants are employed, compared to 43 per cent in the early 1980s.
He said social housing should do more than house people in the greatest need but should provide support for a larger cross-section of people.
He also said: ‘We have in the past had increasing national control, every aspect of the council housing system determined from the centre, through rent restructuring, access to money through the HCA and also rent levels in the LHA system.’
Mr Greenhalgh pointed to the Dutch system of housing as a model. He said: ‘We also see local control and local management of community housing and we begin to think about rent levels appropriate to the local area and we begin to think about the market and priorities - about issues, about imbalances in the neighbourhood.’
He called for rents to be set locally according to ability to pay and a more efficient use of assets by social landlords.
Mr Greenhalgh also responded to a question about civic leadership by pointing out that his party has won two large majorities in a traditional Labour area. He also alluded to the ongoing controversy over plans to include the West Kensington & Gibbs Green estates in the Earls Court Regeneration Scheme. He said: ‘We got elected with two councillors out of three where all this controversy is happening in Earls Court.’
Delegate Michael Gelling, chair of the Tenants and Residents Organisations of England, said: ‘I’m a tenant and, bar for six months of my life, I have always been in employment.
‘Something you have not spoken about is about choice, I have chosen to live in a house and pay rent because I believe that’s a good way of living.’ Mr Gelling said the idea that somebody else will decide if tenants have to move out under flexible tenancies as ‘obnoxious’. He said: ‘Social housing in this country was about people and that’s what we should be caring about.’