Housing Think is an oxymoron – Housing Action an even bigger one!

Dear Housing People,

99.99% of you I have met or spoke with in the last 20+ years are rightly passionate about the social housing model.

Yesterday was and has to be a catalyst for the death of social housing inaction.  When,perhaps over the weekend, you begin to reflect over the RTB extension to HA properties you will likely come to the following conclusions.

  • The Tory proposal is legally fraught and back of a fag packet political speak all too typical of this coalition
  • It is largely a desperate attempt to buy votes as Thatcher did with RTB in 1979, 1983 and 1987 elections

Yet you may also be thinking that perhaps I better look again at my CV and beef up the transferable skills I have!

What I suggest you should be reflecting on is  this:

Given your passion for the social housing model why do you / we tolerate and even venerate the spineless and incompetent housing leaders whose inactions over decades has placed the loved and extremely cost-effective social housing model in the toilet?

David Orr said in a news release on the day of the Homes for Britain (HfB) rally that “housing has found its voice” which is a correct and bold admission that the housing sector has been silent and wrong to be silent for decades.

The passion for social housing of the 99.99% of housing professionals came to the fore with all the fire in the belly hyperbole raised at the HfB rally yet less than 24 hours later Osborne confirmed in his budget that social housing is extremely irrelevant as a national issue and the RTB extension to HAs of yesterdays Tory manifesto doubly confirmed that the social housing model plays no part in Tory think.

To add to that the Labour Party in response said they are all for ‘aspiration’ (Labour code for RTB) and support RTB in principle and in policy terms. In short there is no political support for the social housing model in the mainstream parties, one of whom will form the next government and dictate housing policy until 2020.

So we have NO political support for the social housing model, and we have the general public believe it to be the housing of last resort and replete with White Dee’s and Benefit Street et al is fact.  To cap it all the public believes they the taxpayer subsidise social housing allowing the Jeremy Kyle watchers behind closed curtains of these shirkers while they get off their arse to work and pay for them to watch.

We know the general public perception above is a chronic distortion, yet it IS their perception and that is what counts.  It is a critical part of any job to sell the job you do, whether you are an undertaker to a stockbroker to a plumber, YOU sell the job that you do and the good it does and the benefits it brings.  This happens in every sector and every industry except social housing and the fact it doesn’t and hasn’t for decades is why its reputation is in the toilet.

A critical issue is as the electorate perceive social housing to be subsidised largesse then there is no chance any government of any political persuasion putting more investment into social housing. I’m not voting for that lot as they want to give away more of my hard earned taxes so those scrounging bastards can get an even bigger flat screen TV to watch Jeremy Kyle!

That brings me to my main point and no excuses for the language but housing colleague, What the fuck has the NHF and CIH et al been doing all these years?  I will put that another way, How has the motivated passionate and efficient housing professional allowed its leaders to get away with such negligent inaction?

National housing leaders need the proverbial rocket up their backsides and have done for decades.  Individual Chief Executives of social landlords also rightly deserve criticism as it is one thing doing a good job locally which the vast majority do, yet another thing altogether in ignoring the proactive promotion of the social housing model that underpins all forms of social landlords and in every part of the UK is negligent.

The individual and often great job that social landlords do at a local level helps explain the perplexity of the passionate and motivated housing professional yesterday as evidenced by the social media outcry.  How the hell could this even be suggested sums up the perpexity and anger that littered Twitter (and Facebook by tenants) yesterday.

How the hell this was allowed to happen is all down to the inaction of social housing leaders who have not found their voice for three decades and when on the odd occasion they have nobody listens because politicians are apathetic to the social housing model and the populace only see it as their taxes paying for scroungers watching Jeremy Kyle.

The time has long past when action is needed, real forceful action by ‘housing people’ to persuade government and the general public of the huge benefits that social housing brings such as starting with facts that it actually SAVES the taxpayer money and so many more.  Sod talk and misplaced hyperbole such as HfB, get off your arses and do something is what is needed and needed urgently and desperately.

However, late last night it emerged that housing people must cast serious doubt on the ability of David Orr, the number one ranked most important housing person, and the NHF he leads as being competent or even willing to do that.  Generation Rent one of the founding members of HfB withdrew from it and why they did so is contained in a damning indictment of David Orr and HfB however tactfully it was written.

Read the extract below and it says that the NHF led Homes for Britain campaign is allowing itself to have its balls squeezed by the private sector RLA.

We have spent the best part of a year trying quietly to move HfB on these matters with a modest goal of getting it to a status of minimum viable campaign. But with the Conservative proposal on extending right to buy to housing associations, and now Labour’s silence on whether they would support or oppose this proposal, we think our concerns have been proven correct. Homes for Britain, with a £750,000 budget, has through its funding outvoiced all but the most exceptional housing campaigns and yet has not even attempted to box in politicians into positive policy positions.

No significant advance in housing policy has been achieved from any party in a year and, in fact, retrograde policies are now a reality.

We believe this is because HfB has taken a lowest-common-denominator approach when that denominator is the Residential Landlords Association. And of course, right to buy in the HA sector will principally benefit private sector landlords.

We’re not asking you to leave Homes for Britain. But apart from the RLA, we believe its scope is less ambitious than the aims of almost every other member of that coalition. So we are asking you to consider how to support effective campaigning in the light of that lowest common denominator.

This is a scathing attack on David Orr personally, on the National Housing Federation and on all the other social housing members of the Homes for Britain campaign.  It outlines chronic inactions even when the sector finds it voice and does not know what the hell to do with its voice in terms of campaigning and all it seeks to do is try to compromise all views all the time and as a result does bugger all of worth.

Housing professionals recognise the concept of meetings for meetings sake and the concept of all fur coat and no knickers which is how Generation Rent describe the Homes for Britain campaign.  It tries to be all things to all men (and women) and in doing so hasn’t achieve anything and has no prospect of every achieving anything.

The social housing sector needs an organisation to promote and lobby for the social housing model.  A new body is needed and one that as Tony Stacey head of Placeshapers said yesterday is willing to take the gloves off  approach and in simple terms kick some ass.  Generation Rent should not and cannot lead such a body as its main focus is on high private rents and especially because the notoriously conservative social housing organisations will see it as an outsider.

The social housing model that we as housing professionals are so passionate about needs the likes of SHOUT but with 100 times its voice and 100 ties its funding to promote and lobby the social housing model to the public and to government, and critically in that order of priority!  Governments whether Tory or Labour have the ineffectual and incompetent NHF and CIH in their pocket and these alleged national representative organisations of social housing have no credibility or influence.  Their past and present inept performance is precisely why.

I have repeatedly criticised Homes for Britain, Housing Day and SHOUT because they wont work and I have received plenty of criticism from housing colleagues for that, I am constantly negative and why is that Joe?  The reason is they are all nowhere near enough to do what is needed despite their aims being right.  After yesterday, Housing Day and Homes for Britain are as dead as a dodo and they will quietly disappear into the ether.  SHOUT may survive and of the three campaigns to date it is the one that deserves to survive and attract support.

However, I strongly suspect that a new organisation will emerge, probably out of all the HAs getting together to take the legal fight over RTB, and dedicated to the promotion of the social housing model (for HAs!)  That is also not enough as HAs have differing needs to other social landlords and HAs make up just 53% of social landlords.

The sector needs to be bold and radical.  The gloves need to be off and the sector, the 100% of all social landlords for whom the social housing model underpins and not its fragmented parts, needs to seriously kick some ass.  I would be more than willing to support such a body if only it existed, which if it is not created quickly will see me and all of my housing colleagues more than taking a quick look at our CVs as the social housing model’s demise becomes one of the major regrets we all speak out in the nursing home.

PS – Demise of social housing as hyperbole? No – see my post yesterday that regardless of who wins the election they both will implement the overall benefit cap which will kill the social housing model by the end of the next parliament


9 thoughts on “Housing Think is an oxymoron – Housing Action an even bigger one!

  1. Hi Joe

    I agree with a lot of this, but once again you lump #HousingDay in with the campaigning of sector representative bodies. It is not that. It is an opportunity for people in the sector to tell the world about their work, to feel proud of what they do, and make common cause with others doing similar things. It is not a campaign as such.

    I dont think you can complain about people having the wrong image of the sector and then lay into the idea of people telling their real stories to the world

  2. John, some fair points yet #HousingDay is and has to be a campaign else what is the point? It is a programme of events and ‘stories’ aimed at achieving something and that is a campaign. I totally agree i is different to HfB and other campaigns as in who is leading it and after all it is only held 0.002% of the year. Yet its purpose is to promote social housing like the rest.

    #HousingDay is not a 100% public facing campaign though better targets the general public than other campaigns and housing needs a directly facing general public campaign 365 days of the year not just one day. In fact given the lack of a voice social housing has chosen not to have for decades it needs a 24/7 365 day publicly facing voice that is shouting its head off at a decibel level that makes a jumbo jet sound quiet.

    Unless social housing does get its acts together there will be no “…opportunity for people in the sector to tell the world about their work, to feel proud of what they do, and make common cause with others doing similar things..” because such a (purported) sector wont exist.

  3. As a Social Tenant I agree with you completely Joe – How I long for a return to the days of Co-operative housing Associations – Local Action for and by Local people

    1. Jayne, local action is not enough if, as is the case, the social housing model which underpins ALL forms of social housing and social landlord is under concerted attack which it is from coalition AND Labour policy on the benefit cap and direct and monthly payments and both accepting right to buy

  4. ONE of the huge issues that HA’s badly need to address is how their housing is allocated.
    They have absolutely NO say in that whatsoever!!
    I am Disabled. I am housebound. My house is adapted. And I pay the bedroom tax. On a HOME I have lived in for almost, 24 years.
    I have been in touch, MANY times with my HA. Even the CEO. On what my options are, IF, I wished to downsize.
    The major difficulty of course, is the total, LACK of smaller, ADAPTED properties, that would meet my needs.
    However, the system that is in place. Is, NO help, AT ALL.
    They have told me. That, they CANNOT circumvent the Councils bidding system.
    So, it IS the Council, who decide, WHO lives in their properties!!

    Complete and utter madness. If, you ask me!!

    1. Debbie – Simply not true at all. HAs own the properties and can and do say who they house and not. HAs are obliged to help the LA with housing needs but can put two fingers up to LAs as and when they wish and irrespective of any nomination agreements.

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