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Welfare Reform on the Web (December 2008): Social housing - UK

Capturing the castle: tenant governance in social housing companies

Q. Bradley

Housing Studies, vol. 23, 2008, p. 879-897

Tenants have been recruited as members of the governing boards of social housing organisations in Britain to bring a market-like influence to their governance. However, tenants are heirs to a strong mutualist tradition that champions ideas of self-management and citizen control, and tenant directors appear to have been approaching their duties in a way that is contrary to the drive towards management efficiency.

Council homes for life 'to be scrapped'

J. Sherman

The Times, Nov. 10th 2008, p. 1 & 8

The Housing Minister Margaret Beckett is considering new measures which would mean the largest shake-up of the social housing system in decades. Under the proposed plans new tenants would have fixed-term contracts and their position would be reassessed if their financial situation improved. The right to a council house is also likely to be linked to a requirement to be actively searching for a job. It is hoped that if the proposals are excepted they will work to counter the current shortage in social housing. (See also The Times, Nov. 14th 2008, p. 32)

Friends or foes?

J. Unwin

Roof, Nov. /Dec. 2008, p. 15

When the government commissioned a review of private renting, the question was how the sector could provide homes for vulnerable people. It surprisingly emerged that the private rented sector has value if used in the right way, but the move to the private rented sector as a 'permanent' solution for homeless households was questioned by many. Those working at the sharp end with other vulnerable group saw real potential in using the sector more effectively. Support is the key, especially getting the offer right for both tenants and landlords. Social letting agents can be used to attract support, and assist landlords, minimising the risk for landlords and tenants by acting as a mediator between them. Rent deposit bond schemes have a place, and creativity is also needed to provide greater flexibility and tailored solutions. Tenants must be treated as individuals not 'groups' of people who are vulnerable.

Housing stock transfer in Glasgow: the first five years: a study of policy implementation

A. Kearns and L. Lawson

Housing Studies, vol. 23, 2008, p. 857-878

Public sector social tenants in Glasgow saw their housing transferred from Glasgow City Council to the Glasgow Housing Association in 2003, following a majority vote in favour of the move in a ballot of tenants in April 2002. Since then, the implementation of the stock transfer policy has been heavily criticised. This paper begins by discussing how the Glasgow transfer differs from its predecessors. It goes on to use a framework developed from implementation studies in public policy to review the various elements of the policy to identify weaknesses and complications that have led to implementation difficulties.

No new lease of life for affordable housing

N. Merrick

Public Finance, Oct. 24th-30th 2008, p. 14-15

In 2007 the government agreed to build 180,000 homes for social renting and low-cost home ownership by 2011, with housing associations finding about 60% of the money themselves. Most of this was due to be raised from private borrowing, with the remainder coming from selling dwellings on the open market or through shared ownership schemes. This cross-subsidy model upon which delivery of the National Affordable Housing Programme depends has been derailed by the credit crunch. Income from sales is falling, and it is uncertain if housing associations will be able to raise cash through borrowing from banks.

Roots revival

M. McDermont

Roof, Nov./Dec. 2008, p. 40-41

Housing associations jealously guard their independence from the state and define themselves as social businesses. However, their independence is an illusion; they are in fact heavily dependent on private lenders for funding and some behave like commercial property developers. The author argues that provision of social housing is a public service, and that they should therefore be subject to the Human Rights Act to protect their vulnerable tenants.

Shape of things to come

S. Fitzpatrick, M. Stephens and C. Davey

Roof, Nov./Dec. 2008, p. 34-35

In the light of the upcoming green paper on housing reform, the authors reflect on the purpose and role of social housing. Social housing acts as a vital safety net for poorer and homeless people in the UK. This role conflicts with policy commitments to the promotion of mixed communities, but without a dramatic increase in supply, the use of social housing by more affluent groups is hard to justify. Proposals have been floated to make social tenancies conditional on tenants making strenuous efforts to find work. However, evidence suggests that undermining the security of tenure of social tenants would be a retrograde step.

Taking a tumble

P. Malpass

Roof, Nov. /Dec. 2008, p. 14

For the past 30 years, governments have based policies on the belief that housing can be left to market forces and that the unregulated private sector will provide an adequate supply of decent, affordable housing. Now we are in crisis: builders are not building, lenders are not lending and buyers are not buying. It is difficult to plan what to do in the long term. We have had short-term solutions such as a stamp duty 'holiday' and allowing local councils or housing associations to buy unsold homes on the open market. We need fundamental reform, and there is no evidence of a willingness to find it. So we have a policy crisis underlying the housing crisis. Home affordability remains the major worry. The market solution discriminates against the less fortunate such as first-time buyers. The present crisis is an opportunity to move towards a more balanced housing policy. The market solution has its limits and drawbacks, more regulation is needed. Policy goals cannot be achieved through the market, a sensible approach would be to commit public funds sufficient to build the number of homes needed to bridge the gap between what the private sector can build and the overall target.

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