New era for social housing in Hammersmith and Fulham
Tuesday March 5, 2013
Lifetime social housing tenancies for new applicants are now a thing of the past in Hammersmith & Fulham.
And from April, flagship Hammersmith & Fulham (H&F) Council will also be tightening the rules to make it easier for local people, who have a five year connection to the borough, to access social housing.
H&F Council is the first local authority in the country to bring in these radical changes simultaneously -with the Government now calling for other councils to follow H&F's lead and introduce local connection rules.
From today, (Tuesday, March 5) the Council is only issuing fixed-term tenancies of five years for new social housing lettings. This will be reduced to two years in certain cases.
Under the old system, housing tenants had the right to stay in their home for life unless the tenancy was brought to an end because of a breach. Once the tenant passed away, the right of succession passed onto a family member even if the housing need of the individual was less than other potential applicants.
H&F Council believes that system was antiquated and unfair as it did not promote aspiration or provide tenants with any incentive to try to move into home-ownership. It also failed to take into account the fact that a household's need for social housing may be temporary.
Existing tenants will be unaffected by this radical shift. New tenancies in sheltered accommodation and for those with special housing or health needs will still be on a lifetime basis.
And from this April, the council will be giving greater priority to working households who have a five-year local connection to the borough when allocating social housing. The council will also be prioritising those making a significant contribution to the community, for example ex-service personnel and foster carers.
At the same time, households earning above £40,200 will be prevented from accessing the housing register and instead directed towards low-cost home-ownership options.
Cllr Andrew Johnson, cabinet member for housing said: "Today we are leading the way in ushering in a new era for social housing. We believe that the notion of a tenancy for life is out-dated and that it is wrong to expect to inherit a welfare benefit in the form of a heavily subsidised house irrespective of housing need.
"We also think that it is patently unfair that people can move to this borough from other parts on the country or even further afield and access social housing ahead of hard-working local residents who have been living here for many years.
"That is why From April, we will also be giving, local people on low to middle incomes, who make a positive contribution to their local communities, a better chance to access social housing.
"The old, antiquated system has created disadvantaged communities by producing concentrations of people on benefits with disproportionately high levels of unemployment and sometimes social breakdown.
"In its place, we want to create neighbourhoods where a broad mix of social households all live side-by-side."
Two year tenancies will be issued for those with a history of antisocial behaviour and for those between the ages of 18 to 25.
The council believes that young people tend to be less experienced than others in managing a tenancy and that the council should be able to review how things are going after a relatively short period and that particular incentives need to be in place to encourage tenants to manage their tenancies well. The council will also be encouraging younger people to look for housing in the private rented sector.
The new system will give the council the opportunity to review whether the rationale for granting the tenancy in the first place is still there and will also encourage good behaviour and greater contributions to community life and the local economy.
Anyone from any part of the country, and indeed overseas, could today apply to go onto the register under the old allocations system. That meant that the number of people on the register (10,300) did not reflect the number of local people in real housing need in the borough. In fact, one person has been on the waiting list in Hammersmith & Fulham for 36 years.
In the meantime, almost 5,000 people have joined the council's register for low-cost home ownership. H&F Council recently set up its own housing company in order to meet the huge demand for low cost homes in the borough. This means that the council is now building its own homes for the first time in 30 years. This housing company, together with a joint venture with the private sector, will see 500 low cost homes built in the next ten years.
The council is also on course to have helped 1,000 families into low cost homes through discounted market sale and intermediate rent schemes by the end of the year.