Headlines: February 21st, 2007



Local authority leaders have called for more power to manage the supply and demand for housing in their areas. The call comes in response to a report drawn up for the Government proposing a greater mix of social and private homes on council and housing association estates as a way of breaking the cycle of poverty in some run down areas. The report rejects the ending of security of tenure for residents and calls for incentives to help them to move on but it suggests they could face regular reviews of their financial status.

In his report, Professor John Hills of the London School of Economics, sets out various options for improving the social mix on estates, including large-scale redevelopment, building low-cost housing on vacant land in areas dominated by social housing, using rent from social housing to buy homes in other areas, measures to keep higher-income tenants in social housing areas as well as helping to improve the economic prospects of other tenants and a review of policies that reinforce polarisation.

The report suggests tenants could face regular reviews of their circumstances to assess whether they are in a position to buy a stake in their homes, but Professor Hills stressed the importance of raising the employment prospects of all tenants and providing more help for them to buy their own homes. He said there were strong arguments against removing security of tenure as it could discourage residents from improving their income and would work against a social mix by forcing out higher earners.

The Chairman of the Local Government Association, Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, said talk of time limits and means-testing tenants would not be an issue if the Government had devolved greater powers over housing to local councils and local people. “Every town and city is different, and people across the country have to deal with different social and economic realities. Giving councils the powers to manage supply and demand of housing in their area is not only what happens across the rest of Europe, but is also the surest way to make sure the right kind of homes are provided in locations where people want to live, work and raise their families,” he said.

The Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly said the report marked the start of the debate on how social housing could be better at achieving the twin goals of providing support to people who needed it most and equipping tenants to progress.