This weekend saw an opinion poll in the Times that means the death of social housing – and social landlords have no one to blame but themselves. They are the architects of their own demise given they couldn’t lobby their way out of a wet paper bag. There is not one singular body that lobbies for the claimed housing ‘sector’ which in reality is not and has never been a united sector at all. Their naivety and abject reluctance in not challenging (remembering that ‘challenge’ is one of the 4 C’s of Best Value) welfare reforms are feeble and errant excuses for their timidity and stupidity. Their pathetic excuses that challenge to the welfare reform (sic) policy equals politicking when everyday they lobby for community and neighbourhood issues and for environmental concerns such as the green deal and for poverty and criminal justice concerns like ASB shows this is a rightful and just role for social landlords and not against any charitable impacts they say this would have.
IF the Tories are not voted out of office then social housing is dead, it is defunct, brown bread, it is no more, it is the Norwegian Blue Parrot pining for the fjords – and the indifferent cowardly ignorant and frankly bloody stupid great and the good of social housing will be responsible for ALLOWING the Tories to mortally wound the social housing model.
Universal Credit will be ramped up and within that direct payment will be rolled out nationally from 8 May 2015 and social housing will be in the toilet. The bedroom tax will be justified the Tories will say, as will the benefit cap as will the abolition of council tax benefit and they will say the general public have voted for sanctions on every conceivable benefit your scrounging fickle indolent lifestyle choice lazy bastard social tenants try to cheat the burgeoning welfare state out of.
In short all of the policies you as purportedly ‘social’ landlords failed to challenge for ‘your’ tenants.
None of the above is meant to be political. When so many policies radically attack social housing as all the welfare reform policies do in huge terms, both individually and collectively, this is all about saving the social housing model and irrespective of which party is in government seeking to destroy it. And as we know the Labour Party does not champion social housing and hasn’t done for years either.
Social landlords failed to challenge the bedroom tax by supporting their tenants to appeal because they wrongly believed they would lose rent and asset value or be seen as politicking.
Social landlords pooh-poohed the benefit cap saying it hardly affects us when 46% of benefit cap cases are in the SRS.
Social landlords then when the Tories said last week the benefit cap would fall from £26k to £23k only objected as this would stop development. It wont and it will mean social landlords cannot AFFORD to house families with more than 4 children now and even smaller families in the near future. Do the maths this is far worse than the systemic flaw in the overall benefit cap I outlined two years ago that you have ignored.
Social landlords are ineptly ill-prepared and have failed to challenge direct payments which the pilots revealed led to 6.6% of rent ging unpaid or about TEN TIMES the amount that now goes unpaid. And please don’t give me we lobbied for and got a concession on this when tenants go 8 weeks in arrears! Work the maths through on that as (a) your cost of rent collection still increases massively and (b) your tenants will probably go to doorstep or Wonga lenders while this happens and the ‘concession’ is merely a delaying tactic for inevitable eviction and the costs that will hold.
Last week the latest numpty of a Housing Minister said social landlords should no longer receive grant and again the only whisper from the ‘sector’ was this will hinder development. Where is the ‘sector’ voice for what social housing gives in return for the £4.5 billion over 4 years of £1.125 billion per year in capital grant?
Why isn’t the claimed housing ‘sector’ screaming that take away grant and we need to receive the same rate of HB that private landlords gets which would put up the HB bill by £4 billion overnight? And that ONLY social housing accommodates the SODS (Sick, Old, Disabled, Supported) that the private rented sector just doesn’t do because it would cost them too much? Who in the ‘sector’ is saying, correctly, that as average PRS rent is £163 pw and SRS just £83 per week – and they are old 2012/13 EHS figures – then this means social housing allows the social tenant to take up employment paying £6k per annum less than his next door PRS neighbour?
Are you all ashamed of just how good social housing is for the UK economy or don’t you realise just how good it is? Have you ever thought how good it is? If so, then WHY haven’t you shouted this out instead of letting Joe Public believe you only house the White Dees of this world? Oh I see its not your job its somebody elses? Really whose job?
In any and every industry there is an overarching umbrella lobby group whether its the oil sector or the yellow and black striped dog coat sector and their job is to lobby and raise awareness of the good of that sector. Housing has a chartered institute for which all landlords subscribe that couldn’t lobby its way out of the wet paper bag. The NHF is a lot better but still falls way short of being anywhere near an efficient lobby for the sector. We have individual Chief Executives who tug their forelocks at policy change while issuing soothing statements as FDs run the company and bombard tenants with red-inked letters or worse KHT letters threatening to take the kids of non payers and just as direct payment hits and tenants take CONTROL of rent payments and become genuine customers!
Are HA chief execs all secretly hoping that their housing association will be that much in the brown smelly stuff that the super HAs – those with over 50,000 properties – will ride in on their white chargers giving you a hugely undeserved pay off after two years as deputy CEO? It would seem to be the only logical conclusion for this apathy.
Social housing is dead IF the Tories get back in as we already know what policies they want to bring in (no grant, banning under 25s from HB and more) and how they will ramp up their existing ill-conceived back of a fag packet ones like the bedroom tax, benefit cap, monthly payments and direct payments and all of them WILL, without any doubt whatsoever, mean the end of social housing as we know it.
Please don’t blame this messenger, the one that CIH tried to say was misleading tenants in appealing the bedroom tax and they got massively wrong; the one most in social housing now refer to as a tenant activist and conveniently ignoring 20 years plus in housing; the one who has the temerity to criticise the ‘sector’… you know the ethereal construct that does not exist! Just ask yourselves one simple question. If you could turn the clocks back 18 months would you have challenged the welfare reforms more?
Every individual housing professional at every level I have spoken to would privately say yes as most of them genuinely care for social housing and believe in it. Regrettably at a corporate level the inaction and timidity and errant ill-preparedness of social landlords for welfare reform and what it actually means has held sway.
You are the architects of your own demise in ALLOWING the great social housing model being killed in one administration through your unwillingness to challenge.
Perhaps I shall send you all a replica Neville Chamberlain white handkerchief to cry those crocodile tears into at social housing’s funeral next year!