HA’s and striking the right BANK balance?

Money its a hit. Don’t give me that do goody good bullshit as someone memorably once sang aptly captures the current state of social housing and the pig’s earhole of a mess that HA’s have got themselves into.

The housing association movement (sic) has lost its social purpose and is seeking to hide that with repeated disingenuous articles.  HA’s will no longer accommodate those for whom the market does not and won’t provide and are deceitfully using smoke and mirrors by saying they haven’t lost their purpose instead of having the balls to say they agree with Neil Hadden of Genesis.

Genesis Housing Association boss Neil Hadden who when asked where the vulnerable will live infamously said the other week that “I could be harsh and say it is not my problem” which in the case of Genesis is precisely that as they have pulled out of new development for the social tenant and all social housing forms.

The HA sector has lost its ethereal purpose – ethereal as it refuses to define its social purposes except in vague platitudes – and more to the point, HA’s are happy to have lost that social purpose which they attempt to disguise with articles saying it has to strike the right balance between social purpose and commercialism.

The only balance HA’s care for is their bank balance and HA after HA is posting record surplus after record surplus after record surplus.

Hard to believe these are the same HAs with their constant bleatings over welfare and HB reforms HA’s and especially London based ones have clearly done well from with these record surpluses!

HA’s have given up any fight they may have once had and instead will once again chase the profit as government policy dictates this is what they must do. Many within the sector may not like Neil Hadden’s comments yet he is beginning to look like the only (near) honest Chief Executive when he says that Genesis will no longer build AR or genuinely affordable housing.

The L&Q striking the right balance article on the NHF site is totally disingenuous as it very conveniently fails to say HAs cannot afford the traditional ‘customer’ of the vulnerable.

The real issue is that HA’s will no longer accommodate their typical tenant groups, their real social purpose of those unable to afford to buy or to rent privately such as the sick, the disabled and other unable to or can’t work.

The benefit cap will reduce by 23% to £20,000 per year in the 83% of the country that is not London – from which all national housing policy perversely stems – and means that HA’s will no longer accommodate large swathes of the benefit household types as they simply cannot afford to do so.

From the couple with as few as 2 children on ESA who will get a maximum housing benefit of £83 per week from April 2016 to all larger households the benefit cap means that HA’s cannot afford the financial risk of arrears the traditional customer and benefit household poses.  Yet the HA movement is not even discussing these huge threats to its operations and it is a case of pay your rent or be evicted – the Neil Hadden its not my problem line which at least he has the balls to raise unlike the rest of the HA sector.

Allocation policies for new tenants will reflect this and when existing benefit households leave for whatever reason including a huge surge in evictions from April 2016 given the average HB cut of over £75 per week, will see them replaced with less financially risky tenants, ie working households on low incomes.

Higher wage income households will of course be hit with the pay more to stay policy which sees a couple both on minimum wage with 1 child being hit with higher rent levels as they go over the £30k per year income threshold which makes RTB the only viable option  as they will pay less in mortgage than the new pay more to stay variable rent levels with a purportedly social landlord!

The social purpose of the housing association movement is to provide sub-market housing for those who cannot afford to buy and for those to whom private rental is unaffordable on a low wage or unwaged.  Yet these are the households that housing associations are abandoning as the benefit cap and pay more to stay makes their product – reputedly social housing – unaffordable.

A huge part of the problem is London and London-based HAs.  London HAs lead and the rest of the HA sector follows suit as London is the power base for all HAs and once one breaks ranks, whether that be Genesis with no new AR or social rent development or L&Q with its no grant models then the rest follow like sheep.

Add to that the huge steer from the NHF in their A Plan for Homes which sees no social rent development at all and the proverbial is about to hit the fan as HAs abandon their social purpose.

The AR model was the catalyst for government intent. Government despise social rent and in return for the rhetoric of all benefit households as scroungers and under occupiers government introduced AR to bolster HA bank balances by much more then the bedroom tax cut posed to arrears.

The London HAs were incentivised to evict the bedroom tax tenant on social rent and replace them with the AR tenant and saw rent levels for a 3 bed rise from £138 per week to £310 per week.  HA’s were and have been fully complicit in the IDS HB reform agenda as getting rid of the risky tenant suits their purposes and of course bank balances.

That is why HA’s are posting record surpluses and why London based HA’s are keen as hell to abandon their social purpose and adopt their massively increased commercial practices leaving the traditional social housing tenant to councils.

The NHF is truly complicit in this as its “A Plan for Homes” makes clear and sees the NHF only consider the perverse London housing conditions and impose them by stealth and deceit on the 5 in every 6 HA properties which are NOT in the capital and 3 issues spring to mind.

Firstly the HA’s will abandon their social purpose it is inevitable yet they seek to deceive on this. Man up and cut the crap and stop projecting something you know you are not as you cannot afford the workless (sick, disabled or unemployed) household with 2 or more children. That is simple financial fact so the we will always house the vulnerable  / founding ethos  line is economic bullshit.

Have the balls to take the Genesis line openly and publicly which is the only line open to you except challenge and fight for which you don’t have the balls or inclination. Money its a hit. Don’t give me that do goody good bullshit as someone memorably once sang!

Secondly, the London HAs foolishly believe they can mix it with the private sector and they can’t as they have many constraints imposed on them because they are HAs that private developers do not and so they cannot compete.  Regardless of your high value asset bases you will get steamrollered by private capital.

Thirdly, and most important of all, just where are the traditional social households going to live?!

Money, so they say, is the root of all evil today

Chan Kataria – the group Chief Executive of EMH and not considered part of the London HA set and a more traditionalist social landlord – posts today in Inside Housing and after the usual buzzwords of agility and saying HA’s must adapt (as if all businesses do not have to???) says:

For me, the most obvious starting point is our values. These are and should be our bedrock when faced with any dilemma. Whether we reconfirm or choose to review our current values, they form the basis from which key decisions should be made, including the services we provide, the people we house, and what role we wish to play in the wider society, particularly in the context of the new devolution deals and combined authorities.

The services we provide, the people we house and wider role in society / communities are the social purpose of housing associations.  Yet the benefit cap reduction means the people we house has to change dramatically as so many of the traditional HA tenants are not affordable.

You can’t wrap this up in pithy vague language and try to conceal that HA’s will inevitably abandon the people we traditionally house as they have no choice in the matter.  Yet that is precisely what the HA movement is not saying as they are petrified to appear confrontational to the most confrontational in-your-face-we-do-not-want-social-housing-at-all government we have ever seen!

Yet again the HA’s kow tow and in the immortal words of David Orr “don’t make a fuss”or in everyday parlance have no balls and just get on with whatever scraps the government of the day is prepared to throw their way.

That will inevitably mean that services will also reduce from HAs as will any societal ethos and the community champion role they (stupidly?) positioned themselves in this past decade or more.

Adapt?  The 83% of HA’s need to withdraw from the NHF and set up their own lobby and one that fights for the 5 in every 6 HA homes not in the capital and largely NOT affected by the perverse housing conditions found there instead of being sheep and following the complicity of David Orr and the NHF in the government agenda of abandoning HAs social purpose and rapidly increasing commercialisation.

Get some gumption and for once think, as such a proposal is nowhere near as radical as it seems.

So many non-London housing people don’t want the commercial over the social and still believe in social purpose and the finances can still stack up.  Why are you being led by the perverse London housing conditions and wouldn’t you rather have your future in your hands than be led a merry dance down the complicit NHF commercialisation path?

Your social purpose business plan path is shot to pieces by the benefit cap and pay more to stay yet you unduly focus on 1% rent cuts and RTB alone.  Be bold and say we have to totally revise our business plans anyway so why not take the bull by the horns instead of being feckless and apathetic sheep being led by the High Shepherd of Commercialism?  You all say that is what you want so grow a set and actions do speak louder than hollow, vague and disingenuous words.

Force the social housing agenda and stop reacting to the abandonment of it by this government as the path they want of rampant commercialisation will see you even more buggered than you are now.  You have record surpluses and its time to match that with the social purpose intent you like to say you have.

And finally don’t be surprised if a mass social tenant lobby emerges to really challenge you rather than the controlled nonsense you now call tenant participation and involvement!  So many of you support the likes of Generation Rent and others against the private landlords, which you in all but name are becoming with the Conservative and NHF combined and complicit strategy so why do you not think that social housing tenants will get mobilised and independently funded?

You think government is your problem?  Abandon the 3.9 million social tenant households with the rampant commercialisation path and these households that contain 5 million plus voters and they WILL mobilise and kick your arse much more than government can!  On the other hand make the social housing model case public facing and a social tenant lobby will provide a thousand times more powerful a political lobby than the complicit wet blankets of the National (sic) Housing Federation and will ensure the social housing model, that mainly sprang from the 1948 Welfare State and is still the best economic model, survives.








5 thoughts on “HA’s and striking the right BANK balance?

  1. “Genesis Housing Association boss Neil Hadden who when asked where the vulnerable will live infamously said the other week that “I could be harsh and say it is not my problem” which in the case of Genesis is precisely that as they have pulled out of new development for the social tenant and all social housing forms.”

    One can hear the bones of the founders of Paddington Churches HA spinning in their graves.

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