30 years or so ago, on a Saturday night in my local pub about 8.30pm my 7 friends and I called two mini cabs to take us off into town. The two cars that turned up were firstly a Skoda to which one of the lads said you can bugger off I’m not getting in that, get another ‘proper car’ here. 30 seconds later the Lada turns up and my mate was even more vociferous – You are seriously taking the p**s if you expect me to get in that thing! So many jokes were doing the rounds over Skodas and Ladas and their poor perceived quality for example: How do you double the value of a Lada? Fill it with petrol! or What do you call a Skoda with a sunroof? A skip!
Yet 30 years later Lada is no more but Skodas have a fabulous reputation.
Social housing has chose to be a Lada and not a Skoda and carry on that path and soon social housing will go the way of the Lada. Social housing is in the toilet in reputation terms and in the last 30 years has done nothing to change that negative perception of it.
The great and the good of social housing chose not to see that RTB meant merely renting a council house made the tenant in reputational and cultural terms a second-class citizen with second-class aspirations and was just as damaging as the lack of replacement houses for those sold off.
The great and the good of housing chose not to promote the social housing model in the last 30 years and there has never been in that time one agency to sell or promote the benefits of the social housing model. The great and the good are too busy with their niche within it, development, finance or operations and further sub disciplines of sheltered, supported or homelessness to do that.
Over the last 3 years the same great and the good chose not to promote the social rent model and allowed the ‘affordable (sic) rent’ model to see in an additional £200m per annum of income. Yet they still drive a Lada!
Let’s blame it all on Benefit Street, How to get a council house and the rest they opined as after all it could not possibly be their fault for choosing not to promote the social housing model and the social rent model! The Lada is seemingly made of Teflon!
The social housing Lada is half the price of the private rented alternative. It comes with a much greater repair guarantee. It will last you for life. It is better quality than the private rented alternative car (that makes a Trabant look luxurious) and millions demand one as the waiting lists are higher than that of a Lamborghini too. Yet it will still go the way of the Lada.
The Skoda by contrast was chosen to be promoted. At its heart was reliability and German engineering a quality product. We were informed it won prestigious awards in the 1930s like the Garden Cities. The patriotic German tax driver chose it over Mercedes for reliability and value, just as the Germans choose rented housing over home ownership and matters of fact over vanity and what others may wrongly choose to think are more important. This is the waiting list.
People ‘want social housing some of the great and the good choose to believe – you can’t sell something people don’t want! Clearly they haven’t come to terms with that 19th Century phenomenon called advertising! The 1.7 million families who chose to go on the waiting lists as they now social housing is the right choice for them suggest that people do want social housing.
The great and the good of housing choose to believe they are powerless, choose to believe they do not have a strong negotiating position with government of the day despite having what all governments want in the best product at the best price that is in demand and saves government a fortune in Housing Benefit terms and allows the take up of employment due to social rents which are half the cost of private rents and still generate a small surplus. The great and the good choose to believe the political myth and spin that social housing creates dependency yet with rents half that of private renting it creates twice the independency of the private rented sector.
The great and the good choose not to tell the customer, the tenant, that if you want a stepping stone to the property owning democracy that social housing allows you to save more towards that deposit and you are in a better quality and more reliable place in which to do that.
The great and the good choose not to challenge the political myth upon myth created by successive governments who also chose not to fund social housing development because it has longer term benefits for the country at large yet they were only interested in short term political gains such as being re-elected.
Now, despite all the evidence that what UK plc needs is genuine affordable social rent housing and has reached crisis levels, the great and the good are choosing not to fight for it and instead, choosing to go down the commercial activity route that can only increase welfare dependency given much higher rents making employment unaffordable or huge increases to the HB bill from those in work such as the £2.8 billion extra cost we see in HB for those in work since the last election. In May 2010 the HB bill for those in work was £2.6bn and now it is £5.4 billion per year. HB has become a subsidy for low pay employers.
Now we see the great and the good believing that they have a campaign – lets end the housing crisis in a generation is their choice of slogan! Oh dear where to begin!!
Over the last generation – 25 to 33 years is how generation is defined – we have seen social housing move from 3 in every 4 rented properties to less than 1 in 2. It is in significant decline and the merely renting makes you a second-class person cultural phenomenon has set in given the great and the good chose not to challenge that politico-cultural myth and did nothing.
Any campaign needs to convince two groups – the general public and government. Yet the general public has an attention span of 25 minutes and the politicians at most 5 years, and that assumes the idea is a ‘sexy’ one – sexy being something that appeals to the voter. Yet social housing doe not appeal to the voter at all as they believe (a) the hype and unchallenged myth that it is the housing of last resort and (b) even those accepting a need for more of it wont have it in their backyard! That of course doesn’t stop the great and the good and just about everyone within social housing choosing to believe that this time, this election, surely, is going to be the one when housing becomes an electoral issue.
Thankfully mental health institutions have closed else all those that choose to believe social housing will EVER be an election issue would be sectioned en masse!
The British public choose to not give a toss about social housing because the great and the good of social housing have chosen not to tell them just how much it benefits them, chosen not to tell Joe Public it save the taxpayer billion each year, chose not to say it massively reduces welfare dependency and that is even true when social housing has no choice in housing those nobody else will in the sick, the old, the disabled and those in need of support. Yet the same great and the good choose to allow Joe Public and the politicians believing that the SRS and PRS are like for like and not that the PRS chooses not to house the sick, old, disabled and supported who cannot work as it would be detrimental to its reputation.
The choices of the Skoda driver whose car is festooned with Lada badges and the public and government only see that Lada badge.
STOP PRESS – I head the by ticket only rally (Yes I’m serious!!!) of the great and the good is about to choose a radical idea and put a blue plaque outside every social housing property in celebration and the winning design is below.