A surprisingly good idea about council housing


This isn't what we really expect from governments of any stripe but occasionally the odd good idea does manage to filter through the system, possibly by mistake. And such is this idea that council (and then housing association) tenancies should be for five years, not life. It's causing the usual moaning over on the left for there's absolutely nothing quite as conservative as the British left. Everything, but everything, must be left exactly as it was first laid out under St Atlee to hear some of them pontificate. Yet none of them manage to even ask, let alone answer, the crucial question:

In a stealthy amendment to the housing and planning bill, the government has announced an end to lifetime council tenancies. All new council tenants (and eventually housing association tenants) will be given maximum five-year contracts, after which their circumstances will be reviewed. If they’re told to leave they’ll be offered a more suitable council tenancy, directed towards other rental options (the expensive private sector) or assisted into home ownership.

The government has thus far refused to confirm any exemptions (for the long-term disabled, say, or families with small children). It’s unclear who would be conducting these reviews, and no assurances that this wouldn’t turn into another welfare-bashing crapshoot.

That crucial question being, if you need aid and welfare at some point in your life why should that turn into a lifelong subsidy?

Any and every system of governance is going to have some form of aid for housing for those who cannot afford it any other way. We're fine with that. Three's all sorts of things that can occur in life that mean that welfare, aid, is required for some period of time. Unemployment means unemployment benefits, being ill means treatment and possibly even benefits while being treated. But we do not then say that because you were unemployed in 1992 therefore you should have unemployment benefit for the rest of your life, nor do we say that because you were ill in 2002 then you should still be resident in an NHS ward. And so your requiring aid in gaining access to housing at some point should not mean access to subsidised housing for the rest of your natural days.

After you don't need welfare you shouldn't get welfare in short.