Council tenants to face choice between leaving jobs or losing homes if Housing Bill passes

Council tenants could face having to quit their jobs in order to keep their homes if the Government’s proposals in the Housing Bill becomes law.

The bill, scheduled to go through parliament in April 2016, will introduce “pay to stay”, a measure that will mean council tenants in London earning more than £40,000 will see their rents increase to market or near market rates.

The Government have argued that the measure will help “transform generation rent into generation buy”, ensuring that tenants on higher incomes who are living in social housing have a rent that reflects their ability to pay.

But some Islington residents living in social housing will face a choice between moving out of their homes of leaving their jobs if the pay to stay measures are passed.

Eirlys Mackenzie, 55, has lived on Richmond Grove with her family for 32 years. If the pay to stay measure is passed, her husband will be forced to retire early in order that they can stay in their home.

“We currently pay £166 rent a week, but if the Bill passes that will go to around £650. We simply can’t afford it,” said Eirlys, who works in credit control.

Eirlys and her husband, Alan, both work full-time as well as being full-time carers for their 34-year-old son, Gechin, who suffers from severe learning difficulties.

“Moving is not really an option for us. Our house is adapted for our son’s disability – it would be difficult to find somewhere suitable and affordable,” she added.

“In order for us to stay in our home my husband would have to retire so we could avoid the added charges.

“We would have to live off his pension and carer’s benefit. He is 57 and has worked on the railway for 45 years. He doesn’t want to retire.

The couple work around the clock and make sure one of them is always home to care for Grechin when he is not at a day centre between 9am and 5pm on weekdays.

“We’ve worked all our lives and never asked for anything from the local authorities. – it’s like we’re going backwards in time.”

Islington Council is fighting against the Housing Bill. Leader of the council, Richard Watts, said the Housing Bill was going to be “one of the most damaging bits of legislation ever introduced” at the Budget Meeting on 25 February.

James Murray, Executive Member for Housing and Development, said: “The government’s proposals in their Housing Bill are an attack on social housing, an attack on working families, and an attack on the mixed communities that we in Islington and across London are proud of”.

He cited another case where a family of five will see their rent increase from £142 a week to £640. “That is simply not possible for this family or any family in a similar situation to them to bear,” he added.

The council have organised a meeting open to the people of Islington to hear what they are doing to oppose the plans. It will take place at the Town Hall on 8 March at 6:30pm.