Social Housing – No time for reflection only for actions, and boy does the truth hurt!

Dear Housing People,

As a child my Mother had one of those sayings many Mothers repeat like a mantra when I couldn’t get what I wanted or get my own way.  One of those sayings that as a child really got on my nervesand one that sticks in my memory because of that…The Truth Hurts

Time for some housing truths

  1. Today is the day you HAVE TO wake up and smell the coffee.
  2. You have to stop using words and start taking actions.
  3. There is no time to cry or dwell
  4. Rip up your errant past thinking and prepare to abandon the sacred cows every housing professional is brainwashed with such as you are a movement or any wishy-washy moral imperatives
  5. You are not going to get more investment – morality never does
  6. Social housing was never an election issue apart from giving it away to HA tenants in RTB.
  7. Homes for Britain advocates were delusional.
  8. You are not a sector as even David Orr said when addressing you as housing people not as a sector and you bloody well need to become a unified sector yesterday and act not talk – decisively and radically
  9. You have been silent and apathetic for 35 years and that has to stop now
  10. Social housing IS a political issue. More importantly its an economic good and you, housing people, have never sold social housing for its huge economic benefits – or to coin the oft-heard cliche about politics, its the economy stupid!!

I could draft twenty more off the top of my head to the above ten but you  get the picture! It’s time to grow a set, put up or shut up, stop moaning, get out of your self-imposed delusion that everyone else sees social housing the same way that you do.

Pushing through the market square so many mothers sighing. News had just come over, we had five years left to cry in.

That 40 year-old Bowie lyric is much more apt than you first think when you consider the greatest danger to the survival of the social housing model that is about to rain down on – the Tories reduced overall (housing) benefit cap.  Direct payments, 5 more years of bedroom tax, the inevitable accelerated rollout of the pig’s ear called UC that will now happen,and yes, even right to buy for housing association tenants pales into insignificance compared to the Tory OHBC and the damage this will cause for social tenants and especially social landlords.

The average social landlord has 36% of its properties being 3 bed and larger and they are financially toxic products with the OHBC.

  • The 3 bed cannot be fully occupied as the workless tenant cannot afford the massive top up to the rent the OHBC means.  Similarly, the social landlord cannot afford to house the workless tenant household because of the financial risk of arrears.
  • The 2 parent 3 child household will need to find at least £30 per week from other benefits to top up the rent or double the average and unaffordable bedroom tax top up.
  • The 1 parent 4 child workless household will need to find £90 per week to top up the rent on an average 3 bed social rent property
  • Thankfully this means the AR model is as dead as Esther McVey’s desire to take over from Cameron

Workless – I despise that pejorative term and what it means is those who are unemployed and the sick and disabled and others who have to reside in social housing and always have done and whom the English Housing Survey more appropriately calls other inactive.

Below is a simple graph from EHS figures which shows who social housing accommodates and what it is in comparison to the private rented sector an reveals the scale of just how many social tenants are going to be affected by the OHBC – the workless or those unemployed and the other inactive that account for one-third of all social housing tenants compared to just 15% of the PRS

obc wholivessocialhousing

Note well how when looking at the risk of the OHBC from a tenant profile the SRS has one-third of its tenants being ‘workless’ (unemployed and other inactive).  Then compare it to who the private sector houses


Less than half are workless and at risk of the OHBC in the PRS compared to social housing and that is historical as the PRS model does not cater for the sick and the disabled.  The PRS targets its tenants and with the OHBC it will be exceedingly quick to change the target tenant profile because of the OHBC unlike social housing.

Social housing has tinkered with being more selective in targeting tenants because of the bedroom tax which sees for new, but not existing tenants, much more selectivity on allocation.  Yet the OHBC meaning the ubiquitous 3 bed social housing property is financially toxic means current allocation policies are as dead as McVey’s chances of succeeding Cameron.

Sorry LA homeless partner, we can’t afford to rehouse the hundreds of thousands of homeless families the PRS has made homeless as from today due to the OHBC.  We’d like to of course, and we always have, and yes we do have a nomination agreement, but you can politely sod off we are not taking these families as we can’t afford to and by the way how are you suggesting such a move with the known financial risk could possibly be deemed ‘suitable’ under the 1996 Housing Act?

Dear housing people, you have not even begun to realise that the OHBC is the death of the social housing model and the scale of what you HAVE to do from today is the most radical change in social housing that has ever taken place, and yes I include the original RTB in that statement too!

The OHBC is the greatest ever attack on social housing and once you start to unravel what it means the only way you can survive is by having a swear box!!

I stated above that as a national average according to EHS and corroborated by the Statistical Data Return a social landlord has 36% of stock being 3 bed or larger – and these are financially toxic products with the OHBC.

I have broken these percentages down by landlord, by landlord in each LA area, and by LA area amongst others for all social landlords and over 30 social landlords have over 50% of their stock being 3 bed or larger! Yes that means 30 social landlords have a majority of their housing stock being financially toxic due to the OHBC!!!!

The list broken down by proportion of 3 bed and larger stock is dominated by LSVTs – the stock transferred organisations from former council housing.  Logical when you stop and think as all councils have primarily built family sized housing for the last 60 years.  For them the OHBC is ten times the financial and sustainability risk of RTB!  Yes my rants on the OHBC all start to make sense now don’t they housing people?

Very recently I began to discuss the huge and various implications of the overall housing benefit cap with social landlords.  Housing benefit (HB and LHA) is the ONLY benefit to be cut due to the way the benefit cap works and why I correctly label it as OHBC!

Dear housing people, what percentage of your tenants receive HB?  Ah!  Yes my rants on OHBC beginning to be viewed differently now?  You are starting to go a bit ashen in the face and swearing under your breath?  Entirely understandable.

Yes the truth hurts doesn’t it?!

So number 11 on the list I started above is stop blaming the messenger and complaining that all I do is be overtly negative about social housings great and good and their timidity in not challenging and their inability to take action and their huge lack of anything resembling good business practice and the total lack of any thought!

Ok a bit of a rant but all my perceived negativity is now finally getting through.

For a £15 billion+ per annum industry that has no one single lobby proactively campaigning for the social housing model that underpins the council, ALMO and HA social landlord types is negligence of the highest order and such a lobby needs to be formed yesterday.  And that campaigning lobby needs to have some balls and rip up the decades of previous thought and inactivity and the usual suspects need to set aside any personal or other egos in doing so.  Yet I doubt that housing people can form any such sector quickly or not.

On a specific level I have developed potential viable solutions to the many typical problems all social landlords will face and have started talking with some of you.  These solutions are all viable and some of them are radical yet ALL of them are pragmatic and all stem from the starting point of do nothing or continue on your current path and you will NOT survive the next 5 years – with no hyperbole in that statement.  This is reality, cold stark reality of the OHBC and its consequences for social housing.

I anticipate many more discussions with all sorts of social landlords in the next few weeks and the brief overviews they have seen were all sent prior to the general election result and so will have understandably been viewed as a little bit of scaremongering despite the feedback that the numbers and facts drawn from them are 100% valid. Yet now the nightmare reality of the Tory OHBC is here and the reduced OHBC of £440 per week in London and circa £400 per week in the regions will be fully operative by the end of June!

It could even be earlier than that and all those social landlords that thought the OHBC was a London only issue and then only for private renting and dismissed it as a risk and even more stupidly went down the AR route – which is far more financially toxic and dead as a dodo – have 5-6 weeks to fundamentally change your business plans as that is what the OHBC means.

I could go on and on and on scaring the life out of you some more housing people and when you finally do stop and think and consider what the reduced limits of the OHBC actually mean for your organisation, you will realise just how much of an equine faeces policy this is and the diameter of the fan pointing your way is 1 mile across…or do I mean the radius?

One final point and on a very mundane practical level to all social landlords.  Get some estimate today of the cost of your reception areas being modified to place staff behind unbreakable glass screens and speaking through a grill to tenants.  Because the OHBC directly and overtly targets families with children you WILL have Mothers with 3 or 4 children in tow screaming at you saying why have they received a HB decision notice saying they are no longer entitled to housing benefit and you are housing so what the hell are you going to do about it!!

The bedroom tax did and does not affect tenants with children yet the OHBC directly targets such households with HB cuts much much worse than the bedroom tax.  It is one thing having irate single tenants having a go at social landlords for the bedroom tax, it is another thing entirely having your reception full of Mothers and children saying why the hell are you taking away the roof over my children’s head and where the f**k do you thin we re going to live!!

Yes I know its not the landlords fault but tenants don’t see that distinction and will (in part) blame landlords because you are housing and you are supposed to help us and all you are doing is saying you have to pay all your rent that you were previously getting in HB out of your ‘workless’ benefits and child tax credits.

If you have got this far housing people I hope its the finest quality Arabica you have smelling in the 5 minutes you have spent reading this.  You haven’t go 5 minutes to dwell or moan or cry.  Time for action and radical actions (note plural) and time to stop moaning and DO something.

Pushing through the market square so many mothers sighing. News had just come over, we had five years left to cry in.

The Mothers, ie your tenants fellow housing people, will be doing much more than sighing when those revised HB decision notices drop on their mats in 5 – 6 weeks time telling them they are not getting a penny no more in HB.  You know about the same time housing people will be saying just how tiring the CIH conference was this year….


PS – Previous recent posts on the OHBC can be found here, here, here and here and if you still think RTB for HAs is a bigger issue for you than the OHBC who won yesterday’s election in Cloud Cuckoo Land?!

PPS – I’ve barely touched on a quarter of the major adverse implications and consequences of the OHBC above

Yes the truth really, really, really does hurt doesn’t it!

6 thoughts on “Social Housing – No time for reflection only for actions, and boy does the truth hurt!

  1. Yes it does bloody hurt. There will be a national housing summit for tenants of all types and their supporters including current campaigns on Saturday 13th June at the Bloomsbury Methodist Church starting at 11.00 am. All welcome. Its vital we build a united campaign that can knock the Tories off their high horse.

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