Magazine article Public Finance

Social Housing Should Give Tenants Broader Choices

Magazine article Public Finance

Social Housing Should Give Tenants Broader Choices

Article excerpt

An acute shortage of social housing is reducing tenants' mobility and failing to offer them an incentive to find work, says a government-commissioned review.

While households that rent from councils and registered social landlords should retain security of tenure, they should be offered a wider range of choices, says Professor John Hills.

These might include regular reviews of their financial circumstances that could lead to them buying shares in their homes. But landlords should also seek to retain some higher-income tenants through quality management so that estates include a wider mix of people.

Hills, social policy professor at the London School of Economics, was invited to study the future of social housing eight months ago by Communities and Local Government Secretary Ruth Kelly. His review, Ends and means: the future roles of social housing in England, published on February 20, endorses government policy but says more must be done to reduce social polarisation.

In spite of the new homes built by RSLs, two-thirds of social housing still lies in areas built as council estates. Just 170,000 households were offered homes by councils or RSLs in 2005 compared with 250,000 per year in the 1990s.

This, says Hills, is partly because tenants find it difficult to move to different social housing if they find a job, and prefer to hold on to what is seen as a valuable asset - even if it means remaining unemployed.

With under half of working age tenants in paid work, his report calls on landlords to make it easier for tenants to move home. …

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