Fawlty Sheltered Towers and the Rachmannvellian NHF

Don’t dare mention that the Tories are closing sheltered housing is the line being adopted by David Orr chief executive of the National Housing Federation… and being followed offensively and sycophantically by individual UK housing associations and the forelock tugging compliant trade journal Inside Housing.

It reminds me of something that I just can’t put my finger on even though it’s under my nose…

john-cleese-basil-fawlty-007

The reason for this is silence on the Tories LHA maxima policy killing sheltered housing is?  Don’t say a word else IDS will reveal that housing associations have been overcharging the pensioner!

To ‘save’ sheltered housing the National Housing Federation has also adopted a policy of wither and/or kill supported housing to save sheltered and is complicit in the Conservative’s agenda and the NHF is shafting thousands of vulnerable persons charities, large and small … that HA’s call partners!!

Many housing associations (specifically the non LSVT type) are wide open to the accusation that they do overcharge the pensioner in sheltered housing as I explain below and the charge has no validity and is bullshit.  However, the facts matter little compared to the ease of which this accusation can be made and by whom!…..

IDS and DWP can (and will if necessary) pose the simple question of …

How can one housing association charge £100 per week yet another charge £140 per week sheltered rent in the same area for the same product?

… and then falsely conclude that some housing associations are over charging the public purse through the housing benefit bill and are ripping off the pensioner to boot!

The perception and old trick of there is no smoke without fire is why housing associations are keeping quiet on the fact that much sheltered housing including extra care will close and much will never be built again. HA’s can’t afford to let IDS make this charge and so they are deadly quiet over sheltered housing closures directly caused by IDS’s LHA maxima policy.

Why sheltered housing is under charged not over charged – cross subsidy!

For years sheltered housing has been cross-subsidised by all social landlords and general needs rents have increased by more than needed for many years, decades in fact, and a bit has been top-sliced from them and put in to subsidise sheltered housing and keep rents there artificially low.

This is no secret and was openly admitted and accepted at least as far back as 2001/2002 when all landlords were instructed to ‘unpool’ or de-pool’ their rent accounts to remove cross subsidy ahead of the Supporting People programme.

All social landlords did this and council landlords but critically not housing associations received a large wedge of cash in return for unpooling and some got millions per year for this unpooling – or removal of the cross subsidies. Yet then all social landlords went back to the old non transparent system of cross-subsidy again and ever more so as SP funding disappeared.

In summary sheltered housing and the mostly pensioners who live there have been under charged in rent terms and not overcharged for decades.

It’s a simple issue and take £2 per week off all general needs rents and put that into the 10% of housing that is sheltered for example sees a £20 per week subsidy for each sheltered housing unit is how it works.  The government formula for social rent setting has traditionally been the RPI rate of inflation plus 1% – and then plus or minus £2 for decades and you easily see how these cross subsidies have been operated and achieved.

Many former council landlords have now become housing associations as part of large scale voluntary transfer (LSVT) and inherited the majority of all housing stock in most areas.  Within that is a typically much higher percentage of sheltered housing than found in other (non-LSVT) housing associations and sheltered housing that has been subsidised for years.

Over half of all HA properties now are former council ones with between 1.4 – 1.5 million of the total 2.7 million HA properties being ex council properties, hence most sheltered housing has been massively subsidised and artificially low rents have been set for decades.

Yet when non-LSVT housing associations develop their own sheltered housing or extra care provision in any area they do not have either the economies of scale for large cross subsidy as they have fewer general needs units to top-slice from.

Further, they have to set more transparent and realistic sheltered housing rent levels in every LA area they operate and some non LSVT housing associations operate in over 100 local council areas while most LSVT housing associations operate just in the one council area in which they were the former council landlord.

To get to the crux of the matter what this all leads to is a huge rent differential between sheltered housing provision with for example a former council landlord (ie LSVT) charging £100 per week in rent yet a non-LSVT housing association charging £140 per week for in many cases the same product.

Hence it appears to DWP that some housing associations are charging 40% more than other social landlords in every LA area and hence the accusation that some housing associations overcharge can easily be made despite this being false.  The reality is that the vast majority of sheltered housing (operated by LSVT housing associations and existing council and ALMO landlords) is still under charged as it contains cross subsidies.  However the LHA maxima policy that will cut the housing benefit sees IDS beaming and of course ready to use the superficial and errant argument that some HA’s are overcharging!

Any person who is vaguely IT literate could look in any LA area and find huge rent differentials in sheltered housing.  Anyone with a modicum of sheltered housing knowledge or basic finance could remove many of the legitimate reasons for such rent differentials to get a like-for-like comparison yet STILL would find 30% or higher rent differentials between HA’s, or very specifically between a LSVT HA (the former council landlord) and a non LSVT HA in all local authority areas.

Merseyside is one such example of many and has 5 councils and there is no council landlords left.  All 5 transferred the council housing stock to what are now (LSVT) housing associations for example Magenta Living (ML) in Wirral and One Vision Housing (OVH) in Sefton.

ML and OVH have a higher % of sheltered housing than other HA’s and they charge around £100 per week for it, yet the likes of Regenda and Riverside and other non LSVT housing associations charge £130 – £150 per week for the same because they are transparently and correctly charged with little if any cross subsidy.

The choice based lettings online portal in Merseyside(PropertyPool) reveals this as do other CBL online portals in many areas of the country.

Anyone in any area can do a bit of research in their own local authority area and will find that the former council landlord and now housing association – the LSVT – charges significantly less for a sheltered housing 1 bed property than many if not all other housing associations in that area.

This is a like-for-like comparison basis too and not an issue of comparing one type of sheltered with another higher or lower cost type and after taking out all other of the many variables that legitimately explain rent differentials which the nerdiest housing geek knows about. That is significant as the general public would not be aware of and would struggle to comprehend the complexities of both practical housing issues that can differ markedly and the vagaries of the HB regulations and what can and cannot be claimed as a HB eligible charge and further complexities within that.

The public will only see Landlord A charging £100 per week and Landlord B charging £140 per week and would buy into the errant political accusation of over charging that DWP could easily make and I’m sure IDS would love to make!

The DWP commissioned a huge research study just over a year ago that has yet to conclude on all supported and sheltered housing and we must accept that IPSOS MORI who won that contract will have reported back to DWP detailed figures such as I touch on above.

You begin to see IDS concocting this HA overcharging of the pensioner posit and of IDS using that superficial and errant argument knowing full well that the general public would believe it -the no smoke without fire and first-move advantage technique combining with the Tory and especially IDS-friendly press -to make non LSVT housing associations and by extension all HAs and by inference all social landlords guilty of ripping off the pensioner and the taxpayer!

Instead, the NHF is orchestrating a campaign of shout (but not too loudly) about supported housing and emphasise the NIMBY services of hostel and drug and alcohol units that Joe Public frankly doesn’t give a shit about as Inside Housing did in two articles today (here and here) and as David Orr speaks about and tweets about with the new #NHFwelfare issue that focuses on supported housing not sheltered.

Yet avoid any mention of sheltered housing as IDS has this overcharging pensioners posit he can and will make if necessary because he is a zealot and while we are in bed with the CLG over housing issues, the LHA maxima is a DWP policy as housing benefit is a welfare benefit so we have no sway whatsoever with the zealous IDS who now believes as he wants to believe that HA’s have been taking the piss out of his welfare budget…blah blah blah!

This is the reality of why the NHF and its compliant trade journalists in Inside Housing and so on have been very very quiet on the LHA Maxima policy closing sheltered housing by making it even more non financially viable.

Some sheltered housing will undoubtedly close and while new developments will be put on ice we will see far more cross subsidies going into older persons housing to ensure a large part of it survives and even if it is run at a loss by almost all housing associations.

Aside from the sensitivities of having to evict pensioners and the relentless drive to become private landlords by the ‘leading’ HAs who all wish and need to retain and propagandise they still have a social ethos at their core, the much lighter touch regulation / de-regulation will see housing associations charge general needs tenants more to enable greater cross subsidy in much higher affordable (sic) rent units and much more outright private rental and private sales to cross subsidise sheltered housing even more than it is now.

Yet that means housing associations privy to this NHF strategy are abandoning supported housing to keep sheltered housing and not only cutting their losses but also consigning thousands upon thousands of specialist support providers to bankruptcy from the individual small charities that run DV refuges to the YMCA’s and Salvation Army’s and other large national names, as well as the many smaller and specialist housing associations who are mainly supported housing providers not general needs landlords.

Rest in Peace supported housing you are being sacrificed by the National Housing Federation in as much a Machiavellian way as this government is doing with the LHA maxima policy.

Social landlord? Social mission? Social ethos? #NHFWelfare?

Oh do please fuck the fuck off with such known deceits and deliberate lies and if you want a nice new hashtag how about Rachmannvellian as you suit it so well NHF!

 

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