One of the huge benefits of working for yourself is you only have yourself to answer to and it can be extremely liberating. It allows me to say things I know others are thinking yet they can’t afford to say. This permits me to raise topics that are controversial or inflammatory – which I correctly call moot – as frankly any anti orthodoxy posit to social housing’s conservatism and we have always done it this way mentality is perceived that way.
The we have always done it this way posit is however not a moot one and even David Orr agrees with that in large part when on the day of the Homes for Britain rally he said this:
Housing people don’t make a fuss! I couldn’t agree more and few if any ‘housing people‘ could possibly disagree with that – “…that’s not us.” Whoever ‘us’ means to which I will return.
I unashamedly and freely call the ‘we don’t make a fuss‘ position spineless yet more importantly say that it is a chronic failure and simply does not and never has worked and the leadership of NHF to the majority of social landlords who are housing associations has been woeful – and again always has been.
The very next day after the HfB rally at which David Orr said that housing is on the agenda and the government fully take on board ‘our’ arguments etc, etc., saw Osborne reveal the right to buy for housing association tenants; the very antithesis of what the HA’s wanted.
This has developed into all sorts of rage and apoplexy by ‘housing people’ with the Genesis issue and huge criticism of Genesis and some support as to this being realpolitik and inevitable and a clear schism has emerged. It has also led to an absolute focus by HAs on RTB2 alone and ignoring many potentially worse housing policies and to even more purported realism of often the most superficial kind (one HA CEO saying we have a majority government there is nothing we can do) as if coalition government was the norm!
Yet in all of this rage, apoplexy, introspective navel gazing and even hostility, nobody within the housing sector – what even Orr can’t come to call a sector – there has been no criticism whatsoever of David Orr, the NHF more widely or the decades old orthodoxy of the we don’t make a fuss strategy!
Are housing people spineless, deluded, incompetent, set in their cautious introspective ways or just petrified to even begin to criticise the man regularly voted as the most influential person in social housing?
My only having to answer for and to myself permits me to raise this and while I have no personal axe to grind with David Orr, he is the CEO of the NHF and his strategies have failed and the buck stops with him.
There is and cannot be any doubt whatsoever that the “we don’t make a fuss” strategy has been deliberate National Housing Federation policy. There is and cannot be any doubt whatsoever that the “we don’t make a fuss” strategy has been a colossal failure and for the entire social housing sector.
Yes I am hammering that point home because it needs to be hammered home and 14 years of David Orr at the helm of the NHF has seen little, if any, positive results for the social housing model. The (at best) acquiescence to the original Affordable Homes Programme as a stop-gap compromise to the failure to even keep the then woefully inefficient grant levels which were further cut by 60% to the now realisation of its bastard devil child in the AR model being utterly financially toxic to all social landlords is a case in point.
The ridiculous hype of the HFB rally and 200,000 homes per year for a (woefully vague and wholly impractical) generation has become A Plan for Homes with a 40% drop in the number to 120,000 and not 1 of those being a social rent property.
Yet still the NHF received n criticism whatsoever from the (spineless?) housing people who purport to be a sector – not even the mildest of mild constructive criticism has flowed from the spineless within to the enemy within!
Did that throwaway phrase raise your blood pressure housing people? It was meant to and it was deliberately provocative…and of course allows you to carry on as before in the same spineless way and label the very real issues here as some form of outrageous rant by the Maverick author.
Regrettably and dangerously for the survival of the social housing model any criticism of anyone within the ethereal and imaginary housing sector is met with the most defensive form of response from the sector – the how dare you say that response!
David Orr said on 12 August 201 just a week or so ago:
“Like most of the housing sector and much of the country at large I was glued to the TV on election night. Greater political minds than mine will be assessing those remarkable results, but coming off the back of our massively successful Homes for Britain campaign I was confident…”
Ye Gods! If Homes for Britain which led to the cancer of RTB2 is a massive success !!!
To a lesser degree we see this delusion of HfB ‘success’ lead to housing people saying what a wonderful success it is for RTB2 to be front page news in the Independent! As I said here yesterday …SO WHAT!
What has changed? Has the government dropped, withdrawn or amended RTB2 in any way? No, so there is no impact whatsoever yet still many housing people think the front page of the Independent is significant and are milling around patting themselves on the back at this totally meaningless development.
Perhaps this perverse delusion stems from the ‘untouchable’ reverence around David Orr amongst housing people and whatever the most influential person n social housing says and does has two coats of Teflon sandwiching Kevlar?
The NHF’s “A Plan for Homes” besides seeing a 40% drop and especially seeing zero new homes for social rent coupled with the untouchability of David Orr gave the greenest or green lights for the Genesis issue yet of course once again the untouchable David Orr / NHF saw no criticism or support from within the sector! I also note the same sector were mute back in October 2014 when Affinity Sutton said they were pulling out of the AR market and no one thought to ask are they developing any properties for social rent!
If they are not then Affinity easily pre-date the opprobrium that Genesis have received and for whatever reason Genesis can be seen once again to be the convenient target for the sector…when the real ‘enemy within’ is the incompetent strategy of the NHF led by David Orr.
An article today in Inside Housing by Matthew Gardiner called the False Dichotomy discusses the internal schism within housing associations over the Genesis issue – an issue that the NHF ‘line’ plays a huge part in as explained above with their giving of the green light for this. This led to an exchange on Twitter between Matthew and Tom Murtha and others and (as is often the case with Twitters 140 character limitation) also led to misinterpretation of some very complex issues some of which are above.
One comment I made to Matthew as CE of Trafford Housing Trust was that the schism is not a two position issue (the dichotomy) and there are way more than 2 main premises. The housing conditions and variables and ‘market’ varies even within Trafford; is radically different to say the housing market in Bury that is also on Greater Manchester and vastly different still to other LA’s within the North West region, e.g. Blackpool and Copeland as two polarities in the UK let alone the NW and then again different from the NW to the NE to the SE and to all other areas in terms of housing market conditions.
Housing is radically different in every single local authority area in GB (circa 400 LAs) and there is no such thing as a national housing issue and the National Housing Federation have never ever mentioned this despite purporting to be a national body. They are led by and focus almost exclusively on the atypical and perverse London housing market issues that represent just 17% of the social housing GB market. They prioritise this 17% and largely ignore the other 83% of 5 in every 6 social housing properties that are NOT in the capital.
All of this comes together in one simple example and my old friend the benefit cap reductions. Guildford and much of Surrey and much of Hertfordshire has higher social rent levels than Inner London as the HCA’s statistical data return confirms. The NHF must know this so why didn’t they say excuse me minister but why is the reduced benefit cap £3k per year higher in Inner London than in the higher rent area of Guildford or Elmbridge?
Such a simple question exposes the ridiculously under considered nature of this cap reduction policy that is hugely damaging to all housing associations yet the NHF chose yet again to “not make a fuss” over an issue than can do more damage to HA survival than RTB2!
I say CAN do far more damage to HA’s unless of course the HA’s simply abandon what may be called their social purpose and simply evict and pass the problem onto LAs! This is one of the many other significant premises in the current schism and one which it would appear sees the NHF saying go ahead and evict and abandon your social purpose. Even if that is speculative what it definitively reveals is that ‘we don’t make a fuss‘ is an euphemism for we don’t do leadership!
It also neatly avoids drilling don any further as the above abandon the social purpose or not is bound to involve the anathema of Ground 8 given the average HB cut of £75.73 per week making such an eviction the only way for many HA’s to survive. The chronic lack of leadership emanates from the we don’t make a fuss strategy which also translates to all housing associations as you are on your own guvnor!
The NHF gave a 90,000 household figure estimate to the Guardian over the reducing benefit caps (with no apparent evidence base by the way) and gave the distinct impression that this woefully inadequate estimate is somehow a form of acceptable collateral damage and/or not an issue upon which housing associations SHOULD make a fuss over! Even the DWP’s wholly inept 126,000 households containing 330,000 children at severe risk of imminent homelessness – a figure that is 40% higher than the truly incompetent and inept NHF figure – fails to bring any fuss at all from David Orr and the Nat Fed!
Just the stating of social purpose and National Housing Federation in the same sentence must appear to be wholly false given the strong messages David Orr is sending out by his incompetent silence and not making a fuss! Yet still there is not a jot of the mildest of mild constructive criticism of Orr and NHF from the alleged sector who claim to have a social purpose!!
I could easily draft a further 5000 words on the crass incompetence of the NHF led by David Orr and the bloody awful and suicidal spineless silence of the rest of the housing association sector with regards to the seachange this parliament will have for the social housing model and for their own survival.
I just hope all those mute HA CEO’s DO NOT get the huge golden handshake they are expecting when the super HA’s – the real PRIVATE Registered Providers who with even more delusion than David Orr has over the success of HFB and think they can hack it in the private sector – prance into the arena on their white chargers to rescue you all!!
Now that does explain your disgraceful silence doesn’t it!