Jeremy Corbyn today in about 8 minutes at Prime Minister’s Questions achieved what the UK social housing sector, the CIH and the NHF have failed to do in 35 years! He put social housing on the UK political agenda!
That has been one of my constant criticisms of the UK housing sector and a valid one despite these at times lapsing into enpassioned ranting. I have repeatedly and correctly criticised the CIH and the NHF as:
- Not being able to lobby themselves out of a wet paper bag and,
- Dismissed the deluded assertions of the NHF in particular who claimed Homes for Britain was a success when it was woeful and failed to put social housing on the agenda at all.
- I have also roundly criticised ‘housing’ for failing to make their argument public-facing too and yet this remarkable (and very welcome) turnaround has been achieved by Corbyn using the most important questions from….Yes the general public!
Corbyn put affordable social housing on the political agenda and right at the heart of it and I would encourage #ukhousing people to also watch back the BBC Daily Politics show on the BBC iPlayer too as arch Tory Andrew Neill laid into Ed Vaizey for the woeful house building record of the Tories.
If you do you will see there is no hyperbole here and it feels good, bloody good in fact, to be able to say at last that social housing is very much on the political agenda!
We even had Andrew Neill stating to Ed Vaizey a new housing phrase in this whole issue – that of Tory NIMBYISM when it comes to the development of housing – as well as his strong assertion that we need 200 – 250,000 new houses per year and not the woeful 137,000 that the Tories have built last year which is below the pre-recession Labour figures of 2006.
In short, almost all of the ‘messages’ that housing people know and repeat amongst themselves and have done for years if not decades are now mainstream items on the highest political agenda….and all of that came to ass in about eight minutes!!
It would be very easy for me to lambast the woeful housing sector attempts at lobbying over the past 35 years and I could easily write I told you so in the largest capital letters too because I have been saying all of these issues for years and of course housing people, the great and the good of social housing have done the exact opposite!
Yet these 8 minutes or so cannot be allowed to lapse into recrimination, schadenfreude or a blame game however easy and deserved that is. The UK housing sector needs to build on this and strike while the iron is hot.
This means the primacy of the SHOUT report for its economic rationale over the woeful NHF “A Plan for Homes” which excludes new social rented housing at all as part of the reduced 120,000 homes per year plan that the admittedly woeful Homes for Britain had at 200,000 a few months before.
Yet it also means, critically, that the housing sector has an unrivalled opportunity to put its messages into public facing and simple arguments. The SHOUT report will never be read by the general public, it is an economic tract and not for public consumption.
It is time to distil its arguments into simple messages targeted at the general public such as:
- social housing provides the best product at the best price with the best service
- social housing enables the aspirational to save for a deposit far more quickly
- social housing is not the housing of last choice
- social housing is much higher quality than private rented housing
Or even, it is the only place your children and grandchildren will ever be able to afford given the perverse London housing conditions putting home ownership and even private renting out of affordable reach. (And of course the sector only focuses on the perverse London market that does NOT house 5 in every 6 social tenants!)
The ‘sector’ has NEVER sold or promoted the social housing model since the original RTB of Thatcher 35 years ago. Instead it has allowed the less than subtle cultural element of RTB to hold sway – i.e. anything other than home ownership means you do not aspire and merely settling or even choosing social housing is a second-class choice.
The ‘sector’ also needs to get off its lazy consensus backside and grab this opportunity by the horns …. yet it is so full of ‘we have always done it this way’ people and full of abject denial that they could have possibly done anything wrong in the past that change and especially fast change is anathema.
I am sure many words will be drafted over this first Corbyn PMQs yet the one thing it has most definitely done is put social housing firmly on the political agenda and the sector needs to not waste this opportunity to hammer the many points home it needs to.
PS – It feels weird writing a positive piece about social housing and I have to include at least one profanity so dear housing people do not FUCK this up!
PPS – A housing person today said the NHF “A Plan for Homes” does not say no social rent so here again I remind you all that it does say that!