The Housing minister, Gavin Barwell, has today announced that the Government will not be pursuing the provisions in the Housing And Planning Act 2016 that implemented mandatory ‘pay to stay’ provisions for local authority tenants. Instead, it will be voluntary for both councils and housing associations.
This is good news for councils, who would have faced an administrative nightmare and then not got to have kept any of the additional rent anyway. It was as lots and lots of people, including Tory councils, said at the time, a very silly and damaging policy.
Whether any council or housing association do go the voluntary route remains to be seen. My suspicion is that the administrative complexity and costs involved make it unlikely. And there will be further secondary legislation required beforehand, I think.
However, it is clear that the Government now expects fixed term tenancies to do the job of weeding out higher earners…
This is why we are introducing the mandatory use of fixed term tenancies for new tenants in local authority housing. This will better enable councils to give priority to people with the greatest housing need. Councils will review tenancies at the end of each fixed term to ensure that tenants still need a socially rented home. The Government’s guidance to councils will make clear that they should take into account a household’s financial circumstances when looking at this, and that, except in exceptional circumstances, tenancies should be targeted on those on lower incomes.
Now, given the continued delays to any announcement about the start date of the ‘voluntary right to buy’ for housing associations, I wonder whether there might be a change of mind on the compulsory sell off of ‘higher value’ council housing that was meant to fund it?
But in any event, this, along with the Govt decision to support the Homelessness Reduction Bill*, marks a very welcome and rather more thoughtful change in approach from his predecessor by the new Housing Minister.
(*one day, I may turn this into a roman-à-clef. The dramas, my dears, the dramas!)