63% of social housing to be privatised by Tories – Time to Act!

Dateline Liverpool Friday the 13th November 2015 00:41 hours.

I’m drafting this at home having seen tomorrows and now today’s Financial Times front page that discusses HOW and not IF Chancellor George Osborne will privatise housing associations  (think British Gas, British Telecom and the rest of the Thatcherite sell offs in the 1980s) who make up 2.7 million of the 4.3 million social housing properties – some 63% – of what we used to call council housing.

I could say I told you so which I have repeatedly done for the last 4 years that the social housing model was deliberately being attacked by the Conservatives (with the ‘great and the good!” of social housing denying this in most of that time) yet I take no pleasure at all in being proved right on this.

I could scream with rage – as again I have done – over the inept and deluded housing associations response to the numerous and radical housing related policies introduced by the Conservatives just since the May 2015 General Election. Indeed only on Wednesday this week did I give a presentation on this at a Green Party meeting here in Liverpool.

The title slide gives it away –

ripsocialhousingAnd just to avoid any misunderstanding at all given the terminology the opening slide began …

ripsrs-welfarestaeWhat we now call social housing was what we used to call council housing and was largely created by the Welfare State in 1948 to alleviate and to slay the giant called Squalor.  As you can see above my presentation said that council now called social housing is being attacked by the Conservatives far more than education, the NHS or even what we used to call social security and the safety net.

The Tories want to eradicate the state provision of housing, public sector housing in all its forms and return to the medieval system of Feodary and Vassal to replace landlord and tenant.  They want to put all housing and the land beneath it back into the hands of the private owner and take it away from the public ownership it has had since the Welfare State began.

The Conservatives are not content with means-testing social housing which is what the combination of the benefit cap and pay more to stay gives; they want to put the housing and the land back into feudal ownership of private land lords – Lords of the Land – where their ideology dictates it rightly belongs.

Within 10 minutes of my tweeting about the Osborne privatisation plans from the FT lead story, some in housing replied so what do we do now – a stock response for housing people and mostly blame deflection meaning ok smart arse you were right so tell us what to do now then!

For the last 4 years I have been urging social landlords to wake up and smell the coffee over the Conservative plans to get rid of social housing.  In March 2015 they woke with a start as Osborne announced in his pre-election budget the extension of the right to buy for housing association tenants.  In fact Osborne’s budget was less than 24 hours after the housing associations deluded hyperbole in the Homes for Britain rally in which they said Government really values housing associations and what we do..and less than a day later Osborne does the last thing that housing associations wanted, their worst nightmare in fact, and in keeping with that we find that today, Friday the 13th, plans emerge to get rid of housing associations as we know them!

So what do we do?

1. Firstly recognise that housing associations even if they could unite have no political influence at all.

2. Recognise that the ONLY potential political power and influence in social housing is the 5.6 million adult social tenants in its 4.5 million properties who are also voters and DO have huge latent power.

Housing Associations should definitely pull out of the voluntary RTB deal and should call for David Orr to resign or create a new umbrella group yet they are a notoriously cautious as well as conservative lot and frankly they have become an irrelevant pawn in terms of political and governmental influence.

What do we tenants do?

Three years ago I pitched to a Trades Union that they should set up a tenant union along the lines of the many community branches they now have in order to fight austerity.  They – stupidly – rejected the idea.  I have been developing such a Tenant Campaign Group idea, a not for profit lobby for social tenants run by social tenants for the needs of social tenants and, critically, funded by social tenants so they are free of landlord constraints as all tenant groups in social landlords are now.

That idea was scheduled to be launched in January yet now in light of the FT story has to be ready to run today.  In very simplistic overview as to its viability imagine the political influence of a body representing 5.6 million voters can have on ANY Government!  If 10% of tenant households became members paying as little as £10 per year membership then that is a £4.3 million per year organisation lobbying for social tenant issues and be three times larger than TPAS and about 50 times larger than TAROE – both of whom are not independent and are landlord dependent.

How absurd is it that privately renting tenants have the excellent Generation Rent lobbying for their needs yet no comparable organisation exists for social tenants?

The TCG (Tenant Campaign Group) will of course join the likes of Generation Rent in areas of mutual interest such as the benefit cap which affects private and social tenants and I will be posting much more detail on TCG in the following day and weeks.

In the interim period if you would like to become involved with the TCG then I have set up a quick email account at 10anthelp@gmail.com for any enquiries and offers of support.  Let’s start focusing on the solution and not the problems and give Government and landlords the fright of their lives by unleashing the huge potential power of 5.6 million voters who are social tenants … and Friday the 13th is a very apt day for that too don’t you think!

fthaprivatisationAnyone have a meme of Osborne in a Freddy Kruger hat?


19 thoughts on “63% of social housing to be privatised by Tories – Time to Act!

  1. I have thought for a long time myself that tenant unions are the way forwards, and that such unions would be much more effective than trade unions. For starters, most increases in wages are captured by landlords in rent (and rent increases), be they social or private. So there is little point arguing for higher wages, unless one can also control his rent.

    1. There shouldn’t be ANY RTB. It reduces the stock of social housing. As it did when it was introduced by Thatcher. The money made was not ploughed back in to the building of more social housing in the quantities needed. And, it will be the exact same scenario with HA Properties.

      1. Should housing association tenants, who are mainly low paid workers, be trapped, unable to have any prospect of buying what is essentially their own home, which they have likely lived in for 20 years or more?

  2. Just a very quick message to say thank you. I have been inundated with emails of support and offers of help from social tenants across the country and it may take a few days to respond to you all

  3. Just this week at the Eastern Region CiH Conference, the policy wonks were telling us they had the ear of both Lewis and Greg Clark and asking housing professionals to get on board with their negotiations! What a bunch of naïve fools!

  4. ERr what happened to The NFTMO, TAROE etc http://nationaltenants.org/about/

    Weren’t they supposed to be our National voice?

    What happened to the Community Housing Gateway, Community Asset Ownership, Sustainable Communities and Localism?

    Having seen Defend Council Housing – defending “Councils” housing, everyone I meet thinks their should be MORE council houses? Councils whether Red,blue,yellow have done exactly the same with tenants, communities rights. Most are now registered CHARITIES and their role has become that of “protectors of the POOR”. Sucking 3rd sector grants, funding and resources AWAY from the very communities they LORD OVER!

    Social housing was NEVER supposed to be COUNCIL HOUSING, they only “managed” it on our behalf. But when it became a useful method of social engineering and “Regeneration”, these so called Voices of the people turned it into an INDUSTRY. RAN UP Billions in debt with poorly designed, badly built and managed monopolies for their housing execs. (SocialFarming) Why is it that all UK areas of Depravation can be mapped over COUNCIL ESTATES?

    Then “transferred” at ZERO market value their staff, homes, debt’s and responsibilities because of the DECENT HOMES regulations. Clean slates to BORROW more money for the regeneration slush funds, using tenants rents and their homes as collateral.

    When the bedroom tax came in a source at the NHF or similar, was quoted for suggesting that HA’s now had a clear route to clean up the problem of stagnated sinkholes where the workless, jobless and unfortunates prevail. They could not be helped by council strategies, the DWP etc, and kept demographic and socio graphic outputs and Council ratings, aims and glorious achievements skewed.

    HAT’s off to Social Regeneration.
    Caps tilted to Corporate City Deregulation.
    Heads bowed to another losing community.


    1. We cant dwell on the mistakes of the past or go back and change. All of the above groups you mention were not tenant led and independent tenant groups and/or the timing wasn’t right and/or at least perceived as overtly political in their ends. We need to act cleverly now rather than raking over the coals

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