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‘Home for life’ review could disproportionately affect BME tenants

Cameron's new housing plan

The Prime Minister’s proposals to reform council housing tenure, which would end contracts that give families a “home for life” and review tenancies every five years, are likely to disproportionately affect impoverished BME communities.

At a question and answer session held at the Institution of Engineering and Technology in Birmingham, David Cameron said:

“At the moment we have a system very much where, if you get a council house or an affordable house, it is yours forever and in some cases people actually hand them down to their children.

“There is a question mark about whether, in future, should we be asking, actually, when you are given a council home, is it for fixed period, because maybe in five or 10 years you will be doing a different job and be better paid and you won’t need that home, you will be able to go into the private sector.” he said.

According to the Continuous Recording of Lettings and Sales (CORE) which has gathered information from up to 94% of local authorities in the UK, at least 14% of general or supported council lettings were taken up by BME tenants between 2005 and 2009.

These figures, which do not take account of BME families living in housing association accommodation with local authority funding, indicate that the BME populace is 40 per cent more likely to need council housing.

Housing minister Grant Shapps has indicated the measures would only apply to new and not existing tenants, so any effects of the reform could take decades to produce tangible results.

CORE also reported that for the period 2008-2009; at least 59 per cent of (56,250 out of 95,531) new local authority lettings were taken up by people who were unemployed. The National Equality panel highlight that nearly all BME groups are less likely to be in employment than white British and for some BME groups, the differences in unemployment rate are as high for the second generation as those born outside the UK.

According to the Office for National Statistics, to the end of 2009, the unemployment rate for BMEs stood at 40.4 per cent compared to 25.7 per cent of the white UK population. Last July, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) forecast that total UK unemployment will peak at 3 million by 2012, 9.5% of the workforce, before falling back to 8% in 2015.

The prime minister’s comments follow an overcrowding pamphlet ‘Room to Move’ published jointly by Conservative-led City of Westminster council and the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU). It recommended that: “Local authorities should be empowered to create a mixed economy of tenure to increase the range of options for families,” which in effect advocates councils deciding who should and should not be allowed to remain in their homes and how long for.

Inside Housing magazine reported today, (13 Aug) that Conservative Party officials held pre-election meetings with key housing figures about its plans to remove security of tenure from future social housing tenants despite the party publicly insisting that it had no plans to change tenancy arrangements for future or existing social tenants.

In a blog for Inside Housing magazine, Arhag Housing Association chief executive, Sheron Carter said:

“…It is more likely that Black and minority ethnic communities may end up bearing the brunt of this new age of austerity. The proposed housing benefit cuts provide even more bad news for BME communities. Amongst the out-of-work, BME people are twice as likely to be unemployed, which means the housing benefit cuts will disproportionately affect these groups.”

Deputy Liberal Democrat leader, Simon Hughes led a furious backlash against the Prime Minister’s plans to force families to move out of council housing if they get a job or earn more.

“We will not let anybody have their homes taken away. We must continue to support established and cohesive communities where people have the security of knowing that they will continue to have a home. The ideas put forward by David Cameron in no way represent the policy of the coalition.” He said.

Charity Shelter, accusing the prime minister of being out of touch, has claimed that the biggest issue in housing policy is a lack of affordable housing, not security of tenure for new tenants.

Shelter director of communications, policy and campaigns Kay Boycott argued that the move could threaten the livelihoods of “the poorest and most vulnerable in our society”.

Conservative MEP Roger Helmer feels that council tenancy is a ‘ball-and-chain’ on labour mobility and has two effects. He said:

“First, even if they become much better off, and would no longer meet the criteria for social housing, they get to keep the house indefinitely while the rest of us keep paying for it. We all hear of council houses with multiple wage-earners who could well afford to move to the private sector. They become “bed-blockers”, denying homes to those on the waiting list who actually merit subsidised housing. Secondly, council house tenure is inimical to labour mobility, and therefore a huge drag on our economy.. This surely must be a significant factor in our unemployment problem.”

By Davina Kirwan

2 Responses

  1. Right on Roger! Why should some people and their children and grandchildren get to live in Zone 1 housing while the rest of us slave away commuting from outside of London to work hard?

    Sometimes a bit of tough love is needed. Its also extreemly socially divisive to give people hand outs to this degree, living off the state while other hard working people pay for loafers. Genuine people in need of housing is one thing, but actually, go into any McDonalds or Pret a Manger and you can get jobs if you want to work. Trouble is, people would rather get the dole than work in McDonalds. Jobs are sround for those who want to work. And, yes, for the record I have worked in McDonalds – its not ideal, but its better than scrounging off the state.


  2. Most of the problems associated with the cuts lay at the door of politicians who dragged us in to a war they knew they could not afford. They lied about the whole scenario of weapons of mass destruction, killed a lot of people and caused a lot more suffering to the people they claim to ‘liberate’.

    Also this was in aid to bury the fact of their own mismanagement and incompetence in the markets, loans, morgages and interest rate and the crack heads who run the stock exchange plus the bankers who who don’t care as they hold everyone to ransom. The poor and needy are left to take the blame whilst politicians scapegoat, make people pay for their mistakes and apportion blame on the least in our society. Have the Conversative learnt nothing in the political desert they where in for over 13 years!

    Even if some earned £25K per year that could hardly put them on the property ladder. Also with most jobs only offering part time short term contacts of a minimum of 3 months to 2 years – this is hardly the foundation to run out a commit to a 25 year mortage?!! Did Cameron and his shade wake up one morning and actually think this was a good idea? How does this marry with reality and peoples actual experiences? The benefit system is no longer the safety net it is preceived to be decades ago. You cannot plan a life on sickness benefits, JSA or income support as you only get JSA for a minimum of 6 months like in the US. So even being evicted is more likely not less.

    Can leadership be sustained by disempowering the people they serve. Bob Marley sang #A hungry man, is an angry man…# If you push people too far they will respond – negatively!!!

    Before 2008, most people were employed and paying taxes and national insurance – what happened to that money? The people who are now unemployed are not scrounging or spounging. They lost their jobs because of the costs of a futile war, the failure of the wests financial systems, greed and carelessness. Unless these taxations are the real crime of the century – multiple fraud and manipulation or the whole populace.

    To further bring suffering to the Black home populace demonstrates a degree of ruthlessness that is breath taking and Imran’s comments seem to suggest that he has brought in to superficial stories spun to cloak the poor and Black people in the role as victims and to blame for all the ills of Britain.

    Politician don’t care and only have power to do wrong but very rarely put the same energy in putting things right!!!.

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