No more subsidised housing for life

ballymun-flats-1By Lizzie Beattie

Residents of affordable housing will no longer be guaranteed subsidised rent for life under new Whitehall plans to cut waiting lists.

People living in council houses were previously promised low rent for life, and in some cases could even pass the home on to their children. Under new proposals tenants would be subject to checks every three to four years. If their situations had improved in this time residents would be encouraged to move to the private sector. If they refused, they could face higher rents closer to market value.

There is also a suggestion that the right to a council home would be dependent on the tenant either having or actively seeking employment.

New Housing Minister Margaret Beckett is considering these proposals in an attempt lower the huge numbers of people on waiting lists for council homes. At present there are 1.6 million households on the waiting list for affordable housing and only 170 000 homes becoming available each year.

Currently, councils must find housing immediately for extreme cases such as pregnant women, people with dependent children, those aged 16-17 and those leaving the Armed Forces. The new plans will closely scrutinise these groups to cut out abuse such as parents claiming irreconcilable differences with their children to help them to obtain a council house.

The plans have come under sharp criticism from some sectors. Adan Sampson, Shelter’s chief executive said: “At a time when unemployment is rising sharply it would be perverse of the government to mount an attack on social housing.”

A government spokesman was quick to respond stating that Margaret Beckett was merely considering the evidence at present and that no decisions would be made until the new year.

Grant Shapps, the Shadow Housing Minister siad that the government had created their own crisis, stating:” The Conservative Party built an average 40 000 affordable homes while in office, but under Labour this dropped to 22 000.”