Social housing is past its sell-by-date in 2017

The terms social housing and social landlord have past their sell by dates and in 2017 will cease to exist.

The central element of social housing is that social landlords – collectively council and housing associations – accommodate those who cannot afford to buy or to rent in the private sector.

That in the simplest terms it what social housing is and what is a social landlord

Yet repeated cuts to housing benefit in increasingly dangerous and violent HB policies means social landlords can no longer afford to accommodate thus social housing and social landlords cease to exist.

The key fact in this is that social housing in England alone has an average duration of tenancy of around 10 years meaning that around 10% of all social housing tenancies each year are new ones.  In official figures over the past decade an average 385,000 new tenancies per year in England out of 3.8 million English social landlord properties.

It is these new future prospective tenancies that are the issue that social landlords and government fail to consider in any analysis or impact assessment as to what the many HB policy changes actually mean.

The obvious example is the 23% cut to the overall benefit cap policy that began on 7 November 2016 and completes its implementation on 23 January 2017.

It means that a couple with three children will receive a maximum housing benefit of £50 per week and with the average English 3 bed social rent level being £98 per week means that new / future / prospective household will be refused the 3 bed social housing property they wanted due to affordability.

The council or HA landlord will (have to) refuse to accommodate them for financial viability reasons which they are able to do lawfully (see here).

The Shared Accommodation Rate (SAR) change to apply to social housing has already seen Severn Vale Housing Association (see here) have an official formal policy of refusing to accommodate anyone under the age of 36 an this is another example of asocial activity.

The changes from the LHA Maxima Cap policy will also mean that even pensioners will be denied social housing from April 2017 as I detailed here

These are just examples of the impacts of three cuts to HB entitlement and levels that we wrongly misname as ‘welfare reforms.’  They are cuts to Housing Benefit and nothing more and they have all share the huge significance that social landlords are abandoning the social housing model and largely because they have no choice but to refuse to accommodate the new / future / prospective tenant household due to affordability.

Yet there are still some Luddites amongst social housing professionals who still say social landlords will always house those most in need or something similar and want the rest of us to believe it to be true.  It isn’t true and so-called social landlords are refusing to accommodate more and more each year because the policy of HB cut upon ever more dangerous HB cut gives social landlords no choice but to refuse.

Having worked in social housing for a generation I can fully understand why social (sic) landlords want to convey that they are philanthropic and charitable and the ‘good guys’ blah, blah,and they will always house those most in need yet they are not and they cannot!

The picture below sums up social (?) landlords

ostrich-housing

Throughout 2017 more and more social landlords will refuse to accommodate more and more prospective social tenants.  We have a vicious circle and a violent one as a greater percentage of the new 385,000 social housing tenancies per year in England sees the benefit household refused their allocation.

This is violence by the Tory government and why it is violent is because any democracy has an absolute duty to house those most in need.  This form of shelter is a cornerstone and key aspect of any democracy yet this Conservative government is abandoning it as it forces so-called social landlords to abandon those most in need by refusing to accommodate.

I have also argued that the Tory government is practising child abuse with the swingeing cuts in the overall benefit cap policy.  They are and it is not just abusive or tantamount to abuse, it is de facto child abuse as the OBC could see 500,000 children have their life chances irreparably damaged by being made homeless.

That is also housing violence.

It is especially violent when current benefit-capped data reveals that there are more households in receipt of incapacity benefits who are capped and thus cannot work to escape it then there are in receipt of dole and thus, in principle, are ready and able to work to escape the OBC policy.

I make no apologies for using the terms violence and abuse as they are correctly used and in an apolitical context too yet many will take offence at their use and from within the housing profession not just those of a right wing political persuasion.

What the current and past Conservative governments is doing is dismantling the social housing model that was a key part of the 1948 Welfare State to attack the giant of squalor.  Yet this receives scant consideration compared to the huge outcry over the much lesser cuts and changes to other parts of the 1948 Welfare State such as education or the NHS.

While that is to expected as social housing affects 16% of the UK population whilst education and the NHS affect 100% it still does not alter the fact that the Tories are repeatedly attacking the social housing model and have been ever since 2010.

The consequences and impacts of these ever-intensifying attacks on the social housing model are horrific and will affect 100% of the UK population however and in a very short time.  When a member of your family or a friend needs general needs social housing because they have lost their employment or divorced or become incapacitated or sick or disabled or because they are a pensioner and that provision is no longer there then the general public will be angered … but by then it will be too late.

Over the last 5 years or so I have been described as a housing activist not just a housing professional.  One thing I have found with regrettably regularity is that the general public only become concerned WHEN they or someone they know is affected by the HB cuts.  Another is that activists like me are often labelled as scaremongers and/or a view is taken that I discuss matters that will happen a few weeks / months/ years down the line and little attention or concern is given to such view and opinions  … or even to inevitable facts such as social landlords can’t afford to house the most vulnerable due to HB cuts.

Yet 5 years or so on and my past ‘mere’ blogs reveal that the overwhelming number of issues I predicted in micro and macro terms have come to pass.  The acute increases in homelessness and in rough sleeping (which the general public still see not as separate issues), the homeless diaspora that London councls are exporting their homeless cases to cheaper and ever further away places then the capital and even that the HB cuts to the bedroom tax, LHA cap, Benefit cap and SAR cap cost MORE and in real terms as I predicted and as the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) think tank confirmed in January of 2015

ifs-hb-real-terms

The general public simply do not want to believe and also cannot believe that cuts to HB entitlement lead to an INCREASE in the overall housing benefit bill, yet the facts show that they have and do!

We still for example allow and fail to challenge Conservative Ministers when they say the bedroom tax saves £500 million per year when it is impossible given that its total amount of HB cut before we even look at any costs it creates or any DHP cost is just £335 million pa(422,475 cases at £15.21 per week is £335,061,905.) DWP ministers lie as often as housing professionals saying ‘we will always house those most in need!

I did draft something to say that the recent Resolution Foundation research which said the UK home ownership was just 51% and not the 64% that everyone (myself included) took as read.  That this monumentally significant piece of housing data would hopefully see UK housing professionals abandon their extremely lazy Housing Think given this startling revelatory research.  Yet they wont and the so-called housing sector will carry on as before and as they always have in believing the many myths and shibboleths that pervade across social housing … such as we will always house those most in need!

There has not been one article or opinion emanating from the UK housing sector or its periphery (Shelter, JRF, Guardian Housing Network and dozens more) on the impact of the swingeing OBC cuts to new / future / prospective tenants.  Whether this reflects what I have termed the London London Bloody London sole focus  of the ‘sector’ or not makes no difference to the fact that the ‘sector’ has not publicly discussed or considered these inevitable impacts such as refusal to accommodate and increased homelessness and child abuse.

It still pains me to write that Grant Shapps got one thing right … when he said that the UK social housing ‘sector’ is a lazy consensus.  In fact lazy gives it far too high a compliment and one it does not deserve!

The ‘sector’ wears the narrowest of focus blinkers and its current sole focus on build build build more which it holds is the key to solving the sole housing crisis of under supply epitomises this lazy consensus.  What is the point of building more if your principal customer cannot afford what you have already?!  Are you going to build more in order to refuse more of your main ‘customers?’

There are many housing crises not one sole crisis of under supply and the biggest crisis is that of affordability created by the many and increasingly dangerous cuts to entitlement and levels of housing benefit, and in small but increasing part to the affordable rent model which, in short, is the ‘sectors’ way of dealing with less government funding and thus  taking more from the tenant instead.

Yet the AR model only adds to the affordability crisis which is the main social housing crisis and now sees social housing rents be above the LHA maxima in 39% of UK areas which means the AR model denied allocation even further to the benefit tenant under the LHA Maxima policy and the OBC policy.

With over 157,000 AR ‘units’ according to the latest official figures (below in Table 1B) we see that almost 4% of all social (sic) housing is the unaffordable AR version and increasing year on year and now with council landlords implementing this naive policy that crisis of affordability is going to increase and increase.

ar-numbers

In summary, we have seen the government AND social (sic) landlords turning their backs on the tenant in smallish degree in 2016 compared to the devastating degree this will take in 2017.  So-called ‘social’ landlords are increasingly becoming as asocial as private landlords and while in large part that is due to cuts to HB entitlements and its levels, to carry on with the ostrich head in the sand position of “we will always house those most in need” is a dangerous fallacy.

2017 will be seen as the year that social housing and the social landlord ceased to exist and that will happen with scant opposition or challenge – something everyone of us will pay the price for in future years and for which anyone who has ever worked in social housing ought to be thoroughly ashamed about.

The ‘sector’ has been silent on the huge benefits that social housing brings to the UK and its cost savings to the taxpayer and on refuting its horrendous reputation as the housing of last resort ever since Thatcher’s RTB some 35 years ago.  It rightly railed against RTB yet failed to see the cultural dimension of RTB which ‘told’ the general public that anything other than home ownership was third class ambition.

That lack of challenge and ‘lazy consensus’ of saying bugger all has permitted the Tories since 2010 to attack the social housing model all too easily and why in 2017 the social housing model, social housing and social landlords will all cease to exist – a shameful abandonment of what social housing means and principally by the housing professional who still professes to love what social housing once was.

First they came for the …. you know the rest.  The Tories haven’t just come for the social housing model they have come, saw and conquered as the sector has held up white flags in deafening silence.

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3 thoughts on “Social housing is past its sell-by-date in 2017

  1. You are right about social housing no longer being available for the poor:
    my parents want to move into a bungalow and they weren’t allowed to go on the transfer list until they scrutinised their income & bank statements.
    My mom was that angered by this, she exclaimed “I don’t want a mortgage to buy a bungalow off them!.” It wouldn’t be so bad if they’d ever been in rent arrears.
    My parents have been tenants for 42-years and have the rare privilege of a secure tenancy with rent control, even so, they treated my parents badly [God only knows how they treat new tenants’ with NO rights].
    Social housing landlords [like employers like Sports Direct] have become little Hitlers’ and the govt have given them a licence to abuse the poor, but as you said, no-one cares until they’re affected by housing changes, et al.

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