The ‘benefit tenant’ is surplus to HA requirements

Social tenant, get off your unable and not expected to work arse and mobilise else your asocial HA will continue to treat you as a commodity, evict you and the social housing model will die.

Housing Association upon Housing Association is posting record after record after record surplus. Social tenant upon social tenant by comparison is revealing record debt upon record debt and soon to be record evictions.

HA Landlords – £and£ords as some tenants are now describing them on social media! – are doing very nicely out of austerity and HB reforms thank you very much!  That is a matter of demonstrable fact as the record surpluses reveal; the social tenant meanwhile and by comparison is getting shafted.

HA’s and tenants are not all in this together and HA’s are abandoning the traditional (HB) tenant and are meekly, and happily complicit in the Conservative government agenda to destroy the social housing model.

Do HA’s give a stuff about their alleged rationale and their alleged and mythical ethos which they like to say they have or do they just want bums on seats paying the rent whoever they are and nothing more?  On balance its the latter.

The affordable (sic) rent model has seen HAs charge £310 per week for a 3 bed property in London to a new tenant in the exact same property recently vacated by a tenant paying a social rent of £136 per week. Last year the housing regulator reporting that over 60% of AR units were these type of conversions. That is a staggering 128% rent increase and why would any PRIVATE organisation – the regulator calls HA’s PRIVATE Registered Providers – sell their product at £136 when they can get £310 per week is the simple question HA’s seek to avoid, yet the tenant can and should not.

The affordable (sic) rent scheme is nothing more than a brown paper bag bung for HA compliance to the welfare reforms.  What we take off your tenants we give you back more in increased rents through the AR mechanism.

No purportedly social landlord can say that HAs are not making huge profits and despite Gentoo in the North East issuing soundings about potential redundancies or the unreported KHT in the North West seeking 70 redundancies, housing associations are making very significant profits and doing well out of alleged HB & welfare reforms and the increase in income generated through the affordable (sic) rent model is more than any arrears losses through the bedroom tax for example.

Yet even in low rent ‘oop North’ the AR model makes it financially unsustainable to let any 3 bed property to a tenant on benefit or at risk of being on benefit.  The AR model only allows a working self-paying tenant which of course means that less and less ‘benefit tenants’ get allocated the HA property.

HAs – in the main – are all smoke and mirrors with feigned and superficial utterances against the HB and welfare reforms yet do so as their profits clearly increase!

Some HAs and mostly ‘oop North’ and also with much higher arrears risk profiles such as ex council stock transferred organisations are not making record profits and they are very much at risk.  Yet that is due to (a) operating mostly in one LA area and (b) having a very high percentage of total social housing stock in those areas as is the case with Gentoo with circa 90% of social housing in Sunderland and KHT with circa 80% of social housing in Knowsley for example.

Added to that is the local factor that the bedroom tax nationally hits 14% of all social tenants on HB yet is 22.1% in Knowsley and 20.2% in Sunderland so respectfully 58% more households are affected in Knowsley than the national average and 44% more are hit by the bedroom tax in Sunderland.

It is the rare combination of these three factors or variables that see the odd HA struggling financially yet these cases are the exception and not the rule. For example in the NW we see Stockport, Tameside, Bury, Blackpool, Cheshire East, Warrington and many more areas all having less than the 14% of social tenants affected by the bedroom tax and so the impacts of the bedroom tax are very localised and cannot simply be seen on a regional basis.

It is when the HA has a high percentage of tenants affected AND you have a perversely high level of total social housing stock that HA’s look financially vulnerable AND further when the vast majority of all rented stock is of the social housing variety.  Very few HAs have this combination of adverse financial variables and are at risk when the vast majority are making record profits or surpluses.

In simple terms the vast majority of HA’s are doing very well out of alleged reforms and that explains their ambivalence and apathy to challenge government policy.

This of course leaves social tenants – who HA’s offensively and quite simply wrongly – call customers, being left deep in the brown smelly stuff.  Tenants like and appreciate social housing and the social rent model and many of them are of working age yet either cannot work or are not expected to work through sickness, disability or being carers or single mums with children under school age.  This rump of social tenant unable and not expected to work (see below) will have a much worse lot of it when the significantly reduced benefit cap limit of £384.62 per week hits in a little over 6 months time in April 2016.

The issue is that the most vulnerable in society are only accommodated in social housing as they have no other option given the private rented sector does not or cannot cater for.  Yet these are the same ones now being shafted by HA’s record profits and their apathy in challenging welfare and HB reforms and that is going to get so much worse.

The reduced benefit cap levels will see at least ten times more vulnerable social households affected by this cut which will see many more vulnerable social tenants evicted due to the average weekly HB shortfall this gives of £75.73 per week – more than 5 times that of the bedroom tax – and especially outside of the capital.

HA landlords will simply further abandon social housing and the social rent model because the numbers say they have little choice but to become fully fledged private landlords and the 2013/14 Family Resources Survey figure of 64% of all social tenants claiming HB will fall sharply over this parliament as the majority of new social tenants will need to be a working self-payer in order to get a HA tenancy.  HA’s will palm off to the local council the unaffordable benefit tenants to deal with under their mandatory homeless duties.

This is the Neil Fadden and Genesis issue when he said that such tenants are not a HA problem and the LA’s can pick up the pieces.

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.  If you think this is an isolated view, as many HAs are suggesting, then that too is more smoke and mirrors.

How this plays out will be interesting especially in areas like Merseyside which has no council housing at all. Will this be a transfer of the problem ‘benefit tenant’ from HA to private landlord with the LA having to pick up a huge tab?  In a word, yes!

Things are going to get so much worse for the ‘problem’ tenant household on benefit and especially those who are unable to and not expected to work which I restate form the rump of current social housing tenants.

hb receipt Feb 2015

So what are social tenants to do?

They need to unite and form their own campaign lobby as apart from being the only obvious solution also makes absolutely perfect sense.   The latent or potential power of a social tenant lobby is huge and if they do mobilise they would frighten the life out of their landlords and central government. There are 3.9 million social tenancies which means collectively they include about 5.3 million adults or more specifically VOTERS.

Social tenants need to get organised and be fully independent of landlords and not be like social landlord controlled tenants groups now largely are.  Further they should not take the landlords shilling as the umbrella tenant groups such as TPAS or TAROE do – they need to be totally self-funded so they can lobby against landlords as well as government.

That may see radical to some – and will see housing professionals spit out their dummies more than Blairite or Progress MPs in the Labour Party currently – yet this is not radical at all.  This is simply social tenants uniting to fight the social tenant cause and fighting for the social rent model that is still the most economically efficient model to house those who are vulnerable.

If the supposedly social landlords who still believe social housing is a movement had any integrity in that position they would have mobilised the over 5 million adult voters who are social tenants to challenge government policy – Yet they did not and have not gone anywhere near such a position!

Ironically that failure to bring the latent power of the tenants onside may not come back and bite social landlords on the backside if social tenants mobilise on their own accord. Social landlords have, in reality, pushed the social tenants down a cul-de-sac of non-importance in their ambivalence and should social tenants unite them boy are HAs going to get stung.

There is no doubt that the social tenant can save social housing as they number 5 million + voters and well over 5 million of them are not White Dee’s or Benefit Street caricatures or the scum of the earth as ‘social’ landlords have permitted them to be perceived and labelled.

There are some genuine good guys in social housing who do genuinely care for the social tenant and for the social rent model, yet they are not just swimming against the tide of rampant HA commercialism emanating from the London based cabal of the G15 (and from some Northern HAs too), there are 50 fracking sites already on each of the respective beaches so they have no chance of stemming that tide.

The ONLY way to preserve the social housing model is for social tenants to mobilise and to frighten the living daylights out of landlords and government.

Personally, I doubt social tenants will mobilise and irrespective of how easy this is in theory and in practical terms using social media.  Pity, as if they did social housing would become a priority issue for government even this rabid anti social housing one and never again would it be sidelined politically and seen as an irrelevance and the housing of last choice and all social tenants perceived as feckless scroungers ….!

Anyone up for a social tenants union? What a silly idea to mobilise 3.9 million people into a union that would be 3 times the size of the biggest trades union we have…er….!!


Added the picture above as some comments as to PRIVATE Registered Providers and aren’t HA’s supposed to be non profit making and have a charitable ethos.

For completeness you won’t be surprised to know I pitched this idea almost 3 years ago to a leading union who rejected it…




14 thoughts on “The ‘benefit tenant’ is surplus to HA requirements

  1. yes yes & yes to a tenant union! I know someone who recently walked away from a tenants association due to not being able to challenge the HA. HA funds the group & wanted credit for the ‘welfare’ sessions there. Claim all the glory but do none of the work. When policies were questioned the group were told you can’t do that, we fund you. Nobody else in the group was willing to stand up & be counted or chance alternative funding (despite this person being a great fundraiser) so they remain the HA puppy dog.

    I don’t believe tenants will do it either. People don’t like to rock the boat or take on authority. It has to be all or nothing 😦

  2. Do you have any idea how surpluses work? The reason HAs are setting record surpluses is because development grants from government have all but disappeared. HAs need larger and larger surpluses to fund development and help tackle the housing crisis. HAs typically spend more every year than they take in in revenue, but spending on development isn’t counted as a cost in accounting so it doesn’t show when you just look at surpluses.

    And how on earth have HAs benefited from austerity and housing benefit reforms? I’d love to hear the causal mechanism by which you think that works.

    I think your blog is very informative and rightly attacks proposed welfare reforms with robust analysis. But the inexplicable hate you have for HAs is so misguided, I just don’t get it!

    1. I don’t have hatred for HAs at all. and yes I do know how surpluses work.

      No issue with the theory (as that is what it is) of HAs making surpluses – whether by AR or private sale, private rent and then recycling them back in social housing. However as the NHF “A plan for homes” says the 120k proposed new units not ONE will be for social rent.

      Hence when surpluses / excess incomes run to make enough to fund / subsidise development then social rent properties have to be built with that contrived surplus to replace grant – yet they are simply not being built and do not look likely to be built.

      1. In the article it very much seems as though large surpluses are being attacked in their own right, rather than merely because they are not being used to build social rent homes.

        The NHF’s Plan for Homes certainly does not say that not one will be for social rent. It leaves the rent regime up to the individual HAs – many of these homes will be for social rent and many for affordable rent. I’m not a fan of AR, but still it’s worth remembering most AR rents aren’t set at the maximum threshold of 80% of market rates.

        It’s true that less social rent homes will be built, but this is not the fault of HAs who are always struggling to stay viable against a tide of government attacks – it’s the fault of the government who are attacking them!

  3. Furthermore you mention HAs have “permitted social tenants to be perceived and labelled” as “scum and Benefit Street caricatures.” And you explicitly mention the g15 as being the worst of the worst in this regard.

    The g15 is carrying out a huge collaborative project which is challenging exactly that notion! Real London Lives is a mixed methods research piece showing the lives of HA tenants in London as anything but “scum” as you say.

  4. A national tenant union is a fantastic idea though, and would indeed be a massively influential lobby group. I wonder what HAs could do to support this? Traditional resident involvement has certainly not worked in the way it promised, but maybe something at the national level could really do some good.

    1. You clearly have not read the article. The idea of a national tenant union is to be fully independent of HAs and other landlords.

      If 10% of social tenants put in £10 per year then this would see a lobby or organisation 3 times the size of TPAS.

      The numbers easily stack up yet the KEY issue is that it needs to be wholly independent of social (or asocial) landlords

  5. I agree it certainly would be futile if it was set up and administered by landlords, but HAs certainly could (and would want to, contrary to what you say!) support/signpost/advertise such a group!

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