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Public housing is a form of housing tenure in which the property is owned by a government authority, which may be central or local. Social housing is an umbrella term referring to rental housing which may be owned and managed by the state, by non-profit organizations, or by a combination of the two, usually with the aim of providing affordable housing. Social housing can also be seen as a potential remedy to housing inequality.

Although the common goal of public housing is to provide affordable housing, the details, terminology, definitions of poverty and other criteria for allocation vary within different contexts.

AsiaEdit

SingaporeEdit

Main article: Public housing in Singapore

In Singapore, the public housing program, particularly the planning and development of new public housing and the allocation of rental units and resale of existing ownership units, is managed by the Housing and Development Board. Day-to-day management of public housing communities has largely been delegated to Town Councils headed by the local Members of Parliament.

Most of the residential housing developments in Singapore are publicly governed and developed. Most of the residents in public housing are tenants under a 99 year lease agreement.

EuropeEdit

United Kingdom Edit

Main article: Council house
File:Blackfriars, Salford.jpg

In the United Kingdom public housing is often referred to by the British public as "council housing" and "council estates", based on the historical role of district and borough councils in running public housing. Mass council house building began in about 1920 in order to replace older and dilapidated properties.[1]

Housing was an issue the Conservatives made their own, after the Churchill government of the early 1950s, with Harold Macmillan as Minister for Housing, gave housing construction far higher political priority than it had received before. Under the Attlee Labour government housing was attached to the portfolio of Health Minister Aneurin Bevan, whose attention was concentrated on his responsibilities for the National Health Service. Macmillan had accepted Winston Churchill's challenge to meet the latter's ambitious public commitment to build 300,000 new homes a year, and achieved the target a year ahead of schedule.

Housing was a major policy area under Wilson's Labour government, 1964 to 1970, with an accelerated pace of new building, as there was still a great deal of unfit housing needing replacement. Tower blocks, first built in the 1950s, featured prominently in this era. The proportion of council housing rose from 42% to 50% of the nation's housing total,[2] while the number of council homes built increased steadily, from 119,000 in 1964 to 133,000 in 1965 and to 142,000 in 1966.

Allowing for demolitions, 1.3 million new homes were built between 1965 and 1970.[3] To encourage home ownership, the government introduced the Option Mortgage Scheme (1968), which made low-income house buyers eligible for subsidies (equivalent to tax relief on mortgage interest payments).[4] This scheme had the effect of reducing housing costs for buyers on low incomes.[5]

Since the 1970s, non-profit housing associations have been operating an increasing share of social housing properties in the United Kingdom. From 1996 they have also been known as Registered Social Landlords (RSLs), and public housing has been referred to as "social housing" to encompass both councils and RSLs. Despite being non-profit based, RSLs generally charge higher rents than councils. However, the Government introduced a "rent re-structuring" policy in 2002, which aimed to bring council and RSL rents into line in England by 2012.[6] Local planning departments may require private-sector developers to offer "affordable housing" as a condition of planning permission (section 106 agreement). This accounts for another £700m of Government funding each year for tenants in part of the United Kingdom. As of 2012, Housing Associations are now also referred to as "Private Registered Providers of Social Housing" (PRPs).[7]

Local authorities have been discouraged from building council housing since 1979 following the election of Conservative leader Margaret Thatcher as prime minister. The Parker Morris standard was abolished for those that were built, resulting in smaller room sizes and fewer facilities. And the Right to Buy was introduced, resulting in the move of some of the best stock from public tenanted to private owner occupation.

Since the year 2000, "choice-based lettings" (CBL)[8] have been introduced to help ensure social housing was occupied speedily as tenants moved. This can still favour the local over the non-local prospective tenant. In a number of local authority areas, due to the shortage of council housing, three out of four properties may be designated for priority cases (those living in poor overcrowded conditions, with medical or welfare needs, or needing family support) or homeless applicants in order to meet the councils’ legal obligations to rehouse people in need. The percentage of properties set aside for vulnerable groups will vary dependent on the demand for council housing in the area. All local authorities have a Housing Strategy[9] to ensure that council houses are let fairly and fulfil the council's legal obligations; deal with people in need; and contribute to sustainability of housing estates, neighbourhood regeneration, and social inclusion.

File:Ferry Lane Estate.JPG

The 1997–2010 Labour Government wished to move council housing away from local authority management. At first, this was through Large Scale Voluntary Transfers (LSVT) of stock from councils to Housing Associations (HAs). Not all council property could be transferred, as in some local authorities, their housing stock was in poor condition and had a capital value less than the remaining debts from construction costs—in effect, the council stock was in negative equity.[10] In some local authority areas, the tenants rejected the transfer option.[11]

The Labour Government introduced a "third way": the Arms Length Management Organisation (ALMO), where the housing stock stays with the Local Authority but is managed by a not-for-profit organisation at arm's length from the Local Authority. It also introduced the Decent Homes programme, a capital fund to bring social housing up to a modern physical standard. To use this fund, the manager, whether ALMO or HA, had to achieve a 2 or 3 star rating from its inspection by the Audit Commission.[12] This was intended to drive up management standards. Council landlords cannot access this funding, another incentive to transfer management of council housing to an ALMO or HA.

Governments since the early 1990s have also encouraged "mixed tenure" in regeneration areas and on "new-build" housing estates, offering a range of ownership and rental options, with a view to engineering social harmony through including "social housing" and "affordable housing" options. A recent research report[13] has argued that the evidence base for tenure mixing remains thin.

Most UK social housing tenants have the right to swap homes with another tenant even if their landlords are different. This is called a "mutual exchange".


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