Plans to revise the social housing system are currently being reviewed by the new Housing Minister, Margaret Beckett. Major changes would occur to address the lack of accommodation and long waiting lists for housing that exist today. Under these new plans, people in council houses would have fixed-term contracts with stricter limitations on residency. This is due to the fact that almost 4 million people, or 1.6 million households, are currently waiting for subsidized houses, while only 170,000 open up each year. These numbers are expected to increase in the next few years as more homes are repossessed due to the credit crunch.
According to The Times, Beckett may seek to end the possibility of lifelong residency in subsidized council homes. First of all, a person could only live in council housing if he or she was actively looking for work. To ensure that no one is taking advantage of social housing, tenants would be reviewed every few years by a board of directors. She also proposed that if a tenant’s financial situation improves, he or she would be persuaded to take an equity share or else move to a private home or apartment. The tenant would then face higher rent rates if he or she does not move out. In this case, rent would be closer to the market rate, rather than only rising each year by the retail price index plus half of a percent.
This new plan is far from being implemented, but it does allow for promising changes to the subsidized housing system. It will give priority to those people who need housing the most, such as pregnant women and families with dependent children. Its more stringent rules concerning residents’ finances and work ethic would also give them the push they need to reduce their dependency on the state – a very welcome move. By enforcing limits on occupancy and employment, tenants will have more incentive to find work. At least in theory, Beckett’s plans could, in the long run, reduce the number of people seeking government aid while also ensuring that people who really needed subsidized housing would be able to benefit from it.