Housing Associations really don’t have a Scooby Doo! It’s time to unmask them!
Just in case you were under the delusion that housing associations were not puppets of government housing policy then today’s the day when HA’s confirm they are shafting you as the government wants them to do.
First we have the news that a mega-merger is taking place between creating a 135,000 property strong new super HA (more like super haha for tenants) and continuing the trend for housing associations to be even more remote from their (they always used possessive pronouns don’t they!) “customers” – that would be tenants to you and me. Such a shame about another leak this week else the new customer HQ would probably be located in Panama City or Bermuda as it is better for them and of course they no longer wish to ever see tenants as I come to below.
Have a quick look at what Super HA is going to do:
Together, the three organisations will be able to build 100,000 new homes across London and the South East – 35,000 more homes than they could have achieved alone, representing an investment of £25 billion over the next ten years.
Half of these new homes will be for people on lower incomes, making the new organisation the largest provider of affordable homes in the country. In total, 25,000 affordable new homes will be set aside for first time buyers and 25,000 new homes will be for affordable rent, with the remaining 50,000 new homes for market rent and sale.
How many there out of that 100,000 for the typical housing association tenant at a social rent you ask? Yes, that would be precisely zero – though of course this does not stop Super HA using the word “affordable” twice in one sentence!
But then the doublespeak we have come to expect from housing associations – which I call housingspeak that synergises (shit it’s catching) so well with housingthink – reaches its highest point with an article today in Inside Housing that is not just deceit upon deceit and housingspeak, it also assumes the tenant is thick as two short planks!
Here’s a decode below of HA housingspeak and what it means in plain English.
First the flawed basis that Inside Housing begins with:
We already know that housing associations are reassessing their services to cope with less money coming in. While some are finding savings elsewhere, many are cutting programmes that benefit tenants. Shoreline Housing Partnership plans to save £4m a year by axing all but ‘core’ services. Some are shedding anti-social behaviour initiatives, and others are reconsidering if they really need to provide a ‘gold-plated’ repairs service.
Reassessing their services is correct, yet IH fails to say that a number of housing associations are cutting staff by 15% and seeking 25% cuts in total costs – and IH has run many such articles in the recent past. Yet while mentioning some smaller HAs by name IH fails to mention many much bigger HAs and then with huge inference plants the assumption that HA landlords have ‘gold-plated’ repairs services! A clever device aimed at selling more advertising space no doubt by IH
Then the housingspeak really begins as we get verbatim quotes from some of the sector’s great and good!
Here is what the CEO of Notting Hill Housing Association says:
“The 1% rent cut means our income will decline by £20m over four years – but we will protect services. “Our objective is to provide homes for low-income Londoners and to achieve high customer satisfaction. The reduction could be paid for from our annual surplus of £120m-plus, so there’s no need to cut jobs or services. We aim to reduce operating costs by 4% a year for four years. “We are all in this together. All departments, including our commercial entities, will make the same level of cuts.
So the 1% rent cut means we will PROTECT services yet make 4% cuts. Yet this is merely expected sophistry and the real housingspeak and deceptions and inference that tenants are thick as two short planks comes from another CEO, being Tim Pinder of Cheshire Peaks & Plains and boy does he lay the deception and bovine anal secretion on thickly!
“We have looked to recalibrate our relationship with our customers so that we do less for them and they do more for themselves, which has been made easier by us promoting automation.
Recalibrate? FFS! And ‘recalibration’ means…oh yes doing less for tenants and tenants doing more for the landlord!!
“For example, we now expect tenants to deal with low-level noise or nuisance anti-social behavior, or requests to put up a garden shed, or keep a pet.
Given the ugly Americanised spelling of behavior (sic) it suggests that ‘recalibration’ has come out of one of the plethora of Business Guru bullshit texts so beloved by housing’s great and good. And the landlord expects tenants to put up with more nuisance and more anti social behaviour! Yes that is cuts in tenant services and imposed by the landlord without any consultation with tenants. A dictat from this feudal landlord – which unbelievably gets worse dear tenant …
“In the past, a tenant would chat these issues over with a housing officer. This was a lovely, warm, personal service, but now we can’t afford it.
So the feudal landlord and alleged ‘social’ landlord – look it up it means of people – has decided that tenants have been mollycoddled and that the landlord is going to cut housing officers because of that – and of course not for any other reason! It is the fault of the tenant that tenants are having their services cut!! Can you really believe this is from a SOCIAL landlord?!
It goes on:
“We believe that it is not unreasonable to expect tenants to deal with complaints and requests such as these by using our automated online services.”
I’m sure you believe many things…and I am just as sure that 99.99999% of tenants will ALWAYS want to speak with a person rather than a screen and automated IT system which could never replace human interaction and will always just so happen to not have any routine to deal with the legitimate issue a tenant will have.
Oh PS if you are not IT literate and a Cheshire Peaks & Plains tenant you are shafted … but hey that will be your fault too! I wonder if Peaks & Plains will now make IT literacy a condition of allocating a tenancy and perhaps they will lobby government for a new eviction ground. Ground 22 – the tenant is illiterate and unworthy? (I better be careful not to give these SOCIAL (ahem!!) landlords ideas had I?)
“Critically, we will also allow phone-based access to our more vulnerable customers.”
Oh you flatter the tenant with kindness. Let’s all praise the feudal landlord for caring so much for the vassal tenant!!!
Still what a wonderful way of allowing the landlord to say those immortal and oft-used words of “I don’t recall that conversation!”
Dear Tim Pinder,
How awful you have had government impose an average rent cut of around 97 pence per week for your tenants and that is assuming you haven’t increased service charges and/or invented new ones.
In return your ‘customers’ are getting less housing officers, much reduced services in general, are having to endure much more anti social behaviour and noise pollution and other nuisances and having to put up with the IT equivalent of press 1 for rent payments, press 2 for repairs and go fuck yourself if you want a person to speak with!
What a short memory you have as since 2010 average housing benefit levels for housing associations rose almost 21% until 2015/16 and against an inflation rate of just under 11% in that time!
Perhaps you can ask your local MP what percentage increase over and above inflation you have had in that time. Though as it is the Chancellor, he will firstly be unable to work it out and secondly he may well retort why didn’t YOU fix the roof while the sun was shining!! Oh what an apt expression!
A humble vassal
Of course housingspeak is not just inane bullshit limited to CEOs as this comment from Housemark says:
“Providers are reassessing planned maintenance programmes, reviewing upwards estimated component life cycles to manage expenditure within budgets.“
Decoded the above emboldened text says tenants will see the current programme of having their kitchens and bathrooms replaced every 15 years now become every 20 years – or in short a 33% cut to planned repairs, and yes be prepared for responsive repairs to reduce by 33% as given your HA clearly did NOT fix the roof while the sun was shining that damp, leaks and just about anything else will of course be the tenants fault and the IT screen or automated phone system you have to use to communicate with your landlord will have no such option of “what the fuck do I have to do to get you to do your legal and contractual obligation landlord!” … as I can’t afford to get to Panama City to even doorstep you!
I could go on and on with sarcasm to the unbelievable bullshit and rank stupidity that housings ‘great and good’ apparently believe to be acceptable. The reality is they are 100% asocial landlords who believe that tenants are impediments to their bottom line only mentality.
Enough is enough and if you still think that (most) housing associations actually have this social mission or social ethos they love to proclaim, then you need to wake up and fast. They in the main do not and Peaks & Plains above is just one example and there are many much worse in their thinking and actions than the still outrageous words above.
Housing Associations in particular are like the proverbial spoilt child and their housingthink is all self, self, self, all bugger the tenant, and all crass and naive business practice and often gleaned from the latest business buzzword or craze.
It is time for tenants to take legitimate direct actions against the scurrilous behaviours and (in)actions of landlords. Here is one simple example of what I mean – cancel paying your rent by direct debit and replacing with a standing order (which means you are in charge of rent payments not your landlord) will frighten the living daylights out of your landlord and BECAUSE you are in charge not them.
Nothing changes in the above except that the tenant is in control of the payment of rent. Yet the landlord will not know whether your rent will be paid or not which now they do.
Here is another legitimate direct action for tenants to consider. Refuse to communicate with your landlord via THEIR online constraints or by telephone and only correspond by letter or email and insist they only correspond with you by letter or email. You as the tenant then have a full audit trail of all issues and your landlord will not be able to deny that you have requested a repair or whatever.
In short, as all the above dictats from landlords reveal, they are making changes which ONLY suit their purposes. Yet you dear tenant are the customer and the customer is king so you correspond with whatever communication routes suit YOUR purposes.
Those few simple direct action measures, all of which are perfectly legitimate, will in professional terms and language, frighten the shit out of the landlord and hopefully bring them to their business and other senses. You as a mere tenant are not the feudal vassal of medieval times so why the hell are you putting up with being treated like one?
As I said in opening these reputedly social landlords are not building properties at genuinely affordable social rent levels that your son or daughter or grandchildren will want, they are merely screwing every tenant for every penny they can get out of them and ever more so and with ever reducing service levels to those they have the temerity to call customers.
They are even complicit in the governments idea to force the sale of council houses to pay back these conveniently not social landlords but private registered providers – the correct name for HAs – and reducing further the options for a real affordable roof over your children and grandchildren’s head. 370,000 fewer social housing properties in the decade up to the end of this parliament by one cautious estimate! That’s 370,000 fewer homes for your children and grandchildren in simple terms and from an increasing population too in that time.
The real reality – excuse the articulation – is that housing associations want to be private landlords and nothing more. They even want full autonomy over setting their own rent levels and not be constrained by this or any future government as Glorious Leader Orr CEO of the National Housing Federation said again today.
That means if you get a better job they want to charge you more in rent and in essence become a tax collector and one in which this excess does NOT go to government but only goes to increase Housing Association bank balances (or some other financial product in Panama or the British Virgin Islands?!)
So the next time you hear, see or read a housing association say they have a social mission or social ethos then tenants need to eat a Scooby snack and pull the mask off their heads.
Don’t let them get away with it you pesky tenants!
Two caveats and qualifications on all the above.
- Many HAs are not as described above and some do have a genuine social ethos and mission. Yet they are reducing in number by the day and becoming a smaller minority – yes carefully chosen phrase a smaller MINORITY.
- Many, in fact a great many individual housing workers do have a strong sense of social mission and purpose and personally do much for tenants. However – doing all you can -for tenants, is the same as saying doing all you are allowed or permitted to do. So when corporatism takes over formerly social landlords – the central theme of all the above – all the best will in the world of individual housing workers is constrained and each one of them with the cuts in staffing mentioned above by so many corporatist HA’s means those that remain will be doing so much more work as so many of their former colleagues no longer work alongside them.
The above is no slur on the individual housing worker; it is a critique of the corporatist housing associations who are little more than the private landlords they so want to be.
PS – The Inside Housing article that allegedly asked the question would the 1% rent cut lead to tenants services being cut… Yes not one of the great and good say it won’t and IH also conveniently forget to put in a conclusion to the question they set. So will tenants services be cut is ergo a rhetorical question!!