Housing minister wants occupants to pledge to look for work or risk losing their homes, but Tories say the plan is unenforceable

Caroline Flint’s plans to make unemployed people in social housing look for work as a condition of their tenancy are legally unenforceable, said the shadow housing minister.

Caroline Flint

In her first speech since her appointment as housing minister, Flint said she wanted to introduce “commitment contracts” for new council tenants, where they would promise to look for work and improve their skills. The contracts could also extend to existing tenants.

The plans could affect about a million people, though Flint stressed the tenancy agreements would not apply to those incapable of work.

Grant Shapps, Shadow housing minister, criticised Flint for trying to “grab the headlines” and said ministers and local councils had a statutory duty to house homeless families with children.

Shapps said: “In her first speech as housing minister we had hoped that Ms Flint would tackle this government's appalling housebuilding record which has resulted in less social housing being built each year under Labour than in any year under Margaret Thatcher or John Major. But instead what we've heard is classic Labour spin; designed to sound tough, but is in reality meaningless.

“What we really need is the kind of radical Welfare to Work programme that Conservatives have recently announced, not more headline grabbing, but undeliverable speeches from ministers.”

Flint also said there should be more job centres in council house areas and tenants should complete a skills audit.

Half the people in social housing and of working age are unemployed – twice the national average.

Of the 4.6 million people living in social housing in Britain, about 2.6 million are of working age, with 1.4 million out of work.