PUBLIC housing tenants are anxious that they could face eviction under plans to introduce two-year tenancies, it was claimed in the House of Keys.
But Social Care Minister Chris Robertshaw MHK insisted his department was ‘not bearing down on anybody’ – and he refused to apologise over claims he had inferred the proposed reforms would mean tenants getting evicted after two years.
He came under fire from the two Douglas North MHKs Bill Henderson and John Houghton, whose constituency includes the Willaston estate.
Mr Henderson asked where ‘displaced’ tenants and families would be housed ‘once they are evicted from their local authority homes under the proposed new two year tenancy plans’.
The Minister replied that he was concerned the phrasing of the question may have generated ‘significant fear among tenants’.
He explained that the new tenancy agreements would allow terms and rental charges to be changed to reflect any alteration in a tenant’s circumstances and ‘allow the tenant to determine whether any other housing options would be more suitable for them in the future’. ‘It is not the opportunity for public sector landlords to evict tenants without good cause,’ he added.
Mr Robertshaw told the Keys: ‘There is no question at all that this is about bearing down on anybody – it’s about providing fit for purpose sustainable public housing for the future which the Isle of Man at the current time does not enjoy.’
Mr Henderson suggested that the anxiety among tenants was caused by linking the new two-year tenancies to the desire to tackle the housing waiting list.
Mr Houghton demanded the Minister make a full public apology for causing ‘sheer public anxiety’ among public sector tenants.
‘I won’t do such a thing, this is very much in their interests’, Mr Robertshaw replied.
Meanwhile, the leader of Douglas Council said the debate over fixed term tenancies has been ‘clouded by untimely information issued by the department and damaging comments on social media sites from ill-informed observers’.
Councillor David Christian agreed that the concept of ‘tenancies for life’ was not only outdated but also fundamentally unfair - but he and his fellow members did not support the department’s latest proposals.
‘The council also maintains that the department has no legal right to impose such a measure,’ he said, insisting that under Section 47 of the Housing Act the general management, regulation and control of the borough’s housing stock is vested in Douglas Council.
Councillor Christian said there was no need to change the tenancy agreements as the existing ones are weekly and provide for tenancy agreements to be terminated with one week’s notice, although that would only be done in extreme circumstances such as substantial rent arrears or severe anti-social behaviour.
‘The council is concerned that government appears to be drip-feeding often highly emotive information to the media ahead of the report into findings from its housing review due to be laid before Tynwald this autumn.’ he said.