Wednesday 30 January 2013

Who Should Be Housed?

The draft Tenancy Strategy was debated and adopted at last night's Council meeting in Reading [Here is the link]

This is what I said on behalf of the Conservative Group:

Drilling down to the purpose of social housing, it is to protect, ie house, those in society who would otherwise be homeless or unable to afford housing to meet their needs.

Therefore the Government's intention to introduce fixed-term tenancies to residents new to social housing for as long as that tenant is assessed as needing one is the fairest way forward.

With the UK's dramatically increasing population the country cannot afford to let residents new into social housing have a home for life.  This change will make it easier for residents to move according to their needs, whether that is up or down-sizing and also within a specific area - as supply will increase and flexibility will be gained.

We have a long waiting list for housing in Reading.  I'm sure we all want those with the greatest needs to be housed suitably as soon as possible.

Many on the list are desperate for larger accommodation as currently they are suffering from appalling overcrowding.

Despite the Council increasing incentives for tenants considering downsizing voluntarily back in February last year, just 14 tenants moved to smaller accommodation in 2012 - which was in fact one less than had downsized in 2011. [The incentives are detailed in RBC's press release]

The response rate to the Council's consultation - a mere 22 residents - is shockingly bad and therefore results are fairly meaningless.

To conclude: As a result of the points I have raised, our Group opposes Labour's strategic aim to try to dissuade private landlords against fixed term tenancies as we believe it is to the detriment of our most vulnerable residents.

I cannot see justification, either for Reading Labour Group or their Party's statements that they want 'tenancies for life' to continue.  Add to the dramatic rise in birth rate the net migration figure of 2 million into Britain [given during Prime Minister's Questions today which, as Julian Brazier MP pointed out has put massive pressure on the UK's housing and other infrastructure] it simply isn't possible to build social housing at the rate necessary to accommodate those who need it, even though the Conservative led government has reduced net migration down by a quarter.

The Labour Party has opposed all £83 billion of welfare savings.  Ed Miliband's 3-point plan - David Cameron pointed out today - is "spending more, borrowing more and more debt".  Labour nationally and locally needs to wake up and open their eyes.

Locally, the Labour Group's attempt at freeing up larger social housing property by giving (amongst other things) £2,000 to help those who volunteer to downsize with moving costs patently isn't getting anything like the numbers downsizing to appropriately house those on the waiting list. 

As the February 2012 RBC press release sets out, an elderly couple Molly & John Barton had lived in a 3-bedroom Council home for 53 years.  "They are both disabled and found it increasingly difficult over the years to manage the stairs and maintain their home and large garden."  They moved into a one-bedroom Council home "and are very happy.  The smaller size property is much more manageable for them."

Given the present reality, surely it is fair that once a resident* is able to provide for their own housing needs they should move out of social housing thereby freeing those on the waiting list to be housed suitably? 

* NB Since April 2012 social landlords, including local authority landlords, have had the option of granting fixed-term tenancies to all new tenants.  Before that date all social landlords were expected to provide permanent tenants with lifetime tenancies.