Cuts will have devastating impact on council housing

Cuts announced in the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) will have a devastating impact on council tenants.

Combined with cuts to Housing Benefit and the attack on secure tenancies, they break the Prime Minister’s pre election promise. They are not ‘fair’; this is an assault on tenants’ rights that will drive up rent arrears, evictions, poverty and homelessness.

The CSR announcement spread confusion by referring to ‘social housing’ without detail of which changes would apply to council housing or housing associations (Registered Social Landlords – RSLs). CLG officials have confirmed to DCH that both Council and RSL landlords will be given freedom to create some new time-limited tenancies instead of the current council ‘secure’ (and RSL ‘assured’) tenancy.

But only RSLs will be allowed to designate some of their homes for ‘intermediate’ rents up to 80 per cent of market rents, with time limited tenancies. This will finance borrowing to build more homes at same higher rents.

Cuts in other spending mean these are the only new homes for rent planned – and they will be too expensive for most people on the waiting list, unless they can claim Housing Benefit. Tenants would be stuck in a poverty trap and liable to debt and insecurity.

Capital investment in council housing will be halved or worse. Cuts mean no improvements by 2015 to over half the council homes not at a decent standard. The Treasury is to take all housing capital receipts, and increase the cost of borrowing for Councils.

Reform of the Housing Revenue Account is to go ahead, but no figures have been released. CLG say they will issue more details by Christmas. The big question is whether they propose councils take on higher levels of debt; and whether proposals will be financially viable.

In a recent press release you can find a list of Action Points DCH wants councils, unions and MPs to support. These are backed by Ken Livingstone, and by councils and councillors including Leader of Islington Council (Catherine West). Demand your council gives a commitment not to replace secure tenancies, and sign up to these Action Points. Lobby councillors and MPs, Organise a public meeting locally and involve benefit campaigners and private tenants. We have to build a broad movement against the cuts to HB, attacks on our tenancies, and for investment in council housing.

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