Security of Tenure
TPAS looks at the Coalitions proposals regarding security of tenure for tenants.
Keep them moving on : Insecurity rules!
Why does Prime Minister David Cameron want all future social housing tenants to have reduced security?...
Why does he want all future tenancies to be temporary?...
Why does the new Coalition Government want to reverse the work to create inclusive, mixed communities? Why undermine the creation of community cohesion?...
What is wrong with a home for life?...
How can you have a Big Society, where communities are meant to pull together, if tenants are moved on every 5 years?...
These are some of the tricky questions arising from the Prime Ministers, statement in Birmingham, on the 3 August when he said that the new Government wanted to end lifetime council tenancies.
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 ten 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.”
Just four months earlier on the 30 April the Conservative Party he had said “The Conservative Party has no policy to change the current or future security of tenants in social housing.”
The proposed changes, which would apply to future tenants, mean that all social housing tenants are effectively living in temporary accommodation.
What is Security of Tenure?
Security of tenure is the term used to describe the degree of protection a tenant has under the relevant agreement that person has with a landlord.
Secure Tenancies have a high degree of protection. Assured tenancies (the main housing association one) have less security. Assured shorthold less still. All still require a County Court decision to evict. However the grounds for possession become easier the less security there is.
There has been a trend, over many years in both the social housing sector and in the private rented sector to reduce security of tenure
David Cameron appears to be suggesting that the lower levels of security that exist for housing association tenants and in the private rented sector should become the norm.
He then suggests that that not only should future tenants have lower security and less rights than they currently have, but in future tenancies might be time limited.
So the Coalition Government appears to favour less security, less rights. They appear to favour temporary housing over homes for life.
Drawing upon the Conservative Party Housing Policy Green Paper of April 2010 a number of arguments are made:
i) Many people locked into social housing
It says that “it is absolutely crucial that we deal also with the problems affecting the existing social housing stock; in particular, we have to tackle the effect that long-term residence in social housing has on the prospects of those tenants. Our vision for social housing is that it should lift those in greatest need out of dependency and provide the opportunity to allow social tenants to continue on their journey towards other forms of tenure, including homeownership. We believe that a refocus of government policy is required, and that enabling tenant mobility (both geographically and between tenures) is the key to improving the social rented sector. More new affordable housing, and more sensible use of the existing social housing stock, will help to free-up supply, build mixed tenure communities, and ensure that tenants are not trapped into a cycle of deprivation with no ‘exit’ opportunities.”
ii) Social housing and deprivation
The paper then argues:
“There is well-documented evidence that present trends in social housing can play a part in stifling aspiration:
- the Centre for Social Justice reports “nearly 25 per cent of social housing is in areas with poor quality environments. Nearly 20 per cent have upkeep problems. Both figures are significantly higher than those for private rented or owner occupied housing”.
- All too often, the result is dependency. As Professor Hills, in his comprehensive report on social housing effectively summarised, “the chance of someone in social housing having both of their nearest working age social tenant neighbours in full time work had fallen from just under half [in 1981] to one in nine [in 2006]”.
The slide towards increased deprivation in social housing areas is particularly marked as a result. Worryingly, studies comparing the birth cohorts of 1958 and 1970 have demonstrated that growing up in social housing contributed to adverse adult outcomes and, strikingly, that the magnitude of the disadvantage is increasing.
Children growing up in social housing are, on average, twice as likely to end up with no
qualifications by the age of 30 as those growing up in owned homes, 1.5-1.7 times more likely to be low earners, and over twice as likely to be unemployed. As an illustration of what this means in practice, there is only a 1 in 100 chance that a social housing tenant and their neighbours on either side are in full-time work. Yet these problems do not merely extend to opportunity: there is strong evidence that the quality of housing is linked to poor health. Indeed, the Public Health Report 2004 estimated that the annual cost to the NHS of treating ill health as a result of sub-standard housing was £2.4 billion.”
iii) Social housing and the lack of mobility
Thirdly, the Green Paper says:
“The chronic lack of turnover in the social sector means that whole generations are growing up, living and dying in the estates where they were born. This is despite the fact that 46 per cent of current council tenants and 45 per cent of Housing Association tenants want to become owner occupiers.
The calcifying effect of the social sector is illustrated by the fact that, of those living in social housing in 2004, 82 per cent had been in social tenure ten years before. And, whereas a third of private tenants in 2005-06 had moved in that year to a new property, only one in twenty social tenants had moved within the sector. The lack of economic mobility available in the social rented sector also limits employment opportunities. Tenants are essentially unable to leave the property they live in and move to another area to pursue employment due to the lack of social housing and the consequent fear that they would not get housed in the new area (because they would have to reapply through the waiting list). This lack of movement out of social housing reflects a greater need for more dynamic use of social housing as a stepping stone to owner occupancy.”
It could be argued that much of today’s problems of long term unemployment arise from the economic policies of the Thatcher era and the long term inequality that characterises England.
However leaving these arguments to one side, there is a genuine concern, shared by the previous Government that action needs to be taken to address long term poverty, benefit dependency and lack of opportunity and work for some social housing tenants.
It is difficult to see how reducing security and forcing tenants from their homes after five years will tackle these deep seated economic and social problems?
The Conservative Green Paper refers to the Hills’ report. On ending security of tenure he said:
“A threat to the security of tenure of existing tenants who have taken it for granted would be controversial, to say the least. It would also have some side-effects which could reinforce some of the key problems described above:
- The threat that a tenancy might end, or rent increase, if someone’s circumstances improved would be an unhelpful disincentive to moves towards economic independence (or at least to what was reported at the time of each review).
- If tenants who become better-off lose their right to a tenancy and have to move, the system could institutionalise polarisation.
- If the level of rental income depends on their tenants’ future incomes, landlords’ future finances become correspondingly uncertain, making it harder for them to borrow.
- Unless parallel pressures were put on owner-occupiers who “under-occupy” property (such as through more steeply graduated council tax between bands or other charges that made occupying larger property more expensive), it would seem strange in equity terms to be concentrating on the relatively small number of social tenants with larger amounts of space, particularly as it is the owners who have benefited from the increases in value that housing market pressures have created.”
What does Housing Minister Grant Shapps own Housing Figures tell us about under-occupation and over crowding? According to the CLGs’ ‘Housing and Key Facts’ (August 2010) :
- 11% of social housing households under-occupy compared to 16% of private renters and 47% of owner occupiers.
- On over-crowding; 7% of social housing tenants live in such conditions compared to 5% of private renters and 2% of owner occupiers.
Whilst reducing under occupation will release larger properties for families in housing need it would seem wrong to force tenants to leave what may a long standing family home. There is a case to help older people move into mobility friendly bungalows. That suggests increasing choice and supply, not reducing security, should be the key policy challenges. The Conservative approach seems harsh and simplistic.
What did the CLG Select Committee say about Security of Tenure?
CLG Select Committee report, ‘The supply of rented housing’ (April 2008) said that:
“Worklessness is a complex issue and it will need intervention from a wide variety of different bodies if it is to be tackled successfully. Social housing providers can and should play a role in this, but it is crucial that they are able to focus upon their core tasks of making better use of the existing stock and constructing badly needed new homes.” (para 271) and
“We would not, however, support any change that made security of tenure conditional on seeking employment.” (para 273)
Other research exists relating to security of tenure:
Sheffield Hallam University published ‘Social housing and worklessness: Key policy messages.’ (May 2008). This said that “The vast majority of respondents reported that living in the social rented sector did not present a barrier or disincentive to work. In addition, there was no evidence that levels of labour market attachment shifted when respondents moved between tenures. Some respondents explicitly referred to social housing bringing them closer to the labour market or making work a more viable option. For example, the security of tenure available within the sector was referred to as providing a position of stability and confidence from which people could think about entering work.”
So clearly the Coalition Government has started a big debate. The focus of that debate is the removal of tenants’ rights. TPAS will contribute to this debate as it develops.
We consider the comments from Shelter on this matter are spot on. In a press release dated 3 August 2010 entitled ‘Review Supply, not tenure’ they say:
“The Prime Minister has sidestepped the fundamental cause of our housing crisis: the desperate lack of affordable housing supply. Recent forecasts estimate that housing delivery could fall below 100,000 next year for the first time since 1923. Yet the Prime Minister has sidestepped the fundamental cause of our housing crisis, the desperate lack of affordable housing supply. In addition, investment in proposals of this kind may not, in reality, offer a cost saving to the public. For example reviewing tenure could cost local authorities huge amounts of money to implement, creating an army of bureaucrats to undertake these reviews, leaving us no better off and our most vulnerable members of society at risk. To justify taking away the only bit of safety and security the poorest and most vulnerable in our society have, it would need to be proved beyond a doubt through a rigorous, evidence based consultation that there would be a significant benefit for those in housing need.”
Have your say
TPAS would welcome your comments on the Coalition Government’s proposals.
Please send them to Nigel.firstname.lastname@example.org