MP Buck attacks housing boss over council homes

Posted: 12/06/09

West End Extra - by JAMIE WELHAM

Secured tenancy threat to ‘problem families’ would be ‘devastating’

KAREN Buck MP has leapt to the defence of council tenants, saying they should not be made to feel “morally inferior” amid fears that secured tenancies could be scrapped for “problem families”.
In a speech to the new Housing Minister John Healey, Ms Buck made a thinly veiled attack on City Hall’s new housing boss Dr Ian Rowley who caused a storm last month when he said he would support housing allocation determined by “behaviour and contribution to society” in an article for right-wing think-tank Localis.
Ms Buck spelled out a warning to Westminster’s 23,000 council tenants, saying the loss of secured tenancies would have a “devastating effect on communities”.
The debate on Tuesday evening was the first on social housing since the appointment of Mr Healey.
Dr Rowley took over the position of deputy cabinet member for housing last month. In a move to allay tenants’ fears he quickly made assurances that his comments were made in a private capacity and have no bearing on housing policy in the borough.
Ms Buck, the MP for Regent’s Park and Kensington North, said: “The message coming through extremely strongly from the statements made by Westminster Council’s deputy cabinet member for housing and from many Conservative think-tanks and supporting politicians is that social housing is the fundamental problem.
“The language repeated again and again in such texts implies that tenants are second-class citizens. It equates social housing with deprivation and loss of status. The implication is that tenants should be ashamed.
“Social housing should be a choice and tenure is not a matter of morality. Tenants everywhere should be very worried about that emerging thinking because, as is well researched and documented, the loss of security of tenure has a devastating effect on communities and on the lives of the people it affects.”