Mortgage paying 7,362,426 and 30.1% of all housing
Privately rented 5,056,219 and 19.4% of all housing
Socially rented 4,227,735 and 15.9% of all housing
This week the Labour Shadow Housing Minister Lisa Nandy has promised to make social renting the 2nd largest housing tenure in the UK. Oh Dear! This tweet yesterday Friday 19th May with an accompanying video says:
England and Wales has 828,484 more properties that are PRS rented than rented in the Social Rented Sector (SRS) so Lisa Nandy is promising the next Labour government will build – as a minimum – at least 165,697 new SRS properties per year to achieve this promise in the next 5 year parliamentary term. That assumes that no new PRS properties will be developed in that 5 year period as well and it allows the Labour Party absurd conflation of ‘home ownership’ which they use to comprise owned outright and mortgage paying tenures as one tenure when they are very different tenures as indeed the Census sees as well as every mortgage payer does with the current burgeoning interest rates.
When the above four housing tenures are correctly viewed it would mean the current 2nd largest housing tenure of 7.36 million mortgage payers would need 3,134,692 more SRS properties being built and no new mortgage payers during a Labour administration and some 627,000 new SRS properties per year being built to achieve this aim!
Lisa Nandy with this pledge is therefore adopting the age-old politician’s trick of talking through her arseand hoping nobody checks the claim as those numbers, whether 166,000 or 627,000 new SRS properties per year, are a (Wigan) pie in the sky delusion and would mean no new mortgages taken out and no new PRS properties for 5 years too!
Nobody can have any confidence at all in this Lisa Nandy pledge which flatly contradicts the Starmer 70% ‘home ownership’ pledge that the Labour Party is avidly promoting. This 70% pledge obviates all renting can only be 30% of housing tenure and for social renting to become the 2nd largest housing tenure it means no more than 14.9% of households can rent in the PRS … which currently has 19.4% and thus means this truly bizarre offhand pledge of Lisa Nandy means a significant reduction in private rented properties as well! 
I thought of positing the rhetorical question of What planet is Lisa Nandy and the Labour Party on yet it is far more correct to state they are talking out of their arse when it comes to housing policy so please spare me the how dare I use such a phrase deflection from this latest perverse and incredulous Labour Party housing policy pledge.
Nobody who is in any way numerate can have confidence in any of these Labour Party housing pledges as the factual numbers on housing tenure in the 2021 Census reveal such the Labour Party assuming that no voter can do the simple arithmetic figures as I have done above and which expose such pledges for the political hokum they are.
 Adding 828,484 to all housing properties over 5 years would see a total number of England & Wales properties increase to 25,611,648. For SRS to be the 2nd largest tenure means the PRS could have no more than 14.99% of this figure and a maximum number of PRS properties of 3,839,186 in total … Yet the PRS now has 5,056,219 properties so the Lisa Nandy ‘plan’ would mean a reduction of 1,217,033 PRS properties in England & Wales in the next parliament. This is 243,407 fewer PRS properties per year.
So, in conclusion 243,407 FEWER PRS properties per year cannot be offset by 165,697 MORE SRS properties which is 77,710 LESS properties per year overall!!
Reader, now you see why I stated Lisa Nandy is talking out of her arse rather than ask what planet she is on
Lisa Nandy’s having her say tra la la la la la. Time to go home to her Wigan favela!
Last week Starmer and his Shadow Housing Minister Lisa Nandy described itself as “The Party of Home Ownership” and stated their aim was to see 70% of the UK become home owners. This is not just opportunistic political narratives ahead of local elections, it is bat-shit delusional and hasn’t a hope in hell’s chance of happening even if it was desirable, which it isn’t.
Current home ownership rates range from 7.8% in Tower Hamlets to 48.6% in North Norfolk with an average home ownership rate of 34.6% across England and Wales.
Chart 1 – 2021 Census Data on Home ownership by local authority area
(Red line is Labour Party’s aim and policy)
For this 70% home ownership figure to be realised: –
Every 10 who own their home in Tower Hamlets would need to be 90
Every 10 who own a North Norfolk home it would need to be 15
In England & Wales on average every 10 would need to be 20
Aside from this bat-shit crazy aim exposing His Majesty’s Official Opposition to not knowing about housing fact, which is political incompetence writ large, it reveals Starmer Labour as having total disregard for the majority housing tenure and majority of voters in renting households. Renters are second if not third class citizens according to Starmer, Reeves and Nandy.
The Census 2021 data reveals:-
7,362,426 pay a mortgage (30.1%)
8,136,784 own their home (34.6%)
9,283,954 rent – 5,056,219 PRS and 4,227,735 SRS – (35.3%)
There are one million more households who rent than own and almost two million more who rent than pay mortgage. Renting is the largest housing tenure in England & Wales and holds the most voters yet the Labour Party now joins the Conservative Party position of many years in wholly ignoring renters and dismissing them as unimportant.
So many nuances in this absurd aim for 70% home ownership. What would happen in the 25 local authority areas where PRS renting is more than 30% of all tenure? The majority of these are London boroughs such as Westminster where 44% rent privately yet we see the likes of Brighton and Manchester where 33% of all households rent privately or Reading and Oxford where 32% rent privately?
A Right to Buy for the private sector perchance Mr Starmer; or a resurgence of RTB in LB Hackney for example which sees 41% of all households now renting a social housing property?
How would Manchester go from 62% of all households renting to 30% renting? What would that mean for locals? Will wages have to increase massively there so that locals could afford to live there? I bet you thought the (vague) whispers from the Corbynistas about a £15 per hour national minimum wage were rabid Marxism yet they would need to be even higher to achieve the specious growth that Rachel Reeves desires though pretty sure your Housing Minister Nandy would not be happy with the townships and favelas springing up ad hoc in Wigan for Manchester’s minimum wage workers would she do you think? Perhaps these corrugated iron shacks will be counted in your new house-building figures Lisa Nandy?
How about Liverpool where 53% of all households rent so what would reducing that renting figure to 30% or below mean to achieve this 70% home ownership pipedream?
How about Leeds – where Rachel Reeves has her constituency -with almost 43% of all households there renting?
How about Camden with 69.6% of all households renting? Any comments on the impact of this 70% home ownership aim on your constituents Keir Rodney Starmer? (Yes Rodney is his middle name and he’s doing his best to be a plonker isn’t he!?)
Finally, before the usual absurd response that Labour meant ‘owner-occupiers’ that truly perverse construct of those who own with those who pay a mortgage – these are NOT the same thing despite the proliferation of this errant construct.
A mortgage payer is not an owner in legal, financial or any other terms. They, at best, accrue an increasing share in an increasing asset that they do not own until the charge (the mortgage) is paid off. We currently see mortgage payments of £500 more each month than last year for this asset whilst owners reap the reward of higher asset value by paying nothing more each month. The owner-occupier construct describes two very different occupiers doesn’t it, two very different forms of housing tenure.
If you want to believe that a mortgage payer and an owner are the same you probably should believe in the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny and the moon being made out of cream cheese! You may even believe that the Labour Party’s 70% home ownership aim is worthy or achievable. Maybe it is in tra la la la la la land?
The majority housing tenure in England & Wales is renting according to the 2021 Census
One million more households rent (9.28m) than own (8.14m)
Almost two million more rent (9.28m) than pay mortgage (7.36m)
Currently we see the Labour Party claiming they will be the party of home ownership and aiming for 70% of the population to own when today less than half that number and just 34.8% own their home. This is delusional but an obvious deduction when we start from using the most avoided aspect of any housing analysis, namely fact.
Fact to mainstream housing and homelessness analysis is the same as garlic to a vampire. The basic irrefutable housing tenure facts of the Census and official statistics in the yearly English Housing Survey (EHS) expose the Labour Party aim for the propagandist charade that it is.
Apologies for the shitty chart but the facts are more important than top show (fur coat and no knickers) superficiality and propaganda. Dress up the facts anyway you wish and England will never get 70% home ownership or will it ever end homelessness, which is my main theme here.
In October 2017 the homeless organisation Crisis released the Moving On report which revealed critical supply and demand figures that:
England has an (under)estimated 200,000 single homeless households yearly
England’s social landlords supply just 13,000 single homeless-escape properties yearly
The 13k supply figure is from CORE data and as factual as it gets. The latest CORE data reveals supply is just 11k per year (11,106 to be exact) and the Crisis 200k single homeless estimate is 315k light as official statistics from EHS in July 2020 revealed 386k yearly single homeless sofa surfers when the Crisis 200k estimate included just 71k.
Facts are darn pesky and the most shameful one is nobody knows how many yearly homeless households England has – it is not recorded in any official data set – so nobody knows how many homeless-escape properties are needed each year. Whether single or family homeless households the figure is NOT recorded or reported on a yearly basis and only on a purposeless basis such as a one-night count of rough sleepers or the latest one night only Shelter report from January 2023 here. The apathy toward solving homelessness has no greater illustration than not being bothered to count.
Whatever the number of yearly single homeless households whether 200k (Crisis) or 515k (EHS derived) or my best guess at a cautious 300k per year – which I use here for illustration – it means 300k one bed homeless-escape properties are needed each year just to prevent single homeless household numbers from increasing.
Yearly English single homeless re-housing DEMAND is c300k yet SRS SUPPLY IS 11K.
A huge number of critical issues arise from these supply and demand figures.
It suggests the insecure PRS supply 289k one bed properties to single homeless households per year. It suggests England is 96% reliant on the insecure PRS. As the ending of a PRS tenancy has either been the number one or number two immediate cause of homelessness in LA recording for the past 20 years or more we see this 96% reliance on the PRS as a guarantee of a revolving door of repeat single homelessness.
It reveals the major structural problem England has with re-housing single homeless persons due to a deficiency of one bed SRS properties. The purported housing safety net of the social housing model enshrined as a pillar of the 1948 Welfare State has a chronic shortage of one bed properties and no more than 30k become available each year outside of sheltered housing. IF demand is 300k one bed single homeless-escape properties yearly the SRS even if they ring-fenced all available one beds could supply 10% of the single homeless re-housing yearly demand.
For the social housing model to provide just half of the 300k yearly demand it means England needs 140k more social housing one bedded properties per year yet the demands for ALL SRS new property need is typically 90,000 to 130,000 and less than just this objective housing need number of SRS one bed properties and just for single homeless-escape properties!
The social housing model purports to house those who cannot afford to rent privately or to buy yet it is not working when we look at objective housing need in terms of re-housing homeless households and those with children not just single homeless households. The SRS is not just failing it has failed for many years if not decades in this regard.
In terms of single homeless household re-housing it is clearly chronic under supply of the one bed property to which ALL single homeless cohorts are entitled to. With regard to homeless families with children the issue is affordability not undersupply. The (overall) Benefit Cap policy means that in some areas (SE and East regions) a woman with two children does not get enough in housing benefit to cover the rent of a two bed council house and so has to remain for longer in a domestic violence and abuse refuge or an unsuitable generic hotel or B&B that councils lease for temporary homeless accommodation. In April 2024 this will apply to all nine English regions with the possible exception of the NE due to how the OBC policy works with its ever reducing and residual housing benefit maxima.
That is what the numbers, those pesky numeric facts, say. I first presented this known and foreseeable posit which I called the systemic flaw in the OBC at a CIH conference in 2013/14 and a decade ago. The facts, the numbers, could not be challenged yet it was met with the closed minds of the housing and homeless sectors who universally responded with How dare I suggest that social landlords will have to turn away benefit households, we are social landlords and will always house those most in housing need (blah, blah, blah.) It is only the ‘nasty’ PRS who operate this heinous NO DSS they universally asserted and some still do assert this nonsense.
In 2017 a report from Sheffield university and commissioned by the same CIH came up with the LETWA euphemism – Limited Entitlement To Welfare Assistance – as a perceived softer term for what it is, namely NO DSS.
NO DSS / LETWA has been the norm in social housing allocation for many years and whilst largely caused by the austerity OBC policy it IS the norm and cannot be denied by the great and the good of social housing or its allied homeless actors and lobbies such as Shelter, Crisis and so on.
A critical contextual factor is most forms of temporary homeless provision such as refuges, hostels and other TA are too expensive to afford for a working household as they are fully furnished, necessarily so I hasten to add, and thus residence there means the homeless households becoming the benefit household by design which means they will not be allocated the cheapest ‘move-on’ property in social housing due to LETWA…. aka NO DSS!
The 10th anniversary of the austerity policies of Bedroom Tax, Overall Benefit Cap and others has recently passed and the chart below details the extent of their impacts in cutting housing benefit and thus increasing NO DSS in the social rented sector
Look at the above and you see that affordability not undersupply is the major issue with social housing. The shift in receipt of full housing benefit since the austerity ‘welfare reform’ policies began is staggering and in a year or so time no two bed or larger SRS property will receive full housing benefit and they comprise 76% of all social housing properties. That is what numbers, those pesky numeric facts say, in fact scream … yet the great and the good of social housing and homelessness, those self-labelled ‘experts’ never focus on SRS affordability and only on SRS undersupply!
Fact to these housing and homeless ‘experts’ is the same as garlic is to vampires.
I rarely go the Chippy these days so I don’t have my tea wrapped in the Liverpool Echo anymore and if I did I would see the commonplace abuse of tenants and the taxpayer by social landlords as it reports here, as let’s be honest, the horrific pictures we see daily of damp and mould in housing association properties is shamefully just that … tomorrow’s fish and chip paper as bugger all ever gets done about it.
The property in question is owned and managed by Torus, a Private Registered Provider, aka a housing association, who took over Liverpool Mutual Homes, another PRP who were gifted the largest part of Liverpool City Council’s council housing some years back.
The property is a shithole in local and indeed national parlance as the pictures in the Echo make clear. Torus, the purportedly social (sic) landlord is both abusing the tenant’s health and abusing the tenant’s wallet or the housing benefit bill by being allowed to still levy rent on such a shithole.
This article comes a day after Sadiq Khan issued a specious article saying PRIVATE landlords are ripping off the housing benefit bill, taxpayer money etc, to the tune of £1.6bn per year in charging for damp / unfit / non-decent properties and to which I responded with actual data that shows social (sic) landlords are ripping off the housing benefit bill by pretty much the same yearly amount (see here.)
Let’s cut to the chase and demand that all properties by all landlords which fail to reach a standard of decency or fitness for human habitation have the rent zeroed out and pay compensation to the tenant until they meet the minimum standard. Let’s make it the law and make it the norm.
If you rented any other unfit for purpose product such as a hire car or any machinery that was unfit for purpose you would demand your money back or a replacement fit for purpose product. The law would support you in this as would the court of public opinion. YET if you are renting a house the law cravenly supports the landlord, the abuser, and attacks the renter in its absurd cravenness.
The only sure fire way to rid the country of such abusing landlords is – in local parlance – to hit them in their arse pocket. Yet while the law is so craven and it and government fails to provide any redress or even deterrent then landlords, social as well as private, are allowed to get away with abusing tenants and abusing the housing benefit system.
Let’s not shy away from calling this what it is, namely ABUSE whether financial or whether personal and psychological abuse such as the damage it does to tenants physical and mental health. It is without question ABUSE yet abuse that the craven law and craven politicians local and central condone.
It would be difficult to set up such a system most certainly and yes it probably would see some tenants chancing their arm and seeking to avoid paying rent … yet neither of this is reason for government or landlords to carry on abusing tenants.
Some form of escrow system for rent payments could be put in place following an EHO inspection and only released when repair, maintenance and housing habitation fitness is signed off by an expert independent officer such as a local council EHO with the charge for such services falling on landlords. That may seem cumbersome but we are discussing the abuse of adults and children who are renters so it needs to be done unless we want to see more child tenant deaths such as Awaab Isaak and far higher cost to the NHS of unfit for human habitation properties.
Landlords may scream blue murder but the reality is too many landlords are getting away with blue murder! Yes it is regulation and regulation that is needed when the craven government and craven judiciary allows abusers to police the system as landlords social and private do now and which the especially craven courts support and condone when they should condemn.
Getting rid of the unscrupulous landlords is supposedly what every housing actor says they want so stop pissing about and demand real actions such as zeroising rent, compensating tenants and upholding the tenant right to repair and of a property fit for human habitation. Otherwise the Tenancy Agreements which all say or allude to tenant and landlord rights and responsibilities are works of crass fiction.
This Saturday, 1 April 2023, commemorates ten years of the Bedroom Tax and other so-called ‘welfare reform’ policies of ‘Austerity’ such as the Overall Benefit Cap. Here I discuss a few of these policies.
To coincide with the ten year anniversary of the “welfare (sic) reforms (sic)”I will be posting a series of in-depth articles about the ‘welfare reform’ policies and what they mean for example:
Do you realise they mean a woman who has fled domestic violence and abuse to a refuge with her two cannot leave the refuge as their maximum entitlement to housing benefit will not cover the full average rent on a 2 bed council house in the South East and East of England regions? That is what the Overall Benefit Cap policy means.
Do you realise if a Mum allows her son or daughter to live in or come back to the family home her entitlement to housing benefit can be zero if her son or daughter works full-time on national minimum wage? That does mean and is government policy that son or daughter pays Mum’s rent due to how non-dependant deductions work.
Do you realise that the OBC limit has never been uprated with inflation and its original £26,000 per year limit of total benefit for a household – which is today at £20,000 pa outside London – would need to be almost £33,000 per year in real terms so is a £13,000 per year cut in the provinces and a near £10,000 per year benefit cut to London households where the limit is £23,000 per year?
When the Overall Benefit Cap began it largely only affected the SRS benefit household with 5 children yet today it cuts the maximum housing benefit of the benefit household with two children – such as the domestic abuse refuge example above – which not only means the leaving of a domestic abuse refuge to transition from victim to survivor is impossible without employment, it makes social housing not just NO DSS but NO JOB NO HOME and also means refuges are bed-blocked thus having to turn away more victims of domestic abuse by the day?
Do you realise that disability and receipt of disability benefit plays no part in the bedroom tax? The Hockley household in the absurd CA decision was a ‘disabled’ household as Dad couldn’t work so Mum could only work part-time, and they had the bedroom tax imposed despite this and despite not under occupying their housing association property?
The 5 examples above are just a tiny number of many more practical issues that rarely get any awareness in the decade of the “welfare reforms” introduced on April Fool’s Day 2013.
Isn’t 10 the age of criminal responsibility in England? Let’s look in a touch more detail at the criminal ‘welfare reforms.’
The Bedroom Tax
Nobody discusses the Bedroom Tax any more yet its impact on how social renting operates has been seismic. Nobody even cares that the Court of Appeal ruled it was about occupation and not under occupancy and it also ruled that what we would call a ‘cot room’ is a bedroom for Bedroom Tax purposes. See the Hockley case here for reference and which saw a family of mum, dad and two teenage boys living in a correctly described 3 bed / 4 person housing association property and thus NOT under occupying have the Bedroom Tax applied. The law is an ass!
The Bedroom Tax has its greatest impact operationally on the allocation of social housing as all prospective SRS tenants qualify for the number of bedrooms that their immediate presenting need gives. A newly married couple are granted a 1 bed property so if they want to start a family they have to move.
England’s social rented sector averages 300,000 new lettings each year so 3 million social housing households have been subjected to its immediate bedroom need conditionality – 3 million of 3.5 million properties and 86% of all existing council and housing association properties today are affected outside of sheltered housing to which the bedroom tax does not apply.
In the post war period right up until 2013 a newly married couple would be granted a family-sized social housing property where they could put down roots, have a family, see all of their children go to the same school, have the same school friends and create a home. All of that social purpose and the housing welfare safety net is now nostalgic whimsy. The bedroom tax policy has had irreparable community and societal damage
Because family growth was built in due to their being no cut to housing benefit for under occupying the bedroom tax impacted on many existing tenants not just new ones. It also meant that in the six decades or more of post-war social housing the housing pillar of the 1948 Welfare State saw councils build and develop for subjective housing need not objective housing need and almost exclusively councils built family-sized council housing and only built 1-bed properties for older persons in sheltered housing.
When the Bedroom Tax began England had a housing stock profile built for subjective post-war housing need that was and still is highly unsuitable for 21st century objective housing need which needs to see a far higher percentage of what we now call social housing being the smaller one-bedded properties. It also sees social (ahem!) landlords still stuck in a post-war cultural time warp as they refuse to build or develop one bed properties and steadfastly refuse to remodel or sub-divide larger properties they own and manage. That is NOT our social purpose they kid themselves such smaller properties and God Forbid sub-divided ones are for that nasty lot we call the private rented sector and far too much trouble for us blah, blah, blah!
A classic indication is the Moving On research conducted by Crisis in 2017. It (significantly under –) estimated England had 200,000 single homeless households each year all needing a one-bedded property to escape the disease of homelessness. Crisis also stated correctly and factually that SRS landlords in England supplied just 13,000 re-housing properties to all single homeless persons – an irrefutable fact as social landlords provide this data to government each year in CORE returns.
That meant social landlords provided just 6.5% of the homeless-escape properties for all single homeless cohorts each year and left the country 93.5% reliant on the private rented sector to re-house single homeless cohorts. Crisis instead of highlighting this structural constraint to ending homelessness chose absurdly to focus on the 13k figure (for 2015/16) to be less than the 19k figure for 2005/06!!
Of course the downsizing nature of the Bedroom Tax also means much greater demand for SRS 1 bed properties which reduces the capacity to address the single homeless household re-housing capacity and the 35% – 40% of single women without children in domestic abuse refuges are just one single homeless household cohort, as are the 129,000 single homeless 16 to24 year olds who approached their council as homeless last year according to Centrepoint here. To update the irrefutable fact of the 13k supply figures for SRS single homeless properties it stood at 11,106 in 2021. The Crisis 200k estimate of demand for one bed SRS single homeless-escape properties included 71k for homeless sofa surfers yet the July 2020 English Housing Survey said England has 386k yearly single homeless sofa-surfers and alone 315k pa more than the Crisis Moving On estimate suggesting 515k single homeless households per year making the 11k SRS one-bed supply just 2.1% of the re-housing yearly need for single homeless households.
In the ten years since the Bedroom Tax we have consistently seen new SRS estimates from the great and good of housing and homelessness and from political parties and other housing / homeless actors. Yet not one of these estimates, typically in the range of 90,000 to 130,000 per year ever state what percentage if any of these demands are for one-bed properties – or any other size. In short, all these demands never say who new social housing properties are for and, the 2010 label of the social rented sector landlords being a ‘lazy consensus’ as given to it by Grant Shapps, the housing minister in 2013 when the bedroom tax began, is regrettably all too true and I discuss at the end of this long yet still all too brief look at these ‘welfare reforms.’
England to meet objective housing need requires 150,000 new SRS 1-bed properties per year alone and all at the social rent level yet there is neither the government subsidy funding or the inclination of social (sic) landlords to even build 15,000 per year and just 10% of the objective and real re-housing need that just single homeless cohorts substantiate. It needs at least 100,000 per year more 2 beds to 6 beds for homeless families. That ignores the 1.15 million on LA waiting lists of which a staggering 46% and 529,000 are there for a 1 bed social housing property.
We now see 76% of all social housing in England being the two, three, four and larger sized properties and all of these IF fully occupied reject the benefit households by what social landlords and their lobbies call LETWA – Limited Entitlement To Welfare Assistance – in short what we still call NO DSS as benefit households will not receive enough in housing benefit (now UC housing cost element) to cover the cheapest social housing rents due to the Overall Benefit Cap policy.
The overall benefit cap policy works directly to cut housing benefit and is a homelessness creating policy. From the cap limit which has never been uprated with inflation is took the amount of UC standard allowance, UC child element and Child Benefit leaving a maximum residual as UC housing cost element. In 2013 language CAP minus [base IS/JSA benefit + Child Tax Credit + Child Benefit] = maximum Housing Benefit.
Just 36% of all social housing tenants received enough in housing benefit to meet their social housing rent in 2020/21 when 69% did in February 2013 ahead of the Bedroom Tax and Overall Benefit Cap policies began
Prior to Bedroom Tax (the above are DWP SHBE data from Feb 2013) and OBC just 13% of social housing tenants received nothing in housing benefit which by 2020/21 had trebled to 39%. This ‘suggests’ that allocation of the 300,000 per year new SRS properties had been massively influenced and directed by NO DSS – which is NOT unlawful as long as each prospective tenant is treated equally by being subjected to the same affordability test criteria.
To say no tenants on benefit is discriminatory and thus unlawful and even more unlawful was the policy of Severn Vale Housing Association which I discussed back in 2016 here which said no allocation to under 36 year olds even if they passed the affordability criteria that I reported on almost 7 years ago.
This policy change to ban all under 36 year olds from being granted social housing (and note well regardless of emplyment status!!) was in response to ‘chatter’ about the shared accommodation rate being introduced in social housing – mere chatter and a potential change which never materialised yet still this policy was in play and wholly unlawful.
Strange how Shelter never called this out as NO DSS and unlawful discrimination when they state (wrongly in law) that NO DSS is unlawful discrimination when practised by PRS or letting agents – but hey ho!
Hopefully now that SVHA has been taken over by Bromford Housing Association this SVHA policy is no longer in play to the properties that once were Tewkesbury council housing stock? Bromford HA had a chief executive in 2013 who, shamefully, lauded the bedroom tax policy publicly and the landlord in the Hockley CA bedroom tax case of a 3 bed / maximum 4 person property that saw the bedroom tax imposed on a family of four persons of mum, dad and two teenage boys. Bromford chose not to intervene in this case and let the Court of Appeal perversely decide that HB regulations take legal precedence over the legally binding landlord to tenant contract in the Tenancy Agreement that agreed correctly that the maximum occupancy was 4 persons in this property with two tiny so-called bedrooms with neither being factually capable of being a bedroom for two children except if they were both in cots. A ‘bedroom’ the CA decided was whatever the social landlord said was a bedroom even if it was a cot room and absurdly means that a property with three ‘cot rooms’ none of which could accommodate an adult bed is a 3 bedroom property for bedroom tax purposes and also means the maximum occupancy the landlord states in the Tenancy Agreement is meaningless as far as the bedroom tax policy is concerned. The bedroom tax is not about under occupancy at all the CA declared – despite it being labelled the under occupation charge throughout most of its parliamentary passage – in a craven absurd and political decision that also made the Supreme Court decision in Carmichael wrong as the CA decided that what is and is not a bedroom has nothing to do with the occupants and their individual circumstances.
The preposterous CA decision in Hockley aide, the bedroom tax policy was intended to cut under occupation and to cut overcrowding in the allocation and operation of the ‘scarce resource’ that is ‘social housing.’ It did neither as official English Housing Survey figures produced by government reveal.
The Overall Benefit Cap did not save a penny to the public purse as its architect David (Lord) Freud admitted here in late 2021.
Nobody ever mentions that one of the ‘welfare reforms’ from 2013 was the removal of CTB or Council Tax Benefit that was a national welfare benefit which receipt of Housing Benefit passported and exempted the household from Council Tax and replaced by a local government decision whether to discount council tax at each local council’s discretion. Some councils like Durham gave 100% exemption whereas some councils such as Wirral and Sefton charged formerly exempt households 22% and 25% of council tax.
Nobody discusses the 2013 ‘welfare reform’ of the increases in NDD – non-dependant deductions – that sees the parents housing benefit cut if they allow their adult child to remain living in the family home – and will see a basic standard deduction of £1,029 per year from April 2023 (see here for detail) and much more than the bedroom tax housing benefit cut of circa £750 per year, and indeed if the adult child is working full time at minimum wage it can easily mean zero is paid to the parent in housing benefit / UC housing cost element and that the adult child needs to pay the full rent for their parents on the family home.
What these four ‘welfare reforms’ of 2013 (bedroom tax, overall benefit cap, getting rid of CTB and the increases in NDD) did collectively was and is that councils and housing associations can no longer afford to allocate a property to the benefit household. They dictate the routine practice of NO DSS in social housing for any household of working-age and directly create an inevitable and systemic increase in single and family homelessness. There is additional to this many complex nuances of Universal Credit also introduced in 2013 that systemically create greater poverty such as disability premia which all mean tenants are less able to afford to pay rent and the slippery slope of arrears to eviction into homelessness becomes inevitable.
The one thing the CA did get politically correct was determining the bedroom tax was bugger all about under occupancy and solely a political device by government to save money which is legally acceptable the CA unsurprisingly stated, despite being operationally and morally bankrupt.
I for one will not be wishing the ‘welfare reforms’ a happy 10th birthday on 1 April 2023 and neither should anyone involved in poverty, social housing or homelessness.
To coincide with the ten year anniversary of the “welfare (sic) reforms (sic)”I will be posting a series of in-depth articles about the ‘welfare reform’ policies and what they mean which the brief overview above barely touches on.
I post this on a Friday so the wide range of actors and purported “experts” in poverty, social housing, homelessness and any activists can digest over the weekend, as frankly, who the hell reads anything above 500 words during the week? The days of my posting standard letters to appeal the bedroom tax which had 180,000 downloads over a 24 hour period are long gone. Nobody is interested in the bedroom tax appeals or the bedroom tax and other ‘welfare reform’ impacts which are seismic:
Did you realise they mean a woman who has fled domestic violence and abuse to a refuge with her two cannot leave the refuge as their maximum entitlement to housing benefit will not cover the full average rent on a 2 bed council house in the South East and East of England regions? That is what the Overall Benefit Cap policy means.
Did you realise (as mentioned above) that if a Mum allows her son or daughter to live in or come back to the family home her entitlement to housing benefit can be zero if her son or daughter works full-time on national minimum wage? That does mean and is government policy that son or daughter pays Mum’s rent due to how non-dependant deductions work.
Did you realise that the OBC limit has never been uprated with inflation and its original £26,000 per year limit of total benefit for a household – which is today at £20,000 pa outside London – would need to be almost £33,000 per year in real terms so is a £13,000 per year cut in the provinces and a near £10,000 per year benefit cut to London households where the limit is £23,000 per year?
When the Overall Benefit Cap began it largely only affected the SRS benefit household with 5 children yet today it cuts the maximum housing benefit of the benefit household with two children – such as the domestic abuse refuge example above – which not only means the leaving of a domestic abuse refuge to transition from victim to survivor is impossible without employment, it makes social housing not just NO DSS but NO JOB NO HOME and also means refuges are bed-blocked thus having to turn away more victims of domestic abuse by the day?
Did you realise that disability and receipt of disability benefit plays no part in the bedroom tax? The Hockley household was a ‘disabled’ household as Dad couldn’t work so Mum could only work part-time, and they had the bedroom tax imposed despite this and despite not under occupying their housing association property?
The 5 examples above are just a tiny number of many more practical issues that rarely get any awareness in the decade of the “welfare reforms” introduced on April Fool’s Day 2013.
I respectfully ask the homelessness lobbies such as Shelter and Crisis to stop the myopic and sole focus on LHA freezes and look at how many SRS households do not get full housing benefit and how the OBC policy is even worse than the LHA freezes as the actual maximum amount of housing benefit (LHA or UC housing cost payment) reduces each year in actual terms not just in real terms. Yes LHA freezes are easier for the general public and social media commentariat to understand but not making them aware of even worse cuts is negligent (as is failing to mention the cut in LHA from the 50th percentile to the 30th percentile in 2012 and also the increase in the SAR applicable age at the same time from those under 25 to those under 35.)
Social landlords … Hmm!
While largely unwarranted, I also respectfully ask the ‘great and good’ of the social landlord sector and all social housing professionals to look at the impacts the so-called ‘welfare reforms’ have had and wake up and smell the coffee however belatedly. Here are a few points to consider and I will be forthright as usual:
How many of you said the OBC limit of £26k per year back in 2013 said it only affects large families in the PRS and even then only in high rent areas such as London? Many of you did and were of that opinion and remained so despite the first OBC data revealing that 46% of all rented households capped by the policy and had their maximum housing benefit cut were in the SRS!
Why are so many of you still holding onto the assumption and myth that the OBC policy only affects (a) large families; (b) only in the PRS, and (c) only in high-rent areas? The irrefutable data that any 7 year old can put into a spreadsheet reveals that all fully occupied 2 bed SRS properties at the cheapest social rent level will NOT see full HB paid to the benefit household by April 2025 making the 76% of all general needs SRS properties for those of working-age the effective NO DSS property!
Are you going to fill your 300k per year voids and newly available properties solely with those of State Pension Age and others exempted from the OBC policy? If so then good luck with that as even those in receipt of PIP making the household exempt can easily lose PIP and other exempt welfare benefits! (What does the proposed removal of the work capability assessment mean here!!??)
I could go on with dozens more examples and questions to social rented sector landlords who, regrettably, have acquiesced to these ‘welfare reforms’ and the same ‘welfare reforms’ that are rapidly killing off the social housing model / social housing / social purpose we all know can work well.
The SRS needs, as radical as it reads, to abandon ALL new development of social housing and instead solely focus on existing SRS housing stock and the impacts that the ‘welfare reforms’ and the ‘cost of living crisis’ have on those they shamefully call their customers, the social housing tenant.
The culture and housing-think of council and housing association landlords HAS to be abandoned yesterday. Net zero, the correct yet incessant attacks on SRS housing quality with damp and mould etc, the massive withdrawal of capital subsidies and every other SRS narrative are deflection arguments away from social landlords are in cahoots with the current government to kill off the social housing model with its social purpose. Collectively you are shooting your sector in the foot with a hand-held cannon by excusing the reality with oh its government policy there is nothing we can do about it – a refrain I hear hourly from purported SRS ‘professionals’
Why do all the lobbies for building / developing new SRS housing stock have their ‘professional’ estimates maxed-out at 131,000 per year (Shelter Independent Commission) when England needs at least 250,000 new SRS properties all at the cheapest social rent level just to prevent homeless household numbers from increasing? A figure that will sharply increase if the current government ever get around to banning Section 21 (no-fault) eviction notices as the PRS landlords will take huge flight from re-housing riskier tenant cohorts due to higher landlord costs … just as social landlords have gradually abandoned the benefit households for the exact same principle of NO DSS that the CIH risibly calls LETWA (Limited Entitlement To Welfare Assistance) which is de facto NO DSS.
The SRS landlords are no different to Gerald Ratner by not giving a monkey’s cuss about the plight or reality of their customers. The ‘welfare reforms’ have seen a spineless response from the social housing sector and from the political non-opposition to them from the Miliband Labour Party whose same shadow ministers now form the shadow Starmer Labour Party. It was Rachel Reeves as shadow DWP minister who said Miliband Labour would be harder on benefit households than the Tories and that Labour was the party for those in work not out of it back in 2015. She is now shadow chancellor. It was Miliband himself in 2011 who said Thatcher was right with her RTB policy and he was a member of the Shelter Independent Commissioner who asserted we only need 131,000 new SRS properties per year when any objective housing need basis reveals at least 150,000 one beds are needed each year all at the social rent level just for single homeless households (and more if S21 no fault eviction ever becomes statute). Even Corbyn Labour only ever called for 100,000 per year – so politically no party has any time for the social housing model despite it being the housing pillar of the 1948 Welfare State upon which all other welfare state pillars depend!
Hopefully my passion for what the social housing model can do is coming through – a passion I know is shared by the vast majority of SRS professionals and whichever side of the chasm they are on. The chasm here means the dichotomy and cleavage between the rose-tinted nostalgists (e.g. the SHOUT members) and the uber-commercially focused super-sized HAs who believe they are pragmatists e.g. Clarion, G15, etc. Both of these extremes need their bloody heads banging together!
The ‘welfare reform’ impacts I describe above typically see the rose-tinted nostalgists adopt a moralistic approach of where the hell can benefit households live as they can’t afford and won’t get social housing; whereas the pragmatists (to be kind to them) never even ask who the hell CAN we accommodate which is the basic pragmatic question that the welfare reform / NO DSS / LETWA reality poses. In short, go spit your dummies and egos out all you like as the entire ‘sector’ is going out of business due to non-affordability of SRS rents – you are fiddling as Rome burns and are presiding over the social housing model going to hell in a Tory handcart!
The ‘lot of you’ can go shove your highly paid egos next to the same arsehole your neglect of social purpose housing-speak and your egotistical social media presence originates from! You are not personalities and you are not important. You are guardians of the social housing model and its social purpose of accommodating those who cannot afford to rent privately or to buy; guardians of a critical pillar of the 1948 Welfare State upon which every other pillar depends.
All of you need the proverbial rockets up your backsides – as do the professional and egotistical heads of every homeless lobby that are self-centred PR hacks hell bent on personal career advancement rather than the homeless households they hover-up donations for.
In summary, and getting away from what many will simply label as ‘rant’, whether I approach the social housing model and purpose from a personal and moralistic dimension or whether I approach the state of the social housing model and purpose with my professional consultant head on, and from a business pragmatism perspective, you really do need to stop and think, to re-evaluate what you are and how you have allowed social housing to be on the cliff edge precipice it is today and will worsen tomorrow.
Homelessness and the ‘experts’ all deny fact and primary data
The egos of social housing, homelessness and poverty actors and ‘experts’ sees all of them disallow the reality that the only logical deductions from primary data and fact reveal. We can’t possibly be wrong and if we admit the facts are correct it means we are no longer the ‘experts’ and just negligent actors who have chosen NOT to look at fact and primary data.
That same issue even applies to academics in the Housing First charade who ignore that rough sleeping has doubled in Finland the past two years, has never worked at scale anywhere in the world including the USA where it began, and the primary data revealing that SRS landlords only supply 11k of the 1 bed secure and affordable properties upon which the entire Housing First model is premised. Lets roll it out nationally they declare for the two-thirds of all single homeless (c135k) that the Crisis Moving On report stated needed it back in 2017 … oh but hang on how can we put (understated) demand of 135k into 11k yearly property supply reveals the slapdash nature and innumeracy of the extremely zealous HF lobbies!
I am old enough to remember Foyers being touted as the panacea to end single (youth) homelessness under the first Blair administration, just as the ‘sexy’ Housing First model is now being advance with zealous abandonment of fact for rough sleeping. Even IF social housing lobbies have a road to Damascus moment and realise England needs 150,000 new SRS one-bed properties per year for single homeless households that will not be a panacea either. Using the Crisis estimate of two-thirds of single homeless households require housing-related support to make the transition from their homeless state that means 100,000 ‘units’ of housing-related support each year and yet funding for this (housing-related) support is entirely discretionary and nobody has any legal right to it. The HF pilots are funded with something close to £200 per person per week for housing-related support which for 100,000 per year is £1 billion per year in the first year, £2billion in Year 2 and £3 billion in Year 3 and each subsequent year noting that the zealous HF advocates demand an average 3 year duration of support. Where is this £3 billion ongoing revenue support going to come from? Where are the billions in capital subsidy coming from to build 150,000 new SRS 1 bed properties coming from?
Are there any innumerate idiots left who still believe England can end single homelessness never mind all homelessness given these figures?
When you are passionate about something, such as I have been for the last 30 years about ending the offensive disease called homelessness it is very easy to lapse into rant. The other side of that coin is I can afford to rant as I can afford to upset the applecart and afford to constructively criticise all of the actors in the field of homelessness and in the at least 12 separately identifiable homeless cohorts first developed in the 2007 ETHOS framework below.
All of the groups or cohorts you can read in the above are homeless as they have no permanent or stable or affordable place to call home: They are ALL home-less just as anyone who is worthless has no worth, such as the many academics, actors and ‘experts’ that proliferate in the field or sector of homelessness perhaps who carry on regardless spouting the same old nonsensical and absurd mantras such as we CAN end homelessness which the primary data and fact all deduce England has not a hope in hell’s chance of doing. Each successive year we avoid the re-housing demand of all homeless households is yet another year of increased homeless households numbers and whether caused by the 1 bed homeless-escape property being the unicorn property or the larger 2 – 5 bed homeless-escape properties needed by homeless families are not affordable to homeless households on benefits due to the overall benefit cap policy.
Plenty to think about homeless and housing peeps …and in case I have missed off any sources do let me know and I’ll gladly provide them and they will litter the (to date) 12 ‘welfare reform’ posts I have drafted in more detail that will be with you all soon … bet you can’t wait eh!
As social landlords don’t do fact how can we expect them to do nuance?
I see dozens of comments and articles from social landlord staff saying last week’s budget said nothing or very little about ‘housing.’ I strongly beg to differ!
Below is the latest of scores of examples that sees housing ‘professionals’ all stating there was nothing in the budget, blah, blah, blah, for ‘housing’ and one of scores of examples even from noted and respected social housing commentators. In this case Paul Hackett is a chief executive of a large housing association and one of many CEO’s who have said the Budget did nothing for housing… Oh dear!
The Budget included confirmation that the standard amount of housing benefit deducted from tenants for allowing their non-working 21 year old plus sons and daughters to remain at home will increase to £1029 per year from this April.
£1,029 per year taken off parent housing benefit (UC housing cost element) in non dependant deductions (NDD) is a recipe for a major increase in the arrears to eviction to homeless pathway. £1,029 per year is a far higher at source housing benefit cut than the bedroom tax is or ever was
On 1 April the standard UC housing cost element NDD increase to £85.74 each calendar month leaving parents who ‘allow’ their sons or daughters to remain in the ‘family home’ will see those parents have £85.74 per month and £1,029 per year deducted from their maximum housing benefit and which the parent(s) will need to make up else be evicted into homelessness – and need to make up in a cost of living crisis where government mitigation payments nowhere near cover the extra cost of gas and electricity, where they face 7% rent rises that will wipe out the 10.1% increase in their UC standard allowance and have to pay 20% or so more for food and God knows what increases in council tax, insurances and other unavoidable household expenditures.
NB This £1.029 per year is if the son or daughter is not in employment. But what if they are you ask?
IF the 21/22 year old son or daughter works 40 hours at the national minimum wage of £10.12 from April then the NDD from the parents housing benefit is more than the average social housing rent so the parent will not get a penny in housing benefit and the child needs to pay the rent for its parent(s)
There was nothing in the budget for housing claims almost every social landlord commentator? Oh dear! That would be the social (ahem!) rented sector that never walks an inch in a tenant’s shoes let alone a mile!
There are lies, damn lies and … carefully controlled budget leaks!
The ‘chatter’ from the weekend saw Torsten Bell the head of the Resolution Foundation think tank and a noted critic of government policy assert, and definitively, that the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) would be scrapped. Yet it won’t be as the White Paper on Health and Disability confirms:
The WCA will ONLY be scrapped IF the Conservative Party wins the next general election is what the wording – the devil in the detail – says. Even if they do win the next general election there is no guarantee the new Conservative government post 2024 will be bound by this aim / pledge / woolly assertion.
PS: IF you need ‘transitional protection’ doesn’t this mean the intention of government is to reduce incapacity and disability benefit spending? YEP!
However, the biggest immediate issue of note for me is how the current government has significantly reduced the credibility of those who highlight the flaws in government policies, how they have undermined their enemies.
This is brilliant politics from the Conservatives best seen when the word ‘politic’ means sly and underhand and is a consistent recent strategy also seen in Kwajo Tweneboa the social tenant activist done up like a kipper in the Making Things Right initiative as they have done with Torsten Bell here.
All over the ‘pre-Budget’ weekend the scrapping of the WCA was all the rage. TB released this as an exclusive and given his previously good credibility and reputation it was piled on by every Tom Dick and Harriet on the basis of if TB says it then it must be true. The same rationale with Kwajo Tweneboa was used by Michael Gove when KT fronted government propaganda in saying the Ombudsman route is best for social tenants to get redress for appalling repairs and housing quality and not the use of the legal route as I discussed here.
You can see government strategists saying (a) who is the enemy? Then (b) who is our enemy’s audience? I know let’s take away our enemy’s credibility and we stifle dissent and scrutiny as the enemy’s audience can never again believe a word our enemies ever say again.
The WCA was the theme of Ken Loach’s powerful film “I Daniel Blake” which should be renamed as “I Torsten Fake” and in Conservative propaganda speak is a focus on what work you can do not what work you can’t do – a phrase parroted like mantra by Tory MPs and pundits as it appears so right and virtuous. Yet it means when you barely scratch the surface that having no legs and two prosthetic arms means you can work on a supermarket till and therefore you are fit for some work hence fit for all work in benefit terms.
Steering social housing tenants down the Ombudsman route as KT has done means it will take far longer for social tenants living in what I politely call shit hole properties to get redress AND is the cheapest option for those ‘social’ (sic) landlords who treat social housing tenants like shite. Michael Gove getting KT to front this also sees government claim they are doing something FOR social tenants and AGAINST bad social landlords when the reality is reporting more repairs actually works AGAINST social housing tenants and works FOR bad social landlords. Calling this initiative Making Things Right when it does nothing of the sort provides the cheery on the cake
Just wondering whether I will now be attacked for daring to criticise Torsten Bell like I was for having the absolute temerity to criticise Kwajo Tweneboa? I probably will be yet the Tories have shown that the shameful ‘attack the messenger’ strategy is politically old hat. It is far easier and better to appear to work with Tory policy detractors and then see them exposed as incompetent and no longer credible as the followers and supporters of these activist leaders realise they have put their faith in someone who is not credible and the activist issue and criticism dies with it. Machiavelli and Goebbels would be so proud of current Conservative Party strategy of make the Queen Bee decapitate herself and the worker bees will fly off somewhere else.
One quirky Budget announcement that made me chuckle was the mention of “returnerships” – a policy to get the over 50s retrain in a new sector. I wonder if the Chancellor believes the April 23 onwards £5.28 per hour national minimum wage for ALL 1st year apprentices of ANY age will be a ‘constraint’ to this over 50s cohort? Enough to cancel their retirement that their taxes have paid for and to be the substitute for all the former workers from the EU that have been forced to return by Brexit. IF this cohort could manage to save enough and pay enough in taxes before they retired then surely they will not need the new unlimited amount they can put into their pensions policy, though quite how they can do that on £5.28 per hour as their minimum wage is another question entirely.
The numbers once again are a case in point of the new announced over-50s UC support which Chancellor Hunt opined would see 50,000 a year receive this increased UC ‘support’ and would work to persuade of cajole the 1 million of this over 50s cohort back to work? The red book of course does not project for 20 years in advance as 20 years it what this 50,000 per year ‘support’ capacity would take to coerce / cajole / persuade 1,000,000 over 50s returners … assuming of course they can live that long!
I will discuss other nuances of this knee jerk budget such as the over 50s returning to work and the 10.1% increase in Non Dependant Deductions will create even more social housing arrears and more existing tenants on the arrears to eviction to homeless pathway and how this will lead to even greater NO DSS being operated by social landlords in their allocations policies … Damn I may even mention those damn pesky facts again such as the average SRS tenant age is 56 …
But that will do for now as I’m off to get an appropriate glass of warm beer that the Chancellor loves so much
Make Things Right is a new initiative from government advocating tenants report repairs and has been launched with fanfare yet what is it and does it make things right? No it doesn’t and quite the opposite. It’s a superficial as it gets initiative and it weakens tenant rights to repair by seeking to prevent them getting the legal redress their right to repair now holds and has always held.
There are two issues I discuss here. The very minor one is that I criticised @kwajohousing a tenant activist for fronting this as a poster boy which brought down the wrath of Khan for my daring to criticise him. The major one is the sham MTR initiative he is fronting for the current government.
The lot of 4 million social housing tenants is far more important than the ego and the cult of personality of any one tenant activist so please spare me the oh he is a nice chap he wouldn’t put his name to anything that’s bad for tenants … which is precisely what he has done here and however unwittingly.
I am nasty for criticising him he said and he never asked me to follow him. This is breathtaking arrogance and conceit. You cannot criticise him unless he asks for criticism. You cannot follow him or comment on what he says or does unless he says so. That is what his response says. Why is he immune from criticism for anything he says or does as that is what he clearly believes and stating here?
This is cult of personality nonsense and he is believing his own hype, which is fine, except when what he does by fronting this superficial initiative damages the lot of 4 million tenants, which it does and I explain below.
One final point is he refers to an earlier tweet last week which is below
I fully agree the Labour Party position on any housing policy is vague even if any policies exist, sorry should that say missions not policies as God forbid that Starmer Labour will ever detail any policy never mind in housing?
This article was promoted by the right wing journalists solely on the assertion, probably true but still a politicallyu motivated assertion nonetheless, Labour has no policies and at least Michael Gove has some and thus pure political spin.
In doing this it presented a narrative – with the ‘credibility’ of Kwajo being in place as a ‘patsy’ – that the Gove policy which we now know as Make Things Right was meaningful without the article saying what this Make Things Right initiative was or is: Done up like a kipper accurately describes the reality.
Nobody is too big or too good to not be criticised and I will continue to criticise any person, any journalist, any housing actor at all who attacks or makes things worse for tenants and do so constructively.
Make Things Right – the ‘initiative’
As its name says make things right is wholly reactive as something must have gone wrong for something to be made right. The social housing tenant must believe something has gone wrong that the landlord can and should put right and government has produced an overview that is riddled with spelling mistakes (showing the seriousness of this perhaps?) and frequent and repeated use of the word ‘should’ in classic political propaganda purposes and it does not state how a tenant can enforce the rights already held to repairs which the legally binding Tenancy Agreement gives them and the tenant and landlord agree to in that contract.
And this guide then is replete with ‘should’ and ‘expect’ and other vague terms and language and yet more spelling mistakes in a process that will never be shorter than six months and often longer than a year!
At best this Make Things Right charade is political hokum, a wish list that is not enforceable and places undue authority in the Housing Ombudsman and steers the tenant down that route rather than seek legal redress for the landlord not doing what the legally binding tenancy agreement says they must. Tenant put your faith in the toothless ombudsman and take months to get resolution and even years while you suffer the consequences of the social landlord breaching the tenancy agreement and your right to repair and the landlord responsibility to undertake repairs.
In a similar context we saw the official regulator of social housing (RSH) get involved after the ITV News broadcasts by Daniel Hewitt expose the appalling state of how Clarion Housing Group, the UK’s largest landlord, made tenants suffer and the RSH decision was there is nothing to see here because they believed Clarion as they had no powers to speak with tenants so they didn’t! The appalling state of housing the country saw in stark video footage of Clarion and a few other large housing associations – what I called something you would not even want your worst enemy’s dog to live in – was fine and dandy for the official regulator!
Make Things Right is much more than social landlord pressure on government to steer tenants away from seeking legal redress by a solicitor which is the key point of this initiative and why landlords are more than happy with this charade. It is a diminution of existing tenant rights that Kwajo is advocating and makes the tenant lot worse!
Tenants are being steered down a very long route to get redress as landlords kick the repair can and complaint can down the road and steered to make those complaints themselves rather than getting legal help and drafting for those complaints. A simple yet rhetorical question is:
Has a legitimate tenant complaint got a better chance of success and redress if drafted by a housing solicitor or by a tenant?
Kwajo is saying in promoting this superficial initiative do it yourself and don’t get legal and professional help for your legitimate tenant complaint. That is the rub. I am not in any way doubting his sincerity or integrity, I am criticising his competence and that criticism is deserved even in overview and principle before I discuss the Make Things Right process which is a sham and extremely lengthy and with a lesser chance of tenant redress than what tenants now have as right. He is letting all not just the bad social landlords off the hook by allowing them to pass complaints on to the Ombudsman and allowing them to escape the costs and the seriousness that a tenant complaint made by a solicitor warrants and would receive.
Will social landlords uphold fewer complaints and provide lesser tenant redress by steering tenants down the Ombudsman route as a cost factor? Yes of course they will as they are commercial organisations and that would be standard business practice. Social landlords will only harden their tenants are vexatious persons who complain at the drop of a hat narratives and undertake fewer repairs in the first place even the most legitimate and obvious ones as they can delay the cost of repairs until the Ombudsman finally report of immediately before after waiting 6 months or even over a year to effect a repair that should have been done within 28 days at most.
Tenants and those who support the cult of personality that surrounds Kwajo Tweneboa – and aided by the entertainment agency he has – have to think on what will the social landlord responses be to this initiative rather than saying any advertising campaign to promote more tenant complaints has to be a good thing. If Kwajo promote it then it must be good for tenants is a non sequitur at the best of times but with Make Things Right – which should be renamed as Make the Tenant Lot Worse – it is rank incompetence and rank political naivety on his part.
There is absolutely zero in this initiative that makes the lot of the social housing tenant better.
Some final words on the outrage and flak that has rained down on me and from those I have respect for. Let’s start with Daniel Hewitt at ITV News who tweeted:
Daniel, nothing in this MTR initiative helps social tenants at all yet you presume it does because *check fact* you fail to understand how this MTR charade actually works against tenants! How has the government acted? Wholly AGAINST tenants!
Tom. You presume I have deleted a tweet. I haven’t. Kwajo has deleted my responses as have others who jumped on the defend Kwajo and how dare I criticise him bandwagon! As a related point you often say Clarion and other ‘supersized’ HA’s are too big to fail yet are you implying here that Kwajo is too big to fail? That rather sums up my argument around the cult of personality which surrounds him.
I again estate that I am not attacking the sincerity or integrity of Kwajo Tweneboa I am and rightfully criticising his competence and political naivety in this issue which is deserved as this sham MTR ‘initiative’ is pure political hokum that WILL work against social tenants not help them!
A general question which is being sidelined in the housing quality / disrepair arena is … Why should tenants have to pay social landlords full rent for properties that are deficient and in some cases unfit for human habitation?
If anyone rents anything, whether on a one-off basis such as a car, an AirBnB, a lawnmower that is deficient or rents something on a longer term basis that is unfit we don’t think twice about withholding payment and demanding that the deficiency is put right as soon as possible. Yet with a rented property we somehow believe we should carry on paying rent and in full. That has to change.
Even if the tenant is made to pay rent into some escrow account whilst the unfitness or repair is investigated and resolved the issue is why the hell do tenants and tenant activists deem it acceptable to carry on paying full rent for a property that is deficient? If tenants and government want disrepair and bad quality addressed then that is the only and surest route to achieve that end and anything else including this sham Make Things Right initiative is pretence of that aim.
Anything that is rented needs to be fit for purpose never mind fit for human habitation so when government tinker and get those with perceived influence to promote that tinkering they are playing offensive political games. There is nothing in this or other proposal that will prevent the death of a 2 year old child directly caused by damp that the landlord refused to repair is there Michael Gove? All you have done is steer social housing tenants down a blind alley of a DIY complaint system that denies tenant rights and allows landlords to avoid their legal responsibilities to affect repair.
Finally, I turned down the then Labour government over 20 years ago when they offered me six figures a year to become a retained consultant. The reason was I would have had to stop criticising the programme – Supporting People – that was moving from fine in theory to a nightmare in practise and government and local councils were seeking to make the lot of vulnerable residents far worse by superficial issues such as ‘Excellent Authority Status” and “freedoms and flexibilities” – all superficial buzz phrases in government seeking to reduce the necessary costs of it, just as the government of today is wrapping up MTR as a good thing for tenants in greater reporting when its aim is to reduce social landlord costs of dealing with repairs as they are legally bound by the tenancy agreement to do.
I prevented 70 local councils cutting the funding of support to vulnerable people by what you make call complaint and eventually Hampshire County Council were taken to the High Court and the Court of Appeal where the law found against them yet had no legal remedy, zilch, which was shameful and offensive. I had to forego around £70,000 in fees but chose to do so and then publicised the case to prevent other local authorities spending millions as Hants did in legal fees in order to save £320k per year. That worked until the idiotic Labour government decided to take the ring fence off the SP grant they continued to pay to local councils and today’s sees about 80% of that funding spent by councils on anything else but the housing-related support funding of very vulnerable persons.
I knew I would never receive the fees and still chose to do what was right. I knew I was turning down the six figure government consultancy because 30 pieces of silver will never buy my integrity. I was fully aware of the political shenanigans of the Labour government of the day just as the above briefly discusses the political shenanigans of the Conservative Party now. Indeed the government sought to try and impugn my integrity immediately after I had refused them and chose to use an existing retained consultant to do so.
last time I wrote about this was at the time and 21 years ago as if anyone attacks my integrity and professionalism it is dealt with swiftly and never mentioned again. I gave them both barrels as you can imagine as reputation is all that a good consultant has. It worked and always will and I have no problem defending my views and positions on any given issue where I have experience.
I have no envy of the work or celebrity status of Kwajo Tweneboa and I will and indeed have praised him in the past. Massaging ego’s is not my bag even my own.
None of my criticisms of Kwajo’s fronting this sham MTR initiative are party political; they are all about the current government using his deserved good reputation and influence to make things WORSE for social tenants. If that still makes you believe I am nasty then take a long hard look at yourself and note well I do not waste my time engaging with any such closed minded people.
Do not jump to resumptions that anyone is above criticism just because of past good works and myself included. Consultants are paid well enough to have metaphorical broad shoulders after all and they have a duty to criticise any policy, and any half-arsed ‘initiative’ such as MTR and those who however unwittingly get caught out and done up like a kipper by government and their paid journalists who write for right wing publications such as the Spectator and the Mail on Sunday to do the dirty work for the likes of Michael Gove.
I have no doubt that Kwajo is sincere in his aims to better the tenant lot and his well known background of his Father’s case proves that for me. Yet he needs to develop the necessary broad shoulders as if he doesn’t he will end up hosting Homes Under the Hammer or some other programme that his YMU elite talent agency says is good for him. If he can’t take criticism he shouldn’t be anywhere near the housing sector and claiming to want to better the lot of 4 million social housing tenants for the typical disdainful treatment they get from purportedly social landlords and governments central and local.
UPDATE 7 March 21:30pm
I see Kwajo Tweneboa has put out a tweet with a video of how Clarion left a flat and its an absolutely disgrace. Kwajo, will you be advising this tenant to go to the ombudsman and wait a year to get redress; or will you be persuading the tenant to go get a lawyer? QED!
The Bedroom Tax austerity policy is ten years old on the 1st April 2023 and one of two key austerity policies directly developed to cut Housing Benefit. The other is the Overall Benefit Cap, also approaching its tenth anniversary but applies to social AND private tenants unlike the Bedroom Tax which applies only to social housing tenants.
The Bedroom Tax is not a tax. It also only applies to a room deemed a bedroom, rightly or wrongly by the social landlord, so the Spare Room Subsidy label is also a misnomer.
It also applies where a household fully occupy a social housing property (see the Hockley Court of Appeal case) so it is also incorrect to call it the under-occupancy charge as it was first called in both Houses of Parliament before Lord Best dubbed it the bedroom tax.
Far more important than nomenclature is the fact that the bedroom tax policy has killed off the social in social housing – aka the housing safety net of the Welfare State – which is now replete with what we still call NO DSS and which worsens by the year. Below I explain how it manifests in affordability terms.
In Hockley, the Court of Appeal decided that a bedroom for bedroom tax purposes is any of the possible bedrooms for any possible occupant. A cot room is a bedroom they decided. A property with 3 cot rooms is thus a 3 bedroom property for bedroom tax purposes even though none of these claimed ‘bedrooms’ are large enough to accommodate an adult single bed.
The Hockley case also proved the bedroom tax is nothing to do with under occupying as a couple with their two teenage boys rented a property whose tenancy agreement said was a 3 bedroom / 4 person maximum occupancy property. That housing association property in Nuneaton was fully occupied yet the Court of Appeal ruled the bedroom tax was payable despite both of the 2 single ‘bedrooms’ had been proven incapable of storing 2 single beds or a set of bunk beds. A ‘bedroom’ they ruled was a proxy for ANY possible bedroom for any possible occupant ergo a cot room was a bedroom.
The fact this perverse reasoning meant that HB regulations were given a legal priority over the legally binding tenancy agreement or primary contract law which gave a maximum occupancy. This craven decision saw the Court of Appeal maintaining that the bedroom tax judged a property when empty and without its current occupants overruled the Supreme Court bedroom tax decision in Carmichael which based its decision on the property when occupied by the Carmichael household and NOT when it was empty. The Court of Appeal decision is perverse irrational and craven and imposed a 14% cut in the Housing Benefit of the fully occupying Hockley family.
The Bedroom Tax also kills off the social in social housing as it had forced housing allocation on immediate-only presenting terms. In brief the newly married couple who in the entire post-war period would have been allocated a family-sized council or HA property can only ever receive a 1-bed SRS property due to the bedroom tax policy so they have to move if they start a family. The bedroom tax impact on community and stability or ‘putting down roots’ has been dead as the Dodo for the last decade.
However the bedroom tax is best seen in overall terms and what it has done to the benefit claiming household in the social rented sector by the percentage of tenants getting full housing benefit – that is enough in housing benefit to cover the social housing rent.
Immediately prior to the bedroom tax beginning official DWP data (SHBE) for February 2013 revealed 69% of all social housing tenants received FULL housing benefit. That fell to just 36% by 2019/20 official EHS data. Adding in those who received partial housing benefit saw 87% of all social housing tenants get HB in 2013 which fell to 61% by 2019/20.
One of the many critical impacts of this dramatic fall in housing benefit receipt is the specious and errant narrative that building more new social housing will remove the “Housing Crisis” and an argument that is put forward by all SRS housing lobbies and also advanced as solution to the “Homelessness Crisis” by Shelter, Crisis and all other homeless lobbies.
Is there any point in building new social housing when it is not affordable by the benefit households and council and housing associations will refuse to allocate properties to the benefit households?
Note well this is all perfectly legal for councils and housing associations to refuse to accommodate on affordability grounds even though we still call this NO DSS.
Shortly after the bedroom tax began I did a presentation at a CIH conference in London which said that SRS landlords will have to refuse to accommodate benefit households on affordability grounds when I posited the systemic flaw in the OBC policy. The SRS audience were not pleased with this argument even though they fully accepted the figures and the systemic flaw in the OBC. My argument went down like the proverbial lead balloon with the audience all asserting that ‘we are social landlords, we will always house those most in housing need’ and variants of this line of argument.
Almost 4 years later the CIH commissioned research from the University of Sheffield which proved I was right AND led to a thinly-veiled SRS landlord euphemism for NO DSS in LETWA – Limited Entitlement To Welfare Assistance – aka NO DSS and also found that 56% of housing associations refused LA homeless nominations on these LETWA grounds. In short housing benefit would not meet the rent aka NO DSS.
Only a few weeks ago did the JRF think tank release yet another report on housing which assumed that all of the rent is paid in housing benefit in social housing even though 64% of social housing tenants do not receive full housing benefit and that figure being a 2019/20 one is likely to have increased too.
Every week if not every day we see Shelter and other homeless and social housing lobbies state the errant nonsense that we can end the housing crisis, end the homeless crisis and end rough sleeping by building new social housing.
Every day of every week we see Shelter and Generation Rent and a myriad of other lobbies assert that unfreezing LHA – the private rented version of housing benefit – is the ONLY housing benefit / housing affordability issue and which assumes that full housing benefit is paid to social housing tenants when 2 in every 3 do not get full housing benefit and largely due to bedroom tax and the OBC policy.
All of the these usual suspects are ignorant of the fact that at least 64% of existing social housing tenants and households do NOT get enough in housing benefit to cover their social housing rent.
The Overall Benefit Cap policy (OBC)
In 2013 when the OBC began it limited all households (note not individuals) to a maximum of £26,000pa in a range of benefits. This OBC limit has NEVER been uprated with inflation and if it had it would be £33,000 in FY202223.
In 2016/17 government cut the OBC limit to £23,000pa in London and to £20,000pa in the rest of the country and that is still the maximum today.
In real terms the benefit household in London has had a £10,000 per year cut in benefit and in the provinces it’s a £13,000 per year cut in benefit. Note especially well that the first and often the only benefit that has been cut is Housing Benefit as that is the way the OBC policy works and is purposely designed.
This deliberate targeting of housing benefit is an even greater reason for social landlords to choose to adopt NO DSS and to refuse prospective tenants who are benefit households. I will leave the reader to work out for themselves where such households can possibly live when they are refused the cheapest possible ‘social’ housing on affordability grounds …!
How the OBC works & systemically creates NO DSS in social housing
The OBC works by subtracting ‘other’ benefit from the cap limit leaving a maximum residual amount that can be paid in housing benefit. The policy works directly and purposely to cut housing benefit.
A worked example using the lone parent 3 child household in a 3 bed SRS property at today’s figures (FY2223] using the average 3 bed social housing rent level in the provinces of £466 per calendar month using UC terms for ease of illustration
The £20,000 pa cap figure in the provinces is £1666.67 pcm and all other benefits are expressed in pcm terms.
UC standard allowance £334.91
UC child elements £779.16
Child Benefit £220.30
Total per calendar month £1334.37
Total cap is £1666.67 minus ‘other’ benefit of £1334.37 = max HB of £332.30
Given the average 3 bed social housing rent outside London is £469.00 per month the lone parent three child household gets £136.30 less in housing benefit (now called UC housing cost element) than the monthly rent to become the NO DSS household that social landlord call LETWA and thus refused council or housing association housing.
How many lone parent and three child households have fled to domestic violence and abuse refuges and found they cannot move from there as they have a Limited Entitlement To Welfare Assistance?
How many reside in unsuitable dingy hotels and bed and breakfasts and cannot move on from this local authority arranged temporary homeless accommodation because they too are a LETWA household?
In many parts of the UK especially the South East and East of England regions this same LETWA / NO DSS applies to lone parent 2 child households in a 2bed social housing property. This latter scenario will be a universal one across all social households for the lone parent two child household by April 2024 in a 2bed social rent level property in every UK region.
As 2 bed and larger sized properties comprise 76% of all social housing it means in April 2024 that 76% of all social housing becomes the NO DSS property for those of working age.
And you thought the ‘welfare (sic) reforms (sic)’ only affected those who under occupied social housing?
Each social (sic) landlord is allowed to develop their own affordability testing matrix and as long as they are applied to all applicants then refusal on grounds of NO DSS / LETWA are 100% lawful. Have these matrices been amended by social landlords to reflect the 157% increase in energy inflation and the 17% increase in food inflation? Yes. Affordability testing is not just an issue of will housing benefit cover the rent but can the prospective tenant afford to heat the property given the risk of frozen burst pipes and property damage when they can’t afford to!
The Bedroom Tax and the Overall Benefit Cap combine with other smaller measures to overtly target cuts to housing benefit such as Non Dependant Deductions to eviscerate the social housing model and the Welfare State housing safety net. What we call ‘social housing’ is in fact NO JOB NO HOUSE due overwhelmingly to the Conservatives austerity policies and the bedroom tax and OBC are a far greater threat to it than Right to Buy ever was or still is.
These same welfare reforms also see other policies which indirectly affect housing benefit receipt. The introduction of PIP as the replacement for DLA – the principle disability benefit saw the government impact assessment overtly state the aim was to remove disability benefit from 500,000 households in the move from DLA to PIP and by 2015.
The impact assessment from 2012
The receipt of PIP was and still is an exemption from the OBC policy but once a decision is made to stop PIP or DLA which is still paid for children then the household exemption ends. It can take 16 months for a PIP or DLA decision to come to a first-tier tribunal when 72% of decisions are overturned in the claimant favour – yet by that time the household has long been evicted due to rent arrears caused by OBC cuts.
The same happens with incapacity benefit as was that became ESA and then became UC LCW – the exemption from the OBC goes on day 1 of the first decision and can take 16 months to be corrected by which time the arrears to eviction to homeless pathway has well kicked in for the now former SRS tenant.
In the English social rented sector 56% of SRS households include a disability when only 19% do in the private rented sector (another EHS piece of official data) so this plays a significant part on LETWA decisions by council and housing association allocations officers to refuse benefit households social housing and especially as the target of taking disability benefit of 500,000 households was exceeded.
Just as Shelter assumes that housing benefit is paid in full to SRS tenants when the facts prove two thirds do not get full housing benefit they also fail to see the very high level of SRS households with disabilities who lost those benefits and thus became non-exempt for OBC purposes. It is true that housing benefit shortfalls are more common in the PRS as 78% of tenants do not get full housing benefit yet 64% of SRS tenants do not. To assert, infer or allude that shortfalls are only an issue in private renting is fundamentally wrong yet this is what Shelter and many others do by solely focusing on PRS LHA shortfalls which is the norm.
Maybe the analyst and policy wonks in Shelter do not know the facts and data I highlight above? I can’t and don’t accept that. Yet Shelter discussing them would mean that Shelter has to accept that their just build more social housing mantra will solve or end the housing or homeless or rough sleeping crises is bunkum. A classic error of commission or in lay terms a known lie and deceit.
That same deceit and negligence can be seen by the current MP with the most celebrated knowledge of the benefit system in Sir Stephen Timms the Labour MP for East Ham and current Chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee. He never mentions the NO DSS / LETWA situation in social housing directly created by the Bedroom Tax and OBC and has proven time and again that he has integrity by not parroting the party position but speaking out with facts such as the ones here. He is rightly respected cross party for such rare integrity and has far more knowledge of DWP benefit manifestations than Frank Field ever had, he of the just take a sledgehammer to knock down bedroom walls as a bedroom tax solution!
It is way past time that the DWP select committee looked at NO DSS in the social rented sector and even the usually objective House of Commons Library only chose to look at NO DSS in the PRS as recently as the summer of 2022 and failed to discuss whether it occurred in the SRS!
I don’t have any naïve view that DWP select committee will ever change government decision making and abandon the bedroom tax and the overall benefit cap policies. Even Lord Freud the architect of the OBC as far back as November 2021 admitted that the OBC policy does not save the public purse a penny.
What is undoubtedly true is that the housing / homeless / rough sleeping crises can NEVER be ended whilst those policies remain. Their continuance will also ensure that the social housing model is unfit for purpose and more new social housing will NEVER solve these crises either. It really is that simple. There is no point building any new social housing if those it is intended for can’t afford it and won’t be allocated it is there!
Any committee and any member of the public who can design a basic spreadsheet can tell you how much each household type receives in ‘other’ benefit and therefore what is the maximum in housing benefit each household type can receive and readily compare these irrefutable figures with the average rents in social housing which are in the public domain. These figures are the same across the country.
It is simple arithmetic and basic irrefutable numeric fact and the most simple of analyses. Yet instead we see social housing lobbies, homeless lobbies, politicians and even ‘woke’ housing and homeless activists all hanging on to the longstanding myth that social housing tenants get their rent fully paid by housing benefit. Those housing, homeless and poverty actors and think tanks may well not like the figures they see but those figures are irrefutable numeric facts for which you only need basic arithmetic skills and not A level Mathematics as the Prime Minister infamously wants for all.
None of the above demerits or downplays the arguments against unfreezing LHA for PRS tenants which are very valid and most of them fail to mention the government reduced LHA from the 50th percentile back in 2012 and focus on a return to the 30th percentile bizarrely. The arguments merely prove that the current narratives and their extensions such as build more bloody social housing are fatuous specious assertions that are bunkum.
As you can see from the graphic above from the Guardian article on this the £120 per week minimum basic subsistence benefit level includes nothing for the payment of rent yet 64% of social housing tenants pay some or all of their rent on top of any housing benefit (UC-HCE) they receive.
Put another way the report assumed that full rent was paid by SRS households when the facts reveal almost two-thirds of social tenants do not get enough in housing benefit to meet their council of housing association rent.
Being pedantic this £35 per week shortfall is not the £140pcm benefit shortfall as the Guardian article says but £152 per month as there are 4.435 weeks in the average calendar month.
(IF the average shortfall is £10pw in rent the monthly shortfall in UC standard allowance becomes £196pcm!)
That said, the real issue is the errant assumption that full rent is paid to benefit households by excluding rent from the calculation of the penury that the UC standard allowance dictates. The typical narrative is rent is covered in social housing and yet the facts reveal this to be a very false assumption. That typical narrative of all the supposed think tanks says the private tenant doesn’t get full housing benefit (LHA) but the social tenant does yet the facts reveal the vast majority of tenants in council and housing association properties do not get full housing benefit (HB or UC-HCE.)
The same errant narrative is seen in Shelter, Crisis and all other homeless lobbies assuming the same which they do by focusing almost exclusively on shortfalls in LHA – a genuine issue – yet wholly ignoring that two thirds of social tenants do not get full housing benefit and with devastating ignores of this fact and other related housing affordability facts such as the average SRS household income is half that of average private renting household income which means as I said here that private renting is more affordable than social renting as a higher percentage of income goes on SRS than PRS rent.