Islington housing campaigners’ delight as ‘pay to stay’ is axed
The Tribune understands that the council is trying to find ways around the legislation so that tenants can continue to be given security of tenure
28 November, 2016
Glyn Robbins, of the Islington Axe the Housing Act campaign
COUNCIL tenants breathed a collective sigh of relief this week after the government announced it is scrapping controversial plans to force “high-earning” social renters to pay more in rent.
The policy, known as “pay to stay”, and dubbed the “Tory tenant tax” by Islington Council, provoked noisy public meetings earlier this year where tenants said the proposals were tantamount to “social cleansing”.
Under the plans, an in-work household earning £45,000 a year would have seen their rent increase by £750 a year, and one earning more than £70,000 by £4,500, according to council estimates.
But on Monday ministers announced they had “listened carefully” and decided not to proceed with the policy, adding that councils and housing associations would be able to decide whether to impose higher rents.
Islington, which campaigned against the plans, swiftly announced that it would not do so and last night (Thursday) said it would be writing to housing associations with properties in Islington to ask them to do the same.
It represents a huge victory for Islington housing campaigners and council tenants, who took a leading role in fighting the plans at a national level.
Glyn Robbins, of the Islington Axe the Housing Act campaign, said: “The government’s U-turn on Pay to Stay is very welcome. It’s the result of the accumulated pressure of a united campaign in which the people of Islington – and the Tribune – have played a leading role.
“The Axe the Housing Act alliance has said from the start that the Housing and Planning Act is both unfair and unworkable. Finally, the government is listening.”
However, housing minister Gavin Barwell also said the government would be ending the right of social housing tenants to stay in their homes for life, by introducing compulsory fixed-term tenancies. Councils will be told to prioritise lower-income households.
Mr Robbins added: “There will be more pressure on local councils not to issue permanent, secure tenancies to future council tenants. That’s very bad news for the future of working class communities and we must resist it – tenants, housing workers and councillors together, like we did with Pay to Stay.”
The Tribune understands that the council is trying to find ways around the legislation so that tenants can continue to be given security of tenure.
What remains of deep concern among Town Hall chiefs are plans to force councils to sell off hundreds of their most valuable council flats as they become vacant, to fund an extension to the right-to-buy scheme for housing association tenants. The forced sale of “higher value” properties is part of the government’s strategy to cover the cost of expanding right-to-buy discounts to housing association tenants and to replace the homes sold off under the policy with new “affordable” homes.
Earlier this month it emerged the implementation of the policy is set to be delayed as civil servants prioritise dealing with the uncertainty brought about by Brexit.
Town Hall chief Richard Watts said: “We still think the other awful bits, such as ending lifetime tenancies and forcing us to sell off much-needed council housing, must be dropped too, so the campaign must continue.”