No more lifetime right to council houses

Sarah Coles
Aerial View of Apartments Blocks on a Council Estate, London, EnglandCreative image #: dv1774006License type: Royalty-freeP
Aerial View of Apartments Blocks on a Council Estate, London, EnglandCreative image #: dv1774006License type: Royalty-freeP

A council home won't be for life any more - after changes brought in by the Housing Bill currently going through parliament. In future, getting a council house will only mean you have the right to stay for a fixed term of either two or five years.

At the moment, once you have a council home, you can stay as long as you want. In some cases, people even pass them on to family members after their death. The government plans to change the system, so that new council tenants will start with a fixed term tenancy. After that time expires they will have to prove they still qualify for the home in order to have the lease extended - or they will end up in privately rented property.

The move has provoked a backlash from those who insist that having lifelong rights to council housing enables people to put down roots; it means children can have a secure education without worrying about having to move every couple of years; and it enables strong communities to form. By having a mix of higher and lower earners in council developments, it also helps stop a rigid social and class divide developing in an area.

There are also those who argue that the change is likely to put people off taking better-paid work. Taking a better job could mean they lose their home, face the upheaval of a move, and end up in privately rented property that's so expensive that it wipes out any potential wage improvements.

They highlight that from 2017, those who make more than £30,000 (or £40,000 in London) will have to start paying market rent for their council property too, which will be a handy boost for the council coffers.


The government is pushing for the changes, because it argues that under the current system, people whose circumstances have improved and can afford privately rented property, are allowed to remain in council properties. This ties up council resources and means these homes aren't available for others on low incomes - who are waiting in vain for a proper home.

Almost 1.4million households need a council home, and just 42,870 were provided last year - the lowest figure for almost ten years. Shelter says that in areas of high demand, people who are not considered a high priority may never be offered a council property - despite qualifying for one.

Meanwhile, there are some high profile examples of well-paid individuals who still live in a council property. Frank Dobson, the former Labour minister, lives in a council property near the British Museum. The late Bob Crow, boss of the RMT union, also chose to stay in a council property. And last month it emerged that lottery winner Peter Congdon was still living in his council house in Truro six months after picking up a £13.5 million win.

They have all argued that these are their communities, and they don't want to be torn from them on the basis of wealth.

But what do you think? Let us know in the comments.

Grandfather Paints Council House Like the Sistine Chapel
Grandfather Paints Council House Like the Sistine Chapel