Tom and Jerry is LOST on housing with the sound of silence

“…and the vision that was planted in my brain still remains within the sound of silence

The silence is and has been for years of landlords of social tenants not promoting the social housing model and the vision planted in the public brain is that social housing is the housing of last resort and choice.

How can the best product and service at the best price be perceived so badly? 

The social housing model delivers in comparison with its only competitor in the private rented sector a higher quality product with greater security, right of repair and a cost of around half the price. Yet it is the housing of last choice in the public perception.  The failure to promote the social housing model by landlords of social tenants – and LOST is a very pertinent acronym as not all landlords are social and many are becoming more asocial by the day  – to the general public has been a massive mistake.  I have argued that consistently for the 5 years in which I have been blogging.

You do not know, silence like a cancer grows. Hear my words that I might teach you, take my arms that I might reach you, but my words like silent raindrops fell … And echoed in the wells of silence

Yet we only have silence from all those who are LOST and that applies to all landlords of social tenants whether council, ALMO or housing association and to its umbrella groups in CIH and NHF and others.  Silence for at least a generation before this particular government really set about attacking the social housing model with attacks on landlords and on tenants.

Attacks that are as violent as Tom & Jerry, the original name of Simon & Garfunkel

tom and jerry

John Healey, the former Housing Minister says today that housing associations (only) have been silent since they jumped into bed with this government over the voluntary right to buy deal they offered.  The behind the paywall article in Inside Housing says:

Mr Healey said: “The sector went quiet after doing the deal on the Right to Buy. I think it’s disappointing that they made such little contribution to the public and policy debate around the Housing and Planning Bill… I want to see housing associations find their voice again.” The Housing and Planning Act, which received Royal Assent last month, introduces policies including Pay to Stay, the forced sale of council housing and Starter Homes.

John Healey says housing associations should find their voice AGAIN yet (a) when did they have a voice previously and (b) only housing associations and not all LOSTs are two reasons why he is wrong.  There has never been a ‘voice’ and it is the responsibility of all landlords of social tenants to speak up – and as is usual for any MP he is seeking to make a point against the opposition and conveniently forgets that his party were silent on anything to do with ‘welfare’ under the leadership of Miliband in fear of being portrayed as pro-welfare.

The last Labour manifesto even including support for the overall benefit cap to be reduced which when it comes in this autumn which will make the social housing models ubiquitous 3 bed property financial toxic for any social tenant in receipt of ‘welfare’ and kill the social housing model much quicker than the bedroom tax or Universal Credit – a policy the Labour Party also advocate and admire.

Healey is right in part that housing associations were preoccupied with the RTBe deal and did “by and large” little to challenge the other policies within the Housing & Planning Act such as Pay MORE to Stay and others.  Yet he is wholly wrong and romancing about any previous ‘voice’ that housing associations may have had and especially any successes they may have had.

Earlier this week Healey visited SHOUT the campaign for social housing by housing veterans and restated his 2013 article that the voice of social housing needs to be heard.  He was right in that as was I when I said the same thing 18 months earlier and I was also right when I reluctantly said that the SHOUT manifesto was an economic tome that was not public facing at all and this was its biggest failing.

When housing ONLY targets government and even with the SHOUT report written by a self-confessed and avowed laissez-fare economist who makes a huge economic case for the social housing model, governments of all persuasions have public opinion or their chances of electoral re-election as the key risk.  Yet when the general public only care for owning housing and are given a one-way and unchallenged narrative that social housing is the housing of last choice, then any government only approach fails and inevitably fails.

To return to my question above of – How can the best product and service at the best price be perceived so badly? – The answer is that the public have not been informed of how good it is because of the silence and because of the lack of promotion of the best product, service and cost by providers who are LOST.

The old business maxim that its no good inventing a cure for the common cold if you don’t market it is why LOST providers have lost!  It is no good having the best product and service at the best cost if the potential customer perception is your product is the product of last resort and choice.

It is only when the potential customer (in this case also the voter) hears your voice and want it that they exert huge pressure on governments to support and not destroy your industry.

The social housing model needs the public support on its side and even those housing associations who we can validly argue want to move strongly away from the social housing model and social rent and to become all but private and asocial landlords need this public support as they will still have to sell and market their product and service in order to survive.

The sound of silence therefore needs to SHOUT to the right audience, the public, and not continue with its behind closed doors only strategy of only talking to governments of whatever hue. Until it does so the social housing model has been lost by those who are LOST.

One final point is don’t forget to sell the benefits not just the features or advantages of social housing.

Shortly before the last election in late April or early May 2015, we had the party leaders having TV debates before an audience of the general public and ‘housing’ came up and from memory this was in Oxford.  A questioner said where are my children and grandchildren going to live?  Even with the bank of mum and dad (BOMAD) my children she went on cannot afford to buy and cannot afford to rent privately.

THAT was the biggest opening possible to sell the social housing model, which is I remind is the best product and service at the best price, and it put the rampant house price inflation that the London market is rapidly exporting to the rest of the country into its correct context but also the strength of the public’s pejorative perception of the social housing model.

Hundreds of thousands of voters can’t afford to rent privately and can’t afford to buy even with BOMAD.  Hundreds of thousands if not millions of low and not so lowly paid working people don’t have the option of ever getting on the ‘property ladder’ and need the only alternative to home ownership or private renting in the social housing model.  They are all potential voters, yet if they will not even bother to look at social housing because they perceive it to be the housing of last choice then their votes can never be used to pressure any government into supporting the most efficient invest to save housing model called social housing.

Where are the children and grandchildren of today’s home owners going to live LOST providers?

Why do they have such a negative perception of the social housing model – and why haven’t you ever sought to reach the audience who is also your customer?

Hello darkness my old friends …





One thought on “Tom and Jerry is LOST on housing with the sound of silence

  1. Well said, as usual the ‘voice’ of sense, reason and promoting social justice.
    I’m really becoming increasingly worried, that many RP’s including my own, can and will not be able to live up to their own Mission Statements – Ours being –
    ” To house those unable to afford housing in the private sector” This is very sad and worrying….
    I echo ‘ Hello darkness my old friend…..

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