I don't have time today to do this justice, and will be coming back to it again. I've been going through a major report from LSE, produced for the government, on welfare housing (or social housing, if you prefer. I don't).
When this was first conceived, renting rather than owning was the norm for much of British society. The Labour government envisioned estates like twee urban villages, where the doctor and the vicar lived side by side with the butcher and the labourer in a democratic social mix. Since 1979 several things have happened; hundreds of thousands have escaped the council estate by buying their houses, a general rise in ownership has meant everyone else who wanted to and could afford it have left, and councils have been prevented from demolishing decent private housing and building welfare slums as they did with such abandon in the 60s. So where are we now? Well, a few snippets from this report:
- The economic cost to the country of subsidised welfare rents is £6.6bn a year
- We (the taxpayer) own £400bn in capital value of welfare housing, but our return on capital after management and maintenance is barely 1% per annum
- It's a myth that council tenants all want to be owner occupiers; given the choice, 39% would prefer to stay as subsidised tenants
- Barely a third of heads of welfare households are in full time work
- One in eight private house moves are work related, but just a very few thousand moves a year amongst 4m welfare tenants are for employment reasons
- Welfare tenants stay put in the same house for a very long time. Over twenty years, they will enjoy the benefit of subsidised rent worth £65,000 at Net Present Value.
- Despite subsidised rents meaning that in theory it's much easier for a welfare tenant to move from benefits to work than for a private tenant, very few do so.
I'll come back to this.