Ministers also outlined the extra freedom from central control that councils will be given, so they can target help on the people in their communities who need it most.
Ministers also confirmed that all tenants will have access to a National Home Swap Scheme, making it easier for them to move should their situation change.
Despite £17billion spent on social housing over the past 13 years, the numbers of people on waiting lists has doubled to nearly five million. Ministers believe this is because the centrally-controlled system gives councils and housing associations little room to find innovative and creative solutions to their local housing problems.
Instead, the Localism Bill currently before Parliament will give landlords the option to offer flexible tenancies, and will give councils greater control over allocating their social homes, so this valuable resource is available to those who need it most, when they need it. Councils will continue to publish their policies on how social housing is allocated – showing how priority will continue to go to people in greatest need. All social landlords will be required to publish their policies on issuing different tenancies – including how they plan to meet their responsibility to make necessary provisions for the needs of the most vulnerable families.
Ministers have carefully considered the balance between central prescription of the lengths of tenancies available and local flexibility, and propose that a two-year minimum tenancy should still be available for landlords to offer – but in the vast majority of cases, they expect longer term tenancies to be offered – particularly for vulnerable households or those with children.
Existing tenants will not see their rights or rents affected by these far-reaching reforms. However, under ministers’ plans, all tenants will benefit from national home swap services, giving tenants greater opportunities to move home if they want to – whether for work, to be closer to family or to a property better suited to their needs.
Housing Minister Grant Shapps said:
"Over the past 13 years a lazy consensus in social housing meant the numbers of people left languishing on waiting lists almost doubled. We cannot sit idly by and watch as people simply join the back of the queue – urgent reform is needed to make sure as many people as possible benefit from the support that social housing offers.
"This new system will be fairer and more flexible, ensuring the most vulnerable in our society continue to be protected, while giving councils the freedom to offer fixed tenancies to new tenants so they can give help where and when it’s needed for as long as it’s needed.
"And while existing tenants will see no changes to their tenancy agreements, they will no longer be trapped in homes that no longer suit their situation, but will have much greater opportunities to move if they want to."
Communities Minister Andrew Stunell said:
"It’s clear that sticking to the status quo will not help the millions of families stuck on social housing waiting lists across the country, nor the hundreds of thousands of families forced to suffer homes that no longer meet their needs. Far-reaching reform is long overdue.
"That’s why today we can confirm how, through the Localism Bill, landlords will be given much more room for manoeuvre, to meet local housing demand – while at the same time making sure that the most vulnerable in society continue to be protected.
"These changes will lead to a much smarter system, one led not from Whitehall but from the Town Halls by people who know the housing issues that their local communities face, and who will finally be able to make the changes they know are needed to tackle them."
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