Yes it’s that time again when the great and the good of social housing congregate (happy clappy pun intended) in Manchester for the CIH jolly, sorry conference, and delude themselves, as they do every year, that social housing really IS going to be an electoral issue and that social housing IS important to the politicians.
Yet it isn’t and never has been for decades since all governments stopped believing in the social housing model and how economically good it was (and still is) for the country and stopped building 100,000 + social housing properties each year.
And who is to blame for all of that? Yes social housing itself and note well ‘itself’ is the last time here I infer that social housing is a collective whole and uniform actor, or as it is commonly mistaken to be a “sector” which they call the SRS – the social rented sector.
The claimed SRS is rather 1400 or so housing associations all competing against one another for whatever scraps the incumbent government feeds them – put each ones name on a pigeon and imaging government tossing stale bread in Trafalgar Square and you get the correct imagery – and 150 or so retained council house landlords and the hybrid construct called ALMOs who collectively perceive themselves as a sector in the most delusional way.
Please don’t misinterpret my use of ‘collective’ as some form of leftist political comment as to do so would also mean merchant bankers are die-hard communists; banking like any other sector act collectively in terms of lobbying and are bloody good at it while social landlords don’t act collectively and are woeful as a power lobby. The pigeons in Trafalgar Square analogy really starts to become potent.
Social housing has allowed ‘itself’ to be tainted as the housing of last resort and one which only accommodates the scrounger and the indolent and a product that is only cheaper than the Great God of market housing (private rented sector) because it is subsidised. The SRS received £4.5bn in (capital) subsidy from the taxpayer in 2011/12 to 2014/15, on average £1.125 billion per year yet in return the taxpayer pays out in revenue subsidy, that is housing benefit, on average over £2 billion per year more to the PRS. Social housing actually SAVES the taxpayer money.
Yet when have you heard any social housing lobby state that? The answer is you haven’t and not even if you work within social housing! There is no overarching solitary lobby in the SRS to even say that internally let alone externally to those that matter such as the general populace and the politicians.
The social housing model is one of upfront capital subsidy which gives cheaper rents yet the SRS has never ‘sold’ the awareness of how good an economic model that is – It has never sold what the taxpayer gets in return by way of a saving for that investment or ‘subsidy’ as it is disparagingly known. Crunch the official numbers and we see 1.65 million privately rented households each getting £24 more in housing benefit per week than the SRS household and the PRS receives £38.63m more in housing benefit each week than the SRS equivalent, and in a year that becomes just over £2 billion.
IF social landlords told central government to stick their ‘subsidy’ up their jumper and instead they would merely claim the same in housing benefit that the PRS landlord receives then the housing benefit bill would increase by £4.32 billion per year. Of course the SRS would never even threaten any government with that but that is the reality of the £1.125 billion investment the government and taxpayer makes – it gives them back £4.32 billion per year as a saving. Oh it provides a much better service too and one that is in huge demand all of which allows the social tenant to be able to take a lower paid job than his PRS neighbour who pays almost double the rent at £163 per week compared to £83 per week according to the governments own figures (EHS 2012/13).
Keep thinking of those pigeons feeding on scraps of stale bread in Trafalgar Square dear reader!
Let’s go back and see just how many arguments any sort of effective cohesive SRS lobby or any sector could make just on the crude overview above.
Social housing is so much cheaper for the tenant and allows the take up of employment so much more than the PRS does – Yet which sector is vilified and portrayed as the housing of last resort and is welfare DEPENDENT! Get real!
Social housing provides the better product and service and is more in demand than the PRS. Yet which sector is vilified as the housing of last resort etc?
In what sector across all industries and across all countries would the best product, best service, best price, most cost-effective, most lack of economic dependence re employment sector would allow ITSELF to be portrayed that way by the general public and government?
Yes there are plenty of mute sheep in amongst those pigeons in Trafalgar Square aren’t there?
Social housing is delusional if it thinks the public or politicians care about its survival and that survival has been threatened by tits own inadequacies over decades in not promoting the social housing model and it is the architect of its own downfall. The arguments are all there to say how cost-effective it is and the facts are all there to back those arguments up yet those arguments need not to be SHOUTED internally they need to be SCREAMED externally and SCREAMED COLLECTIVELY ….yet first of all the attendees at the CIH conference this week needs to recognise its own ineptitude over many years for not doing so.
Oh and by the way agreeing a sole collective body that could speak for the claimed ‘sector’ would be a start on the way to do that. Yet of course that won’t happen as the attendees all consume themselves with their own deluded self-importance and pat each other on the back! God forbid any such single sector-wide lobby could be created with a £4m per annum lobbying war chest by top slicing just 2p per week from all social rents or anything as radical as standing up to the even bigger incompetents in central government regardless of which political party governs!
Yeah lets all have a house party! Yeah let’s all extol the wonders of social media! Yeah let’s all say how we are community champions not just landlords! Yeah let’s all tell each other how wonderful council housing was in the 50’s and 60’s! Yeah let’s all delude ourselves that we don’t need to tell the general public, the taxpayer and the politicians just how hugely cost-effective social housing is and has been…let’s just have another meeting, another jolly, another general moan about the lack of interest in the social housing model….
Forget how everyone in social housing will not just be following the latest trend in wearing superhero capes as shortly they will be fully clothed in Teflon…as it can’t be our fault!