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

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

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

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

We are told social housing is affordable

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

We are told social housing is affordable

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

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

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

We are told social housing is affordable

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

We are told social housing is affordable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Social housing? My arse!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Housing First model

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The incredulity of the Housing First model

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

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

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

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

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

The Housing First ‘support’ offer

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

A) Financial Cost of Housing First

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

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

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

B) Visiting support as less qualitative

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

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

C) HF visiting support level is pitiful

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

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

Source: Adjudication HB circular 47 of 2001

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

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

Rough Sleeeper identified support needs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Food(bank) for thought!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We can END rough sleeping and other Gullible Travails

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the official report as referenced and sources

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SDR 2019/20 published February 2021

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

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

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

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

Zero Sum Game

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

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

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

EHS – English Housing Survey 2018/19 published July 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_____________________________

PS A Tweet from MHCLG minister today and my terse response

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

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

Housing First doesn’t and can’t ever work. Rough sleepers deserve far more than this hyperbolic cult

The only things wrong with Housing First are its housing offer and its support offer … and the refusal of its zealous adherents to face reality. Or in short its whole kit and caboodle.

This ‘model’ can never possibly work in the UK when looked at critically using fact and contexts and especially not in England. The HF model has more propagandists than the Stasi had informants and scrutiny and critical evaluation are nowhere to be seen except in those pesky objective things called facts. Those who are roofless deserve far, far better.

I briefly touch on why the Housing First model cannot possibly work in the UK in this 5000 word overview such is the extent of the deception and propaganda that surrounds this cult-like model. It cannot work, it is prohibitively expensive and its proponents do not even envisage it supporting any more than 1 in 9 rough sleepers yet say nothing about the 8 in 9 rough sleepers it will not support. HF will also create more rough sleeping than we have today WHEN we look critically at the facts. So let’s start to look at those facts and why it is dangerous madness to ‘scale-up’ this turkey …

The ongoing countrywide HF model in Scotland takes 149 nights on average to find a suitable property for a HF client – 5 months – with the best performing area, Stirling taking 101nights and the worst in Edinburgh taking 195 nights or 6 and half months to find a suitable property!  The term Housing FIRST is a chronic misnomer. A HF service in Sheffield closed after 18 months as a mere 10 suitable properties in either the SRS or PRS could not be found in a city of 220,000 properties. Such facts are glossed over in wave upon repeated wave of propaganda, hope and hyperbole.

Housing First is nothing more than a cult.

The Liverpool City Region is a large scale pilot area for the HF model and was said to be the ideal HF area by Crisis in the 168-page tome report it commissioned. Yet the six local authorities in LCR have 17% of all rented properties being the needed 1 bed type when the English national average is 24% which is just one example of basic yet critical fact not even being considered by the zealots ahead of their headlong blind bull in a china shop adventure.

The Greater Manchester Housing Partnership claimed huge success for its HF service providing 357HF properties over three years … between 24 of the largest providers and which is 5 rough sleepers per large housing association per year!  The current large-scale pilot programme across the Greater Manchester Combined Authority has supported 200 former rough sleepers in 2 years across its 10 LA areas or 10 per LA per year with £3m of government funding per year.  An average of £15,000 per rough sleeper per year just in support costs with rent costs being additional making the yearly cost per HF client being over £20k per year set against the average £9.5k pa of the hostel resettlement model that HF wants to replace and claims to be cheaper than in its propaganda when it is more than double the cost.

All of the example above typify the incredible hyperbole over fact of the Housing First model and its abject denial of the basic fact that the availability of the suitable 1 bed property for the Housing First client is as rare as hen’s teeth AND the selling of snake oil that surrounds the model.

Jon Sparkes the chief executive of Crisis is the propagandist in chief of the Housing First model with the Scotland example being typical.  He proclaimed that the 404 achieved cases in Scotland were a stunning example of the success of HF and we must roll it out across England. 

What Jon Sparkes and Crisis WANT you to see and believe
What Jon Sparkes and Crisis and other propagandists DON’T WANT you ro see and read!

The basic arithmetic fact reveals the Scottish example, the first wide scale HF service of 404 rough sleepers over two years, means the HF model managed to house just 4% of the 5,000 per year rough sleepers Scotland has (and its government accepted this Shelter Scotland estimate) and did not rehouse 96% of rough sleepers AND it took 5 months to find the suitable property on average with no comment on what rough sleepers do for 149 nights before they are housed! 

This Housing First with an average five-month wait model is not a catchy name yet it describes the reality.  It also means Housing First needs a pre-stage housing and support option for the 4% of rough sleeping clients it eventually deals with and the other 96% of those sleeping rough can stay where they are as roofless and not in the cherry-picked easiest cohort that is clearly going on in Scotland and the GMHP example, the latter having a perverse financial incentive of a Social Investment Bond (SIB) rewarding providers with bonuses the longer a rough sleeper stays in the accommodation.

Housing First  – A Zero Sum game

The rough sleeper has to compete with the general needs tenant for the rare as hen’s teeth 1 bed property as I pointed out here with the official statistics stating 46% of those on council waiting list are waiting for the 1 bed property.  The rough sleeper also competes with the single homeless hostel resident for the same 1 bed property to escape homelessness and every 1 bed property given to the HF client is one less 1 bed property available for the homeless hostel resident which means they stay in hostel longer and thus deny the hostel taking in 1 more rough sleeper from the street which highlights the perversity of the Housing First (after a 5 month wait) model. 

It also means the one-third of domestic abuse residents who are single and also require a 1 bed to finally escape domestic abuse are denied the 1 bed property they qualify for and need when one is given to the HF former rough sleeper client.  The room at the refuge they live in is similarly bed-blocked and denied to a domestic abuse fleeing individual or family who has to be turned away from entering the refuge. 

A finite number of 1 bed properties become available to rent each year and we have a zero-sum game.  Rent to a HF rough sleeper and that denies the hostel dweller, the refuge resident and the general public.

This zero sum game is most acute in England with the acute shortage of one bed properties. England has a decades old structural issue that will take decades to resolve as we need at least 100,000 new one bed properties per year at the social rent level that are reserved for single homeless cohorts. 

The structural 1 bed property problem

Many reports call for between 90 – 130,000 total new social housing properties per year of all sizes and none of these reports by CIH, NHF, JRF or the claimed Independent Commission of Shelter ever include a breakdown of the 90k to 130k figure by size or bedroom number. ALL of them are requests for government capital subsidy funding that do not even bother to tell government who they are for and directly because they do not break down the global figure.  This continues the post-war trend of the ‘great and good’ of social housing not building for objective housing need and simply calling on government for funding those properties that either make them the most money or are political acceptable. 

Landlord risk aversion

The zero sum game of a finite number of 1 bed properties being available each year sees the Housing First model simply create a new choice of prospective tenant for them – a distinctly unappealing choice with no incentive for a landlord to use the 1 bed property for a former rough sleeper.

Every landlord has a choice for each 1 bed property that becomes available of

  • rehousing a rough sleeper direct from the street (very high risk) or
  • a hostel resident (high risk) or
  • a single female from refuge (medium risk) or
  • a general needs (low risk) tenant

 – With no greater financial reward for accommodating the (perceived) very high risk rough sleeper than for the low or minimal risk general needs tenant. 

Why on Earth would any landlord take on much greater risk of tenancy failure and additional cost for no extra financial reward? 

This obvious practical question is yet another issue that the zealous HF model adherents conveniently sweep under the carpet.  That obvious question is further compounded given the acute shortage of 1 bed supply and further compounded by the affordable rent regime.

The affordable (sic) rent regime and Housing First

In Liverpool (which has no council housing) the average housing association rent for a 1 bed general needs property is £77 per week at the social rent level thus the landlord receives £77 per week in housing benefit or UC housing element.  The 1 bed maximum LHA rate in Liverpool is £92 per week so the private landlord can receive £92 per week in housing benefit.  However, Liverpool has the highest number of the misnamed “affordable rent” properties in the UK at over 6,000 and HAs charge £104 per week for a 1 bed AR property which means they receive £104 per week in housing benefit. 

This £104 per week AR level is 35% more than the HA receives in social rent and is 13% more than the maximum a private landlord can receive in housing benefit – and it is receivable for the general needs and lowest risk tenant.  The HA landlord can choose as a desktop exercise to convert a social rent level 1 bed to an affordable rent level 1 bed at is bidding.  The former tenant paying £77 per week leaves on a Friday to be replaced in the exact same property with a new tenant paying £104 per week on the Monday

I ask again … Why would the HA landlord accommodate the highest risk rough sleeper direct from the streets for no increase in rental income?

It is these basic and obvious questions set in the factual context that the Housing First zealots conveniently ignore when they zealously promote the absurdly theoretical HF model as the solution to rough sleeping.  Every industry works on the basis of higher risk must equal higher reward and is a given of any business so why do the HF zealots choose to overlook this obvious issue?

Housing First – The Comparative Bullshit

The same HF zealots are very fond of saying the HF model works so well in Finland (largely correct) so therefore it will work in England.  That is a chronic non sequitur which again ignores the critical facts that differentiate the English welfare system from the Finnish welfare system. 

In Finland the final HF 1 bed property is limited to one-third of the gross market rent which means using the Liverpool analogy a rent of £45 per week would be the maximum rent level.  I say final as the Finnish model is not a true HF model as rough sleepers are first placed in hostel shared provision until the 1 bed final accommodation becomes available and to those who have proved their readiness for semi-independent living. The notion that the Finnish HF system is rough sleeping directly to own property is a myth as this article reveals from the Guardian from which this comes

Read the article and it states the above self-titled “homeless hostel” is a stage before independent living

On a closer look the Finnish rough sleeper receives (2018/19 figures) €203 per week and crudely 3 times the English level of base benefit and the Finnish model guarantees by right the immediate availability of a social worker, probation worker, drug, alcohol, mental health and any other needed support worker on demand. 

The Finnish HF model also includes free breakfasts and free saunas too and main meals for a subsidised €1 cost.  The comparison is chalk and cheese … and yet another fact that the HF zealots in England very conveniently choose to ignore!

Many previous Housing First articlea I have written after extensive research summarises the main differences as

The same zealots are also fond of flippantly asserting that the HF model works in America so it must work here in the UK.  Yet the Housing First model does not work in the USA at all and see the Manhattan Institute’s scathing attack on it below. It does not include other facts for example HF was introduced in New York and New Jersey from the mid to late 1990s when New York City alone had 33,000 homeless persons (rough sleepers / night shelter residents) which by 2018 had increased to 78,000 despite the ‘panacea’ of the Housing First model. 

On a personal anecdotal basis I used to visit New York and New Jersey every year from the mid-1990s as the brother of my former partner worked in NYC and lived in New Jersey.  I walked into many homeless shelters that litter the centre of NYC and spoke with staff working there and I visited a number of HF services in New Jersey – a busman’s holiday if you will as a supported housing consultant – and have closely followed the HF and other homeless models in NY and NJ ever since and got my head around HUD and other funding of the US housing welfare system. Obama and even Trump tried the Housing First model and these two very divergent politicians could not make Housing First work and despite throwing more money at it than the UK government is willing to do by comparison too. 

I also set up what would now be called a Housing First model more than 20 years ago in advising a housing association with chronically difficult-to-let tiny 2 bed terraced properties to rehouse single people direct from a local detox service which raised a few eyebrows but was extremely successful and mutually beneficial as the landlord eliminated its void problem of its DTL’s and vulnerable detox residents got their own place of a far higher standard than they ever thought instead of going through the hostel system  and waiting for months for something inferior to eventually turn up. This single homeless cohort like all others saw this unexpected quality of provision as a huge incentive not to f*ck-up again and get their heads out of their backsides being their stated views. Note too this was at a time when social landlords were saying bedsits were no longer good enough for sheltered housing so let’s remodel them as being good enough for homeless persons!

Today such disgraceful arguments remain as common unfortunately

Housing First – The Bedroom Tax Problem

The detox example was one of many similar services that could no longer happen with the bedroom tax policy in place since 2013 and neither can a social landlord give a small 2 bed property to a single women from a domestic abuse refuge which was also quite common and again now unavailable due to the bedroom tax policy. The bedroom tax forces SRS landlords to only allocate based on immediate presenting need for bedrooms which means a newly married couple is given a 1 bed and has to move home if they start a family.  The single women moving out of refuge was pre Bedroom Tax offered a 2 bed property in order to free up a refuge room for a family fleeing domestic abuse is another example of good practice that is no longer available due to Bedroom Tax policy and alleged ‘reform’ which means to improve not make worse as has been the reality.

In short, many so-called and misnamed ‘welfare reform (sic)’ policies exacerbate the property availability problem and severely constrain the solutions for all single homeless cohorts not just the rough sleeper.

I could go on with many more nuanced issues that sees the Housing First model is delusional in believing that the ethereal 1 bed property – which the HF model is entirely based upon – is simply not available and the model has no chance whatsoever of ever succeeding in rehousing the rough sleeper.  The model also has a critical problem with its visiting support offer too and to which I now turn.

Visiting Support

In 2000 and as part of the Transitional Housing Benefit System (THBS) – the precursor to Supporting People (SP) – the then Labour government issued guidance on visiting support services to local authorities who adjudged claims for support funding.  The HB adjudication circular (HB A47/2000) stating that a visiting support service of up to 5 hours per week was a low level service, 6 – 21 hours per week a medium level visiting support services; and 21 hours or more per week of visiting support was a high level service.

The Housing First model typically sees just 3 hours of visiting support PER WEEK when the only ever guidance document on reasonable, realistic and justifiable visiting support for a high and complex need client group such as the rough sleeper was for a minimum of 3 hours PER DAY of visiting support.  It is immaterial as to whether you believe that 3 hours per day (21 hours+ per week) is right, the issue is how can ANY model of visiting support make any sense or frankly work, when it is one seventh of the guidance of 20 years ago?

Another factor is in 2005 the Audit Commission produced a baseline report of actual in-payment costs of support per hour – or unit cost – which found the cost of one hour of visiting support was 34% higher than the cost of one hour of support in an accommodation-based service such as a homeless hostel. 

With a finite budget always being the case in terms of support (which is 100% discretionary and not a right as some forms of care funding is) the cost of support is always a critical issue.  Under Supporting People 2004 actual figures of £17 to over £23 per hour, the accommodation-based support cost at a hostel funded 6 hours of support every £100 invested yet the visiting support model to homeless persons bought just 4 hours of support for each £100 invested.

Recently the oft-stated cost of visiting support in the Housing First model is said to be £40 per hour by its adherents who also claim this is good value (in fact they sell HF as being cheaper than the hostel resettlement model when it is far more expensive) yet the average cost of visiting care service funding is less than £18 per hour as an English national average.  Why is the visiting support cost under Housing First more than twice the cost of visiting care services is one question the Homeless APPG who are currently determining HOW to scale up Housing First (and not whether they should or whether it can work, which it can’t!) need to consider: Yet they too are swayed by the hyperbole and propaganda of the HF model and, presumably, as Crisis the propagandists-in-chief of the HF model also provide the secretariat for the Homeless APPG!

The APPG being all party means politicians from all parties are convinced about the Housing First model, which the above part detail discussion reveals to be delusional, and frankly smacks of government wanting to be seen to be doing something rather than doing anything of substance.  It’s not the first time an apolitical cock-up has happened and won’t be the last yet moving forward with Housing First is a very dangerous pursuit.

We have thrown millions at what the ‘experts’ (Crisis et al) said would eradicate rough sleeping so rough sleeping must be unsolvable and therefore we are not going to throw any funding its way in the future … is the position that all future governments will adopt WHEN the Housing First model fails as it inevitably will.  That is the real danger in going ahead with a model that has been proven NOT to work in the UK and which all of the facts, factors and context all say it cannot possibly work.

It is entirely understandable that everyone wants the HF model to work yet that is extremely improbable as the facts demonstrate and is no reason to move headlong into adopting the HF model which appears to be the case from the Homeless APPG given its call for papers solely on how we scale up and not whether we should or whether HF will work. 

The Political Economy Problem with Housing First

The new Boris Johnson administration declared in December 2019 shortly after winning the last general election that they would ‘eradicate’ rough sleeping by the end of the current parliament that is by 2024.  The previous Theresa May administration had a policy to halve it by 2022 and eradicate by 2027, a policy aim hastily stated in response to the severe winter known as the Best from the East, that the current government with the extremely ambitious Jenrick at MHCLG brought forward and gave £29m in support only costs to three large-scale pilot areas in Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester. 

£29m for 1000 rough sleepers over three years and just for support costs with rents being met by housing benefit gave a target figure of £9,666 per rough sleeper for support per year and a figure that equated to the average cost of hostel provision for both accommodation and support of circa £180 per week.

Simple arithmetic tells us that the 100,000 homeless hostel residents England has each year (circa 40k hostels with an average length of stay at 21 weeks)  would need 100,000 lots of £9,666 per year of support only costs or £966 million per year in Housing First supply only cost for the HF model to replace the failing hostel resettlement model – failing as they have been bed-blocked for decades due to the same lack of 1 bed move-on provision to provide the escape from homelessness, the same structural non-availability that Housing First is now seeing and which the HF zealots and propagandists chose to ignore and believe was not at play.

England has some 50,000 rough sleepers per year as a cautiously low estimate and something that apparently shocked the government and its ‘experts’ in Crisis et al when the pandemic brought about the need to get all rough sleepers off the streets as a public health issue. 29,000 in the first 6 months were put up in temporary hotel style accommodations leading the National Audit Office to say rough sleeping numbers were 8 times what the government previously estimated and believed.  The costs of ending rough sleeping spiralled in the minds of the bean counters of Whitehall which led to the right wing CSJ think tank set up by Iain Duncan Smith seconding a Crisis employee to come up with the Close To Home report published in February 2021.

Close to Home asserts that just 16,500 rough sleepers require the Housing First support model and require HF visiting support for a target duration of three years.  However, the English system produces 50,000 rough sleepers per year so 16,500 out of 150,000 or 11% of the rough sleepers over three years is the government seeking to reduce costs by only supporting 11% and not funding the support of 89% of the rough sleepers over the next three years. Note well this is not a case of calling for 16,500 rough sleeper per year being supported but 16,500 being supported for a three year period. 

16,500 per year would be 16,500 in Year 1, then 33,000 in Year 2 and then 49,500 in Year 3 and each subsequent year yet the funding proposal is just for 16,500 every year of this 3 year period – a very different thing altogether as the numbers reveal, and even arguing against myself it would mean Crisis and their CSJ bedfellows believe 2 in every 3 of the 50,000 yearly rough sleepers England has each year can transition from the street to a tenancy of their own without the need for any support!  Those inclined to believe the right wing CSJ think tank’s hyperbolic nonsense over Housing First may wish to read the right wing Manhattan Institute view of Housing First effectiveness in the USA here which is scathing and argues:

 “…that proponents overstate the ability of Housing First to end homelessness, the policy’s cost-effectiveness, and its ability to improve the lives of the homeless.”

I am now being called a noted critic of the Housing First model by right wing commentators and academics – a more diplomatic term than the usual scaremonger-in –chief and other blame the messenger to deflect strategy. In 2002 I was a noted and publicly vociferous critic of the Supporting People programme and the direction it was taking in practical terms.  The theory of SP like the Housing First theory is fine in theory yet a dangerous nightmare in practice as has been proven with SP.  This resulted in central government offering me a wide-ranging position as an advisor to their SP programme with a very lucrative yearly consultancy contract that I flatly refused. It was an attempt to shut me up and instead have to promote the propagandist Labour government line on Supporting People and I continued advising scores of supported housing providers in this very niche area. I had to turn away 9 out of every 10 providers who approached my firm from our marketing budget of zero by challenging LA commissioning and decommissioning decisions. 

This relatively short 4000+ word article on the absurdly theoretical and unworkable Housing First model is not a pitch for business either it just needs to be said in broad overview to counter the hyperbolic propagandist nonsense of the Housing First model which is dangerous twaddle and closely resembles a cult.

The fears I had about SP all came true when the Labour government took away the SP ringfence – the only effective time support was anywhere near non-discretionary – and which led directly to the rough sleeper, homeless, and social care crises we have today.    The Labour governments SP ringfence removal was piloted in Liverpool, the only administering local authority who failed its Audit Commission inspection AND its reinspection to add perverse insult to absurd injury. 

It was also the first real version of doctrinaire Localism and this abjectly failed too and led to a national crisis seen for example in the Dementia Tax issue at the last before one general election.  Short –term cuts to preventative support services led to crises of care as they always will do and large scale cuts to subjectively perceived ‘non-deserving’ support services, such as the closure of 7,000 hostel beds in England since which has led to the crisis in rough sleeping and other homeless numbers we have today.

My fear that WHEN the Housing First model fails governments will say we funded to what the ‘experts’ of industry lobbies and academia said would work thus ending rooflessness / reducing homelessness is a lost cause governments will say and a case of throwing good money after bad will also happen IF the blind zeal for the unworkable Housing First model sees the ‘scale-up’ that its propagandists want.  It is the government ‘out’ for their realisation that the financial cost of eradicating rough sleeping is not the petty cash funding level they want to throw at it.  Ending rough sleeping will need multi-billions per year for the next ten years and government is not prepared to commit such funding levels for a mere pledge.

If something isn’t working expand it and no-one will notice or get blamed is an old saw or adage and the Housing First model today is the epitome of that adage.  Those who are roofless and the only visible manifestation of homelessness deserve far, far better than the unworkable Housing First model.

Get pregnant to get a council house is Tory housing policy – Be careful what you wish for !!

Imagine going into a shop to buy clothes only to be told they only have Medium and Large and don’t do Small or Extra Large.  Now imagine that a 1 bed property is Small, a 2 bed is Medium, a 3 bed Large and a 4bed+ is Extra Large and there you have English social housing in stark reality and factual context.

The government department for housing (MHCLG) this week published the Statistical Data Return (SDR) figures which are the official data up to March 2020.  Two very stark facts stood out for me in this huge official data source of (a) How social housing is broken down by property size that is bedroom number, or in short the social housing SUPPLY; and (b) the local authority waiting lists that were broken down by those waiting for a 1, 2, 3 or 4 bed+ property, or in short DEMAND.  The simple chart below puts these facts side by side: –

What the chart shows is England’s social housing stock has a surfeit of 2 and 3 bed properties (when the red block exceeds the blue) and a shortage of 4 bed+ properties and a massive chronic shortfall of 1 bed properties (when the blue block soars ahead of the red.) 

If you ever thought that social housing had a purpose to meet real housing need or demand these figures reveal they have failed in spectacular fashion.  SRS landlords for decades have kept on stocking their housing shop with Medium and Large sizes when the customer demand was mostly for Small and Extra Large.

46% of all household on council waiting lists want and more importantly are only entitled to a one bed property as the bedroom tax allocates customer demand by virtue of immediate bedroom size only.  For example the newly married young couple get allocated a 1 bed property only because of the bedroom tax policy which means they need to move if they choose to have a family. 

Staying with the one bed property and looking at what this means we find 528,964 are on council waiting lists for a 1 bed general needs property.  The official data reveals councils have 383,586 1 bed general needs properties and housing associations have 473,237 for a combined SRS general needs total of 856,823. 

In addition to the 528,964 wanting a general needs SRS 1 bed property we know England has 150,000 single homeless households each year who also all need a 1 bed property to escape homelessness. This single homeless 150,000 is the yearly total or rough sleepers, those in single homeless hostels and single women in domestic abuse refuges where some one-third of all are single women without children so also need the 1 bed property to finally escape domestic abuse.

Then, another official housing dataset in the English Housing Survey published in July 2020 revealed there are 386,000 homes in England in which a single household sofa surfer lives.

529k in general needs plus 150,000 single homeless plus a further 386,000 sees over a million single households – 1,065,000 – needing a 1 bed SRS property and you begin to see the extent of the 1 bed housing crisis in England.

It means in England we can never solve single homelessness due to the acute shortage of 1 bed properties.  It means however much you roll the absurdly theoretical Housing First model in glitter (as some not so bright Sparkes do!) it cannot work in England due to the acute shortage of 1 bed properties.  You can’t operate Housing FIRST id the properties are not there to be found (and note well the Scottish Housing First service takes 149 days to find a property in either the SRS or PRS!)

It is also the reason why the resettlement model of homelessness has been failing for decades which has prompted the ridiculous Housing First model that can’t possibly work as if you can’t move single homeless persons out of hostels due to there being no 1 bed properties for them to move into, then you cannot take in new single homeless persons into hostels  = an acute increase in those forced to sleep rough.  The same process happens in domestic abuse refuges and leads to more prolonged domestic abuse as refuges cannot take new clients in if they can’t move the existing survivors out.

In short, the chronic mismatch of social housing supply and demand is much more important than an imbalance in a chart. It has devastating adverse impacts. 

In fact the age-old errant adage that girls deliberately get pregnant to get a council house now has some extremely offensive logic to it as SRS housing is awash with 2 bed and 3 bed housing and you have no chance of getting a 1 bed so get pregnant to get a 2 bed! This gives an obscene level of irony to the uber right –wing ideologues who repeated this get prenant to get council housing myth ad infinitum and then introduced the bedroom tax to ensure it happens given SRS housing supply!

The bedroom tax incentivises the get pregnant to get a council house myth and which reveals the acute lack of pre-thought in the policy which devastates communities by forced moves if you start a family due to its allocation on immediate bedroom need only.

I could write so much more yet to sumamrise any business who only stocks Medium and Large goods when the acute demand is for Small products is an idiot and unfit for purpose.  This, reader, describes social landlords aptly and accurately and for many decades as these facts reveal and also accurately describes housing policy of the Conservatives regarding social housing which they despise.

NO DSS is rampant in social housing! Yes that does say ‘social’ housing!

On the day the Church of England says affordable rent is not affordable I revisit my claim that NO DSS is rampant in what we misterm as social housing.

This is an argument I first posited back in 2012 and regularly restated since. Given the argument involves figures (aka basic numerical facts) and repeatedly denied and ignored due to this I thought I would patronise you reader by making it as simple as possible to understand how NO DSS is rampant in social housing.

Below is the simplest of charts which details England’s social (sic) housing by the number of bedrooms in a property.

Source: Social landlord’s own official returns to housing regulator – Statistical Data Return

In 2013 two austerity policies called bedroom tax and overall benefit cap were imposed. The bedroom tax means that every council and housing association property has to be fully populated else the housing benefit is cut which means the prospective tenant households (some 360k per year) are refused a social housing property if they under occupy.

The overall benefit cap policy puts a finite limit on how much in total ‘welfare’ a benefit household can receive which was £26,000 per year in 2013 and is now £23,000 per year in London (a 24% real term cut) and £20,000 per year outside of London for a 42% cut in real terms.

What the overall benefit cap means is that a benefit household will not be allocated a 3 bed or larger property at the lowest social rent level as they will not get enough in housing benefit to pay the rent. Thus NO DSS operates and while social landlords and their lobbies call this LETWA – Limited Entitlement To Welfare Assistance – this is a thinly disguised euphemism for the de facto NO DSS it is.

In some parts of England the 2 bed property at the social rent level or at the London Living Rent level is also NO DSS as the prospective benefit household does not get enough in housing benefit to cover the rent.

In almost all of England a fully populated 2 bed property which is set at the affordable rent level (sic) which on average is 47% more than the 2 bed social rent level also see the benefit household refused the allocation of a property for further NO DSS practice.

In some areas the 1 bed social housing property let at the affordable (sic) rent level means the prospective tenant does not get enough in housing benefit or UC housing cost element to cover the rent – again NO DSS applies and is routinely practised by social landlords to prospective tenants.

These policies began in 2013 but were put in place in readiness in 2012 by social (sic) landlords and so the 360,000 per year newly available properties and some 3.24 million of today’s 4.3 million social housing properties have been subject to NO DSS upon allocation – 9 years at 360,000 – which is three quarters of all current social tenants in England.

What this means is not just NO DSS is rife in social housing. It also begs the simple question of where the hell do benefit households live when they are rejected by social landlords? It begs another question of how the hell can landlords call themselves ;social’ when they habitually practise NO DSS? It begs a further question of why the likes of Shelter and other sycophantic organisations still believe that NO DSS is only practised by proverbially nasty private landlords but not by (beneficent) social landlords?

One possible answer to where do benefit households now live is they become sofa surfers. In July 2020 the authoritative English Housing Survey stated 541,000 households in England contain a sofa surfing household. 386,000 of these is the single homeless household (individual or childless couple) and 155,000 are family homeless sofa surfers with children. This also reveals the absurdity of the name sofa-surfer as I have yet to see a sofa that a family with children can all sleep on!

A sofa-surfer (sic) is legally a lodger household who can be evicted without court action with a 7-day handwritten letter and thus are permanently and perpetually in a legal state of being homeless. Collectively, some 820,000 men. Women and children are perpetually homeless in these 541,000 households which have sofa-surfers within them. Note too the eviction ban introduced during the pandemic only applies to tenants and not to licence holders such as lodgers / sofa surfers too.

EHS 2018/19, released July 2020

In summary, social (sic) landlords either deny they operate NO DSS with the absurd LETWA label or claim their NO DSS practises which are everyday routine practises were thrust upon the by austerity policies of bedroom tax and overall benefit cap (and a few others) yet they cannot deny that their NO DSS practises are rife and apply to an ever increasing majority of all social housing properties that come up to be allocated.