Social Housing and branding – Never knowingly sold anyone?

A flurry of very good articles about social housing as a brand have appeared in the last day or so and not before time. Unlike the John Lewis Partnership strapline of Never Knowingly Undersold, social housing is merely never knowingly sold.

Colin Wiles who is always thought-provoking covers most of the contributors in a piece in Inside Housing and cites Tom Murtha – who I suggested (in jest) on Twitter last week has had more influence now he has retired than when he was a housing chief executive – who is a key player in the SHOUT campaign to give good press to social housing and what social housing is which I said two years ago here is all about its economic benefits yet it is and has never been sold that way!

Tom Murtha has and is beginning to sell housing and get the message out there.  However, Tom has retired and who currently working in housing is selling housing?  Should it not be every housing professionals job and backed up by a national body?  Of course it should but that national body is not there. So it is to Tom’s personal credit that he is getting the message out yet to the housing ‘sector’s’ eternal shame that it is not.  Every industry has a lobby for it yet social housing does not!

Social housing provides the best quality rented housing option over the PRS, the best quality service and the best price and is hugely in demand (waiting lists) YET bizarrely it is portrayed as the housing of last resort and vilified.  In no other industry would the best product and best service all at the best price have such a woeful reputation.

In no other industry would it be ALLOWED to happen…Yet that is what HAS happened to the social housing model – and regrettably the people who have allowed that to happen are the people who work within social housing and because they have never SOLD social housing. Social housing has NEVER BEEN SOLD let alone undersold.

There is also not one single body or agency to do this as CIH does not do this, NHF look after the 60% of social landlords who are HAs and a myriad of others lobby for parts of social housing; EROSH for sheltered housing, SITRA et al for supported housing and Shelter and Crisis and Homeless Link etc for homelessness.

Yet that does NOT exclude all the Chief Executives of the 1000+ housing associations and other social landlords – errantly referred to as the ‘sector’ when the absence of any unifying body exists – for their ineptitude over the last 30 years or so.

In 1981 social landlords had 3 in every 4 properties that were rented and now they have less than 1 in 2 and has recently been overtaken by the PRS.  Again I ask in what other industry or that misused term ‘sector’ would the model with the best product, best service and at the best price be ALLOWED to reduce so dramatically?

While the sector can rightly state this is largely the fault of Right To Buy it still, unfortunately, has an ambivalence and resistance to any criticism of its role in this fall – and business fail – of the social housing model.

Social housing is ONLY cheaper because it is subsidised goes the refrain, yet the £4.5bn over 4 years, the £1.125bn that social housing receives in capital subsidy from central government returns rent levels which save the taxpayer the best part of £5bn per year AND it is the ONLY place where the sick, the old and the disabled – the SODs can live.  That is what social housing gives in return for the ‘subsidy’ which correctly HAS to be viewed as a very efficient invest to save model.  YET when have you heard that no-brainer of an economic argument be stated by anyone in the housing ‘sector?’

Never knowingly sold!

The (naive?) optimist in me senses that the ephemeral ‘sector’ is beginning to change and the debate over branding social housing is evidence of that.  Yet the realist, not cynic, within me has to accept that the social housing ‘sector’ is as quick to accept criticism and as quick to change as an elephant on skis going down a giant slalom!

Why – with social housing being a hugely cost-effective invest to save initiative that saves the country and the individual taxpayer a fortune – is it that no political party advocates it and why Joe Public maintain it is the housing of last choice?

That is the question social housing professionals refuse to face and consider as mea culpa is not in its lexicon of thought.  It is long overdue that they should and even more overdue that social housing is knowingly sold else it will go under!





7 thoughts on “Social Housing and branding – Never knowingly sold anyone?

  1. Really interesting article Joe and this is something I’ve been harping on about for a while too. I think the issue is that Social Housing is such an insular industry, that those working inside of it, can’t see it. They have been going to Manchester or Harrogate, see all the stands, have conversations with people and talk about working together etc, and think everything is rosy.
    There is an obvious need for a huge amount of PR to be done but that is just an elastoplast fix, which will ultimately be ripped off in a flash with another episode of Benefits street or a negative news report.
    As a start, I think every Housing organisation needs to take it in their own hands to reach out to other companies in the communities in which they work, establish relationships, partnerships which are mutually beneficial. Get them engaged in the same way they try to get tenants engaged. They need to be creative and build awareness rather than just broadcast to people.
    Housing organisations have plenty to offer the private sector, and at the same time, they have plenty to learn, so I think its win-win for both parties.

    1. If every social landlord top-sliced £0.02p per week of all rents and put that into a newly created organisation to sell social housing – a sole activity and nothing else – that would give a £4m+ per annum budget to sell social housing.

      Incredibly simple idea and £4m per year buys a lot of influence

  2. Reblogged this on Jay's Journal and commented:
    It’s about time something was done about social housing. Many of us were brought up on council estates and were proud of it!

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