LIFETIME TENANCIES UNDER REVIEW – AGAIN?

Lifetime tenancies should be limited to those with long-term high housing needs, such as the “highly disabled or mentally ill, and people in extreme old age”.

So says Natalie Elphicke, co-author of the Treasury-commissioned House/Elphicke review of council house building, as the Government prepares for a review of lifetime tenancies, to limit their use by local councils. Ms Elphicke has recommended the scrapping of lifetime tenancies for the majority of tenants, and their replacement with five or 15-year fixed-term tenancies.

Ms Elphicke, who has advised think tanks like Policy Exchange and the Centre for Policy Studies, said it “seems highly likely” that existing tenancies would be undisturbed, adding: “The allocation of social housing can be at best inefficient, and, at worst, create unfairness and reduced life opportunities for others. Modernisation of the current arrangements for social housing leases would bring the arrangements into line with modern housing choices, and enable greater fairness to be achieved.”

It will be interesting to see how Kingston Council reacts to the imminent national tenancy review. Nearly three years ago, the previous Lib-Dem Administration carried out its own review, encouraged by the Localism Act 2011, but came down heavily in favour of retaining lifetime tenancies, largely because of fears that fixed short-term tenancies would cause the breakdown of settled local communities through a high and regular turnover of new tenants.

That 2012 decision is due to be reviewed soon, against the backdrop of a constantly increasing housing waiting list (now well over 8,000 strong), and growing shortage of council and affordable homes in the borough. Tough decisions lie ahead . . .