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Lifetime tenancies, to keep or not to keep?

It was recently announced that lifetime housing tenancies are to be scrapped in favour of five year fixed term tenancies. Apparently lifetime tenancies would only be given to elderly or disabled residents. It actually stated that only ‘extreme old age’ and people who are ‘highly disabled’ could be guaranteed a lifetime tenancy.

This in itself creates an argument of just how disabled and old do you have to be before you will be given some security to remain within your home for the foreseeable future. I have visions of people being presented with a lifetime tenancy at the age of 99… but I digress.

On the face of it I can see that someone with no experience of housing may think the scrapping of lifetime tenancies is a good idea and, in a perfect world where housing is affordable, one could use the social housing system as a temporary stepping stone – and perhaps in five years when the fixed term contract has ended tenants would be in a totally different position. They may have saved enough money and be ready to rent or purchase a property on the private market.

We will see a rise in ghetto areas as people

stop investing as they are ‘only there temporarily’

However, we do not live in the perfect world. We live in a world where research shows that 88% of Londoners asked, said they believed that the capital is facing a housing crisis. Implementing a ban on lifetime tenancies just adds more pressure and probably decreases the quality of life of social housing tenants.

I say this because with living costs rising daily, wage freezes, no more tax credits and most employers not signing up to the London living wage of £9.15 but paying minimum wages of £6.50 per hour, it is highly unlikely that families will be able to save up the money required to take out a mortgage within the time frames imposed on a five year tenancy agreement. Most of these families will need extensions when the time is up, but will be living in anxiety while waiting to see if their tenancies will be extended or terminated.

It also encourages residents to stop caring about their communities. The attitude will be, what is the point of trying to start local community groups which provide services for young people and elderly residents if you are unsure if you will remain within the community to enjoy or retain them? Then that attitude becomes, what is the point of investing in your garden, or the communal gardens, or the general upkeep of the area if you are going to be moving on once your tenancy is up in a couple of year’s time. What we will see for sure is a rise in ghetto areas as people stop investing and as their interest decreases. After all they are ‘only there temporarily’.

I believe that it is a natural human instinct to want security and stability. In 1994 the Human Security Approach was introduced in the Global Human Development Report. Two of the seven dimensions needed for a human to feel secure were ‘environment and community’ along with other factors such as food, health and economics etc.

It seems almost criminal that the government could reduce a tenant’s feeling of security in their environment and destroy the communities of many, many social housing residents.

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