Tenants are social, landlords are not

tenants and viewed

The above was a quick exchange on Twitter earlier this week which has led to social tenants shouting YES YES YES and landlords saying the usual how dare you!

So let’s begin with educating journalists and the public about what is misnamed as social housing.

  1. Did you know that housing associations are correctly called Private Registered Providers?
  2. Did you know that housing associations have no duties to house or rehouse anyone?
  3. Did you know that more than half of all housing association properties used to be council housing?  The LSVT (Large Scale Voluntary (sic) Transfer) that has seen 1.6 million former council homes become HA properties is a massive transfer from public ownership to private ownership?
  4. Do you know that in the latest yearly figures for 2015/16 Housing Associations built just 12% of their new housing for social rent and what we used to call council rent?
  5. Did you know that social (sic) landlords (councils and housing associations) evict the same number of tenants as the private landlord?

All the above are facts and facts I’ve stated before and sourced from official data yet perhaps most significantly of all, facts that housing associations especially would rather journalists and the general public not know about yet are all true!

Fact 1 – PRIVATE Registered Providers – This is how housing associations are referred to by the UK housing regulator and look here for a huge level of detail not just the label

Fact 2 – No duties to house or rehouse – Because housing associations are not public bodies they cannot have any mandatory duties such as housing or rehousing unlike councils who do have mandatory and statutory housing duties

Fact 3 – You can find this in government data on LSVT and 1.6 million former council houses have transferred to the housing associations.

One such transfer to note is that Tewkesbury Council transferred their housing to Severn Vale Housing Association and SVHA last year announced a ban on allocating to all under 36 year olds as policy in response to the Tories SAR policy.  The point of note is that the former council housing department of Tewkesbury would not be able to do this in law yet the transferred HA is allowed to do this. Detail all here

Fact 4 – 12% only as genuinely affordable – Of the total 40,014 new properties built by housing associations just 5454 were developed and operated at the social rent level.  The figures come from the National Housing Federation and widely reported in Inside Housing – see here

Fact 5 – Evictions – The elephant in the room as far as rented housing and as far as the housing and homeless commentariat such as Shelter who solely focus on private rented sector evictions and say nothing about these two startling facts in my post here

srs evictions

In short, despite the ease at which private landlords can evict and the constraints social landlords have by comparison, the official eviction figures are in proportion to the size of each sector.  Hence an argument can easily be made that social landlords have a greater proclivity to evict than the private landlord!

Housing Associations as private – general

Housing Associations have been proceeding along the commercialised direction of travel apace since 2010/11 and this road runs directly contrary to the genuine social housing road and in the exact opposite direction.  For instance here we see L&Q announcing 25,000 new homes exclusively for private rent and here is a source for another supersized housing association in Riverside announcing that they will not be building any genuinely affordable social rent properties for the next decade.

Note that in the past couple of years we have also seen some council landlords do an abrupt U-turn down the affordable (sic) rent road too but insignificant in comparison to HAs, aka PRIVATE Registered Providers.

Affordable Rent?  This is the Affordable Homes Programme of the Tories which allows housing associations to shaft the tenant for on average 45% more in rent because the Tories no longer give housing associations grant subsidy to pump prime new housing.

Until last financial year this was exclusively used by the ever more commercial housing associations but now they are joined by council landlords in hijacking the word ‘affordable’ to mean an average 45% rent increase.  This is shafting the tenant and being overtly asocial regardless of whatever reason is used by these landlords to ‘justify.’

The housing association rationale / excuse behind the affordable (sic) rent model was the absence of subsidy YET only a few weeks ago the Labour Mayor of London announced (in the usual blaze of hyperbolic glory) that one-third of the new near 50,000 homes in London would be ‘social housing.’  Yet when we look at this we find these properties do indeed have £60k each in grant or ‘subsidy’ which is more than double the previous amount AND the new ‘London social rent’ Sadiq Khan announced will be up to 49% higher than the current actual social rent level in London.  The details of this including sources can be found here.

The term social housing is a chronic and 100% misnomer with regard to housing associations – aka Private Registered Providers – and is starting to become a similar misnomer with council landlords as scores of councils have now set up their own private rented housing companies!

Yes you read that correctly – Councils who have no council housing have set up their own wholly owned private renting companies which go by the vague generic name of LHC’s – Local Housing Company’s.  Here is explicit detail of that from earlier this year and the 98 councils mentioned has now increased too.

The above are just a few of the main points of which journalists and the general public are blithely ignorant and so they choose to believe many long-held myths about social housing, social tenants and about social (sic) landlords.  The public and journalists are bombarded with mantras and PR releases aplenty from housing associations which all say they have a social purpose or social ethos or some other similar vague sentiment yet just the few facts stated here show the reality is very different indeed.

It is time the facts and especially the pesky ones that the feodaric housing associations don’t like have greater awareness

The politics of the social (sic) rented sector (SRS)

Today we have approximately 63% of SRS properties owned and managed by housing associations and 37% by councils or twice as many HA properties as LA ones.  That is a radical shift from 30 years ago when councils had over 80% of all SRS properties and 4 for every 1 housing association property.

A very crude measure of how private HAs are is the highest paid CEO receives over half a million per year.  I’m pretty sure the former Director of Housing in Glasgow and Birmingham councils that both had twice as much council housing as this HA (PfP) never had anything like such financial rewards.  Some may say that is a cheap point yet they can’t deny it is an extremely valid one.

Are the housing associations in bed with the Tories?  Yes they are and before you say that is is just a view not a fact – which of course it has to be – consider the example of the LHA Maxima Cap policy to substantiate that view.

In 2011 the Tories first proposed this piece of ideological claptrap and the housing associations vehemently challenged it and the policy was hastily dropped.  That incarnation was (a) LHA maxima only and (b) LHA maxima plus £20 per week, and /or (c) LHA maxima plus £40 per week in housing benefit.

When the same LHA maxima policy of the Tories resurfaced in 2015 it only had option (a) LHA maxima only and a much worse deal than the 2011 version.  Yet where was the housing association outcry over this?  It wasn’t there as HAs had a policy dictated down to them by the National Housing Federation of NOT challenging government housing and housing benefit policy!  The NHF had in their view much bigger fish to fry with the Tories such as the extension of the right to buy and an obsession with build, build, build only that was ‘permissible’ through the relaxation of regulation upon housing associations.

As social housing by name and definition means housing for the people and THE most vulnerable people are those who require housing AND support, then the NHF as the leading supported housing provider type was prepared to sacrifice THE most vulnerable and most social tenant for the profits in ramping up their private products..

While all social businesses have to ensure survival first ahead of any social ethos which they may want to have, the abandonment of the needs of THE most vulnerable social tenants in the pursuit of profit is amoral and asocial in the extreme … as well as being incredibly bad business! Some 700,000 social tenants residing in supported housing are adversely affected and the same policy that the NHF chose not to challenge will potentially hit a further 500,000 pensioners in general needs properties with a backdoor bedroom tax and have other negative general needs impacts in low rent areas.

The NHF were and still are blind to this inept business practise of not challenging government in the hope of greater profit that truly shafted THE most vulnerable social tenant.  That strategy of the NHF is economic madness in its blind chasing of profit as well as being asocial and morally reprehensible.

The same NHF / housing associations are logically seeking to cement their position as the leading provider of social (sic) housing and in doing so they have both a business rationale for dismissing the popular Labour Party policy of allowing councils to borrow in order to build and be against Corbyn and Labour Party policy for the same reason.

This is where the record output of new builds from housing associations of 40k per year in 2015/16 [that paradoxically was also the lowest ever post-war social rent new build by housing associations of 5445!] stacks up very unfavourably with local councils who used to build more than 200k homes per year and LA’s can easily scale up to do so again.

It is also clear that councils have the will and desire to become major house builders once again and these factors threaten the housing association sector and this is the political context of socially rented housing in England today.

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2 thoughts on “Tenants are social, landlords are not”

  1. Hey Joe – glad I found your new blog, I thought the old one went dry for a while!

    I’m confused who you think is being hurt by L&Q for example building PRS properties, or by councils setting up housing companies. We need to build 300,000 homes a year, focused in high cost areas, to even start to make a dent in our ridiculously high housing costs. Clearly a line has to be walked between the total subsidy in a new development and the total number of units delivered.

    I’m totally with you that 80% of MR in high cost areas is not as suitable as target rent for those on low incomes. But if you’re concerned primarily with whether low income or low income tenants can live in them, in the main they can, as housing benefit covers the cost unless affected by one of government’s horrible welfare reforms (which despite what you say, housing associations universally condemned). And despite these welfare reforms, HAs are still generally accepting tenants who cannot demonstrably afford their rent. Why would they do this if they have lost their social purpose?

    Your fascination with target rent is also strange. As you will know target rent is also based partly on market values, albeit extremely out of date ones. A better system would be something like 30% of lower quartile earnings for that local authority area. Much easier to explain, and clearly tailored to low income households. In London it averages £15 a week more than target rent – not sure about the regions.

    Be that as it may, very proud to work for Family Mosaic – and our new partner Peabody – who are committed to building low rent homes.

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    1. Hi Reuben
      You make many points in the above and to answer them all would see another 1000+ words but essentially the different views we share come from what I believe is your false comparators.

      You compare any higher rent level than social rent (AR or the new London ‘social rent’ of Sadiq Khan etc) to the much higher gross market rent to justify. I use the comparison with social rent level (not entirely the same as target rent but actual rents charged) and say that AR rents or any other higher than social rent figures even the apparent gentlemans agreement in London to limit AR to 65% of GMR rather than 80% are excessive AND more importantly a reflection of what the HAs charging such rent levels are.

      The line that oh we are still cheaper than the absurd GMR that private landlords charge in London doesnt wash and it is a false comparator. It also does NOT mean that charging less than market rent makes a HA a social landlord with a social ethos or purpose. Taken to extremes charging 1p per year less than a private landlord is the same ‘sub-market’ rent tag and to call HA’s (or councils) social in doing that is absurd.

      What landlords are is determined by how they operate. Prior to the Affordable Homes Programme there was no higher than social rent possibility for landlords and rent levels were tied to HPI and CPI in the national formulae that applied; yet with AR we see huge rent increases and (mainly) HAs taking advantage of that. In short this is the direction of travel of HAs over the past few years – as is record surpluses and a tiny % of new build being social rent. All of these are clear and unambiguous facts. Dig deeper and 70% of AR units are conversions – a lovely euphemism for the social rent tenant leaves on Friday the new tenant on Monday can pay 2 – 3 times the rent of the previous tenant.

      When a HA then says we are building x amount of exclusively private rent homes (L&Q) or says no social rent ones for a decade (Riverside) we have to look at what that says about the individual HA’s claimed social ethos – as we do with record year on year surpluses of the larger HAs that do not manifest in social rent properties. They cant say we develop higher rent or private products in order to cross-subsidise social rent if they do not develop any social rent properties – the argument is fatuous and knowingly deceitful.

      Finally, I agree many if not all housing associations SAY they are against ‘welfare reform’ yet taking action and challenging as they did with the 2011 incarnation of the LHA Maxima Cap but the opposite with the even worse 2015 announced version speaks volumes. Some HAs have stuck their heads above the parapet in all the housing benefit cuts (aka welfare reforms) and I have lauded them for that – regrettably they are the exception not the rule. Yet in so doing publicly they show far more social purposes than the NHF directed strategy of dont challenge and the majority of HAs wag their tail to

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