Southwark council tenants will no longer be able to have a home for life if government plans get the green light.
New proposals would see the 37,000 council properties in the borough limited to a maximum five year ‘secure’ tenancy term.
Chair of the Southwark Group of Tenant’s Association, Cris Claridge, said David Cameron was treating council tenants like “second class citizens.” “You are talking about a group of people that doesn’t have basic rights to make a life and build something for their children because there’s always that fear you are going to be moved on,” said Cris, who has been moved to tears by the changes put forward by the Tories in the Housing and Planning bill currently going through parliament.
If the amendment to the bill, put forward by housing minister Brandon Lewis, is voted through, there will be an end to the current system which has allowed some social housing tenants to live in the same council home for life.
While not affecting those with existing contracts, it will mean a next-of-kin inheriting the home will have to apply to sign a new restricted tenancy agreement, which, if granted, could be as short as two years.
For new tenants, councils like Southwark will only be allowed to offer secure tenancies of two to five years and ‘review’ the tenant’s circumstances before deciding whether to renew after that time is up.
“How do you plan for your children’s future or your work?” asked Cris. “It will just break up communities when people are told they’ve got to move away. For these people their life decisions are being taken out of their hands,” she added.
Southwark’s Cabinet member for housing, Cllr Richard Livingstone, said he opposed the government’s plans. “Secure tenancies are designed to be just that – to allow families the stability and long-term stake in the community that helps everyone feel a sense of belonging,” he said.
“Families, especially those with children in schools or those who care for relatives or work locally, could see their lives unnecessarily uprooted if tenancies were capped.
“A need for housing goes beyond income – many people need to establish their lives in other ways in order for them, and future generations, to get on their feet and play a bigger part in the community.”