Latest Public Sector News

05.05.16

Mandatory fixed-term tenancies will benefit minority groups – DCLG

Abolishing new lifetime tenancies will help social housing tenants from minority groups by reducing inequality, according to the Equality Impact Assessment from the DCLG.

The government’s Housing and Planning Bill, currently being revised in Parliament, will require councils to grant future tenants fixed-term tenancies, which will be on average two to five years long, with the potential to expand them to 10 years for households with elderly or disabled members or for the whole period a child is in school for families with children.

Councils and housing associations have had the option of offering fixed-term tenancies since 2012, but the policy has had limited take-up, with just 15% of tenancies being let on a fixed-term basis in 2014-15.

The government’s analysis of the new policy under the Equality Act 2010 admits “that there could be adverse impacts on individuals where a social landlord decides not to renew a fixed-term tenancy”.

However, it says that the policy will reduce the demand on social housing, which currently has a 1.24 million household waiting list, and benefit protected groups including the elderly, the disabled and black and minority ethnic (BME) households.

The assessment said that longer fixed-term tenancies would benefit the elderly by making it easier for them to move to smaller accommodation, allowing families to move into larger properties.

There are currently 338,000 social households with two or more spare bedrooms, of which 58% had a household reference person aged 60 or over, whilst 247,000 social housing residents are overcrowded.

The report also said that households where a member has a disability, which make up 50% of social rented households compared to 30% in the general population, would benefit from the 10-year tenancies, which would make it easier for them to move to more suitable accommodation.

It added that creating more headroom in social housing would benefit single parent households, BME households and women, all of whom are disproportionately likely to need social housing.

The new policy will allow existing lifetime tenants to keep their tenancies, pass on the lifetime tenancy to their partner after their death and be offered a new lifetime tenancy if they are moved by their local authority, although tenants who chose to move will be offered a fix-term tenancy.

David Pipe, policy and practice officer at the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), said that the CIH welcomed the government’s decision to extend tenancies from the original five-year limit in some circumstances, but remained concerned that the new regulations did not allow landlords enough flexibility.

“Landlords need to take local circumstances into account and make their own decisions about what type and length of tenancy is appropriate,” he said. “There will still be some occasions when they need to retain lifetime tenancies.”

A new analysis from Shelter, released yesterday, warned that the Housing and Planning Bill could lead to the loss of 23,503 council homes a year at a cost of £26m.

(Image c. Yui Mok from PA Images)

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