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The vote: Should social housing be for life?

Two years and you are out - if you can do better. Agree?

Published on December 1st 2010.

The vote: Should social housing be for life?

Manchester from the time of its Victoria Square project in 1897 in Ancoats was a trailblazer in the provision of social housing for its citizens.

Why should well-off people who people who climb the social ladder continue to live in social housing when hundreds of thousands are desperate for a decent roof over their heads?

The original idea of municipal housing was to provide decent dwellings for the poor.In Manchester thousands of families lived in grubby little courtyard dwellings or tenements in insanitary conditions. Even the rats feared they’d catch cholera or dysentery.

Now the Coalition Government, wants to end the concept of social housing for life.

The aim is to offer two-year tenancies and, after 24 months of residing in a “council” house you’ll be evicted if they (the housing managers) feel you can go it alone and sort out your own sleeping arrangements via the private sector.

It seems to have escaped the architects of this political game of housey-housey that continuity of tenancy helps create stability on the big estates and hopefully a community cohesion.

But (and there’s always a but) how many of us have driven through council estates and spotted brand new cars in the driveway, or yachts or caravans and wondered why are they living in subsidised housing?

When Thatcher introduced the Right to Buy policy, sitting tenants were offered their homes with a whopping discount, depending on the length of time of their tenure. The deal was they had to stay for five years after purchase then they could sell; fortunes were later to be made.

Try buying a one-time council house in some of the leafy suburbs nowadays and you are talking £200k.

Maybe, just maybe the Coalition has a point: Why should well-off people who climb the social ladder continue to live in social housing when hundreds of thousands are desperate for a decent roof over their heads?

Victoria Square, social housing from 1897

The flaw in the government’s strategy is this: many tenants will send themselves a memo saying “don’t get yourself a job stupid, just stick around on benefits to guarantee your continued tenancy”.

Like many local councils, Manchester had borrowed money to build council housing and was or is paying it back over 60 years. It meant ratepayers, and latterly council tax payers, would be paying instalments for money borrowed to pay for houses that had been flogged at knock-down prices to tenants.

The decision to time-limit tenancies came as it was revealed a typical house deposit required two-years pay, an impossible goal for many working class people desperate to get their feet on the property ladder. For them council housing, or rather social housing, is the only option, apart from the haphazard private landlord option.

Manchester used to have one of the highest percentages of people in council or social housing anywhere in the country. The Right-to-Buy policy, coupled with a virtual halt on council house building, has changed the landscape dramatically.

The prospect of new council housing schemes in Manchester seems impossible, leaving the thousands on so-called waiting lists at the mercy of the housing associations or private landlords. Should we blame wealthy tenants for not hiding those luxurious trappings of life, for all to see in their driveways?

Industry has long abandoned its cradle to grave philosophy, and now the government is saying an Englishman’s home if his castle, but only for two years.

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AnonymousDecember 3rd 2010.

It is sad that people abuse the system that it was built for.What do you do with the people that do not and will not work. Shall we kick them out of their houses then we will expect the tax payer to pay for B&B accommodation. Shall we make them litter pick or carry out tasks to show that they are willing to work but cannot find jobs for the skills and capabilities
they may or may not have? and above all who is going to provide supervision and management of the tasks,are they to be paid or are we practising Supervisory management skill so that they can get experience in this role. What about using these people to track down illegal immigrants. It goes on and on and on. What about a no interest loan from the government to help people pay a deposit on a house to move out of council accommodation. Due to wage freezes and the spiralling cost of living a lot of working people cannot afford the deposit some people are fortunate to have parental help and others have none. At the end of the day we could send them all out to Russia to help with the football erm voluntary of course.

HOUSE THE HOMELESSJanuary 20th 2011.

Every year we spend billions on foreign aid and billions more on EU membership if we diverted this to housing our own people there would not be a problem, less on funding motorways in Eastern Europe and schools in Africa and more housing the UKs homeless please , these people have been suffering far too long.

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