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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 2nd 2010.


The vote: Should social housing be for life?

IF there hadn’t been corpy houses, Willy Russell wouldn’t have been able to write his global hit Blood Brothers.

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?

Liverpool, from the days of Queen Victoria, was a trailblazer in the provision of social housing for its citizens.

Indeed the last significant programme of council house building was at the height of the Militant rule in the 1980s when the clarion call was building homes, protecting jobs and services for working class people.

The original idea of municipal housing was to provide decent dwellings for the poor.In Liverpool, 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 that champion of the working classes, the Coalition Government, wants to keep the lower orders on their toes by ending 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 they had already been paying rent. The deal was they had to stay there for five years then they could sell; fortunes were later to be made.

Try buying a one-time council house in the leafy suburbs of South Liverpool nowadays and you are talking £200K. So much for helping the poor and needy.

Maybe, just maybe the Coalition has a point: 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 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, Liverpool 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.

Liverpool 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.

Liverpool City Council, until recently the city’s biggest landlord, has now handed over its homes to social landlords. There used to be a nice little joke – Liverpool Council owned the oldest Council House in the kingdom, Speke Hall. But that joke fizzled out when the council handed it to the National Trust.

The prospect of new council housing schemes in Liverpool 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 is his castle, but only for two years.

FACTFILE

Liverpool was a pioneer in council house building, constructing 2,900 dwellings between 1869 and 1919.

In Liverpool’s first tenement blocks in the 1890s, families had to share kitchens and bathrooms.

Catholic clergy in Liverpool at the time complained the new corpy houses, earmarked for former slum dwellers, instead went to better off people. Apparently. the housing managers quietly told to hand the keys to tenants of good character likely to pay the rent on time.

A 1904 surveys reveals almost half of council tenants in Liverpool were dockers and general labourers.

Larry Neild

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7 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

MortgagePayerNovember 30th 2010.

Council houses were introduced to help people too poverty stricken to afford a decent home for them and their kids. In Liverpool today we have tens of thousands of people on waiting lists, with hardly any chance of a decent home in a decent area. Yet social housing is hogged by many people who could easily afford to buy if they could be arsed. They should chuck them out and hand the keys to people in real need. Why do we allow wage earners to live in subsidised housing? It's disgusting.

AnonymousNovember 30th 2010.

Because wage earners give a cohesive sense of responsibility and diversity to the make up of a community. Do you honestly think we should ghetto-ise those on welfare? And is it wise to encourage council tenants not to look for work in case they get chucked out of their home.This is all the fault of Thatcher's right-to-buy scheme.

saladdazeNovember 30th 2010.

Dear Mortgage Payer: pick on someone your own size. Why not start a campaign to have that expert on business ethics the Portly Parachuting Parasite Prince removed from his (ie our) ancestral home? Social housing is just one of the ways in which we prove that we live in a civilised society where fair undodged tax is our subscription. Unless we take a wider political view of the mess we're in then we just end up kicking those lower down the ladder. And I'm from Page Moss.

MORTGAGEPAYERNovember 30th 2010.

Council houses or social houses for the less well off? Look at the number with new cars, caravans and in some cases yachts in their driveways. I've no doubt if you search Goodle earth you'd find a sprinkling with swimming pools. Yes, social need indeed.

freddieNovember 30th 2010.

Get your facts right! A lot of suburban council housing of the 20s and 30s went to people who weren't amongst the poorest because the poorest couldn't afford the rents and bus fares and so preferred to stay in cheaper inner city houses from where they could walk to work. Some suburban council rents at the time would be enough to buy your own new suburban house (c£500).

crippenNovember 30th 2010.

This argument need's the judgement of Solomon. On one hand there are people who live in council houses, are loaded and should in theory move on, but what about their 'right to buy', no gain there as it removes another unit from the Social Housing. Conversely we all know some right shit's who live in council houses
and couldn't give two hoots about moving on and won't and thirdly, the concept of being forced to move out of council housing, has only come about as pressure to house
illegal immigrant's has grown..........
But i'll guarantee, no governmental 'two faced ' prick will insist they move on.

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