Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The government's changes to social rents and tenancies

The government’s announcements yesterday about rents and tenancies in social housing are complex and part of what can be seen as a somewhat contradictory policy agenda (cutting housing benefit and pushing up rents in social housing).I would therefore recommend the Chartered Institute of Housing’s fair minded Briefing on Social Housing Reform (pdf available).

The briefing clarifies what the new types of tenancies being proposed actually involve: (1) the fixed-term flexible tenancies lasting as little as two years and (2) the affordable rent tenancies set at a maximum of 80 per cent of local market rents.

The latter is intended to generate finance for more affordable housing at a time of much reduced capital spending on housing. The affordable rent tenancies will initially be offered by housing associations rather than local authorities. It will be offered on a proportion of re-lets from April 2011 and on new stock later. The CIH point out: “in high value markets 80% would not be an affordable product for consumers and it would create problems around housing benefit”.

As the flexible tenancies and the affordable rent tenancies may account for an increasing proportion of local authority and housing association tenancies, the shorter tenancies may well mean that Right to Buy never recovers from its current low levels. Maybe we are seeing a Conservative prime minister effectively abolishing Right to Buy while it is being retained in theory.

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