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 –
What 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 email@example.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!