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Lifetime tenancies to be axed

Social landlords will be able to choose whether to scrap tenancy for life in their areas, under radical reforms to social housing announced today.

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A consultation paper, Local decisions: a fairer future for social housing, will also allow local authorities to set their own allocations policy for those waiting for social housing and to make their own decisions on where to accommodate homeless people. They will be expected to publish a ‘strategic tenancy policy’ in consultation with local landlords and community organisations.

Housing associations will be able to choose whether to charge new tenants a ‘social rent’ or the new ‘affordable rent’, which will be set at a maximum of 80 per cent of market rents.

The new flexible tenancies will have a fixed term of at least two years, with six months’ notice for a tenant whose circumstances have improved sufficiently for them to move out of social housing.

The government is still considering keeping tenancy for life as standard for older people and those with long-term illnesses or disabilities. The consultation paper also asks for views on whether to extend the minimum fixed term from two years to a longer agreement for tenants with children.

Housing minister Grant Shapps said: ‘For far too long in this country there has been a lazy consensus about the use of social housing, which has left one of our most valuable resources trapped in a system that helps far fewer people than it should.

‘This out-of-date approach has seen waiting lists rocket and is unfair to people who genuinely need social homes. They trap existing tenants in poverty, often in homes that aren’t suitable for reform.’

In an interview with the BBC’s Today programme, Mr Shapps stressed two-year tenancies will be exceptional.

‘What we are creating is a new form of tenancy which will be more protected than the private rented sector,’ he said. ‘The point is to make sure we can house more people, and in appropriately sized homes.’

Andrew Stunell, junior housing minister, said: ‘We need to have a much smarter system that protects lifetime tenancies, but also provides the flexibility to ensure that help is targeted at people who really need it, and enables us to get more for every pound of taxpayers’ money. In times of economic hardship, it is vital that social housing is effective in helping people get back on their feet.’

There was widespread opposition to the plans when prime minister David Cameron first suggested lifetime tenancies could be reviewed, in August. Opponents included many Liberal Democrat MPs, with deputy leader Simon Hughes saying the party would need ‘a lot of persuading’ on the issue.

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