Council tenancy will not change, even if it should

David Cameron’s off-the-cuff plan to limit council house occupation is unlikely to make it onto the statute books

SIMON WHITE, DIRECTOR, LONDON’S CHARTERED SURVEYORS
SIMON WHITE, DIRECTOR, LONDON’S CHARTERED SURVEYORS

Am I the only one who thinks that Prime Minister David Cameron was making it up as he went along when he announced that in future council houses may not be rented out ad infinitum?

He said this in one of those cosy, open-necked shirt chats during which he sits on a stool and tries to come across as one of the boys but really looks like Val Doonican.

I just wonder whether Cameron or his Liberal Democrat coalition partner Nick Clegg got a call from matron last week, as kicking someone out of their council house because they’ve got a job down the local chippy doesn’t sit well with Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative dream of this country becoming a property-owning democracy.

I’ve never been a betting man but I’ll wager that Cameron’s great idea doesn’t become legislation. Isn’t it strange that this proposal was never mentioned before the general election?

To be fair, he’s right. Why should the state provide cheap housing for the workshy? But in practice it will never happen. Can you honestly imagine a Labour-controlled local authority kicking out a council tenant? Me neither.

Of course, Labour is diametrically opposed to all the above and says we should build more council houses, but that’s not aspirational is it?

Her Madge will never say the government will boot out any council tenant that’s found a decent job

Historically, Labour has always objected to any Tory property policy. Readers who are old enough will recall that the party pledged to oppose Right to Buy legislation at the 1983 election but changed its mind when it realised this stance was a vote-loser.

Of course, we don’t build council houses any more and instead provide affordable housing or homes for shared ownership.

Although this is not the same thing it does facilitate low-cost property ownership which is what Lady Thatcher had in mind in the first place.

So, rather like square satellite dishes and Glen Hoddle as England manager I reckon this idea of Cameron’s will sink without trace and Her Madge will never get the chance to say the government will boot out any council tenant that’s found a decent job.

On a wider point I’ve always believed that lenders in general have too restricted a view of council housing stock.

Some won’t accept council-built properties irrespective of the level of private ownership involved. But I can take you to many London council estates where homes in private ownership sell well.

One such is the Dover House estate to the west of Putney, which is now a conservation area and where three-bedroom houses can sell for half a million quid.

Of course, I know I’m guilty of geographical snobbery as there are numerous council estates that are not so fortunate but it seems to me that lenders should pay more attention to saleability than red tape when assessing the mortgageability of council-built properties.