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Face off: Should people only be eligible to live in a council house if they have a job?

Posted at 4:15 pm, December 4, 2011 in News

Council housesUnemployed people could lose their council homes unless they find a job under a new policy being considered by Wandsworth Council. So should people only be eligible to live in a council house if they have a job? Read two very different takes on the matter.

Paul EllisYes:
Councillor Paul Ellis, Cabinet member for housing, Wandsworth

‘Some people have accused Wandsworth Council of unfairly penalising council tenants who lose their job by taking away  their home. This is not correct. What we are doing is making better use of council housing as a way of encouraging people to find work or improve job prospects through training or volunteering. From next summer, new applicants for council property will be expected to do all they can to find work or enrol on a training course.

‘Those who are fit and able to work but refuse to do so should not expect to benefit from a taxpayersubsidised home and will forfeit their right to it. We will create a contract with selected new tenants to support and help them find a job or gain new skills. ‘This isn’t about punishing people who are made redundant or can’t find a job. It is about having a way to penalise those who can’t be bothered to make the effort. We want to help people move on in life. Providing lowcost housing on the condition that someone takes up work will act as a launch pad towards more housing choices. People can then buy or rent elsewhere, freeing up social housing for people who really need it.

‘Nearly 30 per cent of people on our housing estates who are of working age are in receipt of full housing benefit. Unless you help people get off benefits and into work, they run a greater risk of developing health problems and other social problems associated with living in poverty. We also want to take steps to make it fairer and easier for working families to be given a council home. Increasing the number of families on our estates who are in employment will act as a beacon for those around them. When it comes to council homes, we want to give people a hand-up – not a hand-out.’


Alastair MurrayNo:
Alistair Murray, deputy director of Housing Justice

‘At present, council housing is accommodation of last resort. The small amount of social housing available through  councils and housing associations is distributed according to those who most need assistance. ‘Under the current  situation the government is not building enough housing for those on low incomes and benefits. There has been little building for people in this situation for the last 15-20 years, so there is a huge backlog and waiting list.

‘There is an idea that people will find work if they look for it, but in the present economic situation, that is just not true. Jobs are not flowing through. If the unemployed are left without council housing they will be left relying on the private rented sector. Since the sell-off of council housing in the 1980s the private sector has become the least regulated, least secure form of tenancy. Many families now are also unable to even raise a deposit.

‘It’s also an inefficient use of public money. Some £20 billion a year is paid in housing benefit and local housing allowance from councils to landlords, and most of that goes towards accommodation that is often not very good quality. That money would be better spent on subsidising public housing and developing truly affordable accommodation. Ten times more is spent on providing benefit than on building more homes. Wandsworth’s policy will undoubtedly push up homelessness and the money taken from the public purse. If it is enforced, Wandsworth can expect an Occupy London encampment to be erected outside its town hall some time soon.’

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