Time to bring fairness to social housing

HOUSING Minister Grant Shapps wants a radical change in the social housing provision.

He is proposing a more flexible arrangement, whereby tenants would be given a house or flat for a five or 10-year period only, instead of the existing system of fixed tenancies. After their allotted time, tenants would have their situation reviewed and, if there has been a substantial change, for example children have moved out or the parents’ earnings have substantially increased, the householders would be required to move to more appropriate accommodation or be compelled to find private housing, whatever is compatible with their needs.

Isn’t this all common sense? Mr Shapps is not even proposing tampering with any existing arrangements, so quite why there has been the usual cries of ‘it’s so unfair’, is puzzling. Well, if I’m being entirely honest, it’s not that puzzling because state dependency has become embedded in British culture, particularly during the last 13 years, and an increasing number of people are interested only in grabbing as much from the state as they can.

Why should someone be entitled to a house with a heavily subsidised rent in perpetuity, particularly when you learn that one fifth of council house tenants earn above the national average wage? Is it right and fair that 90,000 people have taxpayer-subsidised council accommodation inherited from their parents or from other family members? All this, while the queue for council accommodation has almost doubled during the last 10 years.

The system should be built upon need. There is a shortage of appropriate housing and many families face years of living in unsuitable conditions. Mr Shapps’ new ‘flexible tenancy’ would help these people. We need to prune �4 billion from the social housing budget and this is one way to help accomplish it, as well as making the whole set-up fairer.


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Some argue that it is cruel to move people, particularly the elderly, out of their neighbourhoods, where they have friends. Actually, and I know this from first hand experience via my dear Aunty Edna, often, after the initial upset, elderly people prefer smaller, easier to maintain accommodation. There’s no garden to worry about and they are surrounded by folk of their own age. She soon got to enjoy her new flat after years in a big house.

At the moment we have a situation in which people either ‘win’ (council house for life and beyond) or ‘lose’ (sorry, there’s nothing available). It is palpably anachronistic, failing to address the fact that there are two million people on waiting lists, compelled to live in unsuitable accommodation.

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Mr Shapps isn’t being unfair, he’s using his common sense for the benefit of the majority. And common sense seems to be such a rare commodity these days.

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