Shapps: Radical reforms for social housing

This is despite £17bn of investment in new social housing over the last 13 years, have caused the number of people on waiting lists to nearly double to five million people, whilst a quarter of a million social homes remain overcrowded, and 400,000 under-occupied.

Councils will now be given more flexibility to use their social housing stock to the maximum effect and drive down waiting lists, which currently stand at five million people. Housing Associations will also be given the option to offer new affordable rents and use this revenue to build more affordable homes.

Proposals have been published to make the system fairer. Councils will have greater local discretion to decide allocations and the option to offer flexible tenancies.

Councils will also have more flexibility to help homeless families and existing tenants who may be trapped in unsuitable accommodation, or who are unable to take up a job offer because they can’t move.

The rules will strike a sensible balance between the needs of new and existing tenants, and ensure the support that social housing provides is focussed on the most vulnerable and those who need it most, for as long as they need it.

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.

"The new system will protect the most vulnerable in society, ensuring those in greatest housing need are given priority. It will also be more flexible, with councils and housing associations able to offer fixed tenancies that give people the helping hand they need, when they need it. But above all it will be fairer – councils will now be able to make decisions that genuinely meet the needs of local people, and the changes will not affect any existing tenants."

Communities Minister Andrew Stunell said:

"To have five million people stuck on social housing waiting lists is unacceptable – clearly this system is broken and needs a radical overhaul.

"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."

Sarah Webb, CIH Chief Executive said:

“The proposals announced today could mean significant changes for prospective social tenants and people working around social housing. We have long called for a more flexible approach to social tenancies that give people a choice according to their changing needs at different times of their lives, but we have always insisted that security and stability should be the starting point.  If landlords choose to use fixed term tenancies, they will need to be clear what length is most suitable. Just two years may be appropriate for a small number of tenants going through a short-term transition in their lives, but how realistic is this for most people to be asked to move on from their tenancies after such a short period?  We believe people should be able to stay in their own homes as circumstances change, even if the terms of their tenancy change.”

“The proposals will make important changes to who will get social housing at what price and on what basis.  It is vital that the members we represent take the opportunity to engage with the government and work together on the detail to ensure any reforms are fair and sustainable in the long term"

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