Headlines: June 30th, 2004

The local democracy think tank the Local Government Information Unit wants council house tenants – and their local authority landlords – to have more choice over the regeneration and building of social housing. The demand is set out in a new pamphlet, “The Right to Choose” which argues that current government policy restricts the choice available to the six million people living in council housing and to councils by offering funding for only three options of transferring homes from councils.At the moment the options are a switch to a non-local authority registered social landlords, establishing an Arm’s Length Management Organisation or a Private Finance Initiative. The LGIU says that by denying those who reject these three options the chance of investment, the government will fail to meet its objective of Decent Homes by 2010.

The new publication also questions the record of the favoured options in improving housing management performance, value for money and increasing resident participation and whether some of the options generate sufficient investment to meet the large repair bills faced by some councils. “The Right to Choose” also explores the history of council housing, setting the current debate about choice and investment into context and looks at a possible future where local authorities can provide some social housing as well as having a strategic role in regeneration.

It calls for measures to enable a ‘fourth option’ of direct funding to councils for the major repair and improvement of council housing where tenants reject the government’s three options and says there should be a single form of secure social tenancy that guarantees all tenants the same rights that council tenants currently have, whether or not they remain council tenants or transfer to a non-council social landlord. It says, too, that councils should have a role in building new social housing to help meet the need for affordable housing in some areas.

New council house-building, the pamphlet says, must be about quality rather than quantity and council housing must break free from the reputation of being basic accommodation that only meets the needs of the most deprived, Instead it should promote housing choice, mobility, aspiration and more diverse neighbourhoods.