The overt politicisation of ‘social housing’ raises its ugly head again today with Grant Shapps the Tory housing minister stating in an article in the Daily Telegraph that ‘social housing’ should be rebranded as “taxpayer-supported housing!”
Here is what Shapps said: -
“I think it is worth reminding people two things. First of all, the taxpayer pays a fair whack subsidy to build the house in the first place, and then, secondly, there is an ongoing week by week subsidy against what would be the full market rent.
“There are forever arguments, the housing intelligentsia of The Guardian or whatever, who say there’s no cost, it’s already built. Not true.”
He added that it should be called “taxpayer-supported housing rather than the meaningless phrase social housing”.
He went on: “Everybody lives in social housing as far as I’m concerned. So I think calling a spade a spade and calling it taxpayer-funded housing is not unfair.”
What a selective memory and a convenient one Grant Shapps has in these four paragraphs above!!
(a) The taxpayer pay a fair whack subsidy….Yes the taxpayer puts in £1.2bn per year but saves £5.3bn per year from this, a simple but nonetheles valid argument. Take away the capital subsidy (or investment) and social housing rent levels would rise to private sector levels of housing benefit (the ongoing or revenue subsidy) and this means a £5.3bn yearly increase at today’s figures.
(b) Ongoing week by week subsidy? – This is just wrong and a deliberate error by Shapps. The average benefit paid to social housing tenants is £80.85 per week yet the average paid to private renting tenants is £107.06 per week. These are the latest official government figures and show that the revenue or ongoing subsidy to private tenants is 32% higher to private tenants than to social tenants. In summary the housing minister has deliberately aimed to mislead here as he must know these figure.
In short he has lied……(How dare you say a minister has lied!! Dissembled yes, errors or omission or even commission, but lied…guffaw, guffaw, guffaw!)
Just superficial nonsense as nobody is saying or ha ever said that there isn’t any ongoing cost. Quite the opposite in fact as my point (b) above states clearly, the ongoing cost is so much lower in social housing than in private rented housing; and as my point (a) above makes clear that what Shapps pejoratively calls ‘subsidy’ (Boo! Hiss!) Actually SAVES the taxpayer money and in Shapps own language a massive whack at £5.3bn per year for his £1.2bn per year ‘fair whack!’
Social housing is an extremely cost-effective ‘invest-to-save’ programme that returns £5.3bn per year for investing £1.2bn…a lesson there for investment bankers anyone?
Yet that is the reality that Shapps is deliberately denying through his error of commission or in lay terms his convenient lies.
Paragraph 3 – “Taxpayer-supported housing?”
As I outlined above we (the taxpayer / public purse) pay 32% MORE ‘subsidising’ private rented housing on a weekly basis than we do ‘subsidising’ social rented housing. So using Shapps’s rationale should we rebrand ‘private rented housing’ as “largesse taxpayer-funded housing?”
More correctly private rented housing should be termed “taking-the-piss-out-of-the-more-heavily-taxpayer-funded-housing!”
Paragraph 4 – “so calling it taxpayer-funded is not unfair?”
Again so what do we call the even more heavily taxpayer funded privately rented housing then Minister?
Before you decide dear reader some further facts for you from the governments own official figure on Housing Benefit.
- The numbers of social housing HB claimants has risen by 2.7% since the last election. The numbers of private rented tenants claiming has risen by 13% – 5 times more than social tenants
- Since these figures were first published in November 2008 social housing HB claimants has risen by 8.8% while the number of private sector claimants has risen by 56%!
- I remind you that currently a private sector claimant gets 32% more in benefit each week than a social tenant!
- Private tenants represent 32% of all HB claimants yet get 40% of the benefit monies
- 100% of social housing is regulated and monitored. 97.5% of the private rented housing is UNREGULATED and not monitored
- Grant Shapps has refused to monitor and regulate private rented housing and finds it acceptable that it receives 32% more in funding from the taxpayer and is not monitored for its quality or cost to the taxpayer
Anyone think the housing minister has made an indefensible political statement above that doesn’t bear any scrutiny?
In September 2011 Shapps criticised John Prescott saying that his failed regionalised Fire Service plans costing the taxpayer £496m had been abandoned by him. This near half a billion pounds, Shapps said, would have cost each taxpayer £20 extra per year. By his methodology the £4.1bn saving the taxpayer makes by investing £1.2bn in social housing saves each taxpayer about £162 each per year.
Social housing investment, even if pejoratively called ‘subsidy’ by Shapps, means every taxpayer pays £162 per year LESS in tax!
Ok, I will dumb this down for the average Daily Telegraph reader. Give me £1200 to invest and within a year I will give you back £5300 – that is what social housing investment does for the taxpayer. It seems that nice young man Shapps forgot to point that out. How remiss of him!
The serious point is that Shapps want to keep ‘social housing’ in the political sphere because placing it correctly in an economic context would (a) show that social housing is THE most cost-effective way of paying for rented accommodation, which in turn creates the conditions for less benefit dependency and makes work pay even in our low-pay economy, and (b) keeping it political gives Shapps a target for blame and scorn.
UPDATE 4 September 2012
The Guardian ran a poll on this issue -should social housing be rebranded as taxpayer-subsidised - which closed yesterday. The results suggest 85% say no it shouldnt be rebranded.