Housing Group Think – Why Beano reading social housing is doomed

Does the ‘sector’ even know what social housing means?

Don’t be bloody stupid of course is doesn’t!  If it did it would have realised 5 years ago that attacks and repeated blame game tactics on those ‘workless’ people who only live in social housing means it is a full frontal attack on the social housing model as that is what social housing was created for – to house the workless.

All of the nonsense nostalgia about a doctor and a labourer living cheek by jowl is nostalgia – a warped sense of memory and convenient memory.  Admittedly some of the earliest post-war council housing may have seen doctors reside there but very quickly indeed they moved to home ownership with social housing as a stepping stone (a concept now bizarrely only seen in much higher cost private rented) and social housing housed those unable or least able to both work and afford to buy.

In short social housing is the state’s interference in the market as both left and right wing political parties knew and accepted a need for all its citizens to be adequately housed rather than reside in the squalor that characterised the pre-war era.

In really short, we subsidise you social landlords so you WILL house the vulnerable and the ‘workless’ as that is what the hell we pay you to do.

Yet for the past 50 years social landlords never thought to say but we save you a bloody fortune minister in the far cheaper rents you get in return for this, and the greatly reduced health costs quality housing gives and take away the investment you pejoratively call subsidy and our rents will have to rise to private levels and then the economy is well and truly f*cked as workers will not be able to afford to take up the low paid jobs on offer by employers.

Never in the last 35 years did the now changing social landlords say your welfare dependency culture is total bollocks as you need to earn more to take up a job if you rent privately and so that sector is far more welfare dependent than social housing.

Never in the last 35 years – since the original Thatcherite RTB – have these changing social landlords – the mass transfer from council to housing association landlords – has social landlords even attempted to counter the aspiration myth and cultural dynamic of RTB which sees home ownership as the only right form of housing and counter merely renting as a third-class desire of the stupid.

Never in the last 35 years have social landlords promoted the social housing model proactively and never in that time have social landlords ‘sold’ the social housing model and its huge economic savings it gives every taxpayer to the individual taxpayer.

Instead the alleged sector has, behind closed doors under Chatham House rules, ONLY sought to lobby the collective taxpayer in government and NOT the individual taxpayer or the man in the street and he or she believes their taxes subsidise social housing that has recently become I am working my butt off so White Dee and her ilk can sit on their lazy fat arses watching Jeremy Kyle…blah blah blah!

The picture below (shown twice so even landlords get the picture – no pun intended) is of the grateful sector (aka Smithers) thanking government (Mr Burns) for the crumbs it throws at it, such as the AR model which makes social landlords even more financially toxic and exposed with the OHBC… and any similarities to IDS as Mr Burns and any relaxed almost laconic social housing leader to his right (ahem) is purely coincidental!

the-simpsons-burns-smithers-kiss    the-simpsons-burns-smithers-kiss

For all those well meaning and hard working social housing lobbyists who say woe is me and moan like hell that this and previous governments don’t listen to the strongest evidence based policy and the strongest and most expert impacts assessment of government decided policy all of the above distils down into the following

Governments don’t give a shit about social housing because the general public and individual taxpayer don’t give a shit about it!

If your immediate reaction to that is why must he use profane language then fuck off out of the job you don’t deserve is my response!

If your mindset is oh we can’t be doing with profanity then it is the same closed mind that sees housing people carrying on with the same failed strategies of talking only to government who you know doesn’t listen and the chronic failure in housing group think that characterises social housing!

Housing group think is the problem and it is more than we have always done it this way – that old cliché that is trotted out by lazy consensus … and only when something has worked in the past is it ever valid, such as if it ain’t bust don’t fix it!

Yet the same old same old strategy of behind closed door talks and only talking to government and not to the general public / individual taxpayer has (a) never worked, and (b) is and has been bust for 35 years if not more!

Housing group think is chronically defeatist and negligently so.  An article today from one social housing CEO says I will not fight battles I can’t win and you can’t do anything anyway with a majority government!

WTF!  2010 – 2015 was the first minority government since 1974 as a matter of fact so the latter point is truly defeatist and perverse!  And in any case the 2010-15 ConDem government was a case of the minority Lib Dems being at best, poodles!  Moreover this line of reasoning truly explains housing group think in that the thought of actually thinking about trying a different strategy was anathema!

Social housing has a massive reputational problem of the housing of last resort and one the purported sector has never even attempted to counter for 35 years. Nothing explains the paucity of real thinking and chronic negligence of social landlords and their housing group think better than that.

The vast majority of my 22 years in social housing has been in that niche area called supported housing characterised by the necessity of being all about people as it all involves housing and support unlike mainstream social housing which has always been about bricks and mortar.  In supported housing we look at the same risks most notably laid down 30 years ago by the housing unit at York University of risk to tenure, risk to neighbourhood and so on, which all play second fiddle to the primary risk in supported housing – the risk to reputation – that general needs mainstream bricks and mortar focused common or garden council house housing has never looked at and never considered.

Supported housing – and more specifically I don’t mean sheltered housing but homeless hostels and other typically NIMBY accommodation based housing support services – involves a daily if not hourly consideration of reputational risk.  It is that important and genuinely that frequency of consideration to reputational risk is vital to successfully operating such a service.

It is also the antithesis of group think and collective housing group think as each supported housing unit whether the (non) homogeneous client group is single homeless, substance misuse, ex-offending, domestic violence and abuse or mental health, sensory, physical or learning disability has different reputational issues from the other and even if the same client group operated in different locales.

I could draft 10,000 words on the differences of supported to general needs social housing yet the reputational risk primacy and the focus on the individual tenant or resident is the most often used term and never customer despite having 20 times the involvement WITH and not for the person than general needs social landlords who errantly use the term customer at every turn.

The significance of reputational risk and person centred (in shorthand) is that the welfare reform policies of bedroom tax, benefit cap and more all put the social into social housing for mainstream social landlords for the first time.  Not only that they emphasise the individual or social or personal as they claim to incentivise it with behavioural or nudge theory.

The tenant can downsize – a huge personal decision.  The tenant can take in a lodger – again a huge personal decision.  Even if the rhetoric was not so superficial and even if there were enough smaller properties to move to and even if the cuts and caps saved money, which they do not and cost more, the emphasis and core of welfare reform is personal change of the tenant.

A more detailed example is the overall (housing) benefit cap confirmed as being reduced yesterday.  This means a huge increase in the numbers of social tenants affected and David Orr put this as an additional 90,000 households of which 37,000 will be social tenant households.

In order for individual social landlords to assess their own financial risk involves collecting extremely precise and up-to-date welfare benefit details of tenants as those on ESA and in the support group are exempt yet those on ESA and in the working group are not and liable to be hit by the reduced OHBC – which only cuts housing benefit which is the financial lifeblood of social housing.

Social landlords need to KNOW their tenants far more and need detailed data which they are not entitled to other than with the tenants express permission.  Yet housing group think for those landlords who realise they critically need this data they have never needed before is this will cost us and not how do we get the tenant trust so this can happen.

Contrast that relationship of trust between general needs landlord and tenant which has been damaged massively and directly by welfare reforms such as the bedroom tax with the relationship of trust that is vital in supported housing environments such as NIMBY homeless hostels where it is ever present.  (CCHA honourably excepted see below)

To gain the trust of a resident whose head is so far up his backside due to the state of homelessness and previous and current offending behaviours and/or drug and/or alcohol misuse is an absolute necessity for supported housing to work yet is rarely if ever considered to be an issue in general needs housing….until the welfare reforms changed all that with their innate focus on the personal or social.

Yet housing group think is so closed, rigid and inept that general needs housing hasn’t even looked at that troublesome, time-consuming, complex supported housing that is part of social housing for ideas or answers.  It doesn’t hold all the answers yet does hold most of them yet housing group think hasn’t even seen social landlords even look!!!

Housing group think is also so narrow and errant in so many other areas.  Housing people like to oversimplify social housing into neat little boxes such as London is a high rent area and Hull is a low rent area and then develop what it wrongly calls evidence based policy on such simplistic premises.  It occasionally goes  a touch deeper and looks at social housing on a region to region basis which they see as so much better evidence than London to Oop North paradigms yet that also ignores chronic and significant intraregional factors and facts.

Yet housing group think still sees London as homogeneous and having a collective set of housing data and housing group think invariably still sees social landlords passing Mayfair and landing on the Old Kent Road and collecting £200 while patting itself on the back for its insight into housing variables and evidenced based policy…ahem!

The reality is we have 350 local authority areas with 350 unique housing markets and 350 often unique housing problems that require 350 different housing solutions and often from 350 different leading housing landlords in those areas each with 350 different stock profiles and 350 different tenant profiles and 350 different proportions of differing homeownership to social rented to private rented ratios, and with and even before Localism 350 differing LA housing strategies which all vary by 350 degrees of subtle and not so subtly different evidence based factors. 

Housing group think believes it is just 1 sector however and 1 sector even if it could have a cohesive unifying body could and would actually be able to do something. Yet instead we have in England alone as the SDR reveals 5,119 separate housing associations or private registered providers working there and they in totality account for just 53% of all social landlords.

Some of these work in one LA, others in two or three and some in 150 LA areas all of whom have very different problems with policies such as the overall Housing benefit cap as well as the with the bedroom tax and so on.

Housing group think sees social landlords believing it is a sector.  Social landlords are surprised when I tell them that the PRS accommodates over three under 25s to its 1 under 25 so how the hell can it respond adequately to the withdrawal of HB for the under 21s announced in the Queen’s Speech.

Social landlords are surprised when I inform them that housing benefit is the only benefit that is cut under the overall benefit cap policy despite HB being 80%+ of their income stream.

Social landlords are even more surprised and refuse to believe that a tenant successful at a bedroom tax appeal means the property keeps the same rent level and same asset value and they like the tenant receives more in housing benefit because of this.

This is just another example of the closed minds that the pervasive housing group think of social landlord manifest and frankly for a purported sector that relies on HB to survive yet doesn’t know what HB regulations actually say is unforgiveable.

Yet that really does characterise (general needs) social landlords and their closed mindset and housing group think.  They delude themselves and are Teflon coated in their own minds.

They are the experts and how dare anyone even attempt to tell them they just may have got a tiny bit of their areas of operation the teeniest amount wrong, no sorry not wrong just not 100% correct! Even if social landlords have a supported housing arm it invariably amounts to a yearly overview of the managing agent relationship and the odd picture for the local press saying how wonderful the landlord is and a real community champion for providing properties for the worthy cause of domestic violence and abuse or whatever other deserving cause – even more top show than they give to their general needs tenants while producing lovely online videos of their own wonderfulness as stated in their 3902% customer satisfaction survey!

The supported housing workers run campaigns every day as part of their reputational risk critical policy activities.  Justifying why an ex-offenders hostel is fine and should have continued local support next to a housing estate is far harder than justifying 50 new social housing properties on a brownfield site yet an everyday issue that finds a solution. It comes from workers there having true passion for what they do based on a daily bombardment of blame cultures against it and all staff able to explain to the GP or the labourer why such a service is needed.

Unlike general needs social housing which uses 50 year old nostalgia in a repeatedly failed attempt to convince, supported housing uses real evidence and recognises what person centred means and reputational risk is innate and not a problem and most of all is free of housing group think that constrains the 97% of social housing that is general needs.

The antithesis of housing group think is the Coast and Country Housing Association project to support by way of funding its tenant group the appeal of the bedroom tax policy.  As I’ve explained CCHA tenants will respond by prioritising rent payment when HB is paid direct to its tenants because CCHA tenants know their landlord stands behind them and has empathy for their plights, the many plights welfare reform has brought to the personal, individual and genuinely social tenant.

CCHA is one of a tiny handful of social landlords who have seen through housing group think  yet the fact their clever business idea is seen as radical by other social landlords, though less so now as it works, also typifies the same errant housing group think.

The pervasiveness of housing group think is why I am giving serious consideration to getting out and stacking shelves in Tesco or digging holes in the road.  That is not my spitting out my dummy or a lack of heart or attitude or aptitude on my part, it is because I want no part of any alleged sector that sees 300,000 children being made homeless as acceptable collateral damage for not challenging the overall housing benefit cap – which is the current apparent NHF policy that comes directly out of housing group think.

This is especially so when the apparent and stated rationale for that is fighting ( a loose term) new RTB policy on the grounds that HAs will not be able to develop.  If HA’s cannot operate which is precisely what the OHBC means as their assets become financially toxic then they won’t be thinking at all about any development, they will have to focus 100% on the first rule of any business which is survival.

Yes just another example of housing group think, in fact the epitome of it by the ahem… sector!

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10 thoughts on “Housing Group Think – Why Beano reading social housing is doomed

    1. Further reductions have been mooted on a regional basis though no details of any reductions yet released. Labour’s public support for cap and reduction in their manifesto may also make further reductions politically possible too. I also haven’t lost sight that cap limit will remain a constant and so it does reduce in real terms year on year in any case = higher number affected each year at a higher rate, just as rents will rise each year giving higher tenant top ups required year on year too.

      1. Bill, I have a detailed blog on this issue tomorrow which will go into your question so much more – a blog I suspect the Labour Party will not like one bit

  1. Obviously we cannot leave it to the bureaucrats and politicians to save social housing – it will be up to the tenants themselves. Please give more credit to those who are making a stand against social cleansing. They stand as an example of what ordinary people can do. Basically we have to make the government’s life hell until they back off.

  2. We obviously have a VERY depressing future as social Tenants. And, I just don’t know what we can do about it. I feel helpless and really distressed.
    I send your blogs to my HA CEO. And, to the Labour party. I never even get a reply.
    We have been fighting the Bedroom Tax, since it’s introduction.
    Every Tribunal win is of course a step in the right direction.
    But, STILL, I read every day of tenants who don’t even know they CAN appeal and apply for a DHP.
    They have had absolutely, NO support from their Landlord.
    So, MANY are therefore just paying the BT. Because they think they have no choice at all.
    Then, of course, there are all those tenants who don’t have the internet. How do you reach them?? If, their Landlord, gives them no information………………..

    The publics perception, is a losing battle. Bolstered by the likes of TV programmes, like Benefit street. Etc.
    And, certain, newspapers, portraying us all as scroungers. And all the other negative comments etc.
    You only have to read the comments by the public, underneath, such articles.

    The Government, past and present, do NOT give a toss about us as human beings.
    Not, even the suicides. Deteriorating, physical and mental health.

    I don’t know, what the answer is. Because, we have already, ‘tried everything’.

    But, I, DO think, there needs to be massive, peaceful protests and march’s, on the same day. Same time. Up and down the country. In every town and city. Not, just in London.
    On a par with the ‘Poll tax’. Demonstrations.

    The country needs to come to a stand still. On, All, the issues of ‘Austerity’

    This, government are trying to take away, our Human Rights. Bit by bit.

  3. Joe I think your history is a bit flawed. My parents got a council house in the early 1960s. Then social housing was very much for the deserving poor and those in work. Applicants for council housing were vetted and the system was open to corruption with local councillors and MPs having a lot of power over the allocation system. It was not a system aimed at the workless and getting a council flat even then was seen as making the step up from a private landlord.

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