Our Council has today acted to debar people who earn over £40,000 from being entitled to social housing. That’s couples too, so in theory two people working full time on anything over £20,000 each. That’s not too much more than the average wage.
Speaking to the Standard our Council says it will instead give priority to those making a “contribution” which it thinks is more valuable, such as foster carers or ex service men and women and those volunteering as Special Constables.
Councillor Andrew Johnson, who had hopes of leading the Council but who was defeated by Nick Botterill for the top job says this:
“These proposals are about rewarding hard working families who are local to the borough. At the same time we will continue to house elderly people and others who are vulnerable.So it appears despite the resignation of Stephen Greenhalgh our Council is determined not to lose the label of “most radical council” in the UK and we can expect more policies along these lines, together with the inevitable cries of opposition.
“We want to give people a hand up and not a hand out. We fundamentally believe that social housing should be platform of aspiration which enables progression into other forms of housing, such as low cost home ownership, rather than a destination in its own right.
“While the current system of deciding who lives in social housing has successfully provided for the most vulnerable, it has also created disadvantaged communities by producing concentrations of people on benefits with disproportionately high levels of unemployment.”
Personally I don’t doubt that there is a problem with people who get somehow trapped into lives of dependency but I’m not sure a family working full time on average incomes, who themselves are probably raising kids or who may do, should really be penalised like this. Nobody argues with the idea of rewarding foster carers, ex-military personnel or police volunteers – but if our Council weren’t refusing to build more than the bare minimum of social housing in our borough, in favour instead of inviting property developers to construct luxury flats, then perhaps we wouldn’t have such a shortage here in the first place.
TUESDAY UPDATE - Well if the Council's aim was to make a splash with the media (which it undoubtedly was) they have well and truly succeeded. Articles covering this move, complete with descriptions of H&F as being "flagship", "leading" and other epithets have included the Telegraph, the BBC and LBC while the Tories themselves have written about it on the Conservative Home blog.
Meanwhile Andy Slaughter is unimpressed. He had this to say to me yesterday:
"There is something very fishy about the way the Council is launching its housing strategy with references to a £40,000 cap on earnings for new council tenants. There is nothing in any of the council’s published policy documents about this proposal, and it is completely contrary to everything else in their housing strategy. It is not even mentioned in their press release.
Their policies state that they want to let new build and re-let properties at 80% market rents. This means a 300% increase in current social rents and is unlikely to be affordable to households with an income of less than £40k. If those with an income of more that £40k will not be allowed to, for whom are they intended.
Where properties are described as “affordable” in new developments they are generally not affordable to people on less than £40k. The Imperial Wharf development approved by PAC in February is an illustration of this: of the 489 flats in that development, 147 are for Discount Market Sale (the only ‘affordable’ element), but only 20 of these are for people earning less that £50K
I suspect the truth is that the 40k figure was dropped in at the last minute to spin the story away from what is really in the policy, which you and the Guardian were reporting from the leaked document last week, ie:
- An end to secure homes – 2 to 5 year tenancies
- Near market rents – a 300% increase
And the latest
- Reduction in social housing – by demolition, sales, planning policy
- Subjective judgments as to who are ‘wealth creators’ who can stay and be properly housed locally and those who are unworthy and will be sent to Nottingham"