Poverty porn and the self inflicted housing famine

When RTB was introduced 3 of every 4 rented properties was in social housing. Today it is less than 1 in 2 and a truly scary JRF report suggests in 25 years time that 3 in every 4 rented properties will be in the private sector.  If that is correct then in two generations the market share has completely reversed and social housing becomes even more inconsequential than that label I placed on #HousingDay which is the largest effort by far that social housing has done to challenge these repeated attacks upon it!

Last week the whole of social housing got together for a one day love in extolling the many virtues it has, which it clearly has. I heavily criticised that as not being anywhere near enough and its promotion needed to be directed outside of social housing, a view I received some criticism for, at least initially, as did Antonia Bance for saying the same

Yet what was most encouraging was that Ade Capon who did an amazing job of getting the very disparate ‘sector’ together for this one #HousingDay, and just how disparate it is and just what an achievement this was I know only too well, retweeted my blog over this as did other major influencers across the ‘sector’ and a number of discussions took place about this which was also encouraging.  Note here that sector is in parentheses as my view is no ‘sector’ exists.

It’s time for social housing to have a grown up debate and realise what the social housing model is and what it has become through the lack of challenge to the many attacks it has suffered since Right To Buy over 30 years ago.  The current welfare reforms (sic) rapidly and radically accelerate those attacks on the social housing model and yet there is still apathy and reticence in terms of challenging those attacks.

That has to stop and the ‘sector’ needs to come out fighting and fighting radically.  It’s time for the non sector to become a sector and to admit its overt reticence and apathy towards challenging is largely responsible despite the fact we can’t turn the clock back and change.  Yet the ‘sector’ is notoriously hostile to any criticism of it and however constructive such criticism is.

Grow up!

The social housing model is facing oblivion if it carries on its stance of apathy and non-challenge and it needs to challenge a hundred times more than it is doing and has done, yet it is incredibly ill-equipped to make any form of challenge. It does not even have one lobby for all of social housing which is needed to fight for and resist reactively and proactively the numerous attacks on that social housing model. – That has to change.

Until it has one voice and one representative lobby fighting for all of social housing it will continue to be taken with the seriousness it now does, that is none at all. I put out a throwaway suggestion that a precept of 2p per social rent per week is top sliced to create a £4.5m per year fund to do just that – an insignificant £1 per year per property.  Simple yet perhaps non workable given the egos and empire builders from the numerous disparate sub lobbies already in social housing from sheltered to supported to homelessness to HA only lobbies and council house only lobbies etc.

That is the unusual position social housing is in as a (non) sector. It is perfectly acceptable for a sector to have sub-sectors lobbying but only after that sectorwide lobby has been established yet housing has gone about it the other way around and creating problems for itself.  It is time for egos to be set aside and time for those competing egos to come together as one entire sector in order to challenge the radical attacks the whole sector is facing and not just the NHS fighting for HA issues or Shelter or Crisis or Homeless link fighting for homeless services or EROSH fighting for sheltered.

Social housing needs to grow up and grow a set else it won’t grow but will shrink and shrink into oblivion and yes that means getting ‘political.’

There I have said it, that dirty word amongst social housing “politics!”  Oh we can’t do that it will be seen as political is a phrase that gets trotted out as excuse time after time without any thinking. It will affect our charitable status is another variation of the same erroneous nonsense.  Everything is political and especially social housing which is the only ‘product’ in the ‘market’ which does accommodate the SODS (Sick, Old, Disabled, Supported) because the only other alternative, the private rented sector, doesn’t do sheltered and doesn’t do disability or supported housing.  The SRS does DO the SODS as part of the 30 pieces of silver it gets as ‘subsidy’ from each successive government.  That is its pact with the devil.

Social housing has provided every government since RTB with a huge economic return on its investment (subsidy or grant) as without it and using todays terms the SRS returns a saving of over £4bn per year for the just over £1bn per year it receives …and also houses the SODS too. Yet there is almost a view of ‘subsidy’ is some form of altruistic beneficence given to them by successive governments and not for the huge economic and socio-economic return each government gets from that investment.

Put starkly ‘subsidy’ or grant is not given to social housing out of some political altruism it is given because it saves government a bloody fortune as without it the HB bill and the B&B bill and the homelessness bill and the care home bill and the PRS bill would all go through the bloody roof!

Social housing and its provision is high politics and the political economy in action and always has been. Take away capital grant and the housing of UK plc falls apart and mass recession occurs as UK employers who rely upon it to the tune of about £5.4 billion per year could not afford to employ the 1.08m people it does on such low wages that they qualify for full Housing Benefit and the welfare benefits bill would rocket too.

The social housing ‘sector’ thus has UK plc by the short and curlies yet acts by tugging its forelocks and being eternally grateful to its government paymasters!  Wake up and grow up!

The (non) sector also needs to totally rethink itself and one example is RTB.  Since RTB 30 years and more ago social housing has returned far more on its investment that it has received every year.  Yet while it rightly bemoans RTB for its lack of a 1 for 1 replacement, it fails to see RTB for what it is and was in politico-cultural terms and that is the root of the current problems.

RTB, as well as damaging housing supply and being a vote winner throughout the 1980s, changed cultural perceptions of Joe Public.  This was the “home owning democracy” core element it has which says if you do NOT want to be a home owner and remain a ‘mere’ tenant you have no ambition; you are a second-class citizen with a second-class mentality and thinking.  Yet the apathy, forelock-tugging and lack of challenge to that political and cultural perception by the (non) sector, allowed that perception to become hardened in the psyche of Joe Public and by extension meant social housing is the housing of last resort in that psyche.

The lack of challenge and apathy from the (non) sector over a generation has created huge problems for the (non) sector today.  You reap what you sow and the SRS didn’t plant any seeds at all and now wonders why famine is taking hold!

I am fiercely passionate about social housing and passionate about the role social media and the digital route can been utilised to communicate and promote social housing.  Yet there is a form of universal panacea that the SM route is the only way and that SM / digital has become the medium not the message when it is the message that social housing needs to sell to those external to it – the Marshall McLuhan of casual viewin head buried in the sand view of Genesis not the medium is the message alone.

SM and the digital route alone will not convince Joe Public and Government of the huge benefits social housing brings without the messages being there that social housing save the country and every taxpayer a bloody fortune and houses the SODS and 31% of SRS is retired compared with 7% retired in PRS for example oh and that there are more HB recipients in full time work than on the dole claiming it.  Social housing is not the White Dee / Benefit Street of poverty porn and TV and political myth yet the (non) sector still does bugger all to correct those myths if it fails to see its own messages.

Know thyself social housing!

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7 thoughts on “Poverty porn and the self inflicted housing famine

  1. I truly don’t know what to say to this one!
    It just keeps getting worse and worse and worse, when will this stop and us SHT get a break and maybe some hope back? That’s really I suppose what the bulk require to know !!

  2. Social housing provides a bench mark of an acceptable standard of decent housing at a cost people on ordinary incomes can afford. I expect they want to get rid of it as it exists as an indictment of the private rented sector – sub-standard accommodation at extortionate rents.

  3. The main problem with current tenants inaction is they do not see if they do not fight for new houses there will be no houses for anyone in the very near future.As the writer says most do not realise that there will come a time when it will be back to how it was when I was a child when my parents lived in (rooms) usually 2 rooms in someones house with shared loos and baths.We need to do something now it seems to me the clock is ever ticking backward to dark days when the working classes had few rights and little hope I for one am glad that I will most likely not be around to see the worst of what is to come being in my 60s
    INERTIA kills.It kills ambition hope and removes the need to be involved, the one thing it encourages to flourish is the greedy and the stupid.The greedy prosper from the stupid believing all the rubbish that they are fed by politicans and the selfserving media.This comment only covers a small part of what this blooger said but my remark about INERTIA pretty much covers what as been going on within the social housing sector for way too long.

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