99.9188% of HA tenants do NOT have the RIGHT to buy!

Late last night it became known that the alleged RIGHT to buy for HA tenants which the Government said will apply to a further 1.3 million housing association tenants is a LIE.

It emerged that this is a pilot programme and only for 5 of the 1700 housing association landlords – or it excludes 99.71% of HA tenants and only applies to 0.29% of HA tenants.

Then today it emerged that even this will be available ONLY to those HA tenants with 10 years or more as a tenant

The English Housing Survey tells us that 28% of social tenants have lived in their homes for 10 years or more and the graph below highlights this:


As such this so-called RIGHT to buy only applies to 28% of that 0.29% and just 0.0812% of housing association tenants and does NOT apply therefore to 99.9188% of housing association tenants.

Yet even that 0.0812% includes apparent discretion of those housing associations to say no you can’t buy your own HOME as (a) it is a sheltered property, or (b) it is in a rural location and a whole host of other reasons too.

That figure ALSO assumes a maximum would qualify for this non-existent RIGHT to buy and able to afford to and/or not eligible for any other reason!!

In short the Government and specifically George Osborne lied in his Autumn Statement yesterday when he said HA tenants have this right from midnight last night about this alleged RIGHT to buy which is clearly nothing of the sort.

It cannot by definition be a RIGHT if 99.9188% of HA tenants are not allowed to exercise this supposed RIGHT!

Osborne changes: Bedroom Tax single people, mass evictions for disability CSR2 & closure of all women’s refuges

Osborne’s changes announced today will close all women’s DV refuges, will evict massive number of disabled people, will affect single people hit by bedroom tax even if not under occupying and will create the DISABLED ROUGH SLEEPER and the WOMAN FLEEING VIOLENCE AND ABUSE ROUGH SLEEPER who will have nowhere to live to escape sleeping rough as the hostels and permanent rehousing options will not be available to move them off the streets!

Read on and have the smelling salts to hand as you simply will not believe just how much of an incompetent fuckwit George Osborne is!

IF you are hit by the bedroom tax AND you are under 35 AND you have no dependant children living with you then you have just been evicted.

Note well that you have to be under 35 and single with no dependant children yet the impact of this is massive as I explain below.


The above is from the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) today and this is the sneakiest of sneaky changes and will create a new group previously unheard of in the DISABLED ROUGH SLEEPER.

Imagine you are unable to work through whatever medical, physical, learning or sensory disability you have and you live in a social housing 2 bed house in low rent Liverpool.  Your rent will be around £86 per week and you will be getting the 14% bedroom tax taken off you and so receiving £73.96 per week in housing benefit.

HOWEVER this change above means your maximum eligible rent for HB purposes will only be £57.77 per week which is the Shared Accommodation Rate or SAR for Liverpool.

You will receive £49.68 in housing benefit only and a reduction of £24.28 per week in your maximum HB as the maximum eligible rent before bedroom tax deductions is the SAR of £57.77 and no longer the £86.00 per week actual rent.

You will need to find £36.32 per week or £1,893.83 per year to top up your rent or £157.82 per calendar month!

Even if you move to the mythical 1 bed property with a rent of say £78.00 per week and avoid the pernicious bedroom tax, if you are single and under 35 you will only get £57.77 per week as the maximum Housing Benefit and still have to find £20.23 per week or £1054.85 per year or £87.90 per calendar month to pay your rent.

Note too the Shared Accommodation Rate does NOT hold a blank exemption for receipt of DLA or PIP or ESA and in the support group so if you are disabled under 35 and have no child dependants then your housing benefit will be cut.

Here is what Shelter correctly say about SAR exemptions

csr-sardisability exemptionSo if you receive DLA at low rate or you receive ESA and in the support group or  WRAG group or you do not receive the daily living component of PIP then the SAR does apply to you.  This change is going to affect a huge amount of bedroom tax households as we know from DWP’s own figures that 63% of bedroom tax households contain a disability.

You can see why Osborne has today created the DISABLED ROUGH SLEEPER and just how pernicious this policy change is.

My figures above reveal that this will see disabled single persons evicted in the lowest rent areas which of course means it will happen in all areas of the UK.

Lets not forget that in some low rent areas of the UK social rent is actually higher than private rent levels as the CIH stated this week in their pay MORE to stay (PMS) submission below and also not forgetting that the PMS policy which DOES affect the pensioner in England too!

rentsocialhigher rentthan private

Yet this policy which sets the maximum social housing rent for single people under 35 will also see DV refuges close!

I advised 17 refuges and developed their funding streams from 2001 to 2003 during the Transitional Housing Benefit System which became Supporting People.  The rents paid by housing benefit necessarily include the costs of staffing, fixtures and fittings and so much more – nobody flees domestic violence and abuse with a kitchen sink, beds, bedding etc strapped to their backs in very crude terms – and housing benefit pays for this.

YET evidence I have gathered from those admitted to refuges reveal that about 30% – 35% of women are single with no child dependants and so this SAR change means instead of the refuge receiving say £230 per week per person, if the women is under 35 and single they will receive about £80 per week as a national average – a reduction of £150 per week in the refuge income or £7,800 per year

So crunching some numbers – if a refuge has 12 rooms and each person stays 3 months they have 48 women accommodated in a year.  If 35% of these are single then the refuge lose 17 lots of £7,800 and its yearly income reduces by £33,150 and means that DV refuge closes as this is a 23.1% reduction in income.  It cannot mean anything else!

So now we see Osborne’s SAR changes creating another new client group in the FLEEING DOMESTIC ABUSE ROUGH SLEEPER!

In reality this means refuges will not be able to accommodate childless single women under 35 regardless of the fact they would never want to do this meaning in essence that “Sorry, you will have to stay where you are and have the shit kicked out of you!!”  Or ” By all means come back when you’re 35 providing you live that long!

The same principle of HB costs applies to all supported housing / supported living schemes so means that those with a learning disability or mental health condition whose rents include costs for staffing, white goods, furniture, etc, etc, etc and it can even include salt grit bins and lightning conductors as well as tea towels, cups and saucers etc etc…..will also close.  It will also include all single homeless hostels who could not possibly guarantee you can stay there for 3 months as how could HB departments possibly accept such a statement from hostel providers.

So the major route out of rough sleeping – homeless hostels – and probably the better route of the housing first option – are now not available because of this SAR change by the most incompetent fuckwit we have ever had as a chancellor.

George Osborne the man who killed supported housing

George Osborne the man who killed off DV refuge provision and whose policy here will DIRECTLY see more women dying of domestic violence and abuse

George Osborne the man whose policy here DIRECTLY evict disabled people from their homes

George Osborne the man whose policy here DIRECTLY increases rough sleeping ten fold or will it be a hundred fold?

George Osborne the…cupid stunt!

Single people can’t afford SOCIAL HOUSING (CSR1) – £300m pa problem

Today George Osborne have just announced that single people cannot afford social housing – So where the f*ck are they going to live?


Above is the proof from the CSR (Comprehensive Spending Review) and I use actual figures from Liverpool to explain yet this applies anywhere and everywhere in the UK.

A single person aged under 35 living in a 1 bed flat in SOCIAL Housing receives 100% of the rent in Housing Benefit.  In Liverpool the typical 1 bed social rent level is around £78 per week and so £78 is paid in housing benefit.

The change announced today means that a 30 year old single person will now only receive the Shared Accommodation Rate (SAR) in housing benefit which currently is £57.77 per week.

This means the single person will need to find £20.23 per week out of their welfare benefit just to pay rent.  £20.23 out of £73.10 JSA is 28% out of their benefit income and of course unaffordable.

If the single person is under 25 they only receive £57.90 per week in JSA and so the £20.23 per week rent top up they need to make from their JSA is 35% of their weekly income and leaves just £37.67 per week or £5.38 per day to pay for council tax, food, gas, electric, telephone and every other expense including bus fares to and from the job centre and to interviews.

In short social landlords will either be evicting them in their droves or be facing massive abandonments by single people or single people will go and get pregnant.  I doubt social landlords will convert their many 3 bed and larger voids into shared accommodation yet that is precisely what private landlords do and is also precisely what this policy incentivises social landlords to do.

Under 35? Single? Then fuck off and get a job is what Osborne has just said – and get a job so you can afford to pay rent totally as even if working you are still limited to the SAR rate of HB.

Under 25? Single? See if you can get a job paying above the new minimum wage (Osborne version) which of course DOES NOT apply to you – which of course means you can’t so either get pregnant if you’re female or get a female pregnant if you are male appear as you only options.

As this applies to new tenancies from April 2016 or in just 5 months time then from today no under 35s if they are single will be allocated a social housing one bedroom property.   Council and housing association landlords will change their allocation policies from about 2pm today to ensure this does not happen.  All those who are single and under 32 years and 7 months and current social tenants you need to prepare for eviction in April 2018.

You wonder just how many single people under 35 there are in social housing and of course many will be unable to work and on DLA /PIP /ESA and not just on JSA?

About 19% of the 4.3 million social tenancies according to the English Housing Survey from 2014 which means about 817,000 persons.


Though of those 817,000 some will be single parents and not count in this figure and the latest HB figures reveal that aged under 35 and single with no child dependents is 190,000 or so males (hence they can’t get pregnant) and statistically about 130,000 of these single males under 35 will be in social housing.

So that’s 130,000 single blokes at risk of eviction unless they partner up!

There is also 118,000 single and childless females under 35 receiving HB so about 75,000 single childless females under 35 in social housing who also need to partner up or get pregnant if they want their own roof over their heads.

So Osborne at a stroke today has just put 200,000 existing social tenancies at a massively increased risk of eviction!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Those of you with a long memory will recall I said that the SAR will inevitably apply to social housing and the great and the good of social housing said I was mistaken – the usual suspects of NHF and CIH who accused me of conspiracy theory on this and on the argument I was advancing 4 year ago that the Conservatives are out to kill off the social housing model.

I have just done a quick look and 14 of my blog posts from 2011 and 2012 all said the SAR will apply to social housing and that was rejected as nonsense by the social housing ‘sector’ of the great and the good!  How wrong you were!!

200,000 single households in social housing all at risk of eviction.  200,000 who will see their allegedly ‘social’ landlords evict them and in the vast majority of cases pass them onto local councils who will further shaft them as they have always shafted single homeless people by not providing a homeless service other than here’s a list of private landlord numbers!

What about the approximate 30% – 35% of single women who are under 35 and go to a refuge?  Will they still be exempt from the SAR HB restrictions?  Probably but no such exemption exists for single hostel residents so they if they are lucky enough to get a homeless hostel place can ONLY leave a hostel if they have a job.

Yes that means single people made homeless by the SAR changes will not be able to even get into a single persons homeless hostel and cue a massive increase in rough sleeping.  I wonder when we will get a NSMO programme for rough sleepers – as in No Second MONTH Out on the streets?

I could rant and rant all day on this issue yet this remains just one tiny bit of this CSR dog with fleas statement that is going to make the UK’s housing crisis TEN TIMES WORSE!

Finally though, I use the example of Liverpool above and those figures of £20.23 per week or £1052 per year will be way below the national average rent top up which could easily, and still cautiously, be £1500 per year.  So a £1500 per year risk for 200,000 existing social tenants – just a £300 million per year added arrears risk for social landlords – and you see why these ‘social’ landlords will evict en masse!



Same old stale HA trousers story

Housing Associations – there is none so blind than those that cannot see – and especially when they wear the same wrong trousers!!



Below is the opening of yet another attack by housing associations on the private rented sector that is not only stale, not only does not work, not only speaks to social housing only and nobody outside the sector, it is also hypocrisy writ large.

Understandably, there is a lot of concern and noise about housing associations and their future, but please don’t forget the real housing story of the 21st Century so far – the rapid growth of privately rented housing. Whether or not’s a real success story is open to question.

The private rented sector (PRS) has more than doubled in size in the last 15 years to nearly 5 million homes, and it trousers the thick end of £10 billion a year in housing benefit.

It is true that the PRS has doubled in size over the last 15 year yet the PRS receive £8.69 billion in housing benefit.

Yet housing associations have also doubled in size over the last 15 – 20 years with stock transfer now making up more than 50% of the 2.7 million homes they have and housing associations TROUSER £9.3 billion in housing benefit and more than the PRS.

With at least 1.4m ex council properties now charging and receiving 13% more in rent (and of course housing benefit) under the convenient tag of social housing the figures show that 100%+ growth or doubling and hide that 13% rent increase over council housing.

This tired narrative also hides the facts released a week or so ago in Inside Housing that some housing associations only receive 40% of their income – just £2 in every £5 – from social housing with the rest coming from PRIVATE products such as shared ownership, private rent and outright private sale.

The rest of this polemic has much merit hyperbole aside yet it is a polemic and the same tired old polemic of PRS as bogey man that is stale and refuses to recognise that housing associations are not altruistic charities with a zeal for social mission as they want to project as a deluded image.

The Inside Housing article revealed what HA’s have become, wolves in sheep’s clothing masquerading as charities with a social mission yet seeking more and more to become the private landlords they convenient despise and call the bogey man.


And look at their surpluses (profits) too and especially in light of the 1% imposed rent cut which the NHF say amounts to a £3.7 billion cut over this parliaments or about £925 million per year for all 1700 of them while just the top ten have surpluses last year of £750m


And you think that housing associations – these charitable do-gooders as they self perceive – work on really tight margins?

HAmargins40%40% operating margins are hardly tight are they?  All in all the Inside Housing piece reveals that the top 75 housing associations increased their profits (surpluses) by 24.7% and as the vast majority of them do really rather well out of housing benefit don’t they!

In fact a quick look at the latest HB figures released two weeks ago show that since the May 2010 election reveal that housing associations average HB has increased by 20.22% in that time while the “trousering” private landlords have seen their actual HB average increase by….oh they get 0.59% LESS in HB in actual terms than they did in May 2010.  That is in actual terms and takes no account of inflation.

None of the above takes away from the PRS landlord still receiving 17% more per property in housing benefit than housing associations for provide a much inferior product at a much higher price and with much less security of tenure an rights for the tenant, yet the figures above DO show the reality of what HA’s have become and with record surpluses and record operating margins – those numbers and pesky facts that numbers are gave Osborne so much scope to introduce right to buy and 1% rent cuts and whatever else this afternoons Autumn Statement brings.

Time for housing association’s blind acolytes to wake up to reality..and to find much much better ways of justifying their services than the pitiful and stale comparison with the PRS as bogey man ‘trousering’ housing benefit!

Wensleydale anyone?


1% tenant rent cut = 15% tenant service cut!

When does a 1% tenant rent cut become a 15% cut in tenant services?

That is precisely what is happening in social housing! Confused? Read on.

numberjumbleJoe you’re an annoying git with your numbers – I have lost count (pun intended) of how many times this has been said to me and meant and taken as a compliment. Numbers are incredibly powerful as a means of explanation to everyone of almost any issue yet we rarely use them to explain (and some especially landlords don’t even try!)

An exception to numbers applies if you are IDS or Osborne as you can’t use numbers to explain because 2 + 2 always equals 4 we find numbers reveal policy failure and the direct opposite of the huge political spin Osborne and especially IDS’s “I believe it to be so” mantra when discussing ‘welfare’ is the obvious case in point as the collective HB reforms (bedroom tax, benefit cap, LHA and SAR cap) actually cost the taxpayer £1 billion per year MORE and in real terms according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies report from March 2015.

ifs hb real terms

That is exactly what this says – the HB reforms cost the taxpayer more after inflation or as they put it “…real housing benefit spending was still £1 billion higher in 2015-16 than in 2010-11.” YET the public fail to see how a cut and a cut at source can lead to an increase in cost – yet it does because the numbers say so and 2+2 always equals four.

Yet some don’t even bother to attempt to explain with or without numbers and of course I mean housing!

Imagine the ‘humble’ social tenant who is getting a 1% rent cut each year for the next 4 years.  That should be good news for tenants yet in direct response we see social landlords cutting staff by 15% on average.

This means, all things being equal, that the tenant gets 15% less service, 15% less maintenance, 15% longer to get a repair done, 15% cuts to anti-social behaviour services, 15% cuts to EET and any other service the social landlord provides – in all ways 15% less than they did before …and in return tenants get a 96 pence weekly reduction!

Social landlords are a bunch of bastards becomes the obvious social tenant perception.  96 pence per week cut and the bloody landlords who made a 25% increase in profits (surpluses) last year  – a mere £2.2 billion for the top 75 housing associations too – and now they are cutting 15% of staff!!!!!  Thieving money grabbing bastards and they are supposed to be charities FFS!!!!

Ok you get the message housing people and your reputation among your tenants is shot to pieces due to your failure to even bother to communicate!

You may recall on the day that Osborne announced the 1% per year cut I said this is a huge cut within an hour of it being released on the day of the emergency budget and I refresh your memory below:


That was 4 months ago on 8 July and yet social landlords have never in that time communicated to tenants precisely what this 1% cut means and never told tenants WHY a 1% rent cut means a 15% reduction in staff and services.

I saw this within an hour or so of the surprise announcement yet social landlords simply DO NOT COMMUNICATE with tenants who they also have the audacity to call customers!

What your communication incompetence means is that tenants blame you and tenants have a woefully low opinion of you that is getting worse by the day and you sit idly by and do absolutely bugger all to change this highly damaging tenant perception. This is made all the worse by your constant comms teams thinking social media is the dog’s bollocks and you all patting yourselves on the back saying aren’t we bloody wonderful at communicating!

There are a number of realities here:

  • Social landlords do not see the need to communicate with tenants
  • Social landlords think tenants are irrelevant and do not need to know the reality and adopt the usual landlord knows best arrogant as hell attitude
  • Social tenants couldn’t give a stuff about an average 96 pence per week rent cut or the 15 pence per week reduction in bedroom tax this means
  • Social tenants do however care greatly that your service level is to reduce by 15% and you haven’t told them why

Tenants have been kept in the dark by arrogance and inactivity and failure to communicate so would you blame tenants if they adopted a you can just wait 15% longer for your rent position?  How about if tenants said As you’re providing 15% less service we will pay 15% less then? Isn’t that what tenants would do with any other contract?  Isn’t that what any customer would do?

A 1% rent cut in isolation would seem to be an issue of contention between the tenant who would want it and landlord who would not.  Yet it is a bloody woeful deal for social tenants and when they see that it means a 15% cut in services they will be angry about it and their anger is directed at…..yes the landlord rather than at Government who imposed it!

Landlords know best?  The tenant won’t understand? We do a great job communicating with our customers?  Take you pick social landlord as to which one of these excuses and positions you take best covers your incompetence in these matters.

Once again we see landlords oblivious to their own reputational risk or perhaps it is that landlords simply do not care what their CUSTOMERS think?


A tenant is a tenant not a customer.  As the above proves the tenant is being kept in the dark and if anyone in housing can offer an argument to say the tenant is the end goal of the business please do so!

If I as a customer of say Tesco decide to change my shopping to Aldi or Fortnum & Mason’s I am a customer.  A customer is ethereal, is flighty and has choice and has no constraints in such choice.  Yet a tenant is seen by both landlord and tenant as something a lot more permanent than that and by the nature of the tenancy agreement is constrained and have little if any choice.

Oh and when a business reduces its service level by 15% (and especially by stealth) then isn’t the customer free to decide to pay 15% less for it too?

How about a Twitter hashtag #CommsZero is very apt don’t you think?


Landlord Service Cuts

Staffing cuts – New Charter to cut 150 of 1000 workforce; Gentoo in Sunderland between 330 – 500 jobs and dozens more with new cases appearing daily.

How about social landlords seeking legal advice as to what repairs they can cut out altogether? See here which begins “Housing associations are seeking legal advice about their statutory requirements as they look to cut back on repairs and maintenance services without breaking the law.

How about social landlords seeking to deregister so that they can avoid the imposed 1% per year rents cuts? ” Housing associations have sought legal advice on deregistering as social landlords, as they consider their options following the Budget’s rent cut.

Or social landlords seeking overall 25% cuts (while of course keeping the rent they charge for this at 99%!) here and they are just some of the cuts to tenant services they are seeking and planning.

Of course we shouldn’t forget that while HAs are hand-in-glove with Government over the right to buy that Cameron in PMQs spoke of the need to ‘reform housing associations and make sure that they are more efficient‘? 

I would take huge issue with that Cameron point as social landlords provide 10 times the service levels of private landlords and at a rent of half the price and that must prove the social housing model beats the uber-efficient market everyday of the week and hands down.

Oh yes another reason for the hashtag #CommsZero


Just a thought, and not making mischief as there is a serious point here, the landlord tenant relationship is a contract with rights and responsibilities both sides detailed in the tenancy agreement.  So as landlords are cutting their tenant responsibilities by (minimum) 15% which may also mean they are reducing your contract by 15% then should tenants offer 15% less in rent?

Is this a variation and diminution of the tenant contract and rights by imposition? In essence it is both so is there any legal redress to tenants who suffer this loss of right?  Put another way why do we simply assume landlords are able to reduce their contractual obligations by 15%?

These are serious points and not merely mischief.

If you had a 24/7 call out contract with say a plumber  / British Gas / insurance company and they then said this doesn’t apply on a Sunday (a reduction of 14%) would you then demand a 14% reduction in the cost of that service?



Deconstructing the bedroom tax?

The Sunday Mirror today runs a story of a social landlord in Liverpool, Cobalt Housing, who are knocking down walls to turn their very large numbers of 3 bedroom properties into 2 bedrooms for bedroom tax purposes.

Yet all it not what it appears and this requires a lot of comment.

Firstly, this is a practical and commonsense move by one landlord and one landlord alone, and secondly, it is not social landlords finally ‘seeing the light‘ as  tenants are saying on Facebook and other social media anti bedroom tax groups.

Cobalt’s move is practical and if the Chancellor does go ahead with the 10% cut to all Housing Benefit plans as many forecast he will in Wednesday’s Autumn Statement it is a remarkably clever move for Cobalt, although I as conclude a hugely dangerous one and one that is not likely to be replicated elsewhere.

Cobalt Housing has some very unusual housing circumstances brought on by the bedroom tax:

Primarily that 73% of its total (and former council house) stock is 3 bedroom properties and ‘family homes’ and this is double the national average of 35.9% of 3 bed properties across social housing.

Secondly, the vast majority are in an area called Norris Green which 30 years ago was a highly desirable area and very hard to access a council property.  In housing jargon it was ‘dead man’s shoes’ given the minute possibility of ever getting a council house there.  Yet then the opposite perception happened and it got a bad reputation and the council couldn’t give them away and a single person could have their choice of whatever 3 bed property they chose.

The bad reputation was not entirely deserved and a huge amount of community rebuilding of its reputation back has been going on for a number of years and for which some credit is due to Cobalt as the main landlord in the area.  Yet this meant when the bedroom tax began a number of tenants abandoned properties and the risk of community blight was all too apparent.

Cobalt’s MD Alan Rogers is quoted in the local Liverpool Echo saying this about the scheme

The conversions cost £700–£800 and this figure is expected to rise to £1,300 next year alongside other improvement works.

So far, Cobalt have completed 83 properties and plan to convert a further 120 and make three-bedroom properties into more spacious two-bedroom houses. Mr Rogers said the tax was unfair, adding: “The problem with the bedroom tax is that it is retrospective, it isn’t fair as it affects people who didn’t expect it when they signed a tenancy. “The rent will be less but it is a sustainable outcome as the houses will be let. “We are looking to find other ways to make housing affordable such as doing away with pre-paid meters.”

Yet for me Alan Rogers misses a much bigger issue and much bigger selling point of this idea and I highlight.  The average bedroom tax in Liverpool is £771.72 per year currently and may rise by 52% to £1,173 per year from Wednesday if Osborne’s proposed plan to limit HB to 90% of the rent level charged does emerge as many expect.

The payback time for the £750 median cost of conversion is less than a year and will fall to 7 months if the max 90% HB to rent plan happens.  So for those landlords with similarly very high bedroom tax issues as Cobalt have the knocking down of walls makes huge financial sense.

Also note well the entire programme is for 200 houses which is about 3% of Cobalt’s total stock and just 4.5% of its 3 bed total properties.  Yet Cobalt will have a higher percentage of bedroom tax affected households than the Liverpool average which is 22% .

The physical alteration from 3 to 2 beds or knocking down walls is very much a last resort and used when all other ideas fail or fail to be considered.  This is because landlords lose asset value as instead of having 70% 3 beds and 30% 2 beds they become 65% 3 beds and 35% two beds and as a 2 bed is worth less than a 3 bed landlords risk the asset value loss and potentially as their borrowings have interest rates set against the total value.  If that value falls then interest rates may increase as the risk of default increases.

ALL landlords are much better served adopting the approach taken by Coast & Country in Redcar and supporting their tenants to appeal the bedroom tax and for one key reason I have stated before and stated until I am blue in the face!!

If the tribunal says the property only have 2 bedrooms and not 3 bedrooms then the tenant wins and so does the landlord as the rent stays the same and the asset value stays the same.  The landlord does NOT reclassify the property and does not reduce the rent or reclassify the property as 2 beds from 3.

There is absolutely nothing the councils HB department or central government can do about this as there are no powers with HB regulations to force a cheaper rent or a re-designation of the property.

HCA (housing regulator) figures sees the average difference between a 2 and a 3 bed of less than £6 per week and so what you may call a 2 bed plus boxroom property can ALWAYS be said to be a reasonable rent level by being £6 higher per week than a straightforward 2 bed property.  The only powers local council HB departments have is to say the rent in “unreasonably high” and less than £6 per week on top of a typical £90 per week two bed for a 2 bed plus boxroom can never be argued as being unreasonable.

This is worth restating again and again and IF Osborne goes ahead with his plans in the Autumn Statement on Wednesday for Housing Benefit to only cover a maximum of 90% of the rent level this means the bedroom tax increases 52% and landlords as well as tenants are so going to be in the brown smelly stuff!

The bedroom tax appeals route has already become a stronger option with a number of Upper Tribunal decisions recently on what is and is not a bedroom and by way or size, usage and reasonable alternate usage.  Yet more importantly for social landlords and their stubbornly closed minds over the bedroom tax the UT issued a decision which is binding which said explicitly that how they designate a room (as bedroom or not) is of little legal consequence when it comes to the bedroom tax.

The final sentence of this Upper Tribunal decision (CH/4631/2014 of 22 September 2015) says it all – the 3JP (Fife- Nelson) decision makes it clear that:

“…the landlord’s designation is only a starting point and IS NOT DETERMINATIVE…”

landlord designationnot determinativeWhen landlords and their staff invariably said you signed for a 3 bed therefore it is a 3 bed or similar they were and are legally incorrect.  Also this week the UT clarified that many First-tier Tribunals and indeed the vast majority of councils have the appeal procedures wrong and they have been denying appeals unlawfully.

A thorough and definitive briefing note has been produced by Peter Barker on this and is required reading for social tenant and social landlord. This is here and it includes template letters and is a game changer for landlord involvement and supporting tenants to appeal the bedroom tax.  IF and as many suspect when Osborne revives the old Conservative policy idea of only paying a maximum of 90% of rent in HB on Wednesday then it makes landlords supporting tenants to appeal the bedroom tax a necessity!

The 90% maximum HB to rent issue sees the national average bedroom tax that now stands at £795 per year will increase by 52% to an average of £1,208 per year and in aggregate what is now a £360m risk to arrears becomes a £547 million risk of arrears to social landlords – a £187 million increase in their financial risk.

For each property on average the bedroom tax HB deduction increase is £413 per year and the best part of £2000 extra during this parliament and until the policy can be got rid of.  Tenants cannot stand such an increase and neither can landlords and evictions and eviction costs are bound to rocket and over large swathes of England outside of London and the South East.

YET it should NEVER have taken the need for a 52% increase for landlords to support their tenants in appealing.  When the tenant wins at appeal the landlord wins and rent does not fall, and HB paid increases and there is no reclassification and no asset value loss either for the landlord.

The vast majority of social landlords have been stupid and obstinate in the bedroom tax by not supporting their tenants to appeal the bedroom tax and the you signed for a 3 bed therefore it is a 3 bed legal fiction is a big part of that.

Now with the yearly average bedroom tax risk even in the lowest rent areas becoming over £1000 per year and nearing £2000 per year in London the landlord decision NOT to support tenants appealing the bedroom tax becomes all too apparent as to how wrong it was.  It always made financial sense to begin with and saying nothing about improving landlord tenant relationships and the impact a good reputation has for landlord finances generally.

To return to Cobalt to conclude I have personal knowledge of Cobalt’s housing stock and know of 3 entire streets in which the alleged 3 bedroom properties have a tiny L-shaped boxroom often no more than 35 square feet in floor size which are designated as bedrooms when any tribunal would rule they are not.

Supporting their tenants to appeal the bedroom tax which would cost far less than £750 per household would see many hundreds of tenants taken out of the bedroom tax altogether.

These are 2 bedrooms (of decent sizes) and a tiny boxroom and there is no need to knock down wall at all and the only reason knocking down walls CAN make sense is IF Cobalt are then re-letting these former 2 bed+ boxroom properties as 2 bed properties and at the misnomer of “affordable” (sic) rent levels which even in low cost Liverpool are much higher then the 3 bed social rent levels they were charging before.

IF that is the case then Cobalt’s PR in this matter which they have clearly sought by getting this story in the national Sunday papers takes on a whole new meaning entirely and is a case of a shameful smoke and mirrors variety and highly dangerous too for ALL housing associations nationally.

The former impossible to let 3 beds typically had a social rent of £83 per week and the new 2 beds have become an ‘affordable’ (sic) rent of £95 per week. In very necessary specific terms £83 pw less 14% bedroom tax saw £71.40 or so in housing benefit income to Cobalt.  Changing that to £95 per week sees £95 per week in housing benefit being paid and is a clever clever move and a 33% increase in income and no bedroom tax arrears risk is very very clever indeed…superficially!

It works … IF the new tenant is always on housing benefit yet does not function and the tenant gets a raw deal if that tenant works as he or she would be better off in the ‘old’ non-converted properties and paying £83 per week rather than £95 in rent which is a 14% increase.

There is a certain symmetry in that as tenant is 14% better off if not working and 14% worse off if they do work.  Yet Cobalt is 33% better off if the tenant is on benefit and 33% better off if the tenant is in work which is much cleverer symmetry altogether!

If the tenant is on benefit then the HB bill will increase by 33%  from £71.40 to £95 per week and incur the wrath of IDS who will then say all social landlords are taking the mickey and use this one example to castigate all others and penalise all others too.  That is the real danger in this plan and a far greater danger than the smoke and mirrors PR as when social landlords get penalised for this you can bet your life it will be the tenant who bears the brunt of that.

I’ve just had a bit of a Twitter spat with a former HA board member over this who when I explained the £83 and bedroom tax position goes to one of £95 and no bedroom tax said that I never have a good word to say about HAs!  A case of losing the argument and resorting to blame the messenger by labeling me!

Yet the fact that this scheme does increase the HB bill by 33% it is bound to see IDS fume and Osborne – the same chancellor who only a few months back called HA’s inefficient – will make sure that all other housing associations suffer.  Blame the messenger all you like but I am just reporting what I see and MUCH MORE IMPORTANTLY revealing once again that it is the social tenant who will suffer for this contrived plan.

Just another reason social landlords would be far better supporting the tenant to appeal the bedroom tax too!

Tories to privatise all housing in Manchester


The Conservative government policy is to privatise ALL housing in Manchester?  What am I talking about?  A 2 minute read explains what is stated government policy!

  1. The Conservative policy is to extend the right to buy to housing association tenants.
  2. The discounts the HA tenant receives is paid back to the housing association by the Conservatives
  3. To get that money to pay back – £4.5 billion per year – the Conservatives are forcing the sale of 15,000 council houses per year each with an average value of £300,000.
  4. That is 75,000 ‘high value’ council houses forceably sold in this parliament that could accommodate the 395,000 population of Manchester

It also means that council housing will have 75,000 fewer properties and also means that social housing (council and housing association) capacity MUST fall by at least 75,000 in this parliament.

A report today by JRF says that the HA RTB extension known as RTBe  COULD see 75,000 fewer yet this report MUST be fundamentally flawed.  It says in opening:

The report, Understanding the likely poverty impacts of the extension of Right to Buy to housing association tenants, estimates that there will be 75,000 fewer low-cost homes becoming available to let over the next 5 years if the homes built to replace those sold are available as shared ownership rather than as low-cost rentals.

This refers to the issue of whether housing associations replace their homes sold with rented properties at a social rent level.  Yet if completely ignores the bloody obvious that 75,000 social homes – the council housing forceably sold off to fund the housing association tenant discounts – which MUST and CAN ONLY MEAN that 75,000 social sector houses have ALREADY been sold and already taken out of the overall social housing capacity.

That existing 75,000 forced sales of council houses means the starting point for English RTBe (it does not apply in Scotland or Wales) is at MINUS 75,000 and any further reductions such as HAs replacing the properties they sell with shared ownership or direct private sale or for private renting ADD to the MINUS 75,000 social housing capacity figure.

Moreover, each of the 15,000 council houses per year forceably sold is NOT expected to be replaced until year 3 of the programme.  A 3 year time lag between being sold and being replaced and so that is a reduction in the social housing capacity of  between 30,000 and 45,000 before replacements begin.  Or enough to house a city of 225,000 men woman and children!

Unless of course JRF are aware of some other funding for this £4.5 billion per year giveaway by the Conservatives.  Or unless JRF believes the Conservatives claim that 2 replacements for each sale will happen!

On that latter point I have been running a poll here asking if anyone believes the RTBe will have a 1 for 1 replacement never mind a 2 for 1 and the current response is that over 90% do not believe the RTBe will achieve a 1:1 replacement.

In summary, Conservative policy does equate to privatising enough council housing to accommodate every man woman and child in Manchester and is costing you the taxpayer £4.5 billion per year and can ONLY reduce the capacity of social housing, that this same Conservative government tells us has 1.4 million families on the waiting list and they must do something about (!!) and telling us how wonderful right to buy is!!