Higher rents planned for rich council tenants told "pay to stay"
There is a lot of material in the Government's housing strategy, Laying the Foundations.
Plans to charge higher rents for wealthy tenants who have chosen to remain in subsidised social housing are included.
The strategy says:
We are committed to protecting the rights of existing social housing tenants. However, this should not prevent councils, housing associations and the Government from tackling the small minority of tenants who abuse their social housing. This includes households earning high incomes who continue to occupy subsidised housing, and households committing tenancy fraud. Both groups are enjoying a resource that is intended to benefit others who genuinely need it. As part of our reforms, we now plan to bring in new measures to end these abuses of social housing. We plan to consult on proposals to charge high earners an increased rent to ‘pay to stay’ and examine how the Government can help social landlords stamp out tenancy fraud.
As well as making it clear that social homes should not be allocated to people who already own a home that would be suitable for them to use, we will also take action to tackle the small number of cases in which households with high salaries continue to benefit from a social rent. We have said that we were considering raising rents for households with income in excess of £100,000 (evidence suggests there may be as many as 6,000 such households). It is fair to ask the highest-earning social housing tenants to pay a higher rent when their peers in private housing pay market rents.
We propose to consult on provisions that will allow landlords to increase rental income from households with genuine high earners, in order to help fund new affordable homes. The consultation will consider how best to configure the scheme and ensure that it is appropriately targeted. Full implementation may involve primary legislation, and further details will be announced in due course.
Another aspect of the strategy that is welcome is the greater emphasis on bringing empty homes back into use. Over 300,000 homes have been empty for more than six months. Often they can fall into disrepair and become eyesores blighting communities. So it is sensible for councils to be able to offer incentives to their owners to make these available for affordable housing. The New Homes Bonus is now applied to empty homes brought back into use. In the first year this has applied just under 16,000 long term empty homes were brought back into use with local authorities rewarded with £19 million.
But there should also be encouragement for housing associations, councils (and indeed parts of central Government such as the MOD) to put their own houses in order. Often the long term voids are owned by the state. Unless there is a good reason for this they should be sold. There should also be more transparency on the number of empty properties owned by the state and housing associations and how long they have been empty for. This is an area where the policy should be strengthened.