Radical hyperbole -v- Dangerous vacuous incompetence – The Guardian on social housing crying wolf

hannah fearn dangerous

In the most vacuous and incompetent and dangerous piece of reporting in years Social housing has nothing to fear from this Tory government writes Hannah Fearn in the Guardian.

Are we facing the systematic destruction of the social housing sector? That’s what some of the more radical commentators on housing policy under the Tories would have us believe.

Hannah being Hannah attempts to answer her own question about the systemic destruction of social housing yet fails to discuss it at all and merely says social housing is moaning and then perversely concludes – again without any reasoning whatsoever – that the removal of housing benefit to 18 – 21 year olds is the worst welfare reform (sic) threat to social housing from this government.

Hannah being Hannah then gets into name calling.  I am a mere blogger and have not spent over 20 years working in social housing.  I am a mere blogger who Hannah, being Hannah, after labelling me as such, then refers to an article I penned criticising Labour’s support of the overall housing benefit cap, what she and so many others errantly just call the benefit cap, as being an attack on Tory housing policy!  That apparently makes me a radical with an overt political rationale.  I nearly choked on my quail eggs reader!

Blogger Joe Halewood concludes that government caps on housing benefit and the introduction of “affordable rent” tenancies, at 80% of what the market can bear, together amount to “the death of the social housing model”.

Hannah, being Hannah, instead of producing any counter argument whatsoever simply chooses to reduce the linkage between the overall housing benefit cap and the AR model and resorts to the vacuous journalistic strategy of the Daily Mail in opening with sensationalism and then not saying anything at all about the merit of the argument she finds so sensational.

She fails to mention any counter argument to my very detailed analysis of the benefit cap and also writes some vacuous incompetent and frankly lazy nonsense about the so-called ‘affordable (sic) rent’ model. “…the introduction of “affordable rent” tenancies, at 80% of what the market can bear…”  The market for social housing, the sector that has 3.9 million tenancies according to the English Housing Survey of which 3.34 million receive housing benefit is the social housing market, its target market and the market it has had for decades.

That market CANNOT bear the AR model and even if it could the reduction in the overall housing benefit cap to give it a more accurate title, ensures that they cannot.

The OHBC policy means that the tenant cannot afford the rent and the social landlord cannot afford the tenant on benefit as the rent cannot be afforded.

The OHBC makes AR extremely financially toxic to a mere 86% of the market for social housing but of course does not stop Hannah Fearn, in being Hannah Fearn, from naively using the cliche of what the market can bear without any thought as to what that means!

Hannah, being Hannah, then goes on to criticise Tom Murtha:

Tom Murtha, a former housing association chief executive turned founder of the Shout campaign for investment in social housing, says he is witnessing the “slow death” of the tenure. He says the sector has already been reduced to a “rump” and will be lost entirely to the next generation.

Tom is more than capable of standing up for himself but the founder of the Shout campaign is an interesting comment. A fellow founder of the SHOUT campaign is Colin Wiles who is a mere blogger too…er… oh and a highly respected housing consultant of many decades too who only last week had a piece in the Guardian, stating that the biggest threat to social housing is the overall housing benefit cap which is worse than the proposed right to buy for housing associations.

The big housing story of the moment is the expansion of the right to buy, but the imminent cut in the benefit cap from £26,000 to £23,000 could have a far more devastating impact upon social landlords and tenants.

Colin’s article entitled ‘The reduced benefit cap could be the killer blow for social housing‘ (my emphasis) mainly discusses the impact of the reduced OHBC in a London context yet it will have a national impact and looks at the OHBC from a tenant profile and not from a social landlord stock profile that is also necessary to understand the complexities and dangers the OHBC poses for the survival of the social housing model.

At a simplistic level it means that tenants on benefit who fully occupy a three bed or larger social housing property – even on a social rent basis never mind the much higher AR basis – are unlikely to afford social housing as housing benefit will not cover the rent and the benefit tenant will need to top up that social rent level.

Given that 36% of all social housing stock is 3 bed and larger, the ubiquitous 3 bed social housing property becomes financially toxic and something that market cannot bear.  But hey that is just this mere blogger being radical citing valid detailed points and not employing the vacuous journalistic style and language and incompetence of Hannah being Hannah.

The OHBC attacks the core business of social housing and makes the social housing model as we know it far too financially fraught to operate.

When your core business is under such severe threat the last thing housing associations are in a position to do is to expand and develop further.  This is why the argument of the National Housing Federation, the only argument they have against the only battle they are fighting in the extension of the RTB to them, is quite simply pathetic and business naivety.  If your core business is so much under attack of being financially sustainable you are not going to be in any position to develop and expand!

Yet those arguments, which are there for all to see, attract no counter argument from David Orr and Hannah being Hannah continues in her naivety with her pithy vacuous style

Of course Hannah does not say which battle this is or indeed does she comment on who is to fight any given battle or that social housing tends not to fight the majority of battles and instead issues the pithy cliche above.  Perhaps hannah can enlighten the social housing sector of a battle that social housing has won in the past ten, twenty or even thirty years or even one when the social housing sector has chosen any other ‘weapon’ than tugging its own forelock? Ahem…

Hannah being Hannah continues…

National Housing Federation chief executive David Orr sensibly sidesteps such hyperbolic language, but in last week’s Guardian interview he suggests that government policy will make it “very, very difficult for housing associations to develop new homes”. But that’s not quite right. At the very best, it’s far too simplistic.

Yes Hannah being Hannah has caught the IDS virus.  You know the one reader, she says what she believes and when the vacuous nonsense she believes is put under any scrutiny – and barely scratching the surface of her thought is enough – she responds with she believes it to be right…and fails to give any counter argument or state why she believes her beliefs to be right!

Hannah being Hannah does have a point when she says housing associations and the social housing sector more widely tends to moan

Who wants to listen to a hypochondriac who thinks they’re dying just because they’ve got a bit of indigestion? Government reforms might stick in the craw, but they do not spell the end of social housing. That’s just crying wolf.

Yes housing does tend to moan and not take actions but to say that the social housing model is only suffering a bit of indigestion and is not under attack is a ridiculous posit and premise.  This is no crying wolf at all and the core of the social housing model, that is delivers a genuinely affordable housing to those who cannot afford to buy or cannot afford high private rent levels because they are not in work and in 22% of cases unable to work, is under sustained attack.  The 22% unable to work is what the English Housing Survey correctly calls ‘other inactive’ and what soundbite lazy journalists lump alongside those unemployed and collectively and pejoratively label as the workless!

The ‘other inactive’ as well as those unfortunate enough to be out of work can only live in the social housing model as there is nowhere else for them to live – that is the reality of the social housing tenant and its market and social housing’s ‘customer’ cannot afford it and it cannot afford them.

The overall housing benefit cap, so called because unless you currently have 6 or more children the only benefit that is cut is housing benefit, fundamentally attacks the social housing model and right at its core.  The total other welfare benefits and child tax credit is deducted from the cap figure leaving a residual maximum housing benefit that can be paid.

That is how the correctly called overall housing benefit cap works and means that a couple with 2 children in London receiving £267.42 per week in WB/CTC will only receive £173.37 in housing benefit when a 2 bed AR property in most of the capital is way in excess of £200 per week.

That means no job no house.  It means lose job lose house

But hey I’m just a blogger crying wolf and Hannah is of course right in what she says and believes because she is Hannah!

The Guardian has a habit recently of (to lapse into my blogging alter ego) talking absolute shite when it comes to the impacts welfare reform (sic) policies will have on the social housing model and beyond.

In one article here when the journalists frankly wet themselves over an alleged leak which said and additional 40,000 children will go into poverty because of the reduced OHBC.  Yet in that same article and in one a few days earlier they reported the reduced OHBC will affect an additional 90,000 families each of whom will have at least 3 children on average; or 270,000 children would live in households affected when their subsistence level welfare benefits – and the minimum amount the law says you need to live on – has to supplement the housing benefit they receive thus throwing all of them into poverty.

Sorry reader there I go again using those pesky facts against the vacuous incompetent Guardian – you know the Guardian with the ‘facts are sacred’ tagline it uses – and of course that is me being a radical hyperbolic yet mere blogger in doing so.  I really should knw my place shouldn’t I?

Hannah Fearn and other Guardian journalists have written some excellent pieces over housing policy and how welfare reforms affect it and I have openly praised that when due.; yet when they write dangerous vacuous nonsense such as this I will criticise just as I will constructive criticise and constructively praise all other journalists and especially so when they attempt to pigeonhole me and my work with pejorative labels and present no counter argument to mine.

Or in simple terms, if you are going to dish it out you better be prepared to take it!

Radical!  This government’s policy with the reduced overall housing benefit cap policy and by the Guardian’s own reporting sees at least 270,000 additional children placed into poverty.  I get called a radical for stating opposition to that!  For those who don’t oppose the radical nature and impact of that policy there are plenty of words and phrases far worse than radical.  For those that fail to see this impact and downplay that impact and call those that do….


9 thoughts on “Radical hyperbole -v- Dangerous vacuous incompetence – The Guardian on social housing crying wolf

  1. In recent years, I have found the Guardian just to be a paper for the middle-class, who pretend to be ‘Green’. Whilst continuing with the excessive consumption and flying regularly abroad. With total disregard to the damaging affect they have on local communities and environment. Like some senior members of the Green Party, they have no empathy or affinity for the poorer members of society Even calling those who live in council (what little is left, especially in Manchester) or social housing, as being uneducated and a waste of time, trying to engage with. I do not think there is a decent national paper left in the UK.

    1. We are all of course entitled to our opinion yet what is particularly disturbing here is that NO REASONS WHATSOEVER are given to back up the opinions. That is a new low point

  2. Her piece made me feel ill when I read it. Such self-righteousness when you are discussing the displacement of thousands of kids is sick. Particularly annoying was her smiling mug shot : “I’m alright Jack”. it’s not a joke or an opportunity to point score Hannah.

  3. Having read Hannah Fearn’s article as a result of your blog post above, I do not agree it was either dangerous or incompetent. Nor do I share the view that social and affordable housing is under attack (presumably by people with a bias towards the politics of the “right”) and has to be defended. (Presumably by people with a bias towards politics of the “left”.)

    As the general election showed, the housing crisis crosses political party divides. Therefore to continually politicise housing into “red” issues v “blue” issues is not a line of reasoning that will lead to solutions acceptable to those of us who are sick of divisive politics and politicians. It would appear everyone has an opinion but very few propose any viable solutions.

    1. This is not about party politics Paul: both Labour and Conservative are fully committed to the cap. It’s actually about the kids whose lives are going to be ruined by doing their homework in a bed and breakfast whilst their mum sobs on the couch. You have NO CLUE mate. Grow up and get yourself an imagination plus a pinch of empathy.

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