New tenants trying to get council and other social housing are to be required to live in the local area for four years instead of the current two, according to a white paper on European reform published on Monday. Written by Alan Travis Home affairs editor for The Guardian

Social housing tenants will need to live in an area for four years

The white paper, The Best of Both Worlds – Our Special Status in a Reformed EU, makes clear that the change in the “residency test” will not just apply to new migrants but also anyone moving within Britain.

“This is aimed at ensuring that sufficient affordable housing is available to those among the local population who are on low incomes or otherwise disadvantaged and who would find it particularly difficult to find a home on the open market. We will extend this period to four years.”

The Foreign Office paper says that existing official guidance to local authorities in England already makes clear they should require a potential tenant to live in the area for at least two years before they are considered for social housing.

The change is buried in the detail of the white paper, which confirms that the government is to extend the ban on UK citizens with an income below £18,600 a year getting a spousal visa to bring a non-EU husband or wife into Britain to EU citizens living in Britain.

Ministers claim that the change, which has already led to more than 15,000 divided “Skype families” for UK citizens, as necessary to fight “sham marriages” and will end the “unfairness of the current situation in which it is easier for an EU national to bring a non-EU spouse to the UK than it is for a UK national”.

The change will be enacted by the European commission proposing new secondary legislation to exclude non-EU nationals who marry EU citizens from free movement rights if they have no prior lawful residence in a European country.

In detailing how the “emergency brake” will work, the white paper makes a fresh claim that European nationals account for 10% of the £25bn spent on in-work benefits such as working tax credits and housing benefit in 2013/14. Ministers suggest that the 10% of spending on in-work benefits compares with the fact that EU nationals make up only 6% of the UK workforce.

“Once the emergency brake is pulled, EU nationals newly arriving in the UK will not have full access to our in-work benefits until they have lived here and contributed to our country for up to four years. The brake will last for seven years,” says the white paper.

It also confirms that new claims for child benefit for children living overseas will be indexed to that country’s cost of living as soon as the detailed legislation has been approved. Existing claims for child benefit will be indexed from 2020.

Source: The Guardian