In a stealthy amendment to the housing and planning bill, the government has announced an end to lifetime council tenancies. All new council tenants (and eventually housing association tenants) will be given maximum five-year contracts, after which their circumstances will be reviewed. If they’re told to leave they’ll be offered a more suitable council tenancy, directed towards other rental options (the expensive private sector) or assisted into home ownership.
The government has thus far refused to confirm any exemptions (for the long-term disabled, say, or families with small children). It’s unclear who would be conducting these reviews, and no assurances that this wouldn’t turn into another welfare-bashing crapshoot.
Despite the fast-dwindling number of council properties (mainly due to “right to buy” and insufficient new builds), the government insists that the new scheme would aid social mobility because people who previously wouldn’t have dreamt of buying their own home would now do so.
As someone who was raised in a council house, it’s this last fallacy, the oft-peddled myth of easy-peasy home ownership (“You’re just a signature away from nirvana!”), that enrages the most. This idea that tenants merely have to be enlightened about and cajoled into home ownership.
The lie that tenants just need it painstakingly explained to them that there’s this really super thing called “owning your own home”, and they could do it too! As if the vast majority of tenants hadn’t already considered it but were just too skint.
This is important because, for too long, the Tories have been getting away with oversimplifying and polarising the issue. It’s not about decent “strivers” trying to get on, versus crazed Bolsheviks or losers happily lolling on their scrapheap.