Tenancy for life
13/10/2008 5:47 pm
Should social housing tenants have the right to a tenancy for life, or should they face higher rents or being moved if their circumstances improve? The questions has prompted an unprecedented level of debate in the comment section of this site after we published a news story on proposals along these lines. http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/story.aspx?storycode=6501371
So what do forum users think? Is this a sensible, realistic solution - given the scale of demand for social housing - or would it create the kind of ghettos and stigma that housing professionals have been struggling to avoid?
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13/10/2008 6:45 pm
Go back as many years as you want and social housing rents were historically kept low because it was good vote catcher. As a result, few tenants would be keen to move out of a council estate where they would pay double their usual rent to live under a private landlord. Many people of course would love to move away from a council estate and live elsewhere –but the rents charged by private landlords do not make that possible. And as far as I’m aware, housing benefit only meets a percentage of the cost of someone’s rent if they wanted to live under a private landlord, so again there is no incentive to move. Of course, as history has also shown, council estates have become a power keg for unrest and I dread to think what the social cost of crime is for council estates alone. So from a purely financial aspect it would have made sense to pay housing benefit that matches the rents private landlords charge to enable hard-pressed tenants to move elsewhere and live better lives if that’s what they want to do.
14/10/2008 9:57 am
it would be incredibly bureaucratic to set up tenancies with rents linked to income, it's bureaucratic enough without adding another layer
the majority of tenants are on HB, there are some who work, there should be incentives for those on higher income to find alternative accommodation.
I lived in a housing association flat in the 1990s, they offered an incentive to move out and buy somewhere, we were both working, so got a grant of £16000 towards buying a place, at the time house prices were low, so it was a worthwhile incentive
currently the only incentive is homebuy which isn't a grant, the tenant gets 25% of the value of a home purchased, this gets repaid when the property is resold. a re-introduction of a grant might encourage those who do have sufficient income to buy on the open market and free up social housing for those who can't afford to buy.
14/10/2008 2:28 pm
Incentivising tenants to leave in terms of providing a grant would certainly make financial sense. Considering the Housing Corp currently average c£50k a property then even giving £25k to people looking to move, possibly as an equity share but with no obligation to pay interest on this sum at any time would seem to make more sense than some other convaluted measure such as "reviews" - Speaking as a former Housing Manager I was lucky to see 25% of all my residents in total as your time was usually taken up with the "trouble makers" so the idea that you could get round and review the financial position of the other 75% is laughable....
15/10/2008 1:59 pm
Tenancy for life or not is THE most controversial issue. Forget asb, arrears, estate mgmt and all else this is THE biggest issue.
Everyone needs and should have security of tenure, whether that be as a tenant or even as a homeowner. The roof over someones head provides stability to live. Yet, should these principles - the right to shelter - be written in stone?
Paretos law as Harry describes is common - 80% of tenants never seen as no need to - it is the 20% of tenants with arrears and estate mgmt problems that consume 100% of housing staff time. Yet, the 80% of 'good' tenants receive no service because of the 'bad' 20%. It is the same 20% that have created the negative impression tenancy has and yet little can be done under the current system of tenancy for life. In effect, the 20% can carry on damaging the peaceful enjoyment- a tenancy enshrined right - of all others. Something has to give.
Why not have revolving 2-year tenancies? The good 80% will automatically be re-issued, the 'bad' 20% will have their tenure reviewed. A negative incentive perhaps but would such an idea as this help the 20% to accept their responsibilities as a tenant, neighbour and membr of society?
The potential sanction of a two-yearly review - would this help reverse negative image of tenancy, help reduce asb, helpin many other ways?
Even if the question of tenancy for life was not brought to the fore because of scarcity of supply, such questions should be addressed. After all, the 20% spoil it for the other 80%.
I'm well aware that majority of the 20% are law abiding and often much of housing staff involvement is due to arrears of which HB complexities and errors are a significant part. So, even accepting that is the 'bad' tenant amount to just 5% they still are spoiling the 95% right to peaceful enjoyment of their property.
This 'greater good' argument has long been used in supported housing where licences can be common to aid stability there. Why should it not be transferred to general needs housing?
16/10/2008 8:05 am
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.
16/10/2008 11:56 am
The context of this 'proposal' - the commas specifically there as no concrete proposals have been forthcoming - is akin to yet more kite-flying?
To take John's point further those who may have thought they had a 'job and even home for life' may now need 'social' housing - yet another ingrained term 'social' - after all tenancies relate to people and as much as they may be treated as yet another bricks and mortar rent account, tenants are people with social needs, primarily stability that a house / roof gives.
Just because the south-east (mainly) has a chronic shortage of supply coupled with an increasing demand for housing doesnt mean the rule (law?) book should simply be thrown out with the bathwater.
Yet, whilst this kite-flying 'proposal' will probably not come to fruition, the debate raises many issues around scoial housing that do need addressing - such as how 'social' housing can operate better, how the term 'tenant' can change to not mean second or even third-class citizen and how the tiny minority of 'bad' tenants create a massive one-bad-apple syndrome for the vast majority of 'good' ones.
The enduring legacy of the right-to-buy prevails - a short-term vote winner that has stored up this massive problem of undersupply and over demand - and labelled tenants as third-class citizens in the national psyche.
Instead of further kicking social housing and tenants harder by threatening the removal of security of tenure, the 'great and the good' should be addressing how they can make the model better and include more of those that need it.
16/10/2008 12:08 pm
"Instead of further kicking social housing and tenants harder by threatening the removal of security of tenure, the 'great and the good' should be addressing how they can make the model better and include more of those that need it."
Exactly. And now - I mean, this month, this week - when even hardboiled conservative economists may be ready to concede there are certain fundamental human needs and priorities that cannot be left to the market, is exactly the moment the social housing profession should be seizing the opportunity to make this case.
Instead of which....
16/10/2008 1:47 pm
I don’t believe the CIH proposals are part of some dark plan to prop up the housing market. Even the most staunch defenders of secure tenancies must admit that the current system is not operating fairly. The CIH proposals are just an attempt to deal with the unfairness created by a lack of investment and the Right to Buy… an attempt that will fail because it will just create new winners and losers without addressing the fundamental problem which is a lack of affordable rented stock. John, as many people do, you see the current near-collapse of the financial system as an opportunity for some progressive actions that will improve social provision. Sadly I believe it will have the opposite effect, and the economic situation will soon be used as an excuse to cut social spending and dismantle parts of the welfare state. Then the Ponzi pyramid will start to grow again…
Inside Housing staff post
28/10/2008 10:19 am
CIH has posted a letter on its website about the proposals, which might clarify its thinking: http://www.cih.org/policy/TenantOpenLetterOct08.pdf
28/10/2008 10:58 am
The CIH inhabit the proverbial cloud cuckoo land. This letter is so ridiculous it is genuinely laughable as this one excerpt proves.
"if someone can easily afford to pay more for their rent then shouldn't we think about asking them to do so - especially if this means we could use the extra income to make someone elses rent cheaper."
So, the CIH want means tested social housing then!! This attempt at explanation of their paper is more risible than the original and shows naivete in the extreme. This is far, far more than the perverse incentive it was labelled by Adam Sampson of Shelter.
Then take the second part of that extract. CIH want to charge Mr Smith more so he can subsidise Mr Jones! Cloud Cuckoo Land is paying this explanation a complement!
What happens if Mr Smith loses his job? Does he rent decrease and then lower paid Mr Jones subsidise him? Or has Mr Smith by paying a higher rent overpaid his account as with some mortgages and can claim a rent free period? Anyone who has ever dealt with arrears or with HB can see the logistical practical nightmare of such a proposal never mind the moral reprehensibility of it.
CIH should focus on a relatively and comparatively simple aim. Make its member landlords provide homes to a decent standard and nothing else. If that aim was achieved all of the 'additional' roles it ascribes to its own remit such as housing providing a stable base for employment, general wellbeing and all others would flow. Rather than insisting upon that it chooses to release pie in the sky and ill-though out proposals seeing itself as some form of (delusional) social pioneer that can change peoples lives.
Or in their terminology if their "desire to see housing as much more than just bricks and mortar" holds good, then ge the bloody bricks and nortar bit right first! Walk before you can run!