Staggeringly high social (sic) landlord evictions … shhh!

Council and housing associations are evicting far too many social tenants and making them homeless and this is THE main issue not tenants who are evicted by private landlords!

That opening statement that goes against all current and past thinking yet the facts bear it out; facts that social landlords and the housing commentariat refuse to even recognise despite the facts staring them in the face.  Take the following two facts:

• UK has 53% private properties and 47% socially rented ones.

• UK evictions show 54% private to 46% social housing evictions.

These are not contentious facts and official figures and they reveal eviction rates of tenants correspond to the type of landlord and this is deeply concerning. In context and for any semblance of a like-for-like comparison you almost need a special dispensation from the Pope to evict the social tenant while the private landlord can evict without any reason whatsoever.

Social (sic) landlord evictions are thus staggeringly and disproportionately high in any like-for-like comparison with the private rented sector.

Why? – Why are evictions of social tenants so illogically high? Why? – Why has there been no recognition of the fact that social tenant evictions are so unreasonably and disproportionately high?  How the hell has this been missed?

I suspect it is because we don’t want to recognise this fact in the first place let alone address the problems it creates in homelessness.  Just to recognise and accept it – and the fact cannot be denied – means that attention is drawn away from the ease of evicting the private tenant with its legal framework of no-fault evictions and thus insecure tenure private tenants have.

We can and should still state that no-fault evictions are anathema and campaign for better protection and rights for private tenants and there is increasing evidence that all political parties are more inclined to act in this area, even the Conservative Party are more inclined to regulate the private rental market and this was also apparent before the last election and not just a convenient position taken now they have little authority as government.

YET given that social landlord evictions are so high despite the legal constraints and difficulties social landlords face in evicting the social tenant and despite much tighter regulation of the social housing sector than the private landlord sector we find that in any like-for-like comparison that social tenant evictions are a greater number and a greater problem.

That paragraph above is one I thought I would never write.  It reads like a political theoretical tract from an uber right-wing polemic from a free marketeer chinless policy wonk; and also reads like an apologia for the private landlord to remain unshackled and to deny the need for any form of regulation or scrutiny of the free market private landlord.  Both of these positions are anathema yet the excessively high social landlord eviction rate in comparison to the private landlord eviction rate gives grounds (no pun intended) for those arguments to be given oxygen.

This is why I suspect awareness of the unreasonably and illogically high social (sic) landlord eviction rate is kept quiet and not reported as doing so would let the ‘nasty’ private landlord off the hook – yet in taking that position it lets the nasty social landlord off the hook!

The hypocrisy of the social landlord good private landlord bad strategy that the (claimed) social housing sector has propagated and repeated as a mantra to any criticism of social landlords for decades unravels starkly here and as a result the social tenant gets shafted and the dire problem of social landlord evictions is not addressed.  Is that a consequence of two-thirds of social tenants having a private registered provider – the correct name for housing associations – as landlord and who have no legal duties to house or rehouse anyone unlike councils who do because they are public authorities?

I suspect so as a tenant evicted by a housing association becomes the problem of and cost to a council and no longer a problem for the housing association.  The evicted and former HA social tenant is a victim of social dumping.

We need to urgently address the major problem of the eviction of social tenants and its unacceptably and illogically high number.  It could be the increasing use of the same no-fault eviction tenure (AST) by soicial landlords that private landlords operate in starter and introductory tenants that is reason for this high rate.  It could be the increasing use of the only mandatory eviction reason and thus one step removed no-fault eviction in Ground 8 used by housing associations and which councils cannot use.  It could be the increasing private rental arms of both housing associations and councils using AST to give them this no-fault eviction option too.

It is likely to be a combination of these issues yet whatever is causing the excessive, unacceptable and excessively high social (sic) landlord eviction numbers it has to be recognised, scrutinized and addressed.

_________________________

The numbers of evictions by tenure and the detail of those numbers is contained here which also asks why the hell the usual suspects of JRF, Guardian, Shelter and the rest of the great and good of the housing commentariat failed to even spot the very high social tenant eviction rate.

Since I published that post I note that the usual politicians in the Labour Party and the Green Party have welcome and promoted the JRF report in the same sycophantic way and backed its calls for greater regulation of the private rented sector while saying absolutely bugger all about the high rate and number of social tenant evictions.  For once it would be positive if they could recognise fact and not predetermined assumption!

Housing “Fake news” deliberately masks high SOCIAL housing evictions

Are you old enough to remember when digital was called Information Technology or IT? Are you, like me, older still and remember when IT was called data processing? If so you will know the maxim that still holds good today that it is only when data is processed does it become genuine meaningful information.

Housing fake news is mostly fake analysis or for want of a more tactful phrase piss poor analysis and nowhere more so than in the lazy analysis the usual suspects of the London-centric commentariat give to rented housing in the UK.

A classic example is the article I read today entitled “100 tenants a day lose homes as rising rents and benefit freeze hits.” It comes from the Guardian and uses other usual suspects of the Cambridge Centre for Housing Research (CCHR), Shelter and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) – the proverbial commentariat – and as its title suggests and its article reads the rising evictions are all the fault of the nasty private landlord being allowed to use no-fault evictions.

This is a classic case of PPA – piss poor analysis – which as I go on to explain is much more dangerous than just criticism of its laziness.

To explain the article quotes eviction numbers for the calendar year of 2015 (see end) and this data reveals a total of 41,169 evictions of which 22,150 or 54% were from private rented properties and 19,019 and 46% were from social rented properties.

In the UK we have a total rented housing market which is 53% private rented and 47% socially rented and so this eviction data very closely reflects the proportion of renting landlords in the UK.  The correct way to look at this data is the eviction proportions are precisely what you would expect if both private and social landlords had to go through the same process to evict tenants.

Yet we know that private landlords have a much easier and quicker legal framework to evict hence the real question is Why are social landlord evictions so high?

You would logically expect given the private landlord can evict at the drop of a hat that evictions from the private rented sector would be far higher than this data reveals.  Yet it isn’t but that does not stop the usual suspect commentariat saying the eviction and homeless increase is all the private landlords fault and how the private sector version of housing benefit (LHA) needs to be unfrozen to somehow correct a position that mirrors what you would expect if LHA was not frozen and no-fault eviction were outlawed!

What this data shows is that there is NO correlation between higher evictions and private landlords able to use no-fault evictions.  The actual figure the data and fact once processed reveals this.  It may sound or read as wrong yet there is no evidence to support the contention that the no-fault eviction tenure used by private landlords leads to higher eviction figures there!

It must also be stated that social landlords increasingly use the no-fault tenure of Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) in increasing  number in (a) social housing under the guise of Starter Tenancies or Introductory Tenancies or similar; and (b) in the private rented properties that housing associations own and operate as private landlords.

In both these cases social landlords also operate no-fault evictions like the private landlord yet the usual suspects fail to mention this and fail to consider it as a reason why social landlord evictions are so disproportionately high.

IF by some miracle that no-fault evictions are outlawed we would logically find that evictions by social landlords are much higher than evictions by private landlords as this move could prevent up to 100% of current private sector evictions yet only say 5% of social tenant evictions or perhaps 10% as the use of AST in the social rented sector can be no more than 10% despite its escalating use in starter and introductory tenancies.

Outlawing AST and its inherent no-fault evictions is to be welcomed and greater security of tenure for all tenants should actively be sought.  YET the perverse analysis of the great and the good usual suspect commentariat is only blaming the private landlord in a chronic case of piss poor analysis.

In this article we see Campbell Robb the former CEO at Shelter and now the CEO at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation say:

“The stark figures and harrowing stories show the struggle people on low incomes face in the private rented sector.”

The emphasis and solution is wholly geared towards private renting in this and echoed by Anne Baxendale, director of campaigns and policy at Shelter who says:

“We are deeply concerned that the current freeze on housing benefit is piling a huge amount of pressure on to thousands of private renters who are already teetering on the brink of homelessness.”

It is almost as if Shelter are doing the private landlords bidding and seeking only to unfreeze the LHA cap to abate the eviction figures from the private rented sector.  Yet if as I say by some miracle we see AST and no-fault evictions made unlawful we would be left with the real UK housing eviction problem starkly identified which is the high level of evictions by social landlords!

This Guardian article of chronic fake analysis is regrettably all too common and has been ongoing for decades and at its core is what I call the London, London, Bloody London school of fake housing analysis.  In short the usual suspects project London’s perverse and wholly atypical housing problems and seek national housing and housing benefit solutions to be applied to 100% of the UK in response to the perverse London housing problems which account for just 13% of UK tenants.

Then we all wonder why successive UK housing and UK housing benefit policy changes from the Tories, from Labour and coalition governments repeatedly and consistently fail!

This perverse London, London, Bloody London focus of the UK housing commentariat is the reason for that and it represents an acute misrepresentation of what the UK housing problems are.  If you can’t or won’t define the problem properly than any solution you give to solving the alleged problem will always fail – and please forgive me for stating the bloody obvious reader!

A further problem in this errant London-centric analysis can be seen in the 37% increase in child homeless figure that was emblazoned across all national newspapers and headlined the TV news a day or so ago.  There was an outcry and understandable outrage over this 37% figure yet imagine if the same national media had reported that outside London – which is 87% of the UK housing sector, – that the increase in children made homeless was in fact 52%!  

The real figure of the increase in children made homeless across seven-eighths of the UK was in fact 41% higher than the outrage the national media reported and the ubiquitous London, London, Bloody London focus helped the government in deflecting blame because the figure was chronically under-reported.

Alas, the same always blame the private landlord as the easy and habitual target that the commentariat use deflects blame, attention and focus away from the inept government policies in this area as well as deflect attention from the real question of why there are so many social landlord evictions.

I will close this with a chart that I quickly created from the official figures about 6 months ago in response to a spat on Twitter in which a regular purveyor of the London, London, Bloody London commentariat said to me that evictions are not increasing in social housing and only in the private rented sector.  In short I processed the data in a simple graph that didn’t need any comment:

In the rigid beliefs that (a) London must be worse off than any other area and in cahoots with (b) that evictions and homelessness is solely the fault of private landlords you miss sight of the fact that the data shows a 113% increase in social housing evictions ‘oop North’ from 2011 to 2016!

Finally how strange that 6 months ago I can locate eviction data for the calendar year 2016 yet the usual suspects in the PPA commentariat release today some six months later piss poor analysis on data that is a year older than that?

 

WHY has homeless children increased 37%

The number of homeless children has increased 37% since 2014 scream the national news headlines today yet with no comment as to WHY this has happened and no comment on WHAT this means.

There is also a news item that says a holiday flight was delayed 38 hours too and imagine the misery a family with children has being cooped up in a family hotel room for that long? Now imagine a much worse hotel family room and being cooped up in it for 12 months and you begin to imagine what being a homeless family means!

The BBC news article on this issue is here and includes this photograph:

The BBC has used a stock picture and added “Living in temporary accommodation can disrupt a child’s education.”  Can?! – No it definitely does and very adversely and it also affects their physical and mental health and their life chances.

Nowhere to play, nowhere to study, no privacy whatsoever, no friends can come round to play, its often far away from their previous home and far from friends and support networks too.  Often with no laundry facilities too so Mum has to find a launderette and clothes go un-ironed as there is nowhere to iron and no iron itself so children are bullied at school because of it and with catastrophic effects on their life chances.

Yet how can this 37% increase come to pass as three million jobs have been created say the Tories?  Oh you automatically presume and think homeless families are feckless layabouts reader? They’re not and only a few weeks ago I was reading a report of Maidstone Council which said that almost 70% of its statutory homeless are in work and that is by no means the exception either.

The BBC and other articles on this allude to some of the reasons why such as:

The high cost of private renting and combined with the freezing of housing benefit in private housing (LHA) while rents continue to rise

That is additional to LHA being frozen from 2012 and it being capped in 2012 and it being reduced to the 30th percentile of average private rent levels from the 50th percentile previously – All Conservative austerity policies.

The numbers of in-work recipients of Housing Benefit in the private and socially rented sectors has increased from 650,000 to 1,100,000 between May 2010 and November 2016 which shows starkly the UK low pay economy

The reason private renting has escalated so much (and unregulated) is because councils are not allowed to borrow to build and so their on average 70% cheaper rents are as rare as hen’s teeth.  That too is a Conservative policy – blatant ideological policy and nothing more and why we have a housing supply crisis and a housing affordability crisis.

Then like the LHA example above we see other DWP austerity policies such as bedroom tax and the overall benefit cap that directly create the arrears to eviction to homeless pathway.

Add in the reductions to tax credits, both working tax credits and child tax credits and then throw in the surge in zero hours contracts and other unstable employment issues and this is what you get in children having their life chances irreparably damaged.

Work is the best route out of poverty is the Tory mantra and repeated again only this week by Theresa May at PMQs on Wednesday.  Yet how can that be when we now have more poverty in the UK and specifically more in-work poverty?  This mantra is even more superficial than strong and stable and just as much bullshit and the 37% increase in homeless children is a prime example of that.

Homelessness in all its forms is complex and created by many policies both intentionally and unintentionally and it generally only attracts public sympathy at Christmas  with the rest of the time it has a public perception as idleness and only affects those not in work – get a job there’s million of them etc.  Yet as the Maidstone example I cite above shows this is a totally false perception and as so many recent stories of nurses and other workers only surviving through foodbank use demonstrates.

The public tend to see homelessness as just  rough sleeping yet this accounts for no more than about 3% of all homelessness and a point that Shelter were moaning about very recently … without realising the irony that they have had 50 years to inform and educate the public as to what homelessness is and have failed miserably in precisely that!

Homeless charities have failed in raising awareness of what homelessness is and that is a key factor in why homelessness is allowed to be subject to repeated homeless policy failure by all governments.  Without public and thus electorate opprobrium each government is let off the hook and homelessness keeps its errant perception as only happening to the feckless.

Despite this issue of homeless children being headline national news today and even despite the very good annual Shelter campaign of how many children are homeless each Christmas (which coincides with general public sympathy even for single homeless) this issue will become tomorrows fish and chip paper as every homeless issue always does become.

It is twenty years since I managed Homeless Families Units that all councils used to have and the impacts this much better provision than the typically dingy B&B provision we have now on children and parents there still are fresh in my mind.

So enjoy your uproar for a day or so that these figures show and don’t worry gentle folk of the UK there is bound to be a Brexit or some other issue tomorrow so you can assuage the guilt you feel today …

Good riddance Mencap – Vulnerable disabled people deserve far better!!

As a supported housing consultant the last thing you would expect me to say to the above headline that appeared yesterday in The Independent is good riddance to Mencap et al yet that is precisely what I do say!  Ship up or ship out Mencap!

The article is a disgraceful polemic from the ‘professional’ disability supported accommodation sector and is replete with errors of fact and emotive bullshit in its 16 sentences that I have attached at the end of this post.

General

The article claims this is about overnight care when it is not.  It is about one simple issue in ‘sleep-in’ payments for staff in supported housing, supported living and care environments.

It is about Mencap et al wanting to pay their staff the princely sum of £3.63 per hour and not the national minimum wage of £7.50 per hour – end of – and the article is a disgraceful polemic that reveals how Mencap et al have been paying their staff just 48% of the national minimum wage and getting away with it for 23 years.  This issue was first raised back in 1993 when the EU Working Time Directive was first announced that became law in 1998 – the same Directive which outlawed the 48 hour working week by imposition.

A sleep-in shift is a fundamentally different issue to the on-call type of arrangement that the Independent gets so fundamentally wrong in this error strewn polemic in one critically aspect – a sleep-in mandates that the worker is on the employers site and that is the absolute key distinction.

Before the Working Time Directive became UK law the Conservative Prime Minister John Major negotiated a 7-year UK opt-out for the sleep-in shift on the spurious basis that the worker was passively on duty and not actively on duty.  Yet the worker had to be at the employer site and not be at home.  While an argument can be made for an on-call arrangement to be viewed as passively on duty, there is no sound basis to say that a worker having to sleep at the workplace is passively on duty!

For reasons unknown this initial 7 year opt-out from 1998 to 2005 has continued right up to today with a Tribunal legal ruling in 2015 and a subsequent failed appeal against that legal ruling by Mencap.  The UK courts have decided at a high level that the sleep-in shift passively on duty argument which allowed Mencap et al to pay their workers 48% of the national minimum wage was a groundless legal fiction, and rightly so!

What does it say about the morality of the ‘professional’ disability charities (and all other supported housing and supported living providers) when they think that vulnerable people only deserve to be looked after by staff who are paid just £3.63 per hour?

These organisations are feckless in terms of challenging all governments when it comes to the support and care needs of vulnerable people.  They are vastly more concerned with their bottom lines and what they can get away with in terms of paying their workers peanuts at less than half the national minimum wage.

For far too long support and care providers have acquiesced to the chronic underfunding of central and local government for all vulnerable client groups and have become complicit in this by their apathy and lack of challenge and their ‘that’s all the money there is do the best you can with it’ feckless strategy.  Vulnerable people deserve so much better.

Support and care providers, large and small, have become peanut accepters instead of advocates for vulnerable people and that has to stop.  This ruling has always been inevitable given the fiction of passively on duty as its only defence and the UK Tribunal ruling should be commended not attacked as Mencap do in this error-strewn polemic that shames the Independent too.

Yet what we have here is an employer saying it is outrageous to have pay the minimum wage to its workers and they cite some very deceitful comments in support of that such as “…99.7% of carers slept peacefully” in sentence 7 below while this ‘sleep-in’ arrangement has also been forced onto many much more chaotic supported housing environments such as homeless hostels, probation and ex-offender hostels and where workers ho are paid this pittance regularly are disturbed during the night.

Lower cost provision of support and care has been thrust upon the entire supported housing sector even the most chaotic client groups by funders and they have been in large part allowed to do this  by the apathy of the larger providers such as Mencap to fight for what vulnerable people deserve.

One reason I was so vitriolic against the ridiculous Housing First service proposed and generally lauded for the Liverpool City Region last week was the £34 per hour median cost of its provision.  Many supported housing services in LCR get half that funding of support per hour and domiciliary care providers get less than £15 per hour!

Enough is enough and larger providers such as Mencap really do need to radically rethink their raison d’etre when they choose to say they want to pay their workers less than half the national minimum wage rather than we have had 24 years of chronic underfunding which has been far less than vulnerable people deserve.

This taking commercial realities position is nothing but excuse by Mencap et al and has gone way too far and lasted far too long.  When you then put this in the context of the perceived undeserving rough sleeper client group can see support for its providers being paid £34 per hour of support yet Mencap et al NOT making a case for asking for more than the £13 – £18 per hour they typically receive for the support and care needs of the perceived deserving disabled client groups you begin to see just how complicit and apathetic these ‘professional’ support and care providers have become.

Shame on you Mencap!

_______________________________

The Mencap polemic from the Independent is below in all its ignominious glory!

  1. Dozens of leading charities could face insolvency within weeks after the Government ruled they must pay millions of pounds in back payments to overnight carers.
  2. Around 200 disability charities, including Mencap, are said to face a bill of around £400m in back payments after new guidance was issued stating overnight carers must be paid the national minimum wage (NMW) for all hours.
  3. Vulnerable people with learning difficulties face losing “vital” care as a result of the bills, charities have warned, with around 5,500 supported by Mencap alone set to be “majorly impacted”, while some may end up losing that support all together.
  4. Under guidance issued by the Government in 1999, when the minimum wage was introduced, disability charities, which sent a carer overnight to look after someone with learning difficulties, were required to pay a flat rate “on call” allowance of £25 or £35 to cover the period when they were asleep.
  5. But, following two tribunal cases in 2015 and last year, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) changed the guidance in October to state that these organisations must now pay the minimum wage throughout the shift, meaning overnight carers would earn £60 for eight hours of sleep.
  6. Mencap and other charities and companies are now warning that they cannot afford the huge and unexpected additional sums being demanded by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), even though they believe their staff should get the higher pay levels demanded by the business department.
  7. Derek Lewis, chairman of the Royal Mencap Society, said “sleep-ins”, which are widely used in the sector, rarely see the carer disturbed during the night, citing research showing that 99.7 per cent of them slept peacefully.
  8. “Sleep-ins are widely used in the learning disability sector to provide care for some of our most vulnerable adults, in their own homes in the communities they live in,” he said.
  9. “The carer is only there ‘just in case’ to provide safety and reassurance and is rarely disturbed. Recent research which looked at the last three years showed that 99.7 per cent of carers slept peacefully.
  10. “The unintended consequences have been disastrous as HMRC have begun enforcement action demanding six years’ back pay. Estimates of the costs to the Learning Disability sector are in the region of £400m and Royal Mencap Society will be severely affected.”
  11. Mr Lewis added that “high politics, Brexit or the Parliamentary Recess” appeared to be “getting in the way” of talks between charities and the Government about the issue.
  12. The national minimum wage for those aged 25 and over is £7.50 an hour, which will increase to £9 by 2020.
  13. About 178,000 people with learning difficulties may lose their assistance at home because of changes to pay rates for 24-hour care, with one large provider ordered to come up with six years’ back pay by September, said Mr Lewis.
  14. He added: “For many smaller care providers across the country, the financial impact will be devastating. The resulting multiple insolvencies will be more serious than Southern Cross because there will be no alternative providers available, as local authorities are already finding. We know that the Care Quality Commission is very concerned.”
  15. Jan Tregelles, chief executive of Royal Mencap Society, said: “We all recognise that our social care colleagues do some outstanding work and are some of the lowest paid, but we cannot pay them if we do not have the money and we only receive money from government sources.
  16. “For someone with serious learning disabilities, having someone stay overnight ‘at home’ makes the vital difference between ‘living a life’ and spending the rest of their life in a hospital setting.

Beanz Meanz Tenantz

A million tenants every day pick up a tin of beans and say yes that’s me!

As yet another two private registered providers – that’s the correct name of housing associations – announces yet another merger to make a new monolithic feudal landlord today I am wondering when the social tenant became such a mere commodity, a tin of beans, as they are now?

On the same day the Housing Ombudsman announces an 18% increase in social tenant complaints too! … but then is that typical HA … oops private registered provider comms or just an another example that they done give a sh*t (or should that be f*rt) about what they have the gall to call customers in social tenants?

I am especially wondering why the 5.5 million of so parents of voting age that are social tenants in the 4.3 million UK council and private registered provider homes have never mobilised and united as a lobby or power bloc as they would be extremely powerful on the political stage and frighten the you know what out of these self-proclaimed social (sic) landlords who treat the social tenant as a unit, as a commodity?

Who are you social tenant? (And yes Roger Daltry really did this!)

You are feckless. You accept whatever crap your landlord throws at you and they are throwing crap with increasing regularity at you for years and still you remain apathetic and silent.

Yesterday Karen Buck MP re-introduced a Bill to make all homes fit for human habitation and to drag landlords kicking and screaming into the 18th Century never mind the 21st!  How did it ever come to pass that so-called social landlords do not even have to offer up housing that is fit for human habitation!

Why have you social tenant let the wonderful 1948 Welfare State creation of public housing to slay the giant of squalor lapse back to a state of feudal landlords of which 63% of what we laughingly call social landlords are private registered providers aka housing associations – who by virtue of being private have no statutory duties to house and rehouse those most in need?

Yes that’s right 2 in every 3 of what we call social landlords (sic) have no duties whatsoever to house those most in housing need.  Why have social tenants and the unions, the Labour movement, activists and the general public allowed this cancer on the Welfare State to happen?

How can the rest of mainland Europe have far more private rented housing than the UK yet not have the massive housing crisis of affordability that we have in the UK?  They regulate all landlords is the answer yet here in the UK no landlord has to even ensure properties are fit for human habitation!

Hopefully (!) in the context of minority government and the catalyst of Grenfell in terms of the safety of housing this fit for human habitation Bill has a much greater chance of being made law than it did when originally presented and rejected by the last Tory government.  How f*cking disgraceful is it that a chance of the law ensuring where 37% of the UK public live – that is 24 million men, women and children – is fit for human habitation is dependent on the perverse political context we now have?!

Everybody now finally recognises that the UK has a housing crisis (more correctly a series of interlinked housing crises) and is that because the public, the electorate, only see housing as a bricks and mortar investment and not as a place of stability where we can raise our children in health and safety?  There is a plethora of academic discourse going back decades on how much more poor quality housing costs the NHS and by extension everyone’s taxes yet nobody has been frankly arsed to even read it let alone consider and act upon it.

The cost of everything and the value of nothing has been cynically applied to rented housing by all concerned and for too long.

YET …

… the 4.3 million social (sic) housing properties will contain around 5.63 million parents and some adult children eligible to vote and who, if mobilised and united, would become one of THE strongest and most powerful lobby groups we have and would reverse decades of apathy towards all forms of rented housing especially public sector and genuinely affordable housing, and who would frighten the shit out of any government and ensure that our children and their children would have a fit for human habitation and a safe and secure roof over their heads which everyone must agree is a basic human right in the 21st Century!

The answer is there and its way past time for apathy and inaction

 

 

 

Affordable housing? Oh no its not! End of social housing too! We need to talk ..

London Mayor Sadiq Khan announces nearly 50,000 new houses … over 4 years of which we are told roughly one-third will be ‘affordable’ … yet set at a new London affordable rent that is between 10% and 43% higher than existing social rent … social rent is, sorry was, the traditional post-war rent figure that was genuinely affordable.

50,000 is a big number yet equates to just 1 new home per day per London Borough and only 1 every 3 days will be this new ‘affordable’ level with the rest being significantly higher

Then Riverside Housing Association announce 20,000 new affordable (sic) housing … over the next ten years … and only one-third of them will be for rent which of course is the ‘affordable rent model’ that is between 38% and 49% higher than the traditional social rent in the regions where Riverside have the vast majority of their housing. The rest or two-thirds will be shared ownership or outright sale.

Social rent is dead as in the London case it is both councils and housing associations charging up to 43% more than social rent and with Riverside up to 49% more  – so all social (sic) landlords will never go back to it – and in Riverside’s case they have decided NOT to build for social rent for the next TEN YEARS! Calling this the end of social rent and indeed the end of social housing and the end of social ethos or purpose by council and housing association landlords is most definitely NOT hyperbole: It is simple fact.

Fig 1 – The new London ‘affordable’ rent version

The table of rents was released by Jamie Ratcliff who is the assistant director of housing at London Gov and these compare to the English Housing Survey 2015/16 rent levels at Figure 2 below (remembering that social rent levels have had a 1% reduction applied since 2015/16 too so will have only fallen in these net rent terms.)

Figure 2 – English Housing Survey rent levels 2015/16

Using the penultimate column (Social Rent Total) we see that a 1 bed SRS property in London has increased from £101 to £144.26 per week – a 43% increase.

Like all versions of ‘affordable (sic) rent’ the tenant is being screwed for considerably more by housing association and council landlords for more in rent because the Tory government does not pay ‘subsidy’ any more  (yet is still paying £60k in the London examples note well!!) so the landlords screws the tenant for considerably more in ongoing rent than they ever did before, yet still claim to be social landlords!  These uplifts may well be financially necessary yet they can never be described as social and nor can the landlords who implement them.

Figure 3 – The Riverside announcement

As you can see this announcement was given by a PR consultant for Riverside to a clearly rapt audience of 1 person!!  Perhaps Riverside (circa 56,000 properties) were hoping that nobody would notice they have pulled out of the social rent market for the next ten years!!

Comment

I could easily turn this into a rant over the word social and I am right to say that councils and housing associations are no longer social at all and that social housing – what we used to call council housing and a key element of the 1948 Welfare State to conquer the Giant of Squalor – is no more, is brown bread, is a parrot pining for the fjords because it is TRUE.

This is economic madness and a quite disgraceful sleight of political hand to call new housing developments affordable as they are not.

We need to reconsider affordable!

Affordability is not just measured in percentage of net income terms that the rent takes up.  For rent to be affordable the tenant has to be able to save money for a mortgage deposit too. So when purportedly social landlords are charging up to 49% more in actual rent then they cannot save for a mortgage deposit.

Affordability has to include this key mortgage deposit saving factor as ALL political parties in the UK have economic theory based on growth and ALL are panicking that the home ownership rate which peaked under Blair in 2004 at 71% of the population has today fallen to 64% – a ten per cent drop in home ownership no less – that means in crude but valid terms that we are keeping up LESS with the Joneses and not buying enough new white goods, home improvements and all the other purchases that home owners do.

There are any other factors such as stagnant wages, ZHCs and others giving a lack of consumer confidence yet the simple equation is the more you charge in rent the less that a renter can save for a deposit. This is stating the blindingly obvious yet that is precisely what has been happening since 2010 under the Tories administrations that has also seen the much higher charging private rented sector overtake social (sic) landlords in the number of rented properties and now by some distance too!

The more that housing associations an councils charge in rent the chances of so many tenants becoming home owners (as ALL political parties want) diminishes as house prices continue to rise and rise.

This is a deadly economic double whammy that is NOT being discussed by government (who blame the planning system in today’s latest announcement by Sajid Javid the Communities Minister) and not being discussed by landlords as they are only concerned with numbers of new builds and the considerable rent increases that go with them and prop up their profits.

The Corbyn / McDonnell approach to allowing councils to borrow so they can build again is the only logical way to meet the new housebuilding targets of 300,000 per year.  Local councils used to build upwards of 200,000 per year while housing associations have never built more than 40,000 per year.

Many see that suggestion as political yet it is not and it makes huge economic sense AND building 100,000+ new council houses per year will increase home ownership! Council housing at a social rent level allows tenants to save more and save more quickly for the elusive mortgage deposit and that too is stating the bloody obvious … yet it is not seen as that because it sounds perverse in political terms.

I’ll leave it there and invite some discussion and comment and as perverse as it sounds or reads, the more council housing we have at genuinely affordable rent levels the greater and quicker the home ownership rates increase which is what ALL political parties want and will increase economic growth which, rightly or wrongly, ALL political parties have as their underlying economic policy.

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UPDATE – There is a significant political point in the London figures of Sadiq Khan as these figures at up to 49% more DO also have £60k worth of subsidy each.  So this plan is a bad deal for London tenants AND the political point is that this undermines the Corbyn / McDonnell plan for councils to offer properties at a social rent if Labour allows them to borrow.  Councils will say if London councils can charge 43% more with subsidy then we want to charge 43% more!

Sadiq Khan’s decision has put the knife into Corbyn’s plan that I am sure many on the left of the Labour Party will pick up  ….

Crisis have a crisis of credibility on Housing First

Is Tell a lie often enough and it becomes fact the best way to describe Crisis or is It’s better to let someone think you’re an idiot than open your mouth and confirm it more accurate?

In the case of Matt Downie the Director of policy and external affairs at Crisis it is a moot question which adage best fits when he writes here in an article for the Guardian Housing Network in a piece entitled “Housing First, Liverpool homeless services are failing” (my emphasis) with the subtitle and blatant lie that “Housing people fast is five times cheaper than homelessness.

In the report on Housing First in the Liverpool City Region, Crisis claim that the HF model would cost £242 per person per week which means for HF to be 5 times cheaper the current cost per week is £1,210 which of course is a blatant known lie!

The £242 per week HF cost is contained in the report on page 13 of the Executive Summary that “The estimated cost of providing the model of Housing First we have proposed is £12,607 per client per annum“- which is the £242 per person per week cost.

The current cost per person per week of all the 517 single homeless person is £90,180 (in HB) from the Mainstay directory that the Crisis report references is a cost per person per week of £174.43 and £68 per week and 39% cheaper than the HF alternative on bare figures.  So, in terms of cost alone the claim that the HF model is 5 times cheaper than the current services beggars any form of belief.

For that to be possible each single homeless provider would need to receive £1,036 per single homeless resident per week in support funding which would cost just Liverpool council alone some £28 million per year in what was SP funding and just for single homelessness as one of 14 vulnerable client groups.  Yet it spends far less than that on homelessness and association issues (eg domestic abuse, homeless families, care leavers, etc) AND as its admittedly hyperbolic PR says according to Public Health statistics there is no city in the UK better at supporting the homeless (sic) than Liverpool.

 

NB: Before I continue see here and here that shows I am in favour of HF as a model and note well that I do not currently advise any homeless providers in the Liverpool City Region either.
The Guardian Housing Network article by Matt Downie of Crisis is hyperbolic nonsense and the worst case of fake news I have seen for many a year with its claims over costs yet the most offensive aspect is the email title of the article in saying Liverpool homeless services are failing.  This is a direct attack on current single homeless services in Liverpool and while I fervently maintain all homeless services can and should continually improve wherever they are situated, this is an attack without any evidence or substantiation on services in Liverpool.

Crisis should apologise and withdraw that assertion or provide evidence to substantiate it, which I doubt they cannot do as no evidence exists about specific failings in Liverpool’s single homeless services.

I fully accept that the absence of Housing First models is wrong and significantly improves single homeless provision and I have no faith whatsoever in models such as No Second Night Out (NSNO) which does operate in my home city and has seen the official rough sleeper count increase 40% in 2016 on 2015 figures on top of an 88% increase in 2015 on 2014 figures.

We must conclude that this deliberate sleight on Liverpool’s single homeless services has another agenda such as Crisis are so desperate to get a large scale pilot of Housing First in operation that they are willing to make wild assertions in their incompetent vanity to get such a service under way.

Yes I did say incompetent vanity as my previous posts have highlighted that the Liverpool City Region does not have the necessary suitable housing stock for Housing First especially as it has around half of the national average 1 bed stock proportion.  In short the last place logically to launch a nationally important large scale Housing First pilot would be the LCR area and this proposal should never have passed any feasibility stage because of that.  Thus the Crisis proposal is incompetent vanity writ large.

To return to questions of failings in the current system we see clearly that for the rough sleeping / roofless aspect of homelessness NSNO has failed miserably and this policy has failed nationally as in the year before it was implemented we had a national rough sleeper count of 1,768 and the latest figure is 4,134 – which means rough sleeping has increased 134% across the UK while NSNO has been operative and the policy has failed end of!

The Crisis article in the Guardian starts with an old picture of tinned (boarded up) properties in Anfield and ends with referencing the research into Liverpool.  In between this top and tailing trick we get the story of John (named changed) which begins:

John first became homeless after his landlord sold the house where he was living. Suffering with depression and alcohol dependency, he became homeless and ended up living in a local shelter.

There is no mention that John* was in a shelter in the LCR area (of which there are pitifully few) and so this is a journalistic device to make it appear that the travails of John* happened in Liverpool by this topping and tailing.  This is deceitful in general terms but when used to specifically disparage services in the Liverpool City Region it becomes truly offensive in its use.

I wonder how all the LCR based single homeless services mentioned as helping Crisis in this report now feel about being slighted, slated and told they are failures by Matt Downie of Crisis in such a public way and done so without any evidence or substantiation? Hmm!  Then to realise this deceitful journalistic trick that Crisis has used to do their dirty work!?

Crisis as a (formerly) respected organisation have just lost all credibility whatsoever in the Liverpool City Region by treating single homeless providers in the area as pawns in the political games Crisis play. Note too that there are many national ‘names’ appearing in the Crisis report too such as YMCA and some housing associations who operate nationally in homelessness and supported housing for example Riverside and so this unsubstantiated attack on Liverpool’s single homeless providers is not limited to the region and has far reaching consequences for providers and for Crisis.

Nobody likes to be informed in the national media that they are failures and especially so with no supporting evidence for such slight!

In single homelessness terms Crisis is positioning itself as the champion of Housing First solutions just as the other main single homelessness lobby in Homeless Link positioned itself as the champion of No Second Night Out solutions to rough sleeping which have failed and had little take-up (thankfully) and being operative in a few areas outside of London.

The Matt Downie hyperbolic nonsense restates the national importance of a pilot into Housing First solutions when it states:

This approach works – it’s been used successfully in Finland, the US, Denmark, France and Canada, and our study shows it could be more than five times as effective and nearly five times more cost-effective than existing services for this group. These findings have major national implications. The government has committed to piloting such an approach as part of its manifesto, but now is the time for it to put its money where its mouth is.

I fully agree that there are major national implications for a large scale pilot into Housing First but (a) why did Crisis chose the Liverpool City Region where this has no chance of success and thus no chance of other much needed HF services being introduced elsewhere by consequence; and (b) why did Crisis have to overtly lie about single homeless providers in Liverpool and disparage them publicly and lose any credibility and lose its previously good reputation so spectacularly with this article by its Director of policy and external affairs?

Far more importantly Crisis has massively let down the vulnerable single homeless people it was set up to help 50 years ago by its incompetent vanity and delusion that it as an organisation is more important than the vulnerable people it claims to help.

Perhaps the old adage of it takes 50 years to build a good reputation and 5 minutes to lose it is much more apt to describe Crisis than tell a lie often enough!

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Just a quick footnote on whether Liverpool or the Liverpool City Region has more or less failing homeless services than any other comparable area is a hugely complex issue and one I have very quickly refreshed my research into for this post looking at official homeless data. Liverpool has seen less of an increase than the 56% increase nationally in statutory homeless cases between Q1 2010 and Q1 2017 and has much fewer households in paid temporary accommodation than the 72% increase between these dates nationally.  This would suggest it is doing better than most areas in terms of homelessness yet it does have 40% of its statutory homeless in paid temporary accommodation being BME against a BME population of 14% which is a very ripe area for enquiry on equalities issues around homelessness.