Monday, June 16, 2008

Get promoted, get evicted

For a few months, government ministers and their favourite thank tanks have been explaining how the problem with social housing is that not enough people work, and there is a need to promote mixed communities.

So it was a bit of a surprise to see the New Local Government Network call for families who are living in social housing and earning more than £2,000/month to move out to make way for more needy people. After all, £2,000/month after tax is very roughly the household income for two people each working full time and earning a bit less than the average wage. This policy is a pretty clear attack on hard-working families who aspire to work for more than the minimum wage. Following Caroline Flint's idea of 'work or get evicted', this is 'if you get promoted, you'll get evicted'.

The rationale is that families in this situation can afford to move into the private sector. The very same report, however, urged councils to be given powers to offer financial support to homeowners struggling to pay their mortgages. Many of these struggling homeowners will have incomes considerably in excess of £2,000/month (in some parts of the country, people on that salary couldn't even get a mortgage).

The underlying assumption is that living in social housing should only be for people who can't afford anything else, and that people should aspire to move on from social housing and become home-owners. But many people, particularly at the moment, want nothing more than somewhere decent to live at a price they can afford. Rather than trying to play off lower and middle income earners against each other and turn social housing into a special needs service, a much better idea would be to build enough new homes both to help people in desperate housing need and give the majority of people on average incomes a genuine choice about whether they wanted to buy their own home, rent from a private landlord, or rent from the council or a housing association.


At 7:09 pm , Anonymous tim f said...

The bizarre thing is it's a bulwark against the aspiration of working class families to get on - which is meant to be what New Labour is all about.

Faced with the chance of a promotion and a 2k bump in salary but losing your home (+ having to rent an expensive private-sector home), what's the rational thing to do? I'd turn down the promotion.

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