Media Release, Swindon Tenants Campaign Group

October 24th 2013

Swindon Council Housing Allocations Policy – tell the Council to keep ‘secure tenancies’ for all tenants

Swindon Council is ‘consulting’ on changes to its Housing Allocations Policy; who gets housing and the terms of tenancies. Currently all tenants have a ‘secure tenancy’. These are open ended-tenancies which give real security to tenants. If we pay the rent and behave in a civilised fashion we know we cannot be kicked out of our homes. However, the Council is now proposing that all new tenants will be given time limited tenancies of 5 or 10 years. It’s also proposing to introduce a means-test for them via an ‘earnings threshold’ above which you cannot go on the Housing list or keep a tenancy if you have one. They are rushing ahead with the ‘consultation’ before explaining what the earnings thresholds for different size properties are.

The consequences of this policy will be:

  • New tenants will face insecurity. If their earnings go above the threshold level they will be forced out at the end of the tenancy period, either into the more expensive private sector or to try for a mortgage.
  • Even if tenants have their tenancy renewed, they may be forced to move (whether or not they are in receipt of Housing Benefit). In the course of their normal life cycle when children leave home or a family member dies, they will have to ‘downsize’ a number of times. More moves mean less settled communities as tenants are forced to move against their wishes, possibly away from friends and family, to an area they may not want to move to.
  • More tenant moves cost money, both for the tenants who have to pay for them and the Council in lost rent, as properties are empty for a period.
  • The Council staff will have to spend time and money policing this system, though the Council has not even made an estimate of what the cost will be.
  • This system will lead to an increase of the take-up of ‘right to buy’ and the loss of homes so that the number of available homes will decrease. Faced with having to go private and pay double the rent, it will be cheaper to buy under RTB.
  • The proposal to dispense with Band C of the Housing waiting list is a cynical ploy designed to downplay the severity of the housing crisis. 7,500 households will be wiped off it at a stroke.

Swindon Tenants Campaign Group is calling on tenants and anybody concerned with the housing crisis, to tell the Council in no uncertain terms that these proposals should be abandoned and ‘secure tenancies’ are maintained for all tenants, existing and future ones. The proposal to end Band C should also be dropped. Building new Council homes is the way to cut the Housing list.

Swindon Tenants Campaign Group Secretary Martin Wicks said:

“Swindon Council is proposing to wipe 7,500 households off of the waiting list. This may make the situation look less bad but it will do nothing to address the housing crisis. The way to cut the housing waiting list is to build new Council homes, not to kick these households off the list and pretend that they have no housing need.

The proposal to introduce fixed term tenancies for new tenants can only create uncertainty and insecurity in their lives. Even worse, the Council is proposing that even when a tenancy is renewed they want the power to force people to move, against their wishes, into smaller properties which may be in a different area; force them to leave the community in which they are settled. This means households facing a series of moves, say from a 3 bed, to a 2 bed, to a 1 bed property. The idea that tenants can be moved around at will, and against their wishes, shows a complete lack of humanity and disregard for the social consequences.

The Council says that these policy changes are to achieve ‘best use’ of their housing stock. On the contrary the policy of driving people out of their homes if they earn ‘too much’ will lead to us losing stock. Anybody faced with being forced to move into much more expensive private rented accommodation or to try to get a mortgage on the open market is likely to take advantage of ‘right to buy’ if they can secure a mortgage. With the massive reductions now on offer it will probably be cheaper for them to buy their Council property than to pay private rent or to buy a house on the open market. So instead of freeing up homes for people on the waiting we will lose yet more by way of ‘right to buy’. What sense does this make? Is the Council prepared to see the stock numbers continue to decline?

We are calling on tenants and anybody who wants the Council to tackle the housing crisis, rather than making it worse, to tell the Council to maintain ‘secure tenancies’ for all tenants, to abandon the threshold idea, and to keep Band C.

The Council has the resources to start building new Council homes every year. It should start doing so as soon as possible. Council housing isn’t charity, it is socially necessary housing, necessary because private builders and developers won’t build genuinely affordable homes.”

For further information and comment ring Martin Wicks on 07786394593