LDV poll: 80% of Lib Dems back wealthier households in social housing paying full market rent

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 560 party members responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

4-in-5 back change, just 1-in-10 oppose outright

The Coalition last month announced it was consulting whether to charge a full market rent to those in social housing whose household income is over £60,000. We asked our sample of Lib Dem members for their views…

LDV asked: At the moment, rents in social housing are capped at 80% of the market value. It is estimated that around 34,000 homes in England are currently occupied by families with an annual household income of over £60,000. The government is beginning a consultation on removing the 80% limit so that those households with incomes above £60,000 would have to pay the full market rent, yielding an estimated additional £122m. Those in favour argue it is only fair that those with higher incomes should pay a realistic market value. Those against argue it will lead greater social division as communities become more polarised between rich and poor areas. What is your view of removing the 80% limit on households with incomes over £60,000?

    51% – I am in favour of removing the limit at £60,000
    19% – I am in favour of removing the limit but think £60,000 is too high
    10% – I am in favour of removing the limit but think £60,000 is too low
    10% – I am against removing the limit at all
    10% – Don’t know / No opinion

In total, then, four-fifths of Lib Dem members are in favour of removing the 80% limit. A narrow majority (51%) support the £60,000 limit on which the Government is consulting, with a further 29% supporting its removal but thinking the level of household income at which full market rent would be paid should be either higher than £60k (10%) or lower (19%). A minority of 10% of party members oppose removing the limit outright. Here’s a selection of your comments:

Why do households with an income of £60000 can get social housing paid with the taxes of people earning half that?

£60,000 seems arbitary. There is a big difference between a household including multiple dependents bringing in £60k and a childless couple bringing £60k. Dependants need to be taken in to account. But yes, those with high disposable income should be encouraged to move out of social housing to allow those in more need to have it.

My main concern here is the lack of control over rented accomodation and the continued stress on the ridiculous Thatcher slogan of the ‘property ladder’ which has led to the current banking and economic crisis.

This is just another example of turning social housing, which should be a choice not a welfare benefit for the “deserving poor”. It is a retrograde step and like many other “simple” ideas will end up costing more than it allegedly saves!

If they earn that much then they should move to the private sector making space for the families like mine who are ignored by the housing market

The bigger problem is that the 80% cap is too high for such rents to be genuinely affordable for the vast majority of tenants or wouldbe tenants.

I think that there could be a limit, but that there should be exceptions for London and other very expensive areas where families have lived there a long time.

None of the options given is satisfactory. In the long term we should not be subsidising those on more than average earnings, but there should be clear progress on having more social housing and reducing market rents before implimenting this policy.

This question isn’t quite right. Affordable rents are capped at 80% market rent. But old style social rents, which apply to most existing tenants, can be much less than this. I object to the move to affordable rents let alone the charging of full market rents. Charging market rents to better off tenants will just trigger them to exercise their Right to Buy.

  • Over 1,200 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. Some 560 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 28th May and 1st June.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However, LibDemVoice.org’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past accurately predicted the winners of the contest for Party President, and the result of the conference decision to approve the Coalition agreement.
  • The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed at www.libdemvoice.org/category/ldv-members-poll
  • * Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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    10 Comments

    • I’m just glad the Lib Dems aren’t going to be in power for much longer if this is how they think. The whole point of social housing is that it is immune to the distortions of the market. Why would you want to destroy this? Rents are already ridiculously high in many parts of the country and we need more social housing to bring living costs down. Making social housing more expensive would be unhelpful.

    • Andrew Tennant 9th Jun '12 - 1:52pm

      You’ve mixed up higher and lower Stephen:

      19% – I am in favour of removing the limit but think £60,000 is too high
      10% – I am in favour of removing the limit but think £60,000 is too low
      a further 29% supporting its removal but thinking the level of household income at which full market rent would be paid should be either higher than £60k (19%) or lower (10%)

      The 19% who think £60,000 is too high think the limit should be lower, and the 10% who think it too low think the limit should be higher.

    • Andrew Tennant 9th Jun '12 - 2:45pm

      @g
      That’s very much having your cake and eating it.

      Higher rents means higher income, and more capacity for additional building.

      Lower rents, with greater subsidy leaves less for financing new homes.

      In answering the question I prioritised increasing the capacity over preserving the subsidy for those with a fairly healthy family combined income.

    • Stephen Tall 9th Jun '12 - 4:56pm

      @ Andrew – thanks, have amended the text.

    • Tony Dawson 9th Jun '12 - 11:32pm

      @g

      “Making social housing more expensive would be unhelpful.”

      But this proposal does not make social housing more expensive. It just stops poorer people like me subsidising the rents of wealthier individuals who live in some of that housing.

    • Andrew Duffield 10th Jun '12 - 12:55am

      @g

      “The whole point of social housing is that it is immune to the distortions of the market.”

      The only thing distorting free and fair market operations in housing or anything else is government interference, persistent unsustainable subsidy and the law of unintended consequences leading to yet more of the same.

    • John Richardson 10th Jun '12 - 7:58am

      Rents are already ridiculously high in many parts of the country and we need more social housing to bring living costs down.

      So let’s do that instead of spending £122m every year on implicit welfare payments to the top 10% of earners!

    • Tony Dawson (& others) – social housing rates are generally not subsidised, they just don’t make as much of a profit as they would were they let at market rates.

      However, the argument that richer people should perhaps pay more for social benefits is perfectly sound, but wouldn’t it be easier to do via the tax system, than introducing layer after layer of means testing with all the inherent bureaucracy and scope for error? Why don’t we charge people earning £60k a greater percentage in income tax than, say, those earning £40k?

      Wouldn’t this be an easier, and fairer, way of achieving the same ends?

    • I believe there needs to be a fundemental shake-up within the ‘Social’ housing area. Having worked in the field since 1995, the whole ‘ethos’ of social housing has been skewed particulalrly in the Buy-to-Let area. Registered Social Landlords (RSL’s) are as the name implys, registered with the Housing Corporation, have duties and responsibilities to their tenants, also in how they manage their stock ie capped rents, rent increase rises etc – However Private Landlords have too answer to no-one – Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not attacking the Private rented sector, but unfortunately there are many ‘Private’ landlords whose majority of income, is through Housing Benefit, who have scant disregard for the living/property conditions of their tenants, but quite happily rake in the money, who can charge very close to full market rents, unlike RSL’s.

      I believe there needs to be a change in how we ascertain what exactly ‘Social’ Housing is – I think there should be a requirement, for any ‘Private’ landlord to be registered within a ‘reasoned’ set of criteria – For example if they own more than 10 properties or if more than say 50% of their rental income is generated by Housing Benefit – This then may give tenants more protection, there could be a reduction in Housing Benefit costs, as these ‘Private’ registered landlords could charge no more than an ‘average’ weighted rent than RSL’s in the area. It may sound ‘anti-business’ but in all reality, why should the ‘Public’ purse through Housing Benefit, or working families who can’t afford ‘Private’ rents be driven out of areas.

      It’s only a suggested action, made in all good faith, but an idea that may see savings, yet also bring the rented sector into a more balanced state.

    • My husband and myself are in the higher bracket and have social housing with a reasonable rent of £680.00 per month. I am not adverse to paying something more, and our rent is rising by about 5-10% per anumn to reach a representative percentage of private rents, but in London to rent a reasonable property for a family is likely to cost in excess of £2,000 per month (my Japanese boss pays areound £2000 per month for a two bedroom flat in the same area, but his salary is substantially higher than mine!)- with 3 children, even with good earnings this would be almost 50% of income and with food bills being another 20%, schools screaming for funds … I really don’t thing £60,000 is workable. Maybe it could be adjusted according to area.

      You also have to take into consideration the extreme job instability in all sectors at the present time – this move could be disasterous for many families who lost their properties in the 1980s like us (then interest rates were almost 20%!!).

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