Social Housing in Jericho

Social housing:-

  1. The best product
  2. The best service
  3. The best price.

Yet it has the worst reputation!

This is the ultimate perversity of any good or service as this simply should not happen and goes against every conceivable business tenet and tract and defies logic and common sense.  It is all the more perverse when that same product and service is so hugely in demand: Yet all the above is reality and fact so…

…what the hell is going on here?

That is the question that everyone in social housing needs to address and quickly.  That same question has been met with the lazy ostrich swan syndrome or LOSS for the past 35 years since the original right to buy.

  • Lazy – everyone has thought it was someone else’s job to promote the social housing model
  • Ostrich – everyone has buried their heads in the sand over this
  • Swan – Mute!
  • Syndrome – All the above has been a pervasive consensus and commonplace and easily recognisable

In the UK you either buy or rent a property in broad terms.  The rental market, outside of Mayfair penthouses et al, is between the social rented sector, the SRS of council and housing association landlords or the PRS the private rented sector. Whether you rent in order to save for a mortgage deposit or will never be able or even inclined to buy matters not a jot, the choice is the SRS or the PRS.

The simple comparison between these two sectors has universal agreement that the SRS average property is of a better standard which for example Decent Homes criteria proves beyond any doubt, the customer has a better service level backed up by statute and case law and of course it is much cheaper to rent.

I am not disparaging private landlords as many of them are very good,  I am simply saying all the above is true and valid and has very little moot points or disagreement. Yet the laziness amongst social housing professionals is stark as they have always failed to promote the social housing model – and even that assumes they have even attempted to do so.


The best product / best service / best price arguments are simple and very powerful and they apply right across the very diverse housing markets we have in the UK whether we have £1 houses for sale in the North East or whether referring to Mayfair.  These best product / best service / best price arguments form the social housing model which underpins social housing yet they are never sold and never have been and that is gross negligence!

Irrespective of the inevitable housing silo mentality that sees widely different housing issue on a regional and intraregional basis, the social housing model, the best product / best service / best price arguments still pertain yet are never stated.

Instead we have the housing sectors umbrella organisations in CIH, NHF etc now squawking like headless chickens over the Housing Regulators VfM agenda yet best product / best service / best price arguments just blow that VfM non-argument out of the water!

The current context of social housing sees best product / best service / best price arguments has never been more necessary too. (Yes if only repeated red ink was one-thousandth as annoying as the ineptitude of social housing these past 35 years!!)  The context sees two main issues:

  1. The first is that this government has no time whatsoever for the social housing model and the main opposition is petrified to even scrutinise government housing policy in case it appears as ‘pro-welfare.’  This also sees social housing adopt its non-challenging and apathetic there is nothing we can do role position.
  2. The second is that ‘customers’ are demanding more and more genuinely affordable housing as they cannot afford to buy and cannot afford to rent privately which presents a massive opportunity for social housing as it is largely the ONLY option for many.

The irony of the above is the non-challenging apathetic position leads to housing being blamed for the general public desire for more social housing not being available: There is in short an intrinsic and indisputable link between the two that sees ‘housing’ being blamed for government policy failure.

Yet still housing (a) does not challenge and (b) carries on as before in not promoting the social housing model.

However, we do see murmurings of some in housing finally realising they need to promote the social housing model and who they need to promote that model to – the general public.  Anyone recall cartoons or comics when a light bulb would appear over somebody’s head?  Unfortunately and true to social housing form the ‘comms teams’ take on a huge increase in importance and increase in visibility…yet nobody has told them what messages they need to promote! Psst here’s a clue but don’t tell anyone!

Best Product, Best Service, Best Price.

I have even taken away the red ink and reduced the font to conform to the belittling of these simple yet incredibly powerful and persuasive messages that social housing does and has always done.  It seems that my 20+ years in it have not made me immune to this pervasive virus that afflicts social housing professionals!

Let’s go back to the second contextual issue above “... ‘customers’ are demanding more and more genuinely affordable housing as they cannot afford to buy and cannot afford to rent privately…” and seriously consider what this means.

As they cannot afford all other options at a pragmatic as well as cynical level means that many more potential customers or tenants are having to consider social housing; and they are having to despite the perceptions they have of it as being sink estates and replete with neighbours such as White Dee and other numerous poverty porn television programmes.

The general public has this perception because nobody has ever promoted the social housing  model to them and its best product, best service and best price arguments.

  • Staying on that point why has the perception been allowed to foster that future home owners rent privately in order to save for a mortgage when they can save so much more and so much quicker if they rent social housing?
  • Then ask yourself why social housing has been labelled as welfare dependent when its average rent of half the price of privately renting means the ‘benefit tenant’ can afford to take up a job paying far less than his privately renting neighbour?

The above two bullet points illustrate the negligence and incompetence of social housing professionals as the widely held perceptions I describe are simply ludicrous.

These (mis)perceptions hold sway and have been allowed to hold sway because the social housing sector is (a) often mute,  (b) it never promotes the social housing model and (c) even when it does act it does so reactively and never proactively and at all times (d) it is bloody awful at doing it!

It’s time the Teflon-coated social housing professional self-medicated with a liberal dose of mea culpa


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