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Spleen 1


Thanks to Tessa Shepperson for noticing this in yesterday’s Times. Granted I haven’t read any more of the report than this. Who knows, it may even have some interesting and useful insights or information to offer. But it seems unlikely.

I’m not at all surprised that the Smith Institute is capable of drawing highly suspect conclusions about cause and effect from a blindingly obvious correllation (poor and ill educated people live in the little remaining social housing. Clearly being a social tenant is the problem).

And, how can I put this? Of course a social tenancy is a ‘positive outcome’ when your alternatives are homelessness, overcrowding or the kind of private sector rentals that take people on benefits.

But the perspective of the report seems clear enough. I’ve now had a quick skim (it can be found here and then choose the ‘Rethinking Social Housing’ PDF).

Try this from the preface

“Can mobility, rights and responsibilities be fostered in the housing system, while continuing to offer security of tenure?”

Eh? Since when did ‘rights’ end up opposed to security of tenure? But ‘mobility’ is key here. The real objection is to the lack of ‘mobility’ that a secure tenancy involves, which translated means the sods don’t have to keep moving to find a job to be able to afford half-decent housing.

Clearly there just isn’t enough impetus for people to move in search of work. Poverty, anti social behaviour, inadequate child care and dodgy schools clearly aren’t enough. We must reduce security of tenure.

Various authors consider social housing as a ‘last resort’ which is therefore only a short term need, ill served by security of tenure. The obvious (and true) retort is that sometimes it is, and those for whom it is a short term resort leave the ‘stigmatised ghetto’ when they can (or exercise the right to buy). For many, many others, social housing is their only hope of half decent housing and something they hope to pass on to their children. Contra the report, a secure tenancy is often an asset and even a transferable one.

Given the private sector’s utter inability or refusal to provide decent low cost rental places, unless grudgingly forced to by planning requirements etc., this appears, on a quick scroll through, to be a deeply tendentious and self-contradictory piece of work, with the one good point that I’ve seen so far – ditch the estate, mix social housing in amongst other housing (expensive and difficult, but a good point).

I’ll stop there, firstly because I could well be wrong as I haven’t read the damn thing properly, and secondly because I’m starting to splutter at the sheer incoherence of some views apparently espoused (mobility is good but property owning is good, property is an asset but short term tenancies are good etc. etc.).

Let us just hope that HM Government aren’t influenced by this sort of thing. Ah. Yes. Well we can hope.

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.


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