Government spin on so-called “rich” social housing tenants exposed

Contradictory government messages claim social housing is a repository for the workless while also seeking to rid social housing of tenants with higher incomes

Grant Shapps MP

Kevin Gulliver is the director of Birmingham-based research charity the Human City Institute and chair of the Centre for Community Research; he is writing in a personal capacity

The government’s housing policy has reached new depths of confusion over the last few days as the media reported that ‘rich’ social tenants could lose their homes altogether or have to pay higher rents more in keeping with their ability to pay.

Contradictory government messages centre upon the claim that social housing is a repository for the workless and benefit dependent, while seeking to rid social housing of tenants with higher incomes or charging higher rents which stifle aspiration.

Housing minister Grant Shapps has taken the lead from Westminster Council, which claims there are 2,200 social housing tenants, including both council and housing association tenants, with annual incomes over £50,000 within its boundaries.

According to calculations apparently undertaken by Whitehall officials for the Communities Department, there are up to 6,000 tenants in social housing with incomes greater than £100,000.

The problem with these analyses is the poor understanding of the difference between earnings of a household head in terms of salary, which is being used in most of the media coverage of the issue, and total income of all of those living in a tenant household. Total income, including earnings, benefits and tax credits of all household members, when compared to median earnings for an individual, for example, is bound to infer that there are large numbers of ‘rich’ tenants.

So, for example, a household in London where three members earn a London Living Wage of £8.30 an hour – calculated to be the bare minimum needed to stay clear of poverty, if all relevant benefits are being claimed – would be pushed into the £50,000+ per year category.

Official surveys carried out by social housing regulators, such as the Tenant Services Authority, do not provide income bands above £30,000 so it is not possible anyway to assess how many tenant households have incomes of £50,000 or £100,000 at national level; it is assumed that Westminster Council used its own localised survey. Yet this is likely to be far from typical of the sector.

Independent analysis carried out by the Human City Institute using national survey data shows that there are only 6 per cent of tenant households with gross annual incomes above £30,000. One third of these live in the south-east. Two fifths have four or more household members and one fifth have five or more. More than four fifths are households where the head works. So the relatively small number of better off tenants tend to be working, more likely to live in the south east and to be households at least double the average size, which is a key factor in the level of their combined income.


Even if there are a small number of better off tenants who can satisfy their housing requirements through private renting or home ownership, this does not mean that all members of the household will wish or be able to do; nor indeed that all of their income will be taken into account to determine borrowing capacity or credit worthiness.

But all of this misses the central social housing problem; there isn’t enough of it, shown by the 1.7 million households on waiting lists.

The cuts in the social housebuilding by the chancellor and redirection of social landlords to provide homes with rents closer to market levels are unlikely to reverse the long-term decline in the number of social homes now that they are needed more than ever by ‘generation rent’.

33 Responses to “Government spin on so-called “rich” social housing tenants exposed”

  1. Jules Birch

    Interesting blog by @kevingulliver on the spin and dodgy stats behind debate on 'rich' social tenants //bit.ly/lLcZ0e

  2. Thomas Hemingford

    Please see //bit.ly/lLcZ0e and pls retweet. #RT #TY

  3. Michael

    Government spin on so-called “rich” social housing tenants exposed //bit.ly/mjZY3K

  4. cutchswife

    Government spin on so-called “rich” social housing tenants exposed //bit.ly/mjZY3K

  5. Tweeter Skeeter

    6,000 tenants in social housing with incomes greater than £100,000 //bit.ly/mjZY3K << sorry, but that's a piss take.!

  6. margaret green

    Government spin on so-called “rich” social housing tenants exposed //bit.ly/mubdKE

  7. Clare Jordan

    Please see //bit.ly/lLcZ0e and pls retweet. #RT #TY

  8. Tim Moore

    Thanks @KevinGulliver for exposing @GrantShapps's misleading and confused spin on "£100k" social #housing tenants //bit.ly/mjZY3K

  9. Jan sroczynski

    Of course you omit to say that fewer houses of all types were built under the last Labour Government. If people are high wage earners they shouls ship out of social housing – FULL STOP.

  10. Larry Gardiner

    How to stimulate asset prices to benefit the elite that own them? Restrict access to social housing and increase… //fb.me/131TaC2Xf

  11. Anon E Mouse

    Including Bob Crow on his £93K a year.

    Up the workers eh!

  12. Richard

    “are unlikely to reverse the long-term decline in the number of social homes”

    Jan, you appear to have ommitted to read the artcle. See those words, “long-term decline in social housing”? Well it means it’s been falling for longer than a year. Big D’OH!

  13. Steve Smith

    Thanks @KevinGulliver for exposing @GrantShapps's misleading and confused spin on "£100k" social #housing tenants //bit.ly/mjZY3K

  14. False Economy

    Government housing policy reaches new depths of confusion – @LeftFootFwd //t.co/pliADgz (via @tamsinchan)

  15. janice ware

    Government spin on so-called "rich" social housing tenants exposed | Left Foot Forward: //t.co/0QOOEIf This Gov't really is crap…

  16. George McLean

    @2. Anon E Mouse

    Taking your figure for Bro. Crow’s salary as correct for the purpose of this diversion into another of your trolls, it presumably includes his pension contribution and value of his car. If his members thought he earned too much, they could tell him so. What do you think he should be allowed to earn? I’m guessing that his remuneration ratio to either the lowest paid RMT member or the lowest paid RMT official is only about x5 – very respectable compared to the obscene ratios seen in the commercial sector.

  17. Gillian Kalter

    When are we going to start using the term “affordable housing” (private or council built) instead of social or council housing? The latter terms are constantly used by the Tories as a stick to beat an imagined under-class and to blame them for all the ills of society. You can rent a relatively cheap, pleasant, cosy, basic home in Sweden or Switzerland in my experience without feeling that you are some sort of low-life who is trying to cheat society – why not in the UK? Why is there so much baggage about someone wanting an affordable place to live. Grant Shapps – build or renovate more affordable homes to rent – that’s all many people require.

  18. DarkestAngel

    RT @leftfootfwd: Government spin on so-called "rich" social housing tenants exposed //t.co/cNmAe3V

  19. Mary Hallam

    Government spin on so-called “rich” social housing tenants exposed //bit.ly/mjZY3K

  20. Karen

    RT @leftfootfwd: Government spin on so-called "rich" social housing tenants exposed //t.co/kKf1MX8

  21. Mister Jabberwock

    So do you think it is right that former cabinet minster and (excellent) MP Frank Dobson lives in a council flat. Remember he is denying one of the, is it, 20,000 people on Camden’s housing list a home.

    That is bonkers…

  22. Staffordshire UNISON

    Government housing policy reaches new depths of confusion – @LeftFootFwd //t.co/pliADgz (via @tamsinchan)

  23. TruthTati

    Government spin on so-called rich social #housing tenants exposed //t.co/MDMpgLy

  24. LESPN

    Government spin on so-called “rich” social housing tenants exposed //ow.ly/1d69yH

  25. Hulme Residents

    Government housing policy reaches new depths of confusion – @LeftFootFwd //t.co/pliADgz (via @tamsinchan)

  26. David Boothroyd

    Frank Dobson was living in his flat for several years as a private tenant, then Camden bought the freehold of the building and converted his private tenancy into a council tenancy.

  27. Liam Lally, Googler

    6,000 tenants in social housing with incomes greater than £100,000 //bit.ly/mjZY3K << sorry, but that's a piss take.!

  28. Duncan

    Not wishing to overdo the Bob Crow reference – but I think you will find 90k is his salary – his other benefits (housing, pension – private health possibly) take the package to in excess of 130k

  29. Caroline Paranandi

    £100k tenants? @kevingulliver blogs about the 94% of tenant households with gross annual incomes below £30,000 //bit.ly/lO9TRj

  30. Kevin McKeever

    @CarolineFlintMP See my blog at @leftfootfwd about 'rich' social housing tenants //bit.ly/m7FNGk

  31. George McLean

    @8. Duncan

    Agreed – let us not get trolled down Citizen Mouse’s hole … but even £130,000 is nowhere near the ratio of highest-lowest remuneration in the private sector, especially in “dat Lundon”. And his members can still object – and tellingly – unlike the insulated position of company directors. But, come on, people, what about the OP issue?

Leave a Reply