Mobility changes must be linked to wider reforms
The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) welcomes the government’s interest in breaking inter-generational worklessness and dependency, but believes this should be part of a rounded approach to wider reforms of affordable housing.
Sarah Webb, Chief Executive of CIH said: “CIH has long argued that there are problems around mobility and social housing that need to be tackled. Key evidence and research for government by John Hills and Martin Cave makes it clear that action needs to be taken. But we are equally clear that this needs to be part of a well thought through programme of change around private and social rented housing.
“In the first instance, we cannot tackle mobility if we don’t have enough homes. There isn’t enough social housing in almost every community around the country and this makes movement between homes near impossible. With the housing crisis growing things are only going to get worse and every day the number of new lets and re-lets is falling. The root cause of a lack of mobility is a massive shortage of housing for people to move to, not an unwillingness by tenants to find work.
“The proposals to hold spaces on waiting lists is well intentioned, but there is a risk that this will come at the expense of families already waiting for housing in those communities. Should one family looking for a home close to a job have precedence over another family in the same position? We also need to be careful that struggling communities aren’t abandoned and left to the old and the young as the skilled and mobile move away. “
She continued: “If we are serious about making better use of social housing, then a fuller review of allocations and lettings, giving councils and housing associations the tools they need to manage housing is needed. This will involve reconciling difficult choices between groups in housing need but could see people in work or training given precedence over those who are unemployed.
“In this, the government has a responsibility to look at how its different policies work together. For example, the aims of these proposals could well be undermined by changes to housing benefits announced last week. With lower limits on local housing allowances, caps on rents in the private sector, and conditions on housing benefit making private landlords less willing to rent to people receiving benefits, housing in some of these economic areas is already set to come under extra pressure as there is less private rented housing to choose from.”
CIH is clear that changes to our approach to affordable and market rented housing are needed, and promoting mobility should be a core part of this, but a fragmented approach that doesn’t link up policies will make matters worse for tenants, communities and the taxpayer. CIH also cautions against stigmatising people who live in social housing which could create community tensions at a time when communities are being encouraged to pull together. Many unemployed people in the sector are desperate to find work, and social housing is already a positive choice for many working families. An affordable rented home, and communities which include social tenants, should be seen as part of the solution, not part of the problem.