50% more social housing in London is not an aspiration or desire it is simple fact (courtesy of the English Housing Survey) as the capital has 25% of all housing being socially rented when in the rest of England it is just 16%.
London has 50% more social housing than anywhere else.
Be honest, how many of you knew that? Very few I would suggest and even among social housing professionals. I’m not decrying that London has 1 in 4 homes being socially rented and would wish to see 1 in 4 homes across the rest of England being genuinely affordable social housing. I am merely putting into perspective the overt media focus on London alone or London, London, Bloody London as this Northerner refers to it.
Nationally, social housing has taken a battering and yesterdays Housing and Planning Bill made that much worse and another simple fact is that in the year 2000 there was twice as much social housing as privately rented at 20.1% of all English housing being socially rented to 9.9% privately. At 2014/15 we see the private rented sector having doubled in size (almost) to 19.3% and social housing and 17.5% being socially rented.
Huge change in such a short space of time and change permitted by social housing apathy.
Other simple facts – yes they are pesky I know – is that in the period May 2010 to August 2015 sees average housing benefit levels increase for social landlords increase by 21.47% from £72.88 to £88.72 per week while private landlords have seen average housing benefit levels actually fall 0.59% from £109.25 to £109.09 per week.
Inflation was about 12.2% over this period and so social landlords increased their housing benefit by 75% above inflation and now are moaning about a 1% per year imposed rent cut and shedding staff and tenant service levels by over 15% – both of which seem very churlish and a spitting out of their dummies and yet again the tenant loses.
That last point is symptomatic of social landlords and especially housing associations as Government will use it against them without doubt. Yet it still remains fact that private landlords get 23% more in housing benefit than social landlords do and, generally, provide a much inferior product and service than social landlords which is a point social landlords never mention.
Social housing never sells its benefits and never has done except in unintelligible economic tomes such as the SHOUT report of 2015 which proves the huge economic rationale for social housing yet no member of the general public would or even could read.
Social housing only talks to itself and its own mirror and nobody else and then wonders why the general public label it as the housing of last resort – and in the full knowledge that the same general public cannot afford to buy or to privately rent so giving huge demand for social housing. All we see from social landlords is moan moan moan and no self promotion of the huge benefits to the tenant and the wider economy that social housing brings.
To be very specific on both cost, service level and moaning social housing sees housing associations charge and receive 13% more in rent and housing benefit than council landlords (£93.09 q.v. £82.50) per week yet provide no discernible increase in service. Both are silent when it comes to public challenge against government housing policy yet an argument can easily be made that HA’s have the funding to do this in the 13% extra they charge. Instead we see HA’s easily swayed by the lure of greater commercialism and getting into bed with Government over the right to buy issue resulting in no criticisms of any other government policy. You get into bed with the devil and you pay the price!
The National Housing Federation is the epitome of London, London, Bloody London as it sees English housing policy from the London only dimension despite London’s housing conditions being perverse to the 83% of all other housing association properties in the rest of England.
Today I saw the first ever mainstream social housing article over this London, London Bloody London posit from the Northern Housing Consortium yet that trips over itself in apologia and in feeling the need to insist it is not a rant against London – which reveals just how much of a London power base and focus social housing has unfortunately; and yet this only restates fact and reality just as the opening statement here that London does have 50% more social housing than any other English region.
Yes the Government will use that too against the (correct) moans that London’s social housing stock will be depleted as a result of the Housing & Planning Bill which in clever political terms it must be said, pits council landlords against housing associations and the classic divide and conquer strategy is at play.
Two radical housing policy changes come into effect in less than 12 weeks time in April 2016 namely the benefit cap reductions and the LHA maxima policy which largely do not affect London yet radically affect the rest of England and the silence from the NHF on these issues is deafening and explains the London, London, Bloody London issue starkly.
The overall benefit cap falls from £26,000 per year to £23,000 per year in London and will have a negligible effect there. Yet it falls to £20,000 or a reduction of £500 per calendar month in the English regions and has a massive impact.
London has already reached a tipping point with the benefit cap due to its perversely high rent levels and may only (!!) see a 50% increase in households affected yet in the regions the numbers of households affected and especially social rented households affected will see increases of 1000% to 3000% or ten to thirty times the numbers affected. Social housing and especially the 36% of it which are 3 bedroom or higher sized properties will become housing benefit free zones in the regions as the benefit cap reductions hit. That radically changes the face of the social housing model yet we see no condemnation of or lobby against from the NHF.
The LHA maxima policy which affects all new social tenants from April 2016 (yet deferred until 2018) means that supported and sheltered housing in the English regions in all its forms becomes extremely financially toxic and will close … except in London which has perversely high LHA rates. Surprise, surprise we see no public lobby or condemnation from the London based and London only focused National Housing Federation on this. That is truly offensive and truly incompetent yet, regrettably, a true reality.
Domestic violence and abuse refuges and homeless hostels and sheltered housing will survive in London which can have a £250 per week 1 bed LHA rate. Yet in the regions the 1 bed LHA rate can be as low as £80 per week and way below current rent levels in refuge hostel and sheltered housing meaning they will close due to being non-financially viable in the English regions but (just about) financially viable in London, London, Bloody London.
The current NHF policy of silence over this can be correctly described as the NHF not giving a shit that housing for those fleeing abuse or homeless or older persons will close in the English regions (and in Scotland and Wales too) but as they won’t in London, London, Bloody London then that is acceptable!
We do, by comparison, see the NHF lobbying fro an exemption about the 1% rent cut imposed on supported and sheltered housing yet NOT against the LHA maxima cut which will actually close refuge hostel and sheltered housing – So why lobby against a 1% cut but not against an effective 100% cut in closure!! Oh yes it’s London, London, Bloody London being at play again!!!!
Yet the NHF, and the ‘N’ stands for National which is a bit of a clue, is only lobbying on London, London, Bloody London issues and not on behalf of the 83% of its members outside the capital!!
The NHF needs to be renamed the LHF and 83% of its members should tell it to go hang and set up a representative organisation to reflect its member issues yet when we have outrage from those 83% at anyone who has the temerity to in the slightest criticise the NHF and Glorious Leader David Orr never mind how validly, constructively or factually that isn’t going to happen!
When we have a London only focused NHF that is a puppet of the G15 London based top 15 housing associations who direct it and all want to become as private as private landlords as you can imagine, then that isn’t going to happen is it?
The real issue is the apathy of the 83% of housing associations not in London who are simply sitting back and not taking its trade body to task over the many deficiencies its London, London, Bloody London positions means. London has 25% of all stock as social housing because London has swiped the majority of grant funding for decades – some say as much as 80% of it and for just 16% of English social housing and 13% of UK housing – and on the simple yet superficial basis that London needs more social housing than the rest of the UK.
It is that which has resulted in London having 50% more social housing than any other English region and now sees the moan and lobby from just London’s perspective from a supposed National trade body. As a result the percentage of genuinely social and affordable properties in the majority of the country is being sidelined and forgotten about. It is bad enough that Government after Government and MP after MP of all parties have focused on London and create national policies to combat London’s perverse and unique housing problems with a wing and a prayer that they will better the 87% of housing in the rest of the UK.
To now see the whole of social housing nationally take such an apathetic approach and go along with the NHF London, London, Bloody London position is unbelievably stupid and naive and highly damaging for all social landlords and of course all social tenants (plus ca change!) and allowing the divide and conquer political strategy to undermine the social housing model per se.
For years I have been bemoaning that social housing never sells itself and never talks to anyone but itself resulting in general public apathy and even distaste for social housing. That has got to change and change quickly. The social tenant receives a better product at a better price and the initial grant subsidy that social housing receives which equates to just over £5 per property per week produces housing which is just over half the average price of the private rented and only alternative.
This £5 per week ‘subsidy’ also produces housing benefit levels of over £20 per week less than private rented and so saves the ‘hardworking’ taxpayer a fortune yet we still have the unchallenged pejorative myth that social housing is only cheaper because it is subsidised and the even greater one that the taxpayer subsidises the ne’er do well social tenant. The social housing model and its initial subsidy actually saves the average taxpayer £170 or so per year as without this ‘subsidy’ the public purse would pay out over £4 billion more in housing benefit per year.
That is just as much fact as London having 50% more social housing than any other English region, yet like that is a fact no one in social housing says or promotes or has ever promoted and that past and current silence permits policies like the (ideological) Housing & Planning Bill to attempt to kill the social housing model off altogether.
It remains to be seen what the 5 year maximum social tenure does for social housing as it now averages 11.4 years according to the EHS – again a simple fact NOT used in lobbying against this pernicious ideological Bill. It will damage ‘communities’ and the irony that housing sits under the Communities & Local Government (CLG) department is not lost. It will undermine community and cohesion and stability and all the other ‘touchy-feely’ intangible benefits that the social housing model brings and benefits the UK, its people and its economy.
Social rent levels allow and incentive employment as the tenant there can take up a much lower paid job than his privately renting neighbour paying on average double that rent level. That private tenant is all too often renting a former council property identical to his neighbour yet paying double or even more in rent. Yet social housing and the silent idiots who make up its great and good don’t even argue against the perverse government bullshit that social housing creates welfare dependency when this explains how there is far more welfare dependency in private than social housing.
Sell the fucking benefits you numpties! Sell what the depletion of social housing actually means and stop focusing on supply, supply, supply and your own self-interest in this. The crisis of supply or under supply and wanting more is natural yet in only focusing on more more more you have ignored the existing product and service you have and allowed an ideological government to legislate your business out. Just how effing stupid have you been? What’s that we have only been following the lead of Glorious Leader David Orr? Yes you have and blindly and now the proverbial is going to hit the fan for that idiocy.
Perhaps it is because you have seen no reason to talk with the world outside of housing and so used to only talking with one another that housing people fail to appreciate what social housing is and how it is perceived. I could say much more but it would only be explanation but not excuse for your abysmal business sense and performance and perhaps some in the social housing world still think that social housing does not need a marketing strategy which would make it the only business in the world that does not need one.
How many more times will I still get private correspondence from housing colleagues which says you say some important stuff Joe we don’t like how you say it? That is just another deflection, another burying of the social housing head in the sand and another its someone else’s problem and general apathy and inaction carries on. The fact that social housing is the architect of its own downfall may be unpleasant to read but it is nonetheless true.
The fact that so many housing professionals personally are passionate about social housing also counts for nothing because collectively and professionally bugger all is done about it. That’s like inventing a cure for cancer or the common cold but not telling anybody in business terms. Social housing is the architect of its own downfall for all the above reasons and so many more yet social housing refuses to take any blame and is Teflon coated and seeks to blame anyone else for its own incompetence.
Yet as I state above and have continually stated for years, social housing is the best product and the best service and all at the best price – something that any industry would shout from the fucking rooftops is they had a modicum of business intelligence – yet something that social housing has not done for decades. Gerald Ratner looks like a marketing guru by comparison to social housing.
Yet another painful rant and yet another factual and constructive critique that will lead to yet more denial, yet more obstinacy and yet more inaction from social housing? I wouldn’t bet against it!
Finally, the above could be seen as a very long answer to a tweet today:
The answer is that the nostalgic social housing model which we all regret the passing of was allowed to fail because it was run by incompetent obstinate buffoons who allowed the best product, best service and best price / most cost effective way of housing people to fail because of that incompetence and apathy.