Yesterday saw the National Housing Federation (NHF) concoct a fudge deal with the government over HA tenants right to buy their homes. It was sprung like a rabbit out of a hat, or perhaps the Easter Bunny, at the very staged- managed NHF conference.
It was presented a fait accompli to the 1400(?) boards of HA members with sign up to this ‘deal’ within 7 days. In short an ultimatum with an immediate urgency on the biggest issue for the housing association movement’s history and none of the time needed to discuss this right to buy idea.
The right to buy for HA tenants is just an idea with no detailed policy on what it means for scores of practical, technical and often very thorny legal issues that would have seen and probably will still see massive political and legal arguments over the details. Within 20 minutes many of these innumerable highly moot issues surfaced on Twitter and other social media and they are too many to mention here and will form the basis on many ongoing debates.
Then we have the notion that the NHF-concocted deal gives them some authority over its members and their boards and that area provides a huge amount of debates over governance and many more issues.
Then we have the political dimension which is deeply, deeply disconcerting. A government getting their way without having to have the right to buy policy subjected to parliamentary scrutiny. This is the political equivalent of cash in brown paper bags that Brian Clough was allegedly highly fond as part of football transfer deals. It smacks of David Orr and the NHF being in cahoots with government and especially of being in cahoots with Conservative policy.
It also smacks of desperation and the deal and the ultimatum are below and it all begins to unravel with the wording which requires very close attention:
The ‘deal’ and ultimatum.
On first reading my attention was drawn to the two words I have highlighted, namely “this autumn.” Any reading of this means that the deal – for what’s it is worth – is ONLY and FULLY based on the government not introducing primary legislation on the right to buy for HA tenants (a) in the Housing Bill and (b) this autumn.
It means in lay and legal language that the government :
(a) Could put the RTB detail in another Bill this autumn; and / or
(b) The government is free to put it in the Housing Bill as an amend ‘this winter’ or ‘next spring’ or at any other time.
The deal therefore is a very temporary short-term fudge. Yet the NHF expects 1400 or so individual member organisations that the housing regulator calls PRIVATE Registered Providers to sign up to this seminal deal within 7 days!
Dig a little deeper on the above deal and we see another very significant piece of phrasing.
“For Government to agree to this proposal we will require a high proportion of housing associations (by stock) to agree.”
1. For Government to agree to this proposal – means and can only mean that (a) this is a NHF proposal and (b) that the Government have yet to agree to it even in theory. That smacks of a sellout and desperation as even if 100% of ‘housing associations’ agree the Government could still say no.
2. “…we will require a high proportion…” – This is extremely vague and given the Government could still say no even if 100% agree then the word ‘high’ becomes very significant. What if 60% agree, or 70% or what if 50% do not return a view on this deal? All of these are very pertinent questions for which there is no answer at present and all on the most seminal issue for housing associations in their 100 year plus history!
That again smacks of desperation and a sellout.
3. Note very well the wording of “…a high proportion of housing associations…”
David Orr and the NHF and its members have been at pains to emphasise they are PRIVATE Registered Providers or PRPs and they are independent and private organisations. Yet here we have the much more ‘public sector friendly’ terms of housing associations being used in a proposal from the NHF. The subtleties of that may escape those not in housing yet those working in it will recognise the climbdown this is from David Orr.
4. However THE most significant wording is “….housing associations (BY STOCK)…” and this is a huge area of contention. This is like the bad old days of the Trades Unions block vote as the largest HA may have over 70,000 votes when many hundreds of HAs only get 500 votes. Very much primus inter pares and that means the hugely commercially focused G15 group of London housing associations will get their way.
It means that the “National” Housing Federation is a misnomer and the NHF panders to and only needs the votes of the super-sized HAs with their overtly commercialised business plans all being based on the perverse London housing market conditions.
The NHF is wearing the thinnest puppet veneer of the G15 cabal and the HA ‘big boys’ and has sold out the vast majority of its membrs to the commercialised whims and commercialised interests of the HA big players.
The high proportion BY STOCK means the NHF has no legitimacy in terms of being a representative sector body and is wholly undemocratic and is seeking to hide the lack of one member one vote. The OMOV principle is the talisman for democracy and legitimacy and in this regard the NHF is a despotic bastard!
This deal is a fudge. This deal is not worth the paper it is written on as it is a temporary fudge. This deal has no legitimacy. This deal even if the despotic NHF get its way can see the Government say NO.
Is this the best ‘deal’ the NHF could come up with? The same NHF who declared the government is listening to us and accepts the housing crisis need in such a blaze of euphoric outpourings at the Homes for Britain rally …only for this same listening Government to announce the right to but for HA tenants policy the very next day?!
This temporary and meaningless fudge is selling the housing association movement down the river and the ultimatum is no more than a vote on the credibility of and sustaining the undemocratic illegitimate despotic position of David Orr. This is David Orr as a tin pot dictator asking, I rephrase TELLING the boards of HAs to do as he says.
Those same HAs and HA boards all include tenant board members with the thinnest veneer of tenant involvement and consultation. Like any board of any charity you’d be pushed to arrange a meeting within 7 days let alone get a decision and a decision that should see the tenants consulted over what is the biggest issue for them too.
Yet this ultimatum denies that deserved and necessary debate and again is a despotic ultimatum that boils down to David Orr selling out the housing association movement for a vote on his personal credibility.
The boards of housing associations should show say how dare you David Orr, just who do you think you are? And if this temporary meaningless fudge is the best you can concoct then you should resign or we should form a new and truly representative lobby with integrity and competence as we most certainly do not have that with you.