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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Social housing? My arse!