Barnet Council's brave reforms to social housing

July 25, 2012 6:17 PM

Barnet Council has recently announced an end to council houses for life for new tenants. Instead it will replace them with fixed term renewable agreements which will be reviewed every five years.

Across the country, we have a system of housing welfare that is dangerously unbalanced. Social housing should be there to provide help for those who need it for the shortest possible time, not be permanently available regardless of how rich tenants have become.It should be a springboard that promotes progress, with those who succeed in getting stable, well-paid jobs encouraged into alternative housing, allowing those who are in genuine need to take their place. The challenge is delivering that without ruining people's incentive to work.

Under the current system, there are council tenants on six figure incomes living in council houses subsidised by the taxpayer. Bob Crow, the fatcat trade union leader, lives in a council house in London despite receiving a pay and benefits package of over £120,000 per year. Frank Dobson MP and former Cabinet minister, also lives in a council house, claiming he cannot afford private rent on his over £60,000 salary.

At least in those cases, something is wrong with social housing in Britain. But they are not isolated. According to a report leaked to the Daily Mail, across the country 15,000 social housing tenants earn more than £80,000 a year and 6,000 earn more than £100,000. Council houses should be homes for those most in need, not the wealthy who can afford alternatives.

The underlying problem is that need has drifted away from provision. There are four million people on waiting lists for social housing and yet council houses are given to families for life without their tenancies ever being reviewed. Why should someone whose prospects have improved stay in a house indefinitely that may be desperately needed by a less fortunate family?

Council homes should ideally be available to those most in need rather than for a lifetime. The current system entrenches millions of families into a cycle of dependency and needs reform. Barnet Council should be applauded for this initiative, for taking on the hard task of reforming the provision of social housing.Barnet Council has recently announced an end to council houses for life for new tenants. Instead it will replace them with fixed term renewable agreements which will be reviewed every five years.

Across the country, we have a system of housing welfare that is dangerously unbalanced. Social housing should be there to provide help for those who need it for the shortest possible time, not be permanently available regardless of how rich tenants have become.It should be a springboard that promotes progress, with those who succeed in getting stable, well-paid jobs encouraged into alternative housing, allowing those who are in genuine need to take their place. The challenge is delivering that without ruining people's incentive to work.

Under the current system, there are council tenants on six figure incomes living in council houses subsidised by the taxpayer. Bob Crow, the fatcat trade union leader, lives in a council house in London despite receiving a pay and benefits package of over £120,000 per year. Frank Dobson MP and former Cabinet minister, also lives in a council house, claiming he cannot afford private rent on his over £60,000 salary.

At least in those cases, something is wrong with social housing in Britain. But they are not isolated. According to a report leaked to the Daily Mail, across the country 15,000 social housing tenants earn more than £80,000 a year and 6,000 earn more than £100,000. Council houses should be homes for those most in need, not the wealthy who can afford alternatives.

The underlying problem is that need has drifted away from provision. There are four million people on waiting lists for social housing and yet council houses are given to families for life without their tenancies ever being reviewed. Why should someone whose prospects have improved stay in a house indefinitely that may be desperately needed by a less fortunate family?

Council homes should ideally be available to those most in need rather than for a lifetime. The current system entrenches millions of families into a cycle of dependency and needs reform. Barnet Council should be applauded for this initiative, for taking on the hard task of reforming the provision of social housing.

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