Every industry likes to think it is important and usually those within it overestimate their relative merit and especially influence. The social housing sector takes their own self-importance to a much higher degree than probably any other, and no more so than when the CIH conference comes to town; the annual jolly for those who work in it.
How many headlines will be written by housing journalists this week saying how important social housing is, all backed by blogs and news releases from the great and the good of social housing’s usual suspects and then the many vague and meaningless assurances of the same will be given by the Housing Minister Mark Prisk (who?) and even by Lord Freud this week for the government.
Yet social housing is not important to the coalition government or to any political party as social housing is too much of a vote loser and has been portrayed in the media with wild abandon as the housing of last choice for too many years. Unfortunately the great and the good of social housing have ALLOWED that to happen and they need the proverbial rocket up their self-important backsides.
Social housing is and should be seen as hugely important, ECONOMICALLY for the country yet never is. Those working within it and purportedly leading it never have promoted its economic benefits
It receives £1.2bn per year in capital subsidy and is therefore seen as inefficient and wasteful and as a welfare spend scourge. Yet take that £1.2bn capital subsidy away and the welfare spend of Housing Benefit would see a £5bn per year increase as the lower social housing rent levels would rise to at least the 30%+ higher levels of benefit that privately rented housing receives.
Social housing is a huge taxpayer saving and a huge invest to save industry. If you extrapolate it means the initial capital subsidy that social housing gets saves every taxpayer about £170 per year in tax!
Imagine a social tenant and his neighbour a private tenant renting a former council house sold under the right to buy. The social tenant average rent is £83 per week yet his private immediate neighbour’s rent will be £163 per week (both 2012 EHS figures) The social tenant can afford to take a job paying £6k per annum less than his private neighbour given the lower rent. The private tenant to look at it from his perspective needs the job to pay £6k per annum more so his net income can pay the £80 per week higher rent on the identical house his social tenant neighbour has
High private rent levels are THE biggest welfare dependency we have. Yet private renting is good and public renting bad in the political and general public psyche! Goebbels would be proud of such a misperception!
Subsidy! Far more goes into private housing with no return yet ‘subsidy’ whether in its aggregate terms or whether in its ‘spare room’ nonsensical version is used to decry social housing.
In the media only social housing is a welfare scourge and that is why social housing has failed and is failing even more speedily – because nobody not even the umbrella organisations and housing bodies such as the CIH and the NHF promote the huge economic benefits of social housing to the country.
Take a step back and we see social housing in relation to its competitors the private landlords have a much better and higher quality product at a much cheaper price and millions waiting to get the same. In any other industry such a product and good will be highly prized and lauded..yet this is social housing, the place the public has been bombarded with the message that it is hell on earth and the housing of last choice. And the great and the good supposedly leading social housing have allowed that errant perception to prosper!!
No doubt these same leaders will be lauding the sector in their usual way and saying how important the sector is to government, how it is a priority for the government…which in reality is a total crock of …
The CIH conference is meticulously organised and runs smoothly and efficiently yet the same CIH couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery in terms of promoting social housing. Neither can the other sector leaders or even the many power blocs within it such as the seemingly powerful G15 who also have negligible influence with governments. They have all stood idly by in the last 30 years and seen the best product and service dwindle from 3 in every 4 rented homes to less than 1 in 2. How the hell has that happened? In what other industry would that happen? These are the questions the sector should be looking at yet of course won’t while they believe they are important and influential and believe their own misguided hype
Successive governments have let that happen too of course and have not invested in social housing despite it being a significant invest to save option with real economic benefit to the country. So when the politicians and housing great and good tell you this week that social housing is a priority for government keep the aspirin close as you fall off the chair in incredulity or bang your head on the wall.