Safe as houses

by Mike Katz / @mikekatz

Whilst the point of this blog is to talk about local issues, I can’t help but write about the row that has erupted over secure tenancies for council homes. 

After all, Kilburn has – I believe – as many, if not more, council properties than any other ward in Camden.  So what happens to council tenancies is an important issue for lots of local people. 

What will tenants in Rowley Way make of Cameron's plans?

In yet another seemingly off-the-cuff move, it appears the new ConDem Government wants to end secure tenancy agreements.  Yet this idea – couched in positive terms about encouraging mobility, seems at odds with all their rhetoric about the Big Society, the importance of community and that idea that society is much more than just the state.

For Cameron and his chums seem to have forgotten that council housing is not just bricks and mortar, but people’s homes.  You could say its snobbery, you could plead ignorance, but just because people don’t own their homes, it doesn’t mean that they don’t put down roots, build up friendships and often work with their neighbours to make their area a better place.

I’m constantly impressed by the effort, commitment and resourcefulness of everyone involved in the Tenants & Residents Associations on Kilburn’s estates.  They genuinely want to do their bit to improve their local areas and help their neighbours. 

Would this happen if tenancies weren’t secure?  If families could be moved out of estates every five or ten years when their tenancy expired, by virtue that they earned too much or their family was the ‘wrong’ size?  Somehow, I doubt it.

And it also runs counter to the Government’s professed desire to help people back into work.  Penalising tenants for getting a well-paid job by threatening them with losing their homes is hardly a good incentive to find work, let alone work that pays well.

Worse, it runs the risk of turning estates from vibrant mixed communities to some sort of dumping ground for the worst off and most disadvantaged. 

This is an ill-thought out policy – the solution to our massive council housing waiting list and overcrowding is building more homes, not destabilising council tenancies.

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