Paula Holbrook


The economic downturn and ageing population has caused a rethink of a number of services: social housing providers are, as a result of the Coalition’s housing strategy (mainly enacted by the Localism Act 2011), not only considering who should be given low cost and secure housing, but for the first time, how long people should be housed. Demand is high for social properties and providers are urged to use their scare resources wisely; however, social housing is popularly viewed as a tenancy of last resort. This thesis explores a new phenomenon: why will the introduction of a policy to fix the term (length) of a tenancy be effective when social housing is considered not only to be the least desirable tenancy, but one that causes personal, economic and social difficulty. Surely, these issues alone would be enough of a stimulus for tenants to leave without any further limitations set by the State or the housing provider, if they were able to? This thesis uses the case study method to look at, in a highly qualitative way, the lived experiences of a number of tenants who have resided in their social homes for five years on traditional social tenancies. Fixed term tenancies will typically be five years in length and we are still a number of years away from being able to study what the actual impact will be. The issue is explored by understanding what would be the outcomes if the participants were on fixed term tenancies. As a result, a hermeneutic methodology was required. The study found that, good thing or not, fixed term tenancies are not shunned by likely applicants who, at the point of allocation, are not concerned about what might happen in five years’ time. In addition, an acute shortage of housing (across all tenures) is reducing the expectations of newly-forming households. Few tenants would not be offered a further tenancy (at the same or smaller property) at the end of five years as their circumstances are likely to remain largely unchanged.

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