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from the guardian.co.uk <

David Cameron announces plan to end lifetime council tenancies<


Council homes for life to be replaced by tenancies lasting as little as five years based on need and income<

Patrick Wintour, political editor

An end to lifetime council tenancies was signalled today by <David Cameron< as he warned the coming public spending cuts will not be restored when the economy recovers.<

Cameron said he wanted to see fixed terms for all new council and <housing< association tenancies lasting as little as five years to help increase social mobility.<

The prime minister admitted that "not everyone will support this and there will be quite a big argument". Speaking in Birmingham, he said: "There is a question mark about whether, in future, we should be asking when you are given a council home, is it for a fixed period? Because maybe in five or 10 years you will be doing a different job and be better paid and you won't need that home, you will be able to go into the private sector."<

A consultation paper, due to be published as early astomorrow, will say the new short-term tenure would be for local councils to implement, but would involve regular reviews of tenancies to see if the council tenant still needed such a large property or had sufficient income to shift to the private sector.<

At present council tenants have secure tenancy for life. Housing association tenants have secure tenancy for life after a probationary year. Council tenants have the right to hand the property over to their children, whereas housing association tenants do not.<

The communities department estimates that it costs each taxpayer £35 a week to keep people in affordable homes, and it is argued the tenancy for life is an inefficient use of scarce resources.<

Under the government's proposals council tenants could be forced to downsize. A total of 234,000 households in the social tenant sector are overcrowded while 456,000 are under-occupied, meaning people have more than one extra spare room, according to official figures.<

The government has already announced separate plans to cut housing benefit.<

Defending the reforms that have proved too politically explosive for Labour housing ministers to implement, the coalition's housing minister, Grant Shapps, said last night: "It is quite clear that the real losers from the current system are the 1.8m people on council house waiting lists who the current arrangements do not help.<

"It is time to consider whether our affordable housing system can be better used and whether one of the benefits would be greater social mobility. Any benefits from these changes might take many years, but it does not mean we should shy away from doing something. This will have no impact on existing council or housing association tenants."<

Shapps has been holding private talks with key housing groups to persuade them to back the reforms.<

Critics of the proposed reforms say it could disincentivise the unemployed to seek well-paid work as they might lose their tenancy as result. There are also fears that it would increase the chances of council estates becoming ghettos of the workless poor.<

The homeless charity Shelter said tonight: "We do not believe the big question in housing policy is security of tenure for new tenants. The prime minister has sidestepped the fundamental cause of our housing crisis – the desperate lack of affordable housing supply."<

Helen Williams, assistant director at the National Housing Federation, said: "There is a case for looking at what is offered to new tenants, as a way to seeing if over time social housing could help more people."<

Cameron today urged the public to recognise that the deficit was a moral issue and suggested public spending would not be restored to its current levels when the economy improves.<

"Should we cut things now and then go back later and try and restore them?" Cameron asked. "I think we should try to avoid that approach … people should open their minds and find new ways of doing more for less. We're going to have to change the way we work. How can we do things differently and better to give the value for money?"<

With the Spending review due to be published in October, he urged people to recognise there would be light at the end of the tunnel, and that "it is not all doom and gloom". Cuts of 25% – the equivalent of a 5% cut every year – was what many businesses and families were facing with their own budgets.<

He said his aim was to tackle the big ticket items like pensions public sector pay, and welfare before tackling smaller budgets.<

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People who live in social housing in England will be able to swap homes more easily with other tenants anywhere in the country, under government plans.

The Freedom Pass will allow them to see details of every council and housing association tenant looking to exchange.

They have previously only been able to do this in their local area, or through a more complicated system elsewhere.

It comes after David Cameron said council houses should no longer be allocated "for life".

More at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-10855547<

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Grant Shapps: 'freedom pass' for tenants trapped in unsuitable homes

Housing Minister Grant Shapps has today put the eight million tenants in social housing in England firmly in control of where they live and their life opportunities, with a new 'freedom pass' to move home for work, to be closer to family or for any other reason.

The Minister has pledged to introduce a new National Affordable Home Swap Scheme. For the first time this will give tenants the chance to see details of every council and housing association tenant looking to exchange homes - not just in their area but across the country.

Tenants wanting to move can face an uphill battle, pitting themselves against the record numbers of families on social housing waiting lists. They see swapping homes as their only means of escaping properties that no longer meet their needs. Sometimes it can simply be in the wrong place for their job or prospective work or tenants might just need to move to support an elderly relative for example.

This has meant that in 2008, less than a quarter of new lettings were given to existing tenants - leaving others trapped in accommodation and unable to take up opportunities to improve their lives.

Current house-swap schemes are patchy in nature, but the National Home Swap Scheme will be open to all eight million tenants in social housing in England. The new comprehensive system will help to address the contradictory current situation where over a quarter-of-a-million households live in overcrowded accommodation while a further 430,000 households are unable to easily downsize from larger properties they no longer need. This means that the nation's stock of affordable homes are inefficiently used and means a loss of opportunity for tenants.

The Minister also announced that he will work with two London landlords to explore whether they can offer a new 'Right to Move' for tenants. The London Boroughs of Kensington and Chelsea and Hammersmith and Fulham will look at whether they can develop a scheme under which some of their tenants could ask their landlord to find them a home in the area they want to live.

But Mr Shapps also made clear that if he doesn't see improvements in help for tenants to move, he will take tough action to make it happen - including a 'Right to Move' for tenants in law.

Grant Shapps said:

"Today I'm launching a 'Freedom Pass' for all eight million people in affordable housing in England. Social housing should provide more than a roof over people's heads - it should lift them out of poverty, and free them to take chances to improve the quality of their own lives. Instead, many tenants are left trapped in their own homes, while councils and housing associations turn their attention to record waiting lists.

"This cannot continue - as we work to tackle the record budget deficit we must ensure vulnerable people benefit from, but don't become trapped by, the safety net that social housing provides.

"That's why I'm putting tenants in the driving seat, with a new opportunity to see people like them looking to exchange social homes not just in their area but across the country, through a new National Home Swap Scheme."

This approach is backed by a new report commissioned by Mr Shapps in 2009 and published today by the National Housing Federation (NHF). Among its many recommendations on improving social housing mobility, the report concludes that many existing tenants do not apply for a transfer because they believe they will not be re-housed due to having a lack of priority in the allocation scheme.

Instead, the NHF report finds that tenants see mutual exchange as the only realistic option for those wanting to move who do not meet a priority category for social housing - and that a national home swap scheme would help tenants in this situation.

Notes to editors

1. The report by the Mobility Taskforce at the National Housing Federation, is published today and can be found at:
www.housing.org.uk/default.aspx?tabid=289&mid=2076&ctl=Details&ArticleID=317< (external link)

2. Any comments on this Freedom Pass for council and housing association tenants should be sent to mobility@communities.gsi.gov.uk<.

http://www.communities.gov.uk/news/newsroom/1664130<

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to read the orginal of the story and comments on guardian.co.uk click here.<

Lib Dem discontent as Simon Hughes attacks Cameron's plan to introduce fixed-tenure council houses<


Liberal Democrat deputy leader says his party would need a lot of persuading to back 'radical' idea<


Hélène Mulholland, Paul Owen and agencies<


Simon Hughes, the Lib Dem deputy leader, today spoke out against David Cameron's suggestion that council houses should not be granted for life.<


Hughes said his party would need "a lot of persuading" to back the idea, and told BBC Radio 4's World at One: "I'm not against radical ideas coming from progressive prime ministers, but it's no more than that. It's a prime ministerial idea – it has no more validity yet and I think our party would need a lot of persuading that it has merit or could work."<


Cameron told an audience at a public question and answer session in Birmingham yesterday that there ought to be "fixed-term" tenancy deals, so individuals can be moved on if their circumstances change.<


"At the moment we have a system very much where if you get a council house or an affordable house it is yours forever and in some cases people actually hand them down to their children," the prime minister said. "There is a question mark about whether, in future, should we be asking, actually, when you are given a council home, is it for a fixed period? Because maybe in five or 10 years you will be doing a different job and be better paid and you won't need that home, you will be able to go into the private sector."<


But Hughes said consultation was vital if a change of policy was proposed. "Prime ministers are entitled to float any idea they like but we have to be clear it is not a Liberal Democrat policy, it is not a coalition policy, it is not in the election manifesto of either party, it was not in the coalition agreement.<


"The message just has to get out this is now being floated by the prime minister – if he wants to pursue it then there are the proper channels to do so. We're very happy to have the discussion."
Hughes said proposals for council house allocation had "always been controversial".
<


"It's very important that if we're going to debate any changes to the fundamental issue – which is that if you're given the tenancy, you pass a probationary period, you have it for life – we do it very sensitively and carefully, mindful of all the difficulties," he said.<


"The fundamental reason why council properties are so desirable is because you have security. You know you can have affordable housing for the rest of your life and for people in many walks of life – out of work, retired, on low incomes – that's fundamentally important."<


Hughes said he believed council tenants could be persuaded to move to smaller, more suitable homes if the options were explained to them. "The question is do you make it compulsory to move? The danger then again is you start breaking up ... communities."<


He said Labour had floated the idea of fixed-term tenancies in the past, but "very quickly withdrew it because they saw the pitfalls".<


Hughes, who took over as deputy leader of the Lib Dems in June after Vincent Cable stood down to concentrate on his cabinet job of business secretary, is seen as being on the left of the Lib Dems and a lightning rod for those in the party uncomfortable with the Tory coalition.<


His comments came as the government released more details of plans to reform social housing.
Housing minister Grant Shapps said today that a new "freedom pass" for council house tenants would allow them to apply for a house swap anywhere in the country.
<


He warned that he was prepared to enshrine in law a "right to move" for the country's 8 million social housing tenants, if councils or housing association landlords failed to improve their help for tenants wishing to move – whether for employment, family or "any other" reasons.<


A number of councils already run successful exchange systems, but under the proposed National Affordable Home Swap Scheme, all tenants would be given the chance to see the details of every council and housing association tenant looking to exchange homes anywhere in the country.
Shapps said the scheme would help resolve the "contradictory" situation whereby a 250,000 families lived in overcrowded accommodation, while more than 400,000 homes were larger than their occupants needed.
<


"Social housing should provide more than a roof over people's heads, it should lift them out of poverty and free them to take chances to improve the quality of their own lives," the minister said.<


"Instead, many tenants are left trapped in their own homes, while councils and housing associations turn their attention to record waiting lists. This cannot continue. As we work to tackle the record budget deficit we must ensure vulnerable people benefit from, but don't become trapped by, the safety net that social housing provides."<


Pressed on the details of Cameron's plans for fixed tenures this morning, Shapps said the prime minister had simply opened the debate on the issue.<


He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that it was "crazy" to subsidise rents for life just because somebody had needed help at one point.<


"It seems crazy that we spend billions of pounds on affordable homes and we carry on doing that whether the person in the home is actually in need or not. That isn't efficient use of the housing we have in this country."<


John Healey, the shadow housing minister, warned the measures outlined by ministers could be taken as a green light by some to put pressure on people to move out of their homes – "not least as the announcement follows David Cameron letting the cat out of the bag on the Tories' secret agenda to remove security of tenure," said Healey.<


The Chartered Institute of Housing, the professional body for people working in housing, said that housing reforms could turn social housing into "a revolving door for poverty" unless detailed work is carried out to explore the key issues of waiting lists, allocations, rents and tenancies.<


Richard Capie, the institute's director of policy and practice, said: "We are clear that for many people social housing should be and is a positive tenure choice, somewhere they can afford in the communities where they have always lived. For many people on low incomes it isn't a transition tenancy before moving to private renting or home ownership – with high house prices, markets rents and low wages this simply isn't going to be an option or choice. Social housing should be valued as a great asset for everyone in communities – it can help the care worker and teaching assistant live in the areas where they are carrying out such vital work.<


"We are open to looking at how occupancy is managed as a person's circumstances change, for example different rents, or schemes that help people accumulate equity stakes. Income from these schemes could fund new homes to reduce pressure on waiting lists. But we are equally clear that forcing successful families to leave will lead to a revolving door that concentrates poverty and vulnerability – a price all society will end up paying for."<


Eileen Short, chair of the lobby group Defend Council Housing, called the government's proposals "a nasty and unworkable attack" on council tenants.<


"In what kind of Victorian nightmare world would tenants be forced to move house if you got a job or promotion, or if someone dies? What new 'poor law guardians' would vet our income and family life? This is a nasty and unworkable attack which will not build one new home. We need a new generation of first-class public housing to create homes and jobs.'<


Helen Williams, the assistant director of the National Housing Federation, welcomed the house swap scheme. "[It] will allow tenants to find out what properties are available for exchange anywhere in the country. This will allow many more people to move home, whether they want to be closer to their relatives or to find a property that better suits their needs."<

 

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Good homes in which to grow old? The role of councils in meeting the housing challenge of an ageing population

This publication highlights the vital role that councils play in addressing the housing needs of our ageing society. We identify how housing can contribute to better service integration, better outcomes for older people and greater efficiency. In a period of austerity, we believe that addressing the housing needs of older people can substantially reduce the demand for, and cost of, health and social care. We also identify how central and local government can work together to devolve, simplify and rationalise the housing and planning framework in order for councils to have the freedom and autonomy to develop housing strategies that meet the needs of older people, now and in the future.

<

References/Acknowledgement

Local Government Group

Supplier details

Location: LGconnect, Local Government House, Smith Square, London
Price: £ Free
Reference Code: L10-473
Details: Supplier

For priced publications please quote reference code when ordering.

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Download Publication<

http://www.lga.gov.uk/lga/publications/publication-display.do?id=12294342<

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Local communities that build more local homes will be rewarded by getting more funding to use in their local area on things they consider to be a priority. Communities will be able to use their reward for going for growth on whatever they wish locally, such as council tax discounts for residents or facilities like playgrounds.

The New Homes Bonus, to be introduced early in the Spending Review period, will mean more homes built where they are needed and is intended to reverse the decline in the number of homes being built, currently languishing at its lowest peacetime level for 80 years.

The Minister confirmed that councils who take action now to give planning consent and support the construction of new homes where they are needed and wanted will receive direct and substantial benefit for their actions.

Mr Shapps urged councils to open up an honest and direct debate with the communities they serve about the benefits of building new homes in their area - how they can reap the benefits of development and not just the costs.

Grant Shapps said:

"We will not tell communities how or where they should grow. But the new Homes Bonus will ensure that those communities that go for growth reap the benefits of development, not just the costs.

"With housebuilding at its lowest peacetime levels for over 80 years action is needed now to build the homes the country needs. That's why these new powerful incentives to build will be introduced early in the Spending Review period. And it's why I have confirmed that those councils who go for growth now will reap the rewards. So I urge councils to seize the moment and open up a debate with their communities now about the new homes they need and how they would use the new Bonus."

The Government wants to hear the views of councils, communities and industry as it finalises the scheme. A consultation paper on the final scheme will be published following the spending review.

http://www.communities.gov.uk/newsstories/housing/1681357<

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Housing Minister Grant Shapps has today told councils that local communities who go for growth now and in the future will receive direct and substantial extra funding to spend as they wish - whether council tax discounts for local residents, boosting frontline services like rubbish collection or improving local facilities like playgrounds.

Housebuilding has been declining over the past few years and is at its lowest peacetime level since 1924. Taking action to address this is a priority for Government. That's why Mr Shapps has today announced that the New Homes Bonus will be introduced early in the Spending Review period.

The Minister confirmed that councils who take action now to give planning consent and support the construction of new homes where they are needed and wanted will receive direct and substantial benefit for their actions.

Mr Shapps urged councils to open up an honest and direct debate with the communities they serve about the benefits of building new homes in their area - how they can reap the benefits of development and not just the costs.

In a letter to councils Mr Shapps also confirmed that the Government is working on business rate reforms to encourage economic development, as well as reforming the Community Infrastructure Levy to provide an even clearer incentive to develop.

Grant Shapps said:

"We have wasted no time scrapping the ineffective top-down planning system that forced unsustainable development on communities and are returning control of a much faster and more responsive planning system to local people.

"We will not tell communities how or where to build, or how they should grow. But the New Homes Bonus will ensure that those communities that go for growth reap the benefits of development, not just the costs.

"With housebuilding falling to its lowest level since 1924, action is needed now to build the homes the country needs. That's why these new powerful incentives to build will be introduced early in the Spending Review period. And it's why I have confirmed that those councils who go for growth by providing planning permission now will reap the rewards. So I urge councils to seize the moment and open up a debate with their communities now about the new homes they need and how they would use the new Bonus."

The Government wants to hear the views of councils, communities and industry as it finalises the scheme. A consultation paper on the final scheme will be published following the spending review.

http://www.communities.gov.uk/news/corporate/1681467<

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