Earlier today the BBC reported that Wandsworth Council is considering introducing a policy under which Wandsworth council tenants could lose their homes if they lost their jobs.
Jobless 'may lose council homes', warns Wandsworth
On Wandsworth Council's hompage I find a link "Refusal to work could cost council home" which leads to a news release dated Saturday 12 November.
Near the start we have:
"This week councillors will be asked to back a new 'Housing into Work' strategy that aims to encourage new council tenants to find work or improve their job prospects through training or volunteering."
but oddly enough no mention of which committee or which day. (It is in fact the Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting at 7.30pm on Tuesday 15 November 2011 meeting in Room 123, Town Hall, Wandsworth High Street SW18 2PU.)
The release goes on to say inter alia:
"If the policy is adopted, people would be given a council home on the condition that they find work or enrol on a training course. If they fail to stick to their side of the bargain they would face the prospect of losing that home. The new rules will only apply to selected new tenancies - current tenants will not be affected."
Councillor Paul Ellis is quoted as saying:
"We want to help people move on in life. By providing low cost housing on the condition that someone takes up work our expectation is that this will act as a launch pad towards more housing choices to buy or rent elsewhere and to move on, freeing up social housing for people who really need it. Fixed term tenancies will ensure social housing is a starting point, not an end point."
Note the way in which fixed term tenancies are slipped in.
Turning to the committee report itself this is an alarmingly thin (six page) document entitled:
Report by the Director of Housing on proposals for a Housing into Work Strategy (pdf)
The report itself starts:
"The Council’s Housing into Work Strategy is set in the context of robust central government policy proposals in relation to making work pay and welfare reform. National policy, as set out by the Coalition Government in its Programme for Government and which is relevant to these proposals, includes a review of the welfare system, the provision of incentives to move into employment and a commitment to end child poverty with the policy aim of moving people into work and making work pay."
A hypertext link to the 'Programme for Government'(better known as the Coalition Agreement and the only background document cited) does not work. No surprise to cynics who have read the Coalition Agreement and know that it says nothing about fixed term tenancies or evicting tenants who lose their jobs. Over recent months there has been considerable comment and discussion of such proposals in journals such as Inside Housing, the housing law blog Nearly Legal and south London social landlord Family Mosaic has recently published research that it commissioned into fixed term tenancies 'Changing direction' and many other places beside, but Wandsworth officers choose not to share such information with councillors.
Perhaps the most bizarre aspect of the document is the extraordinary claim that: "The Director of Finance comments that all costs incurred in relation to the implementation of these proposals will be met from existing Housing Department budgets." This is not a claim that any housing professional would make as there are simply far too many variables to consider. How many tenants will acted against for failing to get a job?. How many judges will actually grant possesion to the council? How many wives and children of evicted tenants will have to be housed as homeless after such evictions? What staff resources will be necessary to police the policies?
In the absense of either methods of calculation or estimates of cost I can only suspect that junior accountant, with no expertise in housing matters, has simply rubber stamped a matter (s)he perceives as too political to argue about.
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