Tuesday, 19 October 2010

The Council House Jackpot

I read yesterday about the proposed amendments to the running of the council house system. It all makes lots of sense to me. I am simply waiting for the idiotic Lib Dem and Labour backlash.

Why do we have social housing? For those who cannot afford to buy or rent living space. Super. Key words: "those who cannot afford".

As it stands, if you were once poor enough to qualify for a council house, the Government assumes you will always be. A little patronising, but not my main point. If you needed a family home because you had 3 children, the Government assumes you will always have 3 children living with you.

The first of the 2 main changes is to be (for new applicants only) 5 or 10 year 'leases' for want to a better word rather than life-long leases. At the end of your lease, you get re-evaluated to see if you could afford to contribute more (for we all have to contribute - there should be no free rides), or less (situations can easily get worse than better), or have no need for social housing.

Situation 1: The means and requirements test reveals no change in circumstances. A new 5/10 year lease is granted. Winners: Family - still supported to the degree required in terms of housing. State - fulfilling social obligations to poorer families.

Situation 2: The test reveals a worsening in circumstances (reduced pay for example). A new 5/10 year lease is granted at a lower percentage of market rental value. Winners: Family - as situation 1. State - as situation 1.

Situation 3: The test reveals an slight improvement in circumstances (increased pay for example). A new 5/10 year lease is granted at a higher rate. Winners: Family - as situation 1. State - as situation 1 and gains extra income for reinvestment in budget.

Situation 4: The test reveals a large improvement in circumstances (large increase in pay for example). No new lease is granted. Winners: State - gets a house back for the 5 million more needy currently on the social housing waiting list. A poorer family - a house is freed up and they move off the waiting list and into social housing.

The part that the lefty idealogues will harp on about is the 'evicted' family. If they can pay to live without social housing they should. The state is then able to give to someone more needy. Anyone disagreeing with that on the basis of not supporting the poor needs a lesson in basic logic and economics. That is the essence of social housing. It should never be an option to stay in a council house if one does not need to. It is not about a war on aspiration - you will be as well off out of social housing as in it, as the second you become ineligible you have become wealthy enough to afford to house yourself. That is the idea of the test; make sure only those who need it most get social housing. Not only is there a limit on how many people we can afford to house (5 million strong waiting list), we also morally should not be paying for people to live if they can do it themselves.

The second major change I will discuss is the size of the house relative to the number of inhabitants. Clearly there is great pathos evoked in asking a widowed 70 year old man to move from a 3 bedroom house he has lived in all his life to a 1 bedroom flat. However, we simply don't have enough houses to afford to be so generous as to leave him there. Go and ask the 3 child household on the waiting list if it is fair that they have nowhere suitable to live because of this generous grant to the widower. Also remember - new applicants only.

Welfare is about helping the neediest. Unfortunately there will always be people who will feel something is being unfairly taken from them when it is given to someone poorer. One hopes then for a modicum of understanding at least for the system which helped them no longer be the neediest.

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