Social landlords wet paper bags and welfare ‘reforms’

The Welfare Reform Act of 2012 contains the bedroom tax, the benefit cap and future Universal Credit issues such as direct payment and monthly payment.  Direct payment will see Housing Benefit paid directly to the tenant and not as it is now direct to the social landlord and monthly payment is a change of all other welfare benefits from fortnightly to monthly in arrears.

Every one of these policies attacks the social housing model, the social landlord and the social tenant.  These ‘reforms’ are individually and collectively an attack on social housing per se and ‘reform’ is in parentheses as reform means to improve yet these four issues all make social housing worse for tenant and landlord and for the model of social rented housing.  Other policies such as the chronically misnamed ‘affordable (sic) rent’ and the proposed pay to stay, more correctly pay MORE to stay’ and the proposed ‘banning’ of under 25-year-old to be eligible for HB all do the same in directly attacking social housing.

So why do social landlords not challenge these policies?  Where is the concerted fight and campaigning to defend your industry from these myriad of attacks that any other industry would have launched months if not years before?  Social landlords even hide behind tenant issues rather than directly challenge these issues and a case in point is an article here in Inside Housing which says direct payment will see tenants going to loan sharks.

Tenants probably will go to loan sharks because of direct payment and monthly payment yet my point here is that landlords real concern is that tenants cant or wont pay rent and at best with direct payment they will put the payment of rent further down their list of priorities.  So bloody well say that landlord and don’t hide behind the tenant’s plight!

For the absolute avoidance of any doubt I am sure social landlords do have genuine concern for the tenant plight yet social landlords despite being charities / industrial and provident societies / not for profit and any other ethical construct are BUSINESSES.  As such it is perfectly understandable and correct that their primary concern is the payment of rent – that is the business they are in!  So stop pussyfooting about!!

The ethos of housing associations and social landlords and its long history is not in doubt yet there is a fixation on this and that detracts from the real issue – that the welfare ‘reforms’ are a fundamental attack on the social housing model and of such severity that these ‘reforms’ threaten the viability of social landlords.

You can have all the morality and principle you wish – whether genuine or superficial – but if your business is going belly up then it all counts for nought!

Every social housing professional I know and speak with and at every level knows and says that the ‘welfare reforms’ are a fundamental attack on the social housing model, an attack on the industry or sector they work within, a sector the vast majority who work within it see as a vocation not a mere job.  Yet where is the CHALLENGE to the welfare ‘reforms?’

NOTE WELL I use the word “challenge” here and not other words such as “fight” or “campaign” or similar terms as while they all mean the same in this context the word “challenge” has less perceived negativity as it is one of the four ‘C’s’ of Best Value – a concept well known right across housing.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with challenging government policies at all.  Yet use the words “fight” or “campaign” and housing hides behind pithy phrases such as we can’t afford to be seen to be politicking!  Get real and get your heads out of your backsides!  That is just the same as expressing concern for tenants going to loan sharks when the real concern is will we get the rent paid. It’s a superficial glossing over the real underlying issue which housing is AFRAID to say.

“Housing” or as those within it errantly call it the “sector”  – when no collective unifying body exists to lobby on its entire behalf – could not fight their way out of a wet paper bag!  Raising awareness of the huge economic good “housing” brings to the economy as a whole and taxpayer individually just doesn’t happen and never has. No political party advocates it either as the country is wedded to the “property owning democracy” concept Thatcher instilled in the public psyche and renting a property and especially a council or social housing property is very much the lowest of the low!

Compare that social rented ‘sector’ reticence to the response the private rented sector has given to Miliband’s (vague) plan to regulate the PRS.  We find within 24 hours (and even before his speech) the PRS landlord and all the associated concerns of the PRS having articles all over the media saying it won’t work and trotting out comparisons with 100 years ago that say PRS regulation lead to fewer PRS properties.  In short the PRS know how to challenge…and to fight….and know how to campaign.  Yet the SRS is content to sit back in reticent smugness and say well we are better than the PRS and in doing so watch the ‘sector’ they so love reduce to insignificance!

Occasionally on a near industry wide level and on an individual level we have seen David Orr at the NHF or the likes of Iain Sim at C&CHA openly criticise the bedroom tax; openly sticking their heads above the parapet to be constructively critical of a policy that does not and cannot work in the bedroom tax.  Yet in the PRS there is no parapet at all, there is no artificial construct there to prevent constructive criticism but the SRS invent a parapet to hide behind by ducking under it!

In no other industry would we see the ‘sector’ with the best product and the best service at the best price invent a parapet and be content not to advocate that good!

In summary the welfare ‘reforms’ are killing social housing are killing social landlords and yes they are killing the social tenant too.  YeT while the social tenants doesn’t have  a pot to p*ss in which is needed for any it does have some fight and is challenging the welfare ‘reforms’ while social landlords who do have the funding and the klout is sitting idly by shaking its head and saying oh we can’t stick up for ourselves that would be seen as being political.  And while that inept strategy continues social housing as a model is having an ever quickening death.

To my colleagues in social housing at every level grow a set and stop patting yourselves on the back with delusions that a 1 hour thunderclap on social media is evidence of fight or challenge or a campaign.  It is your ‘sector’ and your industry you are allowing to be killed and your job that is directly at stake so either polish up the CV or do what you should have been doing but haven’t these last 20 years and CHALLENGE!

 

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11 thoughts on “Social landlords wet paper bags and welfare ‘reforms’

  1. I find it odd that the government which sold off the publicly owned social housing, on the grounds that everyone wanted to own their own property, and the government which has sold off the vital utilities on the grounds that they would be run more efficiently and therefore be cheaper for consumers, seem to have taken a different tack on this issue, but then unless they are going to personally benefit they seem to just wave through any old junk, such as the awful health and welfare act 2012.

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