Saturday 20 November 2010

The end of secure social housing?

It's news today (Guardian, BBC) that the ConDems are planning to introduce a social housing system where councils will check the finances of tenants every 2 years. If the tenant has too much money they will be evicted.

I've had impaired mobility since I was born, but it's only been within the last 5 years that I've become too ill to work. 6 and a half years ago when I applied for social housing on medical grounds I was in work and probably had too much money to get social housing on financial grounds.

Had I remained healthy (my osteogenesis impairs my mobility but it doesn't make me "unwell") thus continued working then 2 years into my tenancy I'd have still had the financial means to live in the private sector so under this new system it'd have resulted in my eviction.

The only realistic housing prospects for mobility impaired people in the UK at the moment are either social housing or to buy your own home. Private sector rented properties are almost exclusively inaccessible. When I moved into this flat I may have been able to afford private sector rents, but I certainly couldn't afford to buy. And buying or getting a council flat were the only options for living somewhere where my home itself didn't break my bones for me.

If councils start evicting people who can afford private sector rents it's going to have a massive impact on disabled people. Being evicted from an accessible council flat and having to move into an inaccessible private sector property may mean having to give up work if you literally can't get out of your front door to get to work each day. If I was well enough to work and I had a choice between getting a job and getting evicted from my not-accessible-but-better-than-anything-in-the-private-sector home or remaining unemployed but getting to keep the flat where I've got a sort-of-accessible kitchen and a sort-of-accessible bathroom then I'll choose the latter, thanks.

I realise that at the moment they're only planning on implementing this system for new tenants so it won't affect me immediately. But if I ever get rehoused to somewhere that's really, properly accessible then my new tenancy will be limited by the conditions. Which, should someone come up with an effective treatment for my chronic health problems, will leave me stuck between a rock and a hard place with regards to finding work or keeping my home.

Of course, while disabled people may be the most harshly affected due to the lack of accessible private housing, it's an issue that will affect everybody. This two year old CiF piece explains how losing your home if your financial situation improves will lead to people rejecting opportunities to improve their situation. Even the usually ridiculous and vicious Nadine Dorries agrees that limiting social tenancies will lead to reduced aspirations in an attempt to stave off losing ones home. (And the right wing Daily Mail reported it!)

Cameron and Co are absolutely right that something needs to be done about the fact that there's too little available social housing. As someone that lives in a sort-of inaccessible flat because there's too little accessible social housing I'm more aware of that than most. But evicting people with a few grand in the bank is not the answer because of the demotivating factor. If they really want to fix the problem they need to build more housing to replace what Thatcher's Tory government sold off in the 1980s.


  1. Not to mention that moving home - especially when you're disabled and can't manage your own packing and lifting - is one of the most expensive activities there is.

    If I was looking for a way to wipe out a few of grand, a good place to start would be to spend three or four weeks unable to work/earn because I was using all my spoons hiking round estate agents offices and potential new rental homes (of which there is a shortage anyway BBC news), then cough up for a deposit and first month's rent in advance (because you don't get it back from your previous landlord for weeks if you get it back at all), and then haemorrhage money for expenses like end-of-tenancy cleaners and a decent removals firm.

  2. Before we scare everyone to death, social housing is now devolved which means Scotland NI and Wales can basically ignore anything the government does, this is about England as far as I can tell.

    we do not know anything about the regulations the laws or the rules, so speculation is dangerous.

    But so far listening to what has been said I doubt this will include the disabled or the sick who live in adapted homes or have made adaption or do not work, or in fact work on the min wage.

    It looks like the Tories are after people in big cities who live and use social housing as a cheap way to live. Remember labour used council houses in London for teachers nurses and Police, they had priority over anyone else.

    Yet look at it, a Police office now earns in excess of £30,000 a year, if he is married to say a nurse she has in excess of £30,000 thats a combined income of £60,000 yet they get priority in the social housing, while a disabled person would be placed down the pecking order.

    It looks like the government are saying this couple with an income of £60,000 could be expected to rent in the private sector, with regulations on the amount people can now pay for private rents it should come down.

    Council rents in my area are now Council house £100 week, private runs between £120 to £180 depending on the property, if of course you do not pay rent it does not much matter does it.

    But before you call in the movers lets wait until we see the regulations.

    My home would be no good to able bodied person because it's been adapted to wheelchair use.

    My worry again is about the rent the government say we should be paying, they say people living in social housing should be paying the same as people pay on average in private housing, which means my rent which is now £100 would increase to £180 thats an increase of £80, but again this is a devolved issue now.

  3. just to confirm this is for England only as the other area Wales Scotland and Ireland have devolved powers.

    So you have to ask the question why is England doing this, and how do you fight it.