Burnham’s homeless parable – 99.4% of planned new homes are NOT for ‘the homeless’

Just 300 of 50,000 new social rented sector homes across the 10 local authorities which make up Greater Manchester are for former rough sleepers in the charade that Andy Burnham calls a homeless prevention strategy. 49,700 of these 50,000 and 99.4% of these planned homes are not earmarked for homeless households so why is it being sold as anything to do with homelessness??

Another thing that the hyperbolic media releases failed to say is these new SRS homes are to be built by 2037. It is a 16 year strategy as the consultation document itself says:

The facts – the devil in the detail – and vague and woolly detail at that is a far cry from the propaganda in media reports such as the Manchester Evening News and Inside Housing as evidenced below

Not once in this sycophantic and deceitful Inside Housing propaganda is there a mention that this 30,000 new homes for social rent is over a 16 year period and by 2037. Not once is this 300 total properties for former rough sleepers which is just 30 properties in each of the 10 Greater Manchester local authorities over sixteen years said for what it is and ….

LESS THAN 2 NEW ROUGH SLEEPER PROPERTIES PER COUNCIL PER YEAR FOR THE NEXT 16 YEARS IS THE (ROUGH SLEEPER) HOMELESS PLAN OF ANDY BURNHAM

Pre-pandemic Burnham admitted that GMCA had over 600 known rough sleepers so half of them will be off the streets in 16 years time assuming not 1 more new rough sleeper crawls out from under the woodwork before 2037! The

Andy Burnham, Metro Mayor of the Greater Manchester Combined Authorities (GMCA) and the 10 local authorities which comprise it, is going to have to perform a greater supply and demand miracle than Jesus did with the 5 loaves and two fishes. He is truly the Messiah!

I would dearly love to see the GMCA strategic analysis that projects the rough sleeping numbers for the next 16 years until 2037 which asserts there is only a need for TWO additional yearly properties needed in each of the ten Greater Manchester council areas to see if it is an in-house or external consultant PENC (Pangloss & Emperor’s New Clothes) report. Burnham is not the Messiah. He is just a very naughty boy!

It is also interesting that Burnham as the Messiah has not got a Handel on the Greater Manchester naughty social (sic) landlords who want 40% and 20,000 of these 50,000 new SRS properties at the chronically misnamed “affordable rent” level and which exclude all prospective tenants on benefit due to the overall benefit cap and other ‘welfare (sic) reform (sic)’ policies never mind excluding those who find themselves homeless.

Put another way greedy social (sic) landlords want 20,000 affordable (sic) rent properties so they can cream off excess profit (averaging 49% more in GM) but have to provide 300 former rough sleeper properties as constraint!

This great homeless plan of Burnham in short sees at least 20,000 and 40% of all properties to be NO DSS properties over the next 16 years and a tad different to the snake oil that Burnham is attempting to sell on behalf of the grubby ultra-commercialised landlords who have the temerity to describe themselves as social!

Burnham and his GMCA communications team are selling this plan as being about homelessness – and aided and abetted by numerous bullshit merchants who are promoting it – when it is nothing of the sort. It is political bullshit that uses the offensive levels of homelessness GMCA has for political purposes even more offensively with the tell a lie often enough and people (want to) believe it strategy.

Tory Austerity never went far enough for Starmer or Reeves. Woe Betide Social Housing

Not content will being labelled Tory Lite, Keir Starmer appoints Rachel Reeves Shadow Chancellor – a woman who believes Austerity did not go far enough and who is miles to the political right of Iain Duncan Smith and Esther McVey.

In October 2013 Rachel Reeves was the Shadow DWP Minister in the Ed Miliband cabinet and infamously stated her extreme right-wing views on benefit scroungers and workfare.

In October 2013 her counterparts were Iain Duncan Smith and Esther McVey at the DWP. IDS had introduced the bedroom tax, the overall benefit cap policy, had frozen LHA and upped the age limit on the shared accommodation rate from those under 25 to those under 35, and he had also introduced Universal Credit.

This level of austerity was not right-wing enough for Rachel Reeves who thought IDS was a wet and too soft on those out of work. UC sanctions which increased more than ten-fold on the legacy system was not hard enough for Reeves who wanted workfare

By October 2013 Esther McVey as Disabilities Minister has introduced PIP to replace Disability Living Allowance a policy with a clear and unambiguous intent to take disability benefit away from half a million households receiving it, a policy that said 500,000 of its then 2.7 million recipients were not disabled but work-shy scroungers.

Page 9 of the Impact Assessment referenced above

Esther McVey was far too liberal for Rachel Reeves liking in only calling out 19% of disability benefit recipients as piss takers and benefit cheats, which is what the DLA to PIP policy did and had at its heart. Rachel Reeves would be far tougher on them than Esther McVey and Iain Duncan Smith.

By March 2015 Rachel Reeves was in full flow and infamously stated Labour was a party for those in work but not a party for those out of work …

Pensioners are not in work. Those incapacitated are not in work. Most of those who are disabled are not in work. The Labour Party is not for you says Rachel Reeves.

In October 2021 the three million forced to claim Universal Credit as a result of the pandemic will be joined by millions more unemployed as the furlough scheme ends as does the £20 per week top-up. Many of the 4.8 million furlough recipients will finally find they are unemployed and look to Her Majesty’s Official Opposition, the Labour Party but instead of support they will find Rachel Reeves and Labour stating the country cannot afford these workless millions so get off your arses as work will set you free else we will introduce workfare. You are all FORMER workers so not welcome in Starmer Labour!

Rachel Reeves as Shadow Chancellor sees Starmer Labour not as Tory Lite but as Tory Plus in terms of Austerity.

The 1948 Welfare State and all that it means is now dead with this appointment of Reeves as Shadow Chancellor. We have a workfare state as the official policy of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition not a welfare state.

Do not get sick or ill. Do not lose your job. Only (non-unionised zero hour contract) employment will set you free under Starmer Labour. Do not expect the state to provide shelter and housing or any other pillar of the 1948 Welfare State.

‘Welfare’ to Rachel Reeves is a handout not a hand-up as her own utterances reveal. She is an unconstituted New Labourite politician heavily influenced by Etzioni communitarianism and all rights – to welfare etc – having to be balanced by a contract-based responsibility that goes way beyond the ‘tough love’ of workfare that the Tories didn’t dare to introduce.

The contractual-based welfare the Tories did introduce for example in Universal Credit core terms that anyone who can work 1 hour per week must work 35 hours per week and must travel 90 minutes to and from the place of work each day and must accept the national minimum wage else get sanctioned and receive nothing in welfare do not go far enough in terms of claimant responsibility for Reeves. The contractually based nature of welfare that New Labour introduced as central to the New Labour project I could bore you to tears with as it was the subject of my undergraduate disssertation. The contractual nature of welfare rights to welfare responsibility had never been done before the New Labour project

In applied and practical terms it does not bode well for social housing and homelessness that I normally discuss as both these sectors are riven with the SODS (Sick, Old, Disabled, Supported) or DOSS in the Reeves lexicon. The social rented sector seesa majority of all households having a disability according to EHS data, it has a far higher average householder age at 54 compared with 39 for the PRS and it has sheltered and supported housing that the PRS does not. In short, the typical SRS tenant profile is the work-shy benefit scrounger in Reeves thinking and ‘the homeless’ are homeless due to their ‘lifestyle choices’ and so on.

Reeves tenure as Shadow DWP minister under Miliband (2013 to 2015) was characterised by non-opposition to Tory Austerity in case Labour was labelled the party OF welfare and which gave the Austerity ‘welfare reforms’ as much free rein as Starmer has done in not opposing Johnson.

Infamously, UKIP came out publicly against the Bedroom Tax in this time and before the Miliband Labour Party which had Reeves as its Shadow DWP Minister. This was one manifestation of Reeves positioning of Labour being tougher than the Tories on welfare and there are a great many more. Welfare and social policy as well as housing policy by focus group at the time (and now joined by pithy superficial soundbite and slogan on social media) in short and for those in social housing does anyone recall Miliband Labour coming out against the 60% cut in social housing subsidy? It didn’t though Miliband himself said Thatcher was right to introduce Right to Buy at the 2011 Labour conference speech. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury at the time and who could and should have opposed the drastic social housing cut was you guessed it Rachel Reeves.

Social, as in social housing, social purpose, social ethos, etc., has the same root as in social-ism which Reeves opposes full stop in any form. The state is not responsible, the state is not a welfare state with a safety net but is a workfare state that chides the workless, the sick, the old, the disabled and those who require any form of support or basic humanity. Those in housing need including those who are roofless and homeless have to get off their fat lazy arses and work their way out of the dire straits their own lifestyle choices has seen them arrive at is the philosophy of Rachel Reeves.

Banning no-fault eviction is a good thing?

We are told today by the Renter Reform Coalition that 700,000 private renting households have received a S21 no-fault eviction notice since the pandemic began which could affect 1.6 million men, women and children given 2.3 is the average household size.  It is an outrage.  Yet nobody it seems has bothered to ask how many housing association households and council LHC tenants have also been served the same Section 21 no-fault eviction notices! 

Renter Reform Coalition members

We know from official data that Starter Tenancies are used for more than 70% of all new housing association tenancies and they are the exact same Assured Shorthold Tenancy as used in the private rented sector and can be ended by the exact same section 21 no-fault eviction notice.  That is just as much an outrage and in my view an even greater outrage since nobody has even bothered to ask or find out how many HA renting households are evicted in this way. 

Shelter has a page on their website which deals with HA ‘starter tenancies’ and as you can see a housing association can operate no-fault eviction in the exact same way as a private landlord via a Section 21 Notice.

Yet not one of the Renter Reform Coalition members has even bothered to ask how many no-fault eviction section 21 Notices have been issued by housing associations.

Additionally almost every local authority across England owns their own private landlord company called a Local Housing Company (LHC) and all of these are restricted to the Assured Shorthold Tenancy because they are private landlords and they too issue Section 21 no-fault eviction … yet not a peep from the Renters Reform Alliance

Insert LHC definition

Social Housing Green Paper (SHGP) official definition

If a no-fault eviction is an outrage, is amoral, is offensive then it is all of these things regardless of which type of landlord uses no-fault eviction and ANY landlord that does is the proverbial bastard.

The populist clamour to ban no fault evictions is incredibly ill-considered and is the same populist nonsense that said Brexit will give £350m more per week to the NHS.  It is very much a politically-driven agenda that deals with theory which sounds so right and so populist yet does not give any consideration to practical impacts and how it can make renting an even worse reality after any such ban.

The Banning of No-Fault Eviction (NFE) is a good thing?

No policy acts in a vacuum and the banning of NFE will have far more damaging and dangerous consequences than keeping it especially in terms of homelessness.  In simple yet valid terms, making it more difficult and more time-consuming to evict means it will impose a greater cost of eviction on ALL landlords – which on the face of it I have no objection to.

However, what it undoubtedly and inevitably means is that ALL landlords will undoubtedly and inevitably become more risk averse as to whom they will accommodate in the first place.  This is hugely problematic and best explained in terms of single homelessness as in England social landlords only offer up 13,000 rehousing properties to single homeless persons each year when England has and creates at least 150,000 single homeless persons each and every year. 

England is reliant on the private landlord to rehouse 137,000 of this minimum 150,000 and over 90% of its single homeless persons each and every year.  The banning of no-fault eviction means private landlords will take flight from rehousing the single homeless cohorts it currently does as the single homeless prospective tenant become a higher risk and higher cost cohort due to the banning of NFE and there is no extra financial reward for rehousing them.

Every company in every sector assesses risk versus reward. If you are a higher risk customer then you are charged a higher cost for that provider perceived risk.  An insurance company is a simple analogy that we all know so if you want to ski or snowboard then your insurance premium is a much higher cost than somebody who wants to merely holiday abroad by soaking up the sun.  That same principle applies with NFE to prospective tenants. 

ALL single homeless and even family homeless households are more likely to be evicted again is how ALL landlords perceive risk of tenancy failure yet there is no extra they can charge the homeless household in rent to mitigate that higher risk.  There is no industry that will take a higher risk for no higher reward yet that is what the banning of no-fault eviction means for the landlord in the housing industry.

Return to the facts above and do some simple arithmetic and the NFE banning and how it will affect single homelessness is horrific.  To keep the numbers simple let’s say private landlords rehouse 130,000 single homeless per year and social landlords rehouse 13,000 per year.

IF PRS landlords take just 10% flight from this tenant market they rehouse 13,000 fewer single homeless persons per year which means SRS landlords will have to increase the number they rehouse by 13,000 for a 100% increase by rehousing 26,000 in total – the usual 13,000 plus the 13,000 the PRS will no longer rehouse.

If PRS landlords take 20% flight from rehousing single homeless persons then social landlords will need to TREBLE the number they rehouse (from 13,000 to 39,000) and if PRS landlords take 30% flight from rehousing single homeless persons then social landlords will need to QUADRUPLE the number they rehouse from 13,000 to 52,000 per year.

BECAUSE social landlords do not have the capacity to even double the number of single homeless households they currently rehouse it means single people in homeless hostels and domestic abuse refuges have to stay there longer which means more rough sleepers not able to get into hostels and many more domestic abuse victims not able to get into refuge.

The homeless and domestic abuse implications from banning no-fault evictions by private landlords, housing associations and council-owned local housing companies is horrific and the NFE ban does not just adversely impact here but on a much wider scale. 

EVERY landlord will become far more risk averse and far more circumspect for mainstream general needs tenants.  The risk factors of it being harder, lengthier and more costly to evict means every prospective renter will be subject to far greater scrutiny when it comes to all allocation of every rented property.  Those perceived increased risks were known before the pandemic and are much more increased due to the pandemic.  Three million more on Universal Credit and massively reduced job security for millions is what the pandemic has seen. 

For example, a prospective tenant working full time in the hospitality industry or retail was a lowish risk of arrears before the pandemic yet now and in the future has become a higher perceived risk of arrears to landlords.  Look a bit closer and all the high rent areas where housing benefit comes nowhere near the rent charged and all prospective tenants in low-paying employment become a higher risk to arrears as their low paying jobs are significantly more precarious as a result of the pandemic. 

If many office workers retaining employment begin to start working from home 2 days per week as a pandemic consequence then they purchase 40% less from a coffee shop, a sandwich shop as they are not at the office workplace and thus all those coffee and sandwich shop businesses have a much greater employee precarity for their low-paid workforce and more likely to fold … which means even full-time but low paid employed renters are a greater risk to the arrears to eviction to homeless pathway and (correctly) perceived that way by landlords.

I could go on but anyone who thinks that landlords, private and social, do and will not factor in all of the pandemic impacts on prospective tenant risk they are living in Cloud Cuckoo Land and so allocation scrutiny for ALL renters by ALL landlords will increase anyway and further increase significantly IF a no-fault eviction ban becomes statute.  No policy change acts in a vacuum and no policy change should be proposed without a full consideration of what changes landlords will make when section 21 ‘no-fault’ eviction is banned.

In short, banning no-fault eviction was always a very dangerous proposal that has become dangerous with the pandemic and its consequences.  To be precise it was always a superficial and moralistic proposal that was ill thought-through and it still is ill thought-through by the Renter Reform Coalition. 

In isolation banning no-fault eviction is similar to the banning of alcohol or Prohibition in the USA a century ago.  It is as superficial as it gets and no thought has gone into what it means or how ‘bad’ tenants are evicted.  Yes, all eviction is abhorrent and it should only be affected with clear fault in a transparent and lawful process – a renter rents their home not just a set of bricks and mortar and having their home taken away from them is repugnant.  Eviction is, however, a necessary evil and a landlord right too. 

Two years ago the Theresa May government announced it was proposing to ban no fault eviction. It took most by surprise yet in the two years since there has never been anything more than this phrase. There has been no concrete proposal, no wording on how it is to be banned, no wording on what will replace the expected section 21 ban – and absolutely no discussion on what the impacts of banning no-fault evition will be or mean. Like any rational humane person I support the removal of the no fault eviction and I know that no fault eviction is truly abhorrent.

Yet I also know that just removing the section 21 notice will undoubtedly lead to far greater rough sleeper numbers and far greater single and family homelessness and far greater domestic abuse and will make it far harder for anyone to rent from a social or private landlord.

Be careful what you wish for

England’s post-war social housing experiment has failed (not just failing) due to ‘social’ (sic) landlord greed. We need better and urgently

A nurse or other key worker has to spend 50% more in rent payment than mortgage payment – yet we are told social housing is affordable!

Other projections e.g. Halifax, Nationwide, et al confirm these %’s of income on housing costs

Everyone – not just a nurse or other key worker – spends an average 17.8% of their household income on a mortgage yet on average spends 26.6% of the same income on renting a social housing property is what the above chart says (noting that other projections say broadly the same percentages.) It means as an average if the nurse or other key worker net income is £2000 each month then a monthly mortgage payment is £356 yet renting in social housing costs £532 per month and half as much again of their income to rent a social housing property than on mortgage.

We are told social housing is affordable

A series of articles in the Guardian over the last week (here) have focused on the nurse and other key worker not being able to afford to buy or afford a mortgage and in 98% of the UK and seeking, correctly, public outrage at this in relation to key workers we correctly venerate.  If a key worker cant afford to buy then paying 50% more than the mortgage payment to renr in social housing is far more unaffordable! These articles didn’t need to point out the very high cost of renting privately but they failed to discuss the very high cost of social housing that on average is 50% more than a mortgage payment. These articles missed the elephant in the room that social housing is not affordable yet …

We are told social housing is affordable

The Guardian, along with every other news and social media outlet, is fixated on home ownership and also fixated on the high cost of renting privately.  The London-centric media scream loudest given the absurdly high housing costs of buying and privately renting in London YET say nothing about the unacceptably high cost of renting social housing, the cheapest form of housing we have that … We are told is affordable

The narrative is pervasive yet extraordinarily assumptive and errant and not just in the London-centric media, noting that London with 25% of all housing being social rented housing which is coincidentally 50% more than the 16% – 17% of all 8 other regions in England. Yes that does mean London has 50% more social housing than any other English region – NE, NW, Y&H, East, WM, EM, SW and SE – yet the London media narrative ignores!

As we accept that renting privately is unacceptably high cost the narrative assumes and makes the errors of omission and commission that renting socially is affordable and not unacceptably high …

We are told social housing is affordable

Can you imagine if private landlords demanded as right and government policy that rents increase by more than inflation every year as social (sic) landlords demand and have got from government in all but 4 years of the last 40 years including during the pandemic.  Even then the 1% imposed cut was ONLY to the net rent and before service charges that were not subject to a cut.  The result is that overall gross rents (net rent plus service charges) still increased despite the imposed 1% net rent cut!

We are told social housing is affordable

Imagine the outcry if private landlords had a government-backed financial incentive to evict existing tenants to replace them the very next week in the very same property with an average 47% increase in rent?  That accurately describes the affordable (sic) rent regime in social housing and has seen purportedly social landlords convert at least 116,000 properties from the social rent level to the affordable (sic) rent level in the first full 7 years of the Tories Affordable Homes Programme. 

In higher rent areas it has seen 2 bed properties in LB Bromley increase from £112 per week at the social rent level to £335 per week and tripled the rent overnight in the exact same property with the conversion to “affordable” rent. Yet … We are told social housing is affordable!

The social housing concept of it being a safety net for those who cannot afford to buy and social landlords social purpose of it will always has those most in housing need has failed not just failing.  These social purposes no longer exist in what we misterm as social landlords who manage the equally mistermed social housing and the affordable (sic) rent conversions by social landlords in the table below reveal social housing has failed, not just is failing, and directly because of asocial landlord greed

Clarion Housing Group (UK’s largest HA) – Figures from 2017/18 Statistical Data Return see here

The Affordable (sic) Rent Con reveals greedy social (sic) landlords sweat their assets and rip off tenants

MORE true social housing was lost by landlord conversions to affordable (sic) rent than by Thatcher’s Right to Buy. That is, more social housing was lost by social landlord’s own actions than by government imposed policy on social landlords.

Since the Affordable Homes Programme spawned the misnamed “affordable rent” in 2011/12 to 31 March 2019 – the latest official data published for affordable rent conversions – 89,479 social homes were lost to RTB yet social (ahem) landlords converted 116,243 from the social rent level to the affordable (sic) rent level.

The actual SDR figures not the CIH dissembled ones reported widely in UK Housing Review 2021

Across England the average rent increase from social rent to affordable rent is 47% and is entirely a choice by each purportedly social landlord.  Affordable (sic) Rent is a system that encourages and financially incentivises the social landlord to evict current tenants paying the social rent level to replace them with the affordable rent paying tenant in the exact same property the very next week. 

The 47% increase from social to affordable rent is an England-wide average from official data yet in some areas the rent TRIPLES overnight and below is a table I produced a few years ago detailing this about Clarion Housing Group (CHG) the largest housing association in the country and whose board includes Gavin (Lord) Barwell the former housing minister and Theresa may Chief of Staff and David Orr the former chief executive of the National Housing Federation (NHF) – the umbrella body for housing associations in England.

I wrote about CHG affordable (sic) rent levels a few years ago using the then latest 2017 official rent data here from which the table below illustrates

The truly offensive naked commercialism of England largest housing association Clarion Housing Group

As well as the tripling of rents which is only enabled by the existing social rent paying tenant leaving, these conversions in the table reveal that far more in housing benefit is payable to Clarion and others than the private landlord can receive in Local Housing Allowance (LHA) the private landlord version of housing benefit.  Housing Benefit and its Universal Credit housing cost element equivalent is not capped for a council or housing association landlord as it is for the private landlord with LHA. 

For example and despite the table showing 4 year old AR rent levels it means the £442.88 per week rent charged is all payable in HB / UC in Reading for a 3 bed where the private landlord can receive just £264.66 per week in LHA thus the AR regime sees Clarion receiving 67% more in housing benefit than the maximum a private landlord can receive.

The table also shows that an additional £3.1 million per year is raised in excess rent by Clarion from these conversions for just 201 properties and the massive financial incentive to evict the traditional tenant paying the social rent level to replace with the affordable rent tenant the next week is there for all to see – as is the targeted ripping off of the benefit system with the 67% more rent than the private landlord can receive in housing benefit.

Having illustrated what the affordable rent regime and the SR to AR conversion process and system I ask What does it say when the official facts show that more true social housing was lost by so-called social landlords than government forced by RTB?  It says ‘social’ landlords since AR are definitively asocial and yet these same purported social landlords (rightly) demonise Thatcher’s RTB policy while losing more true social housing by their own greedy hand.

I repeat the official SDR figures for AR conversions and RTB sales

These figures are taken from the official SDR data for the period and unambiguously show that MORE social homes were lost by greedy SRS landlords choosing to convert social rent to affordable rent levels by their own hand than by forced RTB sales.  More were lost by internal landlord choice than by external imposition on landlords.

The AR conversions are shameful in number, in practice and by impact.  Aside from demonstrably revealing social (sic) landlords are more asocial than Thatcher’s RTB policy they also have many more adverse impacts not readily apparent due to the natural focus on the tripling of rent found in the South East and London.  The rare analysis the AR regime gets never focuses on my home city of Liverpool despite it having the highest number of AR homes of any local authority across England at 6,000+.and ALL of these are by Private Registered Providers (PRP) the official name for housing associations as Liverpool has no council landlord (RP or Registered Provider) and the adverse impacts are less than subtle.

Official data reveals the 1 bed AR properties attract a rent and housing benefit income of £104 per week (2018 figures) yet today the private landlord is limited to £92 per week in LHA so like my previous examples of London and Reading seeing more in housing benefit than the private landlord can receive.  The average 1 bed social rent in Liverpool is £74 per week so the increase is 41% from social to affordable rent and below the national average of 47%.

Why would a PRP landlord in Liverpool rehouse a higher risk former rough sleeper or single homeless person from a hostel at £74 per week in rent when they can convert the property to AR and rehouse a very low risk single working person and get £104 per week in rent

Put that question in the correct context of (a) Liverpool has 17% of its social housing being the 1 bed property when the English average is 24% so Liverpool has 30% fewer 1 bed properties than the average local authority; and (b) in light of Liverpool being a large-scale pilot area for the Housing First model that can only work if the 1 bed property is available in the first place.

Why on earth would any provider (landlord) offer the most in demand product (the 1 bed) to the most risky (the rough sleeper) for less in return in social rent than the 40% more it can achieve in affordable rent to a low risk new tenant?

The question rephrased in the correct context reveals of just below average rent Liverpool shows how invasive the offensive AR regime is and will continue to be. Then ask yourself how many of the 116,243 AR conversions in 7 years will see the social (sic) landlord rent increases mean 116,243 MORE properties are now in breach of the overall benefit cap limit and have become 116,243 more No DSS properties!!

Far easier just to say that anyone you hear or read anyone say “affordable” as adjective for housing they are known liars and bullshit merchants who support sweating what were once social and public sector assets and who also support shafting the tenant for a cash cow. This includes the Labour Party of Miliband, Starmer and even Corbyn Labour too and every local authority who have set up Local Housing Companies (LHC) as yet another Tory bullshit scheme to attack council housing. At best LHCs offer affordable (sic) rent yet more likely to be full market rent for the curious construct they are of a private landlord company owned by a local council – such as Liverpool Foundation Homes Limited as reported in the Max Calker report of a turnover of £300k yet expenditure of £1 million for a £700k pa loss

The Local Housing Company (LHC) was the strongest of steers in the Social Housing Green Paper of Theresa May and Gavin (Lord) Barwell who is now on the board of Clarion Housing Group. What goes around comes around eh! As a LHC is a private landlord they will charge at least the AR level and most likely full market rent as their investors want the greatest return they can getthey and LHCs can not offer any other tenure than the AST which has the no fault eviction section 21 notice – or in Tory Equality matters now councils can operate no fault eviction just like housing associations and private landlords.

If you still want to believe what we misterm as social landlords are in any way social or have social purpose please go and gorge on the near full moon we have tonight and enjoy the cream cheese and say hello to Elvis for me who is living there on his red London double decker bus …

Social housing? My arse!

Housing First is a sham, a con, a charade, a farrago as Housing First Scotland proves

The Housing First model and theory that says it takes rough sleepers direct from the street to their own tenancy is a sham, according to Housing First Scotland in a tweet they issued today, Tuesday 23 March. Hoist by their own petard you may say. Over three-quarters of Housing First tenants are NOT housed first and direct from the streets or are they rehoused unconditionally as the cult Housing First model says they are.

25 out of 108 single homeless persons came directly from roofless rough sleepers – the 23% figure in the HF Scotland tweet – meaning the other 83 of these 108 and 77% or more than 3 in every 4 were granted a tenancy from some form of the resettlement model and conditionality has been applied. The Housing First ‘model’ and perverse theory that rough sleepers WILL be given a tenancy without any conditionality on their part before that tenancy is given is blown to pieces as the absurd nonsense it has always been.

In Edinburgh the average time taken to find a Housing (not) First property is over six months at 195 days and is closer to seven months as the same Housing First Scotland data revealed a few weeks ago.

This is the same dataset and (non) performance that led Jon Sparkes the chief executive of Crisis to wet himself enthusing about how great the Housing First model is when its factual outcomes proved precisely the opposite and the model does not work.

Any more doubts about Housing First Jon Sparkes? No there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that this sham, charade and farrago is a propagandist cult and you and your organisation Crisis who were paid with a consultancy contract that advised the Scottish Government and all 32 Scottish Local Authorities to go hook, line and sinker into this Housing First charade that cannot possibly work in theory and in practice performs even worse, is not even a turd that can be rolled in glitter.

The only doubt is when will the myopic idiots who commission services finally abandon the Housing First charade – or in reality when will they find enough deflection, excuse or any other reason so that they are not blamed for being the idiots who commissioned Housing First services.

The homeless hostel resettlement model that the Housing First zealots (correctly) say has been failing takes 97 days in official Scottish Government figures to find a one bedded property after 96 nights of conditionality and preparing the resident to be able to sustain a tenancy. Your beloved Housing First model Jon Sparkes takes 149 days to (a) find a property and (b) is not the unconditional theory that you perversely and deceitfully claim it to be.

149 days for Housing First model to find a property compared to 97 days for the hostel resetlement model means far FEWER single homeless persons are given their own tenancy under the HF model. The Housing First model finds 54% FEWER properties than the hostel resettlement model to allow the single homeless person to begin the escape from homelessness.

The HF model can thus accommodate and support 54% fewer single homeless persons that the hostel rsettlement model that Crisis advised to decommission in order to pay for the Housing First model in Glasgow – a case of throwing the baby out with bath water in itself – and that experiment with the lives and life chances of vulnerable single homeless persons has now been proven to be negative and adverse. The Glasgow issue saw 89 homeless hostel rooms decommissioned in favour of the Housing First model. Relevant data is the Scottish Government – the only one which records and publishes average length of stay in hostels, the English, Welsh and NI administrations do not- and the Scottish figure is 97 days as average length of stay in a hostel before move on to their own property.

This means the 89 hostel rooms decommisioned Glasgow hostel rooms accommodated, on average, 335 single homeless persons each year [(365/97) x 89] and so the Housing First service in Glasgow needs to find 335 x 1 bed Housing First properties each year just to stand still. The whole of Scotland and all its 32 LAs managed to find just 404 such 1 bed properties … in two years!

Accommodating and supporting 54% FEWER single homeless persons means 54% MORE rough sleepers will be roofless and on the streets and the Housing First model and its perverse ideological base guarantees that rough sleeping and all other forms of single homelessness will increase not decrease. In short the Housing First model is a dangerous con, sham, charade and farrago. Jon Sparkes, when will you apologise to all single homeless persons in Scotland – as that is what you need to do – for the perverse and shocking advice you gave in promoting the Housing First model when it could not possibly have worked in the first place!

The practical housing issue with the escape from homelessness in all models is the chronic undersupply and chronic lack of availability of the 1 bedded property and this is a structural crisis in Scotland as well as in England. Let me keep this as simple as possible (so the HF zealots can understand!) by looking at both models in their simplest form.

The Housing First model

The notion that it is possible to move direct from the streets to a property of their own IS the Housing First model that actual data for Edinburgh proves cannot work as 77% and more than 3 in every 4 given a tenancy and visiting support in Edinburgh have NOT come from the HF model but from the hostel or other resettlement model stylised below.

Just as the Housing First model suffers from the structural undersupply of the 1 bed property needed to escape homelessness so does the hostel or other resettlement model. In short WHEN (not IF) the 1 bedded property is not there both of the models fail and are bound to fail.

The salient pertinent issue is the structural non-availability of the suitable 1 bedded property which is crossed out in both models and needed to (begin the) end the state of homelessness. EVERY housing-led model to EVERY form of single homeless cohort that is entitled to a 1 bed property is BOUND to fail and is an inevitability. No model can makes a silk purse out of a sow’s ear or put square pegs in non-existent round holes … even WHEN the hyperbole about the HF model is constant zealous propaganda resembles a cult, which it does.

The Domestic Abuse model (stylised for the 35% of refuge residents who are single and childless

The domestic violence and abuse model which is a variant of the single homeless hostel model (but with a pre-refuge visiting support element in outreach) also suffers from the structural non-availability of the 1 bedded property to escape doemestic abuse for the 35% of women in English refuges who are childless and single and thus also require and only entitled to the non-available one bedded propery to finally escape domestic abuse.

The Housing First model is a housing-led solution that can never ever work if the housing is not there in the first bloody place … and the Housing First zealots with their cult chief in Jon Sparkes of Crisis totally and highly conveniently ignore the facts of the non-availability of the bricks and mortar needed in the ethereal 1 bed property. The same Crisis lauded the Housing First large scale pilot in the Liverpool City Region saying it was the perfect place for such a pilot … and ignoring the fact that LCR averages 16.8% of housing stock being the 1 bed property when across England the average is 24% of SRS housing stock as the 1 bed property – or the Liverpool City Region has 2 one bedded properties for every 3 one bedded properties elsewhere – an irrefutable fact not even mentioned in the 168-page report recommending LCR for the Housing First pilot there. Pretty remiss for a theory and model that is 100% dependent upon the 1 bed property being actually available don’t you think!

In the wider correct context of 1 bed need in England we find some 1.2 million single households entitled to and competing for the 25,000 1 bed properties that the English social rented sector landlords have available each year. In simple terms there are 48 qualifying persons competign for every 1 bed SRS property that becomes available

1.2 million chasing 25,000 English 1 bed properties per year

I have seen no comparable data for Scotland to the English context stylised above which reveals 1.2 million single homeless and other 1 bed qualifying cohorts chasing the 25,000 or so 1 bed properties that become available from social rented sector landlords in England each year (for those under 55 and sheltered housing age.) This chronic imbalance of demand versus supply characterises the English context yet the facts and best cautious estimates that comprise the 1.2 m demand are ALL COMPLETELY IGNORED in the Housing First zealotry that characterise the cult nature of the HF model. The HF zealots simply but very wrongly ASSUME the ethereal 1 bed property is available in their haste to evangelise about the panacea they call the Housing First model

The incredulity of the Housing First model

The chronic structural issue of the effective non-availabity of the housing that is needed and needed firstly is not the only perverse and impractical feature of the Housing First model which their zealous advocates stylise below

The HF stylised ‘staircase’ model that attacks the staged resettlement model (the steps)

The HF model is promoted as the housing WILL be available firstly and is entirely dependent on the housing bricks and mortar being available. When the reality sees it takes six and a half months to even find a suitable property in Edinburgh as the data shows the Housing First theory gets a bit auld reekie and Housing First model is theory of the most ridiculous kind as it assumes landlords will offer up their properties to those prospective tenant with a much higher risk of tenancy failure and the much higher cost that involves and NOT receive any more in reward (rental income) for these much higher risk rough sleeper and other single homeless client groups.

Can anyone enlighten me to ANY sector of ANY industry who work on the basis of higher risk does NOT mean higher reward? That is what the Housing First zealots assume landlords, whether social or private, will do. What these same cultlike Housing First model zealots are finding and what they will always find is private and social landlords will tell them to bugger off and ask what planet are they on!

This delusional assumption on housing availability and landlord actions reveals the Housing First model is deluded even in its theory and not just in the practical environment and context of a structural crisis in the non-availability of the 1 bedded property. The theory is as deficient and as Cloud Cuckoo Land as the practice – as for that matter is any housing-led solution to all forms of single homelessness. The same delusion is evident in the support offer of the Housing First model at the suggested 3-4 hours per week of visting support is both extremely deficient and costly.

The Housing First ‘support’ offer

The support element of Housing First is visiting support and all forms of visiting support have three major deficiencies of (a) being costly, (b) less qualititative than in-house or accommodation-based support, and (c) at 3-4 hours per person per week are nowhere near enough to meet existing need never mind reduce the need for ongoing support.

A) Financial Cost of Housing First

The HF zealots and their very well paid consultants claim the £40 per hour cost of visiting support is cost effective. Why local authorities are willing to commission HF visiting support at £40 per hour yet will only pay visiting domicilary care services at £16 per hour is bizarre and shows the cultish zeal that the HF advocates propose has been swallowed hook, line and sinker by LA commissioners.

Those same LA commissioners should go back and look at the Audit Commission report into Supporting People in-payments which said for homelessness that visiting support (floating support) unit cost in 2004/05 was 34% higher than the unit cost or one hour of support delivered in an accommodation-based service such as a hostel. When ALL LAs have a finite funding level and they choose to spend this on any form of visiting support service they can only purchase far less support from the same finite budget.

The AC baseline report of 2006 said the unit cost of one hours support at hostel was £17.19 yet the unit cost of visiting support was £23.02 per hour. Crudely every £100 of support funding bought 6 hours of support in a hostel yet just 4 hours of visiting support.

B) Visiting support as less qualitative

I could write reams here but the shortest and simplest way to explain is when you have support workers on-site as in a hostel or other accommodation-based service any support issues can be dealt with far more quickly and the support problem remains a molehill and is not allowed to become a mountain. The visiting support model is also largely proactive and support of a planned form only yet given the acute number, scale and complexity of rough sleeper support issues, at least 50% of support needs to be reactive and which cannot be modelled out as it is with visiting support models

In short, the exact same ‘reassurance’ rationale that a resident warden / scheme manager plays in sheltered housing / assisted living / extra care provision is a necessity given the nature of the support needs of the rough sleeper client group. In summary, not only is visiting (floating) support more costly it is far less qualitative and an inferior support service is delivered to the vulnerable homeless person.

C) HF visiting support level is pitiful

Again the Supporting People data and research we have illustrates and even further back is the THBS guidance on support services profuced for LA decision makers through Housing Benefit circulars. The A10 HB circular of 2001 advised LAs how to adjudicate how any service was reasonable, realistic and justifiable and it stated that the level of visiting support expressed in hours was directly proportional to the level of client group need in the A47 circular of 2001.

The relevant guidance from the A47/2001 said a low level visiting (floating) support service was 5 hours or less per person per week. A medium level visiting support service was 6 – 21 hours per person per week and a high level visiting support service was 21 hours+ per person per week. Hence the Housing First visiting support service offer at 3 – 4 hours per person per week is a visting support service for a client group with LOW support needs and not a visiting support service suitable for the high, complex and interrelated support needs of the former rough sleeper or many more single homeless persons.

Source: Adjudication HB circular 47 of 2001

Note Well: My purpose here is NOT to say every rough sleeper requires 21+ hours of visiting support per week; rather, I make the simple and obvious point that 4 hours in total visiting support per week to rough sleepers and other single homeless persons under the Housing First model is pitifully inadequate to meet the support needs of the client groups / cohorts being supported.

In terms of the support needs of rough sleepers below is an extract data table in simple form from a report I prepared analysing the support needs of the rough sleepers of a provider client I advised and used here to reveal the scale of support need in just the clients it had been referred by a rough sleeper service and the provider had accommodated and supported.

Rough Sleeeper identified support needs

What the above table reveals is not just one analysis of one homeless provider of the scores I have advised over the last 20 years. I have been collating support need data from all homeless providers advised over the last 20 years and, with the exception of an increase in debt issues in recent years, which reflects an increase in gambling and the welfare reform freezes and cuts, these support need figures are remarkably consistent and typical in all those 20 years.

The level of support issues and the scale, complexity and interrelatedness (is that a word?) that rough sleepers typically have has been acutely understated and underestimated – and in my view deliberately so as identifying support need gives a rationale to fund support for such needs, though the provision of support and support funding has always been 100% discretionary and nobody has a right to be supported, which means that rough sleeping or other homelessness can never be solved and it can never be even reduced unless we make the provision of support a legal right as it is for the provision and funding of care.

In overall summary, the Housing First model is not and has never been any form of answer to the problems of rooflessness or homelessness. It will inevitably fail due to the non-availability of the 1 bed property needed to escape rooflessness and homelessness just as the hostel resettlement model has been failing for decades due to the exact same structural issue of the acute non-availability of suitable 1 bed properties to escape rough sleeping, single homelessness and domestic violence and abuse. This structural issue came well before the systemic issue of welfare reform cuts and freezes that exacerbate and create ever higher levels of rooflessness, homelessness and domestic abuse.

Perversely, well intentioned policy such as the Homeless Reduction Act 2018 has exposed and also exacerbated the problems of rooflessness and homelessness, as for the first time it gives LAs increased homeless duties on the rehousing of single people and has seen (English) LAs respond in the only way they can of gatekeeper in seeking to deny homeless presentations and homeless priority need as they do not have the 1 bedded properties needed to accommodate single homeless groups.

The increased focus on homeless prevention this creates takes yet more visibility away from the escape from homelessness structural issue that the chronic lack of 1 bed properties has always been known and ignored by LAs in terms of getting them built as they had no duties toward single homeless persons essentially until the 2018 HRA in England. While prevention always is better than cure, you cannot ignore the problems of the cure and focus almost exclusively on prevention which is what English LAs do. The HF zealots assume and kid themselves there is ‘cure’ in the form of the necessary rehousing availability yet as every fact and every HF service find it is a chronic and errant and deluded assumption.

Foreseeably, and also perversely in a superficial sense, is the proposal to ban no fault evictions that I have stated many times before will further increase rooflessness, rough sleepers and all single homelessness. The private landlords in England who do rehouse well over 90% of all single homeless persons will take huge flight from rehousing them in the future as they cannot get rid of these higher risk client groups due to the no fault eviction ban. Its the same argument that sees private landlords refusing to house HF rough sleepers as the landlord gets no more in reward (rent) to take on board the much higher risk that all single homeless groups become once no fault evictions are outlawed.

Finally, what all of the facts and comment above reveal is the absence of a lack of thought about single homelessness has been the norm and the lip service single homeless persons have received does not even approch the fur coat and nae knickers level. All that is left is a chronic level of delusional hope in the deluded Housing First model whose propoganda is evidence of it being a cult in which its leaders lie through their teeth (housing FIRST and unconditional by example) to attempt to cover up their chronic incompetence in advocating the Housing First model in the first place. The barge pole correctly directed at Housing First is covered in glitter as day by day there is no turd left to see the bovine anal secretions stick to that barge pole.

The HF zealots claim that the Housing First model works well in the USA yet provide no evidence or substantiation for that claim which in any case is a classic non sequitur as what may work in any other country does not mean it can be parachuted into the UK and it will work. The same glib superficial nonsense and non sequitur was stated about the Foyer movement that we were told worked so weel across much of Western Europe and would revolutionise and drastically reduce young persons single homelessness in the UK. That was 20+ years ago and I am still waiting for this young persons homeless panacea called the Foyer to work its claimed magic. The reality is Foyer’s have not made any difference at all, and to avoid any misreading of that there are good and not so good foyers just like there are good and not so good hostels. I am also not criticising those who work in the Housing First services as like in all homeless support services, support workers do not enter or reamin in it due to the salaries which are pitiful and support workers in overwhelming majority are altruistic and determined to make positive changes – they are just let down and frustrated by the systemic and structural problems of the lack of housing supply and the moronic idiocy of social security policies.

To return to the non sequitur isse and in terms of what is claimed to work well in Housing First services elsewhere eg the USA, we find New York City had 33,000 roofless persons when HF was introduced and today with HF it has 78,000. If you care to read a corruscating report detailing the failure of Housing First in the USA the right wing think tank the Manhattan Institute report on it is well worth a look and especially for the ivory tower academics in the UK who promote the Housing First model and bring a bad name to critical study and academia. For non-academics and if you can’t get your head around the very different housing and homeless context of the USA and which varies from state to state as well in this report, or the peculiar bastardisation of the English language USA think tank reports use, and want to believe the oft-stated Housing First claim it has worked so well in Finland then below are some simple bullet points of how the Finnish HF welfare system differs from the UK

The rent subsidies, what HB includes eg utilities, the tripling of basic dole and free saunas and subsised food and especially the guaranteed by right 24/7 access to any form of support worker would see any form of homeless model work so much better in the UK. Do I need to remind of the brouhaha a £20 per week temporary increase in Universal Credit caused here in the UK while the Housing First zealot argues for a tripling of dole here in the UK and average rents set at one-third of gross market rent which Finland’s HF model has and for Housing Benefit to include gas, electic, water rates and free broadband?

What was that reader? You didn’t realise all of these Finnish welfare issues as the UK Housing First zealots have never mentioned them!? I know …. and the zealous academics and consultants also conveniently ignore these critical differences when they chase research grants for the Housing First model too. It is way past time to come clean on the realities of the doctrinaire Housing First model and vulnerable homeless people deserve far better than the non-outcomes the HF model gives.

One final piece of data regarding Scotland where I began. Shelter (Scotland) stated a few years ago that Scotland has 5,000 rough sleepers each year, a figure the Scottish Government accepted. The Housing First Scotland performance in two years has been to find 404 properties when it has had 10,000 rough sleepers – so that means at most that 4% of rough sleepers have been helped by Housing First in Scotland and the other 96% have not. However, if the Edinburgh data that just 23% helped into HF properties were rough sleepers it means that 23% of Housing First clients were rough sleepers, or just 92 persons of this 404 cohort.

Housing First has thus helped 1% of Scotland’s rough sleepers and NOT helped 99% of Scotland’s rough sleepers over the past two years – and yes the propagandist eulogising of Jon Sparkes of Crisis asking if anyone has any doubts about Housing First in Scotland needs to be viewed in that correct context to expose the charade that is Housing First.

2 million MORE tenants at acute risk of pandemic arrears to eviction to homelessness? Food(bank) for thought!

There are millions of tenants in both the PRS and SRS who are at acute risk of the pandemic-derived arrears leading to eviction and homelessness. A great many more than you would imagine or has been thus far speculated in any report – and here I by necessity speculate further as nobody knows the true figure, and I do so by looking at much more factual evidence that has become available in official data sets.

In the summer of 2020 two major reports projected that half a million existing tenant households were at acute risk of the arrears to eviction to homeless pathway.

In May 2020 the Distict Council Network (DCN) which reprsents 183 local authorities who deal with homelessness projected 174,000 existing housing association households at risk with a further 98,000 existing council tenant households making 272,000 existing SRS tenant households at risk. In July 2020 Shelter, the homeless organisation, projected 228,000 existing PRS tenant households were at acute risk.

Collectively, and coincidentally I think, these two projections come to 500,000 SRS and PRS households at acute risk of arrears to eviction to homelessness. With the average household being 2.3 – 2.4 persons this is 1.15 to 1.2 million men. women and children at acute risk of eviction and a staggering number.

However, in May or even July of 2020 none of these projections will have considered the second wave of Covid-19 or even a third wave or the millions of job losses and what is a recession we have in the UK.

As an important aside the formal definition of ‘recession’ being two economic quarters in a row with falling GDP is being masked by the lockown to easing to lockdown system we have experienced. In lockdown GDP may fall 20% on the previous economic quarter and easing the lockdown may well see a 5% increase in GDP over the previous (lockdown) quarter so technically a ‘recession’ has not happened yet the reality it is has. The formal definition of ‘recession’ is masked and hidden by the stop go economy of lockdown to easing and then back to lockdown. Recession is recession not a semantic issue that benefits politicians in this yoyo pandemic economy the UK has as fact.

To substantiate my view here I have looked at the recently released Universal Credit statistics published this week detailing up to November 2020 and very specifically they reveal the existing SRS and PRS tenant households on the arrears to evictin to homeless pathway are FAR higher than the DCN and Shelter projections.

For example between the February 2020 figures and the November 2020 UC figures we find that:

  1. An additional 221,565 PRS tenants are recorded as being in receipt of UC where the LHA paid does NOT meet the rent level. In Feb 2020 this figure was 493,761 PRS households which increased to 715,326 PRS households whose level of housing benefit payment failed to meet the rent charged.
  2. The UC data does not record where SRS tenants get a level of housing bnefit that does not meet the rent per se, yet does record the number of SRS tenants on Universal Credit who are hit by the bedroom tax cut. In February 2020 the data reveals 164,798 SRS tenant households were hit by the bedroom tax deduction which increased to 238,748 SRS tenants on UC hit by the bedroom tax in November 2020 – an increase of 73,950

Both the above examples give more PRS and SRS tenants wo are on the arrears to evictin to homeless slippery slope due to the pandemic. Almost 300,000 more existing renting households than the 500,000 projected by the DCN and Shelter reports in the Summer of 2020.

Further, I have also looked at the official overall benefit cap data released in November 2020 and covering up to the end of August 2020. This reveals a further 98,000 existing renting households had their housing benefit cut by this policy from February 2020 to August 2020. The latest OBC data was due to be released at the end of February 2021 yet has been put back until the end of March 2021 and it is widely and correctly expected to show a much greater increase due to (a) more job losses and more recession, and (b) by the fact the 9-month grace period the OBC has for previously working households will have expired for those who benefited from it previously.

For many complex reasons to explain lucidly here I suspect stroingly but as a cautious estimate that a further 30,000 existing rented households will add to those benefit capped per month. This means an additional 30,000 renting households in September 20 and each month since and by the end of March 2021 date release will see a further 180,000 rented households hit by the overall benefit cap deduction which targets rent and housing benefit payment as its first call.

A cautious projection of where we are today (March 19, 2021) is double the number of existing rented households than the DCN and Shelter summer 2020 estimates projected is today’s highly likely reality. At least one million existing rented households are at acute risk of pandeic derived arrears leading to eviction and homelessness is a cautious projection of where we are today. One million households is 2.3 to 2.4 million men, women and children who are shortly about to experience homelessness in the UK as a direct result of Covid-19.

Just writing that makes me angry and accuse myself of scaremongering. Yet that is not the case at all and I have taken a great deal of self-caution in just detaiing this scary and offensive as hell number. I have chosen to detail it only due to the bullshit that IS being stated repeatedly by all housing and homeless actors and housing activists who ONLY want to believe that pandemic arrears build is ONLY a PRS issue and does not affect the tenant renting in the social rented sector. Such posits are delusional and absurd.

The very first release of those affected by the overall benefit cap policy back in early 2014 found 46% of households affected were in the SRS and 54% in the PRS – a figure that reflects the 46%:54% share of rented housing in England that exists. The narrative that the benefit cap only affects those in high rent areas and only private tenants in high rent areas has always been wrong and always been a myth that many wanted to believe.

The restating of that myth about the overall benefit cap also underpins the notion and current absurd narrative that the pandeic only affects the PRS household and only PRS tenants will be evicted and become homeless. When I reported on the DCN and Shelter summer 2020 projections which revealed that MORE social tenant than private tenants were at risk of arrears to eviction to homelessness – which is precisely what these projections said – nobody wanted to or was prepared to accept this as – superficially – it read as preposterous due to the errant preceptions that all derive from the private landlord bad and social landlord good starting point which is extremely assumptive and is, as the facts reveal, highly superficial and errant.

Agendas such as Acorn, Generation Rent, Shelter, JRF and many other have are much easier to articulate posits that say the PRS tenant is at higher risk of homelessness. Many accept these very simplistic projections of the proverbially nasty PRS landlord as they can evict without fault as their tenure is AST which allows this … yet nobody bothers to say that housing associations issued AST and its no fault eviction section 21 ending in over 70% of all new HA lettings since 2015 as that is what a “starter” tenancy is. The same HAs can also issued Ground 8 evictions which simply need the tenant to be in 8 weeks or two months of arrears and there is nothign a county court judge can do to prevent these Ground 8 evictions.

A real nuance of the UC statistcis publishing bedroom tax numbers for the first time is that they also reveal the average bedroom tax housing element cut increased by 4.7% between 2019/20 and 2020/21 yet (net) rents only increased by CPI+1% and 2.7%. This means that service charges made by SRS landlords which are not part of the rent increase formula went up dramatically last financial year in the social rented sector. Between 2016 and 2020 SRS rents were purportedly subect to a 1% pa imposed cut yet that only applied to the net rent element whereas the average gross rent level (net rent plus service charges) actually increased. That same 4 year rent cut which wasn’t also saw SRS landlords convert hundreds of thousands of their properties from the social rent level to the (on average 46% higher) misnamed ‘affordable (sic) rent’ level and which put more and more existing SRS tenants at risk of having their housing benefit cut and increase the numbers at homeless risk due to how the overall benefit cap works.

An additional 1.75 million – yes that does say 1,750,000 – households just on Universal Credit of working age (as UC is not paid to pensioners) have claimed housing benefit in the period February to November 2020 increasing from 2.426 million to 4.168 million households and just of working age. Add in the number of pensioners and there is little doubt that these are the highest ever figures on record and the total housing benefit bill (HB / LHA / UC housing element) has rocketed past the £30 billion per year figure cost and moreover half as much again as it was when the major ‘welfare reforms of bedroom tax and benefit cap were introduced to reduce that cost

English Housing Survey figures (from 2018/19) say that 81% of SRS tenants who receive housing benefit do not get full housing benefit so this 1,740,973 new households claiming UC housing element means 19% of them at the lowest count possible do not get enough in housing benefit to pay their rent – a minimum of a new and added 330,785 existing tenant household who are on the slippery slope from pandemic arrears to eviction to homelessness.

In summary and while some of the existing tenants will be double counted (hit by bedroom tax and benefit cap for example) it is still a cautious estimate to say the 500,000 existing rented households predicted in the summer of 2020 will today be 1 million existing SRS and PRS households at risk of Covid-19 / pandemic / recession arrears leading to eviction and homelessness – and that could just as easily be a significant underestimate but not an overestimate.

Food(bank) for thought!

_____________________

PS Of course you can choose to believe the absurdly understated figures of CAB (250k more) or Stepchange (150k more), the latter being reported today by that comic called The S*n and excuse for a newspaper. They may well be the number of tenants who have enquired at the CABx or Stepchange organisations but there is no way the facts and data we have today can extrapolate to a national aggregate figure of such low number.

Domestic Abuse – Let’s legislate to force ‘social’ (sic) landlords to rehouse survivors as they should anyway!

A lot of ‘noise’ has been generated this week (rightly) across all media over the safety of women generally and about domestic violence and abuse.  It is way past time to turn this ‘noise’ into real practical actions in both the housing and welfare areas.

  1. A few years ago we had a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) that said every local authority should have 1 refuge room per 10,000 population.  This needs to be reinstated.
  2. It needs to be added to with social landlords have to provide 4 social housing properties at social rent per year for every 10,000 population in each local authority for women leaving refuge. 
  3. Further, the bedroom tax and overall benefit cap need to have an exemption for those leaving refuge.

To illustrate if the local authority has a population of 300,000 it would mean:

  1. The council would be duty bound to have and fund refuges with 30 spaces
  2. The council would be duty bound to find 120 permanent social housing properties per year for former refuge residents
  3. The 120 per year former refuge residents would be exempt from the bedroom tax and overall benefit cap – just as the budget last week made single former refuge residents exempt from the shared accommodation rate if they had been in refuges for 3 months.

Thirty domestic abuse households each staying for 3 months means those 30 refuge rooms accommodate and support 120 households each year and all would need and deserve a new start in the most secure housing at the cheapest rents, that is, social housing. 

Last year I wrote about the disgraceful social housing response to domestic violence and abuse that saw just 2% or 2 in every 100 refuge households being offered social housing which came from an article in the Guardian (picture above.)  We need to make that 100 in every 100 and by taking away the welfare barriers in the Bedroom Tax and Overall Benefit Cap and leave social landlords with no excuses not to provide the most secure rehousing at the most affordable rent levels to those who have fled domestic violence and abuse.

Social landlords, as councils and housing associations are called, love to form groups such as Cathy Come Home and love to proclaim they are supportive of domestic abuse survivors yet words are not enough.  They need to put up or shut up and do their first and most important job which is to house and rehouse those who are the most in housing need. 

Two-thirds of women in refuges have fled there with children and they are without any doubt those most in need of rehousing and a fresh start.  Over the past twenty years I have advised a number of refuges and had many ad hoc conversations with women who have taken the unbelievably traumatic step of uprooting themselves and their children to they know not where, yet still they worry that their children should have contact with the abusive fathers of their children.  They question whether they have done the right thing to flee despite the physical beatings and emotional, psychological, financial abuses they have suffered and over many years.  What effect is their incredibly brave decision to flee having on their children they constantly ask themselves and they are torn by this and will never ever not question their decision to do that.  Just writing that is harrowing and illogical yet it reveals what a total mindfuck fleeing domestic violence and abuse is for a woman and mother.  I could write so much more yet my point that they are those most in (re)housing need is made.  Those who allocate social housing never hear or see these issues and instead are hamstrung by their organisations allocation rules. 

Council and HA landlords don’t provide rehousing as the facts show so it is well past time to force them to put up and shut up and regulate them so they do.  The social landlord who refuses to rehouse them is not a social landlord and they should be barred if necessary from receiving any subsidy or other funding if they fail to rehouse.  These three simple changes – and they are simple changes – need teeth and if the only way to make what we call ‘social’ landlords sit up and take notice and do what they claim their social purpose is, of rehousing those most in housing need, is to threaten social landlords, then so be it.

Refuges suffer from the lack of safe and secure move on properties for residents from them and yet the system means refuge providers have to move vulnerable women and children to the private rented sector in the vast majority of cases because social landlords do not and will not provide the safe and secure and genuinely affordable rehousing they need and deserve.  That system cannot go on any longer and we need legislation to force social landlords to rehouse and to force local councils to facilitate a minimum number of refuge places such as the old KPI. 

Refuge providers also need an absolute legal right to support funding for support pre-refuge (outreach) funding for support at a refuge and for visiting support post refuge.  They deserve nothing less.  I have lost count of how many refuge board meetings I have attended where they decide how many places per year they can grant to women with no recourse to public funds (NRPF) and accommodate and support at their own cost.  Imagine having to make that decision!  I have lost count of the number of women in refuges who waited until their children had fled the family home before they fled to a refuge and suffered years and decades of abuse personally and hope their children never heard or saw that abuse.

Unfortunately what we call social housing sees constrained allocation officers dealing with bricks and mortar but not with people and this is the classic interaction between general needs housing allocation and the needs of prospective tenants who are people with a wide array of support issues and for all supported housing client groups not just domestic violence and abuse. 

The word ‘social’ means of people not of bricks and mortar.

Finally, I have also lost count of the number of women who have fled and who later feel forced to return to the abusive perpetrator and staff at refuges telling me how staggeringly common this is.  There are many complex reasons for this undoubtedly, but let’s make sure one of those reasons is not that those fleeing return because the social housing system did not provide a safe, secure and affordable rehousing option – one that shouldn’t need legislation to force social (sic) landlords to provide yet unfortunately needs precisely that!

We can END rough sleeping and other Gullible Travails

Anyone who says we can END single homelessness or END rough sleeping is talking out of their arse either knowingly or ignorantly. At the absolute minimum a 1 bed property is needed to end rooflessness (rough sleeping) yet take a look at what 1 bed properties England has and the demand for each elusive 1 bed property below.

The supply and cautious demand for the 1 bed SRS property from just some groups

The 1 bed social housing property which is the bricks and mortar part of the solution to end homelessness or its rough sleeping subset (rooflessness) is simply not available.  This housing part of the ESCAPE from the horrific state of homelessness is not available as the 25,000 SRS yearly supply of the elusive 1 bed SRS property needed to end single homelessness in all forms sees a yearly demand of not less than 1,200,000 for this same 25,000 supply.

Thus any so-called expert who says we CAN end homelessness is without any doubt or prevarication talking out of their arse and knowingly lying.  We can debate which of the many alleged homelessness experts is most talking through their arse or which solution such as the Housing First model is the most delusional but it will not change the fact that there is not a hope in hell’s chance of ending homelessness in England.  You can have as much delusional hope as you wish and you can scream from the rooftops that we all need to #BeKind but it still does not change the facts that England has a major structural problem with the 1 bed social housing property that is as rare as hen’s teeth.

The Housing First model and purported solution to rooflessness (i.e. rough sleeping) and which is heavily promoted by Crisis and the current Tory government is entirely dependent on the availability of the 1 bed social housing property.  You cannot give a house first and then address the numerous and complex interrelated support issues after if the (1 bed) house is not or ever going to be there in the first place! 

A cursory look at the countrywide Housing First model across Scotland sees an average of 5 months to find a suitable 1 bed property yet is lauded as a model for England to follow by the absurdly delusional Crisis and the idiots in government – the same homeless ‘experts’ who constantly state we CAN end homelessness and end it together.

From the official report as referenced and sources

The Scottish government rightly accept the minimum Shelter (Scotland) figure of 5,000 rough sleepers per year (417 per month) so by the time the average property for 1 of them has been found under the Housing First (sic) model another 2,100 rough sleepers have emerged from the street or under a hedgerow to add to the demand. In fact the 200 rough sleepers this “successful” Housing First scheme rehoused in a year across Scotland is the number of new rough sleepers Scotland has every fortnight. When “success” is equated with 4% of the need you begin to see the basurd hyperbole that surrounds the Housing First model

Those who zealously and absurdly proclaim we can end rough sleeping are innumerate not just knowingly deceitful.  The same innumeracy is seen with Crisis getting into bed with Iain Duncan Smith’s CSJ think (sic) tank the CSJ to proclaim that only 16,450 of England’s minimum 50,000 pa rough sleepers need (Housing First) support to be able to transition from the street to sustain their own tenancy. 

On the surface Crisis and its curious right-wing CSJ bedfellows are saying 2 in every 3 rough sleepers require no support whatsoever to transition from the street to a 1 bed property of their own and sustain that tenancy.  Even more absurdly, these queer bedfellows are saying that 16,450 is the finite limit and each requires support for a 3 years average duration by which time 150,000 rough sleepers have emerged (50,000 x 3 years) which equates to Crisis / CSJ saying just 16,450 of 150,000 rough sleepers need support and 8 in every 9 rough sleepers need no support to sustain a tenancy!

That is not even viable on the planet called Cloud Cuckoo Land – a term coined by Jonathan Swift who also told us the Liliputians needed 37 wheelbarrows to take away the morning dump of Gulliver – an apt analogy for the Housing First model’s chance of ever ending rough sleeping in England don’t you think?

If you think this is rant I haven’t even begun to; and go back and look at the 1 bed social housing supply and demand graphic above.  England has a massive structural problem with its socially rented housing supply with 1,200,000 single households all competing for the 1 bed property each and every year.  The bare numbers say 47 out of every 48 single households below sheltered housing age (all 18 – 54 year olds) who need and only qualify for a 1 bed SRS property due to Bedroom Tax will NOT get a 1 bed property.  England’s social (sic) rented sector (sic) can only meet 2% of the yearly need and yet we see daily social landlords announcing new builds and new developments and none of them ever include the 1 bed social housing property at the social rent level for those of working age.

Just build more bloody social housing goes the refrain from council landlords, from housing association landlords, from housing and homeless lobbies, from politicians, from housing activists and many other ignorant quarters.  Who the hell are you building for is a question that is never asked or considered!

These housing and homeless actors may well be well-intentioned but there is no doubt that they are either ignorant or do not want you to know about the basic SRS housing facts which scream that England has no chance whatsoever of ending homelessness and is still fixated on a housing-led (that is bricks and mortar) approach in attempting to end or reduce homelessness when all a bricks and mortar approach can ever manage is to end rooflessness. 

The general public has a very eclectic relationship with homelessness and the pandemic or the Beast from the East cold snap sees anger over those who are roofless but they conflate to be the only homeless when rough sleepers account for a single figure percentage of all England’s homeless and are merely the only visible homeless cohort. 

Unless we can build 250,000 social housing 1 beds alone each year for the next ten years and as an absolute minimum and all of them at the social rent level and make the provision of homeless support a fundamental right, then ALL housing-led proposed solutions to homelessness are doomed to fail – not opinion just basic simple arithmetic and numeric fact … but we all so want to believe we can end homelessness and hope beyond hope that hope alone is enough when it can never be.

You have to be cruel to #BeKind when the irrefutable facts slap you around the head with a wet fish even if you constantly wear a blindfold. One such fact and the one that so so many do not want to read or hear or accept is England can never end rough sleeping and never end homelessness.

Housing Need? Why the English Social Rented Sector is chronically unfit for purpose

1,200,000 people of working-age need a 1 bed social housing property each year and they all compete for the 25,000 that English social landlords provide each year.  It is time to take a much closer look at housing need.

England’s council and housing associations meet just 2% of the housing and rehousing need of single person households. Or the facts show it does NOT meet the need of 98% of England’s single households and England’s social rented sector (SRS) is decidedly unfit for purpose

The 1 bed property is the Holy Grail of rented housing.  It is sought by:

  • The Housing First client for a rough sleeper to escape rooflessness (16,500)
  • The two-thirds of rough sleepers pa that the Housing First model ignores (34,000)
  • The single homeless hostel client to escape homelessness (100,000)
  • The newly released ex-offender to escape rooflessness and homelessness
  • The single woman seeking to escape a refuge
  • 529,000 – which is 46% of those – on council waiting lists
  • 386,000 sofa surfers who are single homeless households
  • Single homeless households placed in temporary accommodation by LAs

The eight bullet points are by no means an exhaustive list or are they listed in any order of priority and for example the bedroom tax downsizing household is another cohort seeking the same housing solution of a 1 bed rented housing property.  The Bedroom Tax has significantly increased demand for the 1 bed SRS property yet the problems of its chronic undersupply began six decades before the bedroom tax began as social (ahem) landlords and primarily local councils CHOSE not to build the 1 bed property for anyone other than older persons in sheltered housing.

These eight cohorts in the bullet points above give a demand of 1.1 million to 1.2 million needing a 1 bed property each and every year in England.  This year, 2021, will add a great many more as a result of losing a job and relationship breakdown and other pandemic, recession and Brexit consequences.  We don’t know how many more but likely to be significantly more.

Council and Housing Association landlords in England – the so-called social rented sector – typically have 60,000 or so 1 bed properties becoming available each year according to official data, of which the minority and circa 25,000 are available to those below sheltered housing age of typically 55 (and here I use working age for that as shorthand.)

A working age yearly demand of 1,200,000 and SRS supply of 25,000 reveals social housing to be unfit for purpose and meeting just 2 per cent of 1 bed SRS housing need

SDR 2019/20 published February 2021

This is one of the crises that comprise The Housing Crisis a phrase oft-stated by social housing types and lobbies yet never looked at in any detail.  The reason for that is obvious: The SRS has never built properties for objective housing need else this chronic mismatch between demand and supply would not exist. The social rented sector meeting just 2% of the 1 bedroom demand of the one bedded property for those of working age means that the private rented sector has to step in to try to meet 98% of the yearly demand for the ethereal one bedded property – is another direct consequence of the SRS never building for objective housing need in the 60 years of comparative subsidy aplenty in the post-war period until the Cameron administration slashed capital subsidy by 60% in 2010. 

It is never looked at or discussed as council and HA landlords are exposed to be unfit for purpose when it comes to housing need so it is deflected by scorn on the PRS which is often justified yet it cannot hide from the facts and the facts are the SRS has never built the 1 bed or had any inclination to do so

As I reported here those in a refuge having fled domestic abuse see just 2% of domestic abuse refuge residents offered a social housing property to escape domestic violence and abuse and get a fresh start. Last week’s budget (March 2021) also made it easier for the one-third or more of refuge residents who are single to be moved to the PRS now that 3-month refuge residence exempts them from the shared accommodation rate or SAR if they are under 35 years of age.

SRS landlords scream they have social purpose yet the facts paint a very different picture and the only purpose social landlords factually have is that they are not fit for it!

Zero Sum Game

Give the rare as hen’s teeth 1 bed to the rough sleeper and you deny it to the one-third of those in a domestic abuse refuge who are childless, and vice versa.  While housing allocation has always needed to be selective and purportedly meritocratic in priority terms for all housing types the chronic shortage of 1 bed properties makes this a farce and non-viable proposition.  With the social (sic) rented sector only providing 2% of the need it means 98 out of every 100 who need a SRS 1 bed property do not get one.  The facts are cold and hard yet they are the reality.

The SRS and its lobbies constantly berate the massive increase in the numbers housed by the private landlord yet that massive increase is caused by the SRS being unwilling or unable to meet the housing need of those who need or are only entitled to a 1 bed property.  There are some very valid concerns here yet the SRS takes no action to correct this situation as all proposals for new build social housing from SRS never include the 1 bed property at the social rent level – a fact that also means local authority housing strategies which they are mandated to do even when they have no council housing, and 60% of English local authorities have no council housing, are meaningless exercises and also unfit for purpose.

The English Housing Survey released in July 2020 records 386,000 single person households (individual or childless couple) who sofa surf in someone else’s home and states that 93% of these are unknown to local councils.  It also includes 155,000 sofa surfing household with children too and each sofa surfing household is a lodger who can be evicted and homeless with a 7 day notice letter with no legal comeback so these 541,000 households are in a permanent perpetual state of being legally homeless yet 93% of then do not factor into any LA housing or homeless strategy!

EHS – English Housing Survey 2018/19 published July 2020

It is rank duplicity for the SRS to bemoan the insecurity of the PRS when they themselves are unwilling to rehouse those who need a 1 bed by not building them. SRS proposals for new developments all fail to include the 1 bed property that the social housing demand data and fact obviate too.  The housing need of the prospective customer, the social tenant, is ignored and never considered even though housing need is the rationale of the social rented sector; it is their claimed social purpose and social ethos yet it is merely an illusion for marketing purposes.

The official waiting list figures reveal 46% and some 529k households waiting for the 1 bed property they qualify for and yet the SRS landlords are doing less than bugger all to meet this need!  Daily the housing and local media is full of the latest (future) developments from SRS landlords and they never feature the one bed property which is the greatest demand and need. 

The one bed property in social housing is a unicorn, as rare as hen’s teeth, and social landlords are as apathetic as you get in seeking to meet this need.  How does that meet social purpose or social ethos that SRS landlords claim they are imbued with and is their claimed rationale? 

If we genuinely want social (sic) housing to meet housing need – which is, without question, its purpose – then the SRS should see the vast majority of all new builds and new developments being the 1 bed property … yet that is NOT ever going to happen as SRS development is dependent entirely on the profit motive for the largest private housebuilders.  Council and housing associations rarely if ever build and they are reliant on the scraps that private housebuilders have to give them for new property and the 1 bed property is less profitable for the private housebuilder to develop ergo they do not build them. 

Social housing IS for those who cannot afford to buy that is its purpose and rationale yet the SRS has ignored the housing need of the single household in the entire post war period.

The SRS is now stuck with the family-sized homes it chose to build and now has a surfeit and weakening demand due to the overall benefit cap policy making family sized properties NO DSS properties as the benefit household will not get enough in housing benefit to meet the SRS rent levels so the benefit household is refused social housing on what they euphemistically call LETWA or Limited Entitlement To Welfare Assistance – that is NO DSS by another name – leaving the SRS as unfit for purpose and little more than a private landlord with the perks of at least some capital subsidy.

In summary, the SRS never looks at the facts and is content to let the structural problems created by their unwillingness to build the one bed property be someone else’s problem and then merely moan about the impacts such as the PRS meeting the demand when they choose not to.  This is one reason why the SRS is not a sector but a collection of 2000+ HA and council landlords who only look at their own parochial locale for housing issues and their umbrella lobbies ignore the reality on a national scale.  One of the those factual realities, just one, is a systemic and structurally chronic undersupply of the 1 bed property that leaves the ‘sector’ as decidedly unfit for purpose and working outside of its claimed rationale to meet housing need.

_____________________________

PS A Tweet from MHCLG minister today and my terse response

The Bedroom Tax allocates social housing properties based on immediate presenting need and also means the waiting list figures are based on bedroom entitlement are accurate in terms of bedroom size. The Bedroom Tax has no room for household growth or shrinkage and does mean a newly married coupld get a 1 bed and have to move to start a family. Minister Pincher calls this optimisation not the structural disaster this is for community and neighbourhoold stability.

All the bedroom tax has done is reveal what the housing need is by bedroom size and exposes just how ineptly the social rented sector has addressed objective housing need for social housing. We will carry on regradless building family-sized homes as it is more profitable and convenient for social landlord finance directors even though it makes objective housing need all the more difficult to meet and a greater systemic and structural problem is the maxim of the social (sic) rented sector and the imbecilic Tory politician fond of superficial throwaway statements and policies.