Rethinking SOCIAL housing? HA chief with forked tongue exposes this sham!

A social landlord, a private landlord and a feudal landlord walked into a bar.  Hi said the social landlord what’s your name?  “Riverside” the other two said in unison …

In July 2017 Riverside announced they would be building 20,000 new houses over the next ten years with precisely NONE of them at the social rent level yet today I find they are invited to write an article for the CIH campaign entitled rethinking social housing!

The rethinking social housing campaign by the Chartered Institute of Housing is all about what should the social purpose be of (so-called) social landlords.

The fact that CIH believe that such a campaign is necessary only shows how asocial landlords have become and how commercially driven they are and have become.

To then give over its pages to the likes of Carol Matthews chief executive or Riverside housing association shows how superficial the CIH rethinking social housing campaign actually is!

Riverside is not thinking about social housing at all as it has already abandoned any social purpose by abandoning the social rent level as they did last year and I reported on here in the same article discussing Sadiq Khan’s announcement of building ‘genuinely (sic) affordable’ housing in London that is between 14% and 52% higher than social rent despite having an average £60k per property subsidy.


[An audience of one! Ah never underestimate the incompetence of #ukhousing comms teams!]

The CIH article today here is the usual effusive superficial duplicitous nonsense we have come to expect from a housing association chief executive like Riverside:

During a period of deep reflection, it is essential to start with a clear point of reference. This is where we must look to our origins: the social purpose that is our touchstone. At a time like this, it is what we are, and who we’re for that really matters. Of course diversifying activities is perfectly legitimate – most charities have commercial arms as a means of generating income. But it’s about balance, and having the clear vision to differentiate between the means and the ends.

Flowery evocative language that is both suitably vague and a rallying call based on emotive terminology such as touchstone – though touching tenants, sorry customers in Riverside-speak, with a carborundum stone does accurately describe – when sneaking in the word diversifying!

Yet Riverside is not diversifying at all as it has already decided to abandon the social rent market and abandoning is the only accurate description of their activities as they have decided NOT to build for ten years at social rent.  It is already policy of TRG (The Riverside Group) as they prefer to be called.

Riverside have around 56,000 properties so building another 20,000 is ambitious and a 36% increase in ten years no less and if every housing association had the same scale of ambition it would see over 1 million new houses built over the next ten years and not one would be at social rent which is the only truly affordable rent level.

That would be 100,000 housing association new builds per year over the next ten which is more than three times the 30,000 per year they have managed over the previous ten years … and last year we saw housing associations build less than 2% of their new housing for social rent.

In that ten-year period (ceteris paribus) the UK ‘social’ landlord stock-holding increases from 4.4 million to 5.4 million and so the 10% churn of new tenancies increases from 440,000 new tenants to 540,000 per year and who are all competing for less and less social rent level properties and so more and more benefit and low-wage households will be refused social housing on an affordability basis.  In short so-called ‘social’ landlords are directly creating more and more homelessness as those refused will go straight to the local council homeless department to be housed in temporary (and unsuitable) homeless accommodation.

So at a time like this, Riverside Carol, I totally agree with you when you say you must look at “…who we’re for that really matters” which is precisely what you have done in abandoning the social rent market and abandoned social purpose.  Yet that is so much more than some emotive or nostalgic point, it is a point of sustainable business survival in so many areas.

For example, refusing more and more homeless nominations and more direct prospective tenants on the grounds of affordability that directly creates increasing homelessness will not endear you and other HAs to local councils will it?

For example, relying on a different customer market such as the existing private renting tenant to transfer to the AR units you will build (and convert former social rent) will only work in locales with a large differential between social and market rent yet average HA rent levels now are more than 80% of market rent in much of the regions and so there is little scope for that as a sustainable business model too.

In moving away from the housing benefit market – the benefit household including the pensioner and disabled and the low-waged household – which now accounts for 73% of all social tenants, this ever more commercial path means an entirely new target customer in many more self-payers not reliant on housing benefit.

Yet wages have stagnated and in real terms are less than they were in 2008 while your average rents have increased 35% in that time and average mortgage deposits have more than doubled in real terms so any HA notion that they will have an easy customer for their increasing build for sale housing products is an errant one.

How long will it be before customers hear the horror stories about shared ownership which in essence sees landlord control over the part owner when it comes to selling and moving on?  It won’t be long given how hugely reliant all HAs (and council owned LHCs) are on this fundamentally customer unfriendly model and the funding it generates for new builds also dries up.

Rethinking social housing?  The shameful lack of social purpose and sustainable business thought by the Riversides of the HA sector is only matched by the shameful illusion that the CIH’s campaign reveals in giving the likes of Riverside a voice to such a superficial campaign called #rethinkingsocialhousing


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