Supported housing and faux NHF concern

In focusing only on new supported but mainly sheltered housing that won’t now be built the National Housing Federation are promoting a narrative that is disturbing, selective and negates many far worse impacts of the LHA Maxima Cap policy.

  1. What about the many existing services that will inevitably close including homeless hostels and refuges that are not ordinarily run by housing associations but by independent small charities?
  2. What of the impact this policy has on general needs tenants including what essentially becomes a back door bedroom tax for pensioners?
  3. What about the impact of existing inevitable closures of supported living services that are also mostly run by charities and the huge adverse effect that will have on costly increases in residential care for mental health and learning and other disabilities and on bed-blocking and much higher cost and much longer waiting times in the NHS?

These three of many more inevitable impacts of the policy are not mentioned by the NHF in their news release, that is shamefully picked up and repeated parrot-fashion by Inside Housing and the Guardian,  yet they have greater political sensitivity and importance and would embarrass and challenge the Tory government far more.

This is not the NHF focusing on what affects them as many of the other charitable support providers lease their properties to deliver support; rather it is all about the NHF policy of non-challenge as they have what they call a “critical friend” relationship with the Tories and how can a government that dumps all over you can be a friend never mind a critical one?

The logic is truly perverse when it solely focuses on what new housing units will not be built and not on what existing housing units will close.  Yet that clearly infers that housing associations will simply reprovision existing hostels and refuges and group homes for mental health etc into nice expensive flats and thus reveals HA’s care far more about the actual bricks and mortar than the most vulnerable who live in them.

In a long line of asocial practices of housing associations this one trumps them all.  I do wish housing associations would be honest and say openly what is all too apparent that bricks and mortar matters and who lives in them is very much secondary yet they continue with the pretence that they have this ethereal social purpose.

Housing associations are carcinogenic for social housing and social purpose and the 1948 Welfare State’s pillar of housing those most in need and you do not get any more in need when we are discussing supported housing residents.

HA’s are more destructive change agents than private companies are to the NHS or free schools to state education or workfare providers to full employment welfare state ideals yet because we are all affected by what goes on in schools, at the workplace and especially the NHS yet only one in every six lives in social (sic) housing and so the their neo-liberal ravages and attacks on a central pillar of the Welfare State go largely unnoticed – and  ‘social purpose’ is the HA’s cloak of invisibility device borrowed from Harry Potter in this regard.

Housing Association is a false term and they are correctly called PRIVATE Registered Providers (PRPs) by the UK housing regulator.  These PRPs do not have any duty to house or rehouse those in need and because they are private organisations they cannot hold a public or statutory duty and yet they are still classed under the heading of social landlords along with councils who do have these mandated duties.

HA/PRPs are an aberration, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, who are making record year-on-year surpluses (profits) and they have 63% of all social housing stock in the UK and with 60% of that being former council housing too.   They use ‘social purpose’ only as a business tool for publicity and reputational purposes and they are nothing more than a private landlord with smokescreen ‘public’ advantages that they exploit for increased profit.

The fact that their national body and lobby group in the NHF is ONLY concerned about new bricks and mortar not being erected and cares not a jot about existing very vulnerable residents in supported housing says everything you need to know about housing associations.

After all, they have no duties whatsoever to house or rehouse anyone never mind THE most vulnerable in need of housing and support.  They can, and will, allow existing services to close and the vulnerable who live in them become the responsibility of local councils to rehouse and nothing whatsoever to do with these housing associations.

The NHF announcement find the usual complicit and lazy journalism in Inside Housing here and the Guardian here so the NHF narrative takes the first move advantage and first impression counts grounds.  Yet this is a narrative of only new bricks and mortar matter and matter more than women and children fleeing domestic abuse, those who are homeless or who have learning, physical and sensory disabilities, or more important than care leavers or those with acquired brain injury and just about every other support and supported housing need.  You are less worthy than bricks however vulnerable you are to the callous private registered providers aka housing associations.

The overwhelmingly majority of HA products and units (and yes that is how they refer to them) is sheltered housing which is often not even supported housing.  Age can lead to infirmity of course yet attaining an age – typically 55 – is the only entry criteria to sheltered housing whereas all other genuine supported housing requires a vulnerable support need to enter such as being homeless to get into a hostel or be fleeing domestic abuse to get into a refuge.  The vast majority of sheltered housing is not supported housing at all and only the ‘extra care’ variant is genuinely supported housing.

The NHF deliberately conflate this to their advantage as the opening of the risible Guardian article reveals:

Housing associations have cut plans to build homes for vulnerable, elderly or disabled residents by 85% because of concerns over proposed welfare changes, according to an investigation.

This carefully worded sophistry infers housing associations provide for all that can come under the vague term vulnerable and for disabled and this is simply not true.  While the likes of Mencap have their own housing (and indeed own housing association in Golden lane Housing) the vast majority of supported housing for disabled persons is not delivered by housing associations at all.

It is by smaller specialist charities and many of whom do deliver support in HA properties.  So by the NHF not giving a flying fig about existing services they are also shafting those specialist smaller charities who actually deliver the support and this lack of challenge to their very much favoured Tory government – aka their critical friend – means that housing associations don’t give a stuff that these smaller charities will fold and go bust because of the Tory LHA Maxima Cap policy that the NHF show such faux concern about.

Some larger housing associations such as Riverside who are mentioned in the NHF article do have a large supported housing presence nationally, yet only because they took over English Churches Housing Group a specialist supported housing provider almost two decades ago.  Prior to that Riverside did have some supported housing, a relatively small amount but still larger than most and they are the exception rather than the rule for housing associations in their exposure to supported housing.

So we see the opening quote above can relate to a small handful of the 1500+ housing associations who operate supported housing yet it is a very small part and the exception rather than the rule in terms of supported housing.  It is the rule not the exception in sheltered housing yet most sheltered housing is not supported housing.

Yet despite those lengthy but necessary explanations it all comes down to the private registered providers having lost any semblance of social purpose they may once have had in prioritising new bricks and mortar over existing severely vulnerable people and housing associations washing their hands of any responsibility or caring about these very vulnerable people which is utterly offensive and callous.

 

 

Steve Rotheram and LCR housing – Grow a set will ya!

My MP up until the June 2017 general election was Steve Rotheram.  He vacated his seat to become the elected Mayor of the Liverpool City Region (LCR) which is the 5 councils of Merseyside – Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton, St Helens and Wirral – plus Halton.

Rotheram was the campaign manager for Corbyn and I as one of a reported 10,000 who went to hear Corbyn at St Georges Hall in Liverpool heard the warm-up speech by Rotheram in which he said in surprising and brutal honesty for any politician that because of the party system he voted for (New) Labour policies that he was fundamentally opposed to in principle.

Such rare honesty accords a high level of respect from me and his being a bricklayer originally I looked forward to his housing policy as LCR Mayor.  There’s a certain naivety on my part in that of course however from all the evidence so far Mr Rotheram is more interested in his place in political history as LCR Mayor than in the housing needs of the 1.5 million who live in the growing Liverpool City Region!

More to be remembered on a Panglossian at least I tried basis than for actually doing anything!

The evidence to date is:

  • Enthused about the Housing First model that costs double at £34 per hour the existing amount paid to homeless providers
  • Lauded the risible and failing No Second Night Out homeless policy
  • Appointed a housing association chief executive as his housing advisor
  • Lobbied hard for a prefab factory to be built in the LCR area thus negating much of the need for any ‘wet’ trades person such as a bricklayer and leading to much poorer housing quality of any new build

Oh dear!

In fairness the LCR Mayor has no real housing powers as the 6 councils in LCR have no council housing stock (though they have fully council owned private housing companies called LHCs) and in the 39 local authorities in the North West area only 3 do have council housing and soon to be 4 as Wigan has now taken back its housing under the council’s wing.

Yet that still leaves 90% of the North West without any council housing and thus dependent on the private registered providers aka housing associations for any housing growth.  Rotheram has appointed one such private registered provider chief executive as his housing advisor and with all due respect any advice there is hardly going to be what the LCR areas needs more than anything in council housing when that solution negates and threatens housing associations more.

Corbyn – who I remind again had Rotheram as his campaign manager –  policy is for mass council house building and has been since 2007 when he said in the House of Commons that housing associations are “… behaving like private sector property developers rather than responsible social organisations.” as I said here and then today we find those same housing association – who are correctly called private registered providers by the UK housing regulator – built more homes for private sale (1,106) than they did for social rent (1,051) between April and June 2017.

Corbyn was right in 2007 about private registered providers (HAs) and they have become so much more private and commercially focused and driven in the last ten years.  Even now we see Corbyn on his webpage and the official Labour Party webpage saying he wants council housing to be built not housing association properties

jeremy corbyn housing pledge

labour pledge housing

In both cases on Corbyn’s and Labour’s websites there is no mention of HA properties at all though the Labour Party manifesto for the 2017 general election does have HA properties included and even councils building houses for sale!  See page 60 of the manifesto below.

labmanifeto2017 housing

Where is your integrity Steve Rotheram?  Your colleague john McDonnell has said unequivocally that he will allow the six councils of LCR to borrow to build which is something they are denied now.  Yet your vision is siding with the status quo and assumes Labour will not get into power by siding with and being advised by housing associations.

Just imagine a vision that said for example WHEN not if Labour return to power I as LCR Mayor will set up a LCR (and beyond) Direct Labour Organisation to build council housing in the six local council areas at scale and get around the power that the private housebuilders hold in this area?

Every council used to have its own DLO and used to build 200,000 new council houses per year yet the LCR by economies of scale for the 6 councils and even beyond to start building wholly affordable council housing again and in its Keynesian roots provide hugely increased employment for local labour in the building industry you used to inhabit and in the LCR as a truly social and responsible landlord.

Is that not the plan of John McDonnell and Corbyn?  Oh sorry I forgot you are being advised on housing by a housing association chief executive and such a policy must be anathema in any advice?!

How about the need for a truly social house builder in the other 33 local authority areas of the North West of which 29 have no council housing yet every council in crying out for!  A DLO of the LCR’s own breaks the power that private enterprise has and makes sense of the inconsequence of HA’s as house builders as they can only deliver 13% of the UK housing need that we have as todays figures show.

So why release today an insipid and wholly vague LCR Growth Strategy policy document today (here) that has as much genuine vision as a blind man wearing sunglasses in a cave 3000 feet underground that says nothing about your plans for housing?

lcr strategy

The one example of the LCR creating its own direct labour organisation is just one example of what a visionary or even a pragmatist could do in terms of housing that would greatly benefit the LCR area and assure your place in political history.  Every council in the country is crying out for more genuinely affordable council housing to meet and slay the modern day giant of Tory austerity – a platform you canvassed on.

My home city and your home city built housing and quality housing too that exceeded standards and it is with extreme irony that every UK council irrespective of political hue now desperately wants to do what the so-called “Militant” Liverpool council of the 1980’s actually did in borrow to build its own housing and this is now de facto Labour Party policy.  The housing policies those incorrigible lefties took that were so extreme and so abjectly political (blah blah blah) are now the accepted best policy route of the centrist and right wing Tory councils.  They are – and were then – right and now they have become mainstream thought!!

You couldn’t make it up … Yet mainstream is still too left wing for you Steve!!

Brutal and commendable honesty in speaking before 10,000 people at St Georges plateau is one thing.  Having a set of bollocks to prove you mean what you say and actually doing something for the 1.5 million and growing LCR population is quite another!

Try growing a set

 

 

 

Housing Associations are inconsequential yet supreme turd polishers

IF we assume that housing associations carry on building at the same rate AND if we also assume that their demolitions are zero so the build figures are net ones not gross then they are on course to build just 13% of the new houses the UK needs each year.

87% of the homes the UK needs each year cannot be built by housing associations

Housing associations are a non-entity, a tiny player in the housebuilding market, an irrelevance, the third-choice goalkeeper who once in a while gets a Premier League medal as he sits on the bench 14 times per year as one of the other two are injured though he never gets on the pitch.

Yay lets celebrate that with as much hyperbole as we can says the 3rd choice goalkeeper’s agent called David Orr the chief executive of the National Housing Federation in full knowledge that the housing trade media will find the best way to sell these bloody awful and irrelevant numbers.

  • Housing Associations built just 11.6% of their homes at social rent at 1051 in the first quarter of 2017/18 and in that same time they built 12.2% for outright private sale.
  • What great social purpose they have coursing through their veins!
  • How lucky we are to have these HA defenders of the 1948 Welfare State slaying the giant of squalor!
  • How charitable they are in building 40.1% of all new homes at the “affordable” rent level and shafting the social tenant for on average 40% more in the regions and 46% more in London – the social purpose coursing through those veins bolstered by the FilthyLucre™ brand of adrenaline.

A real bugbear of mine is why does it take until 24 August to release the number of homes started from 1 April to 30 June?  Why does it take 55 days to compile and release these figures?  55 days!! Do they send one man round the country with a clipboard and 5 coloured pencils to check, recheck and check again personally?  Or does it take 55 days to work out how to polish this smelliest of turds!

Housing Associations are inconsequential when it comes to building the UK out of its universally accepted housing crisis.  They do not have capacity end of and over 4 in 5 housing associations do not build at all so they do not have the inclination either.

So if you are unfortunate enough to come across the hysterical hyperbole on social media then remember the above pesky facts and that the bloody awful and wholly inconsequential housing association housebuilding numbers you read have taken 55 days to polish these turds …

___________________

The figures as report in 24 Housing

ha builds

 

 

Theresa May seeks good PR for Grenfell while HA CEO’s polish their riding skills

The phrase used to deal with and deflect bad publicity is called fire-fighting and never has it been used with such sickening effect as with Theresa May and the Grenfell Tower tragedy as this Inside Housing article reports in the last hour:

A Downing Street spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister acknowledged residents’ concerns about the culture of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) and the Tenant Management Organisation (TMO).

She confirmed that the TMO will be removed from the management of the Lancaster West (Grenfell Tower) estate and she recognised that the council did not respond quickly enough after the fire. She agreed that it was important that the council listen to and respond to the issues residents face about the support and information they were receiving, including from key workers and housing officers.”

It is not yet clear what the time frame will be for KCTMO exiting management of the estate, which organisation will replace it or whether it will continue to manage some 9,000 other properties in the borough.

While there were major faults and negligence that could (and should) see corporate manslaughter charges against both the TMO and the council Theresa May is treating one tiny symptom and not the root cause of the Grenfell tragedy in this sickening populist decision.  She is seeking to get herself and the Conservative government off the hook for their major part in this and trying to put all the blame on the TMO … and ahead of the enquiry that she has already limited so that the government role in Grenfell will not be considered.

This makes Machiavelli look like a baby in comparison to Theresa May

Yet she is not the only seeking to make good PR and a bucket load of money from Grenfell and I give you the housing associations astride their Lipizanner stallions and chomping at the (filthy lucre) bit!

You can just see all the housing associations brushing up their white steeds and polishing their armour to heroically come in and rescue ALL the TMO tenants and not just the former Grenfell tenants for whom Kensington & Chelsea council last night agreed to pay the £40 million more in rent to the housing associations to rehouse the Grenfell tenants alone!

Imagine how much more this will be in rent for the housing associations if they take over all 9000 tenancies and not just the 2% of TMO tenancies for former Grenfell tenants? Oh, and to answer my own question if £40 million more for 2% of TMO tenants then all 9000 will be £2 billion more in rent for the housing associations.

£2 billion buys a hell of a lot of Brasso to polish the shining armour that the private registered providers (aka housing associations) have fitted by the modern day Saville Row tailor and their white chargers will be the finest that the Spanish Riding school has as the picture below of London HA chief executives reveals …

ha white horses

Truly offensive

 

 

 

“… like private sector property developers rather than responsible social organisations.”

Corbyn in July 2007 as cited in Hansard said that Housing Associations are “… behaving like private sector property developers rather than responsible social organisations.”

Yes a full ten years ago and he was right then and even more right now yet … someone within the Labour Party has nobbled and watered-down Corbyn’s original housing policy which is now indistinguishable from a Blairite policy.

Originally in 2015 band 2016 Corbyn put his 2007 views into Labour housing policy and promised to build 100,000 new council houses per year, at least that amount in fact and he and John McDonnell both stated on public platforms that this intention was at least for two parliamentary terms thus being at least 1 million new council houses, and all for rent.  Yet that policy became the following much watered-down policy in the 2017 Labour manifesto on page 60 as below.

Council housing is desperately needed with around 2 million sold under the right to buy and a further 1.6 million gone from public to private ownership in the LSVT programme to housing associations. In 2016 council housing stock stood at 1.6 million properties representing less than 6% of the 27 million UK properties (26.994 to be precise at ONS 2016 mid-year estimate for 5.93%) and over 100,000 council houses have been lost each year on average since 1980.

From over 5 million council houses in 1980 we see a fall of over two-thirds and councils now have even more statutory duties to house and rehouse now than they did then with for example the 1996 Housing Act now (apparently!) added to with the latest Homeless Prevention Act and much greater demand will arise from the overall benefit cap and existing and especially new tenants denied social housing because of it who do not pass go and go straight to the homeless jail.  As housing associations are private registered providers they are not subject to statutory duties and can and do refuse to house and rehouse those in housing need,

In short there is a massive need for council housing in practical terms and the need to mass build council housing is very self-evident that was reflected in the original Corbyn housing policy. Yet below is what it became and what it is now.

Labour 2017 Manifesto p.60

labmanifeto2017 housing

The above IS Corbyn Labour policy and is a fudge and very much removed from its original version and I emphasise 3 key differences:

“…at least 100,000 council AND housing association homes a year for GENUINELY AFFORDABLE RENT or SALE”

Three very different issues from the original Corbyn Labour housing policy and three very much worse differences too!

  1. From council only to council AND HA is radically different and HA’s charge much higher rents which at one admittedly extreme sees a HA charge £349 per week in rent in the same London council area as a council charges £127 per week.
  2. Genuinely affordable may appear to contradict that first point though we saw two weeks ago that Sadiq Khan the Labour Mayor of London was exhorting his new ‘genuinely affordable’ rent levels which are between 14% and 52% higher than existing council rent levels so it seems Labour are even misappropriating the definition and the word ‘affordable.’
  3. Properties for SALE was never mentioned in the original Corbyn housing policy at all and is radically different to council housing for rent.

Before anyone says as they did back in 2015 when I first raised this council housing only policy (and applauded it) that Corbyn often uses the terms council housing and social housing interchangeably and he does not know the nuanced difference between the two, take a look at Hansard from July 2007 over ten years ago and you will see that charge is total nonsense:

hansard corbyn housing

The highlighted section shows clearly that Corbyn knew the difference well and knew this ten years ago.  In 2015 I quoted a position paper that Corbyn had written on his own webpage and long before he became or ever imagined he would become leader.  I sourced that post too – which now two years later comes up as not available – which strongly suggests Corbyn knows this 2007 position paper confirms he has been nobbled and the policy watered-down.  Thankfully, Hansard does not delete speeches that embarrass politicians!

I quoted this 2007 Corbyn position paper in its entirety and sourced it and here is what it said over the differences between council and housing association landlords

Secondly, the only way that the housing crisis for the majority of people can be resolved, is by the building of large number of Council houses. The last Labour government, (1979) even towards the end, was building 100,000 new Council homes a year. This eventually fell to 0 under the Tories, and under the early years of New Labour. The philosophy of the government since 1997 has essentially been to tack social housing as an add-on to private sector development, and say that social housing is only affordable if accompanied by high priced private developments. This philosophy has to be challenged. We should be building Council housing because we need it as a national priority.

Thirdly, many people are tenants of housing associations, or leaseholders through part-rent, part-purchase arrangements, and feel unrepresented by those associations who are increasingly behaving like private sector property developers rather than responsible social organisations. It is time that real democracy was brought to housing associations and real accountability for their expenditure, and they were legally prevented from selling off vacant properties in order to fund new developments.

There can be no doubt whatsoever that Corbyn knows all too well the fundamental differences between council and HA landlords and as far back as 2007 he was very forthright in his criticisms of housing associations “…who are increasingly behaving like private sector property developers rather than responsible social organisations.”  

In fact that specific critique is essentially the basis of the film Dispossession which I saw over the weekend with housing associations behaving like private sector property developer across London and Glasgow as a matter or course as the film depicts.

The original Corbyn Labour housing policy?

This was stated and repeated many times in the rallies held and then the Labour Party produced in written form its ten pledges on ten issues in August 2016 and here is what the housing pledge said:

labour pledge housing

No ambiguity there with “…at least half a million council homes” and note no mention of housing association or ‘genuinely affordable’ or council homes for sale.  That is from the Labour Part’s own website here

To hammer the point home here is the Jeremy Corbyn home page (here) which again says categorically and unambiguously council housing only:

jeremy corbyn housing pledge

Both these links are sourced today and therefore still ‘live’ and still say council housing for rent only yet the manifesto in 2017 says something entirely different and very much watered down from this original policy.  The ten pledges were released on 4 August 2016 and some 10 months before the 2017 general election manifesto and yet within that 10 months these council housing for rent only pledges were totally changed to become the almost Blairite manifesto policy to include housing associations and building council housing for sale.

Giving councils the right to build for outright sale will see councils behave “… like private sector property developers rather than responsible social organisations” surely Mr Corbyn?

[Some London council landlords are already acting this way as the film Dispossession reveals]

The common link for this distinctly non socialist housing policy is John Healey the Shadow Housing Minister during that time and still and he can be the only person who has changed Corbyn’s housing policy so dramatically to be almost unrecognisable from the pledged policy whose content was stated repeated and publicly by Corbyn and McDonnell to be council housing only and all for rent not for sale.

John Healey knows his housing.  I have lauded him on numerous occasions for what he has said in the House of Commons and for his command of his housing brief.  Yet this watered-down neutered policy is a Lada to the original Rolls Royce.

It is the housing association agenda writ large the same housing associations that Corbyn said a decade ago were ” …  increasingly behaving like private sector property developers rather than responsible social organisations.”  What is good for the HA goose is good for the LA gander is now Corbyn Labour policy – the same Corbyn Labour that revels in being called left wing yet has this centrist and right-wing housing policy1

Those asocial and overtly commercialised housing associations have got far more asocial and have been behaving like the worst excesses of the private sector property developer over the last ten years and become far more unaccountable too.

There is only reason to conclude that Corbyn’s position has hardened against housing associations and hardened for much more council housing over the last ten years yet we know have a much weaker Labour Party housing policy under Corbyn Labour which has the thumbprint of the National Housing Federation all over it.

Yet we also have Corbyn being unassailable in his position as Labour Leader both within the party and within the country and he has no need to placate perceived political heavyweights who are on the right of the party such as John Healey as he may have done before the last general election.  He can replace him with a much more pro-Corbyn and pro council housing minister as he now has that authority.

I have no axe to grind with John Healey yet I do have an axe to grind with the watered-down 2017 general election manifesto housing policy.  As I argued yesterday the more council housing you have the more you increase home ownership as well as providing truly genuinely affordable council properties for those who cannot afford to buy and the original policy of council housing only and only for rent appeals to a much wider electoral base than this watered-down fudge.

It is also Labour policy to allow councils to borrow to build and a key housing policy of John McDonnell and rightly so.  Only last week we saw the LGA being fully behind this and there is no doubt that councils not only have the will to build but they are eager to do so.  It is without doubt in the LA financial interest that having any and more council housing will cut LA cost for their housing and homelessness mandated duties which now for too many rely on the increasingly less likely HAs to help with.

As I finished that post of yesterday and I again finish here those who cannot afford to ever buy their own home and those who now aspire to do so are all helped so much more by mass council house building and availability than for the current fudge of a policy.  It is easily sold that way too as the electorate can easily understand its key benefits of the less you pay in rent the more you can save for a deposit and the more you can have an all-round better life as a renter.

That is why this fudge of a policy has to revert to the original pledge of council houses only and for rent only as it makes Labour so much more electable.  That is not ideological socialism for the sake of it, though in this case it coincides with what is needed for the good of the country;  it is the best solution to resolve the housing crisis and its pragmatism and impact will help solve the housing crisis more than any other policy.

Corbyn is the most secure leader of any political party and he can impose his will and especially on housing policy given he puts greater priority on housing.  That is not dictatorial as the legions of Corbyn supporters who would not dare allow any criticism of him will automatically retort, it is the right policy and what reflects Corbyn’s correct analysis of the role of socially renting landlords as one step removed from feudal private landlords who do not allow the ordinary family to get on or remain in greater security of tenure.

Corbyn is right that in 1979 we still saw 100,000 council houses per year and we have lost 100,000 council houses per year ever since.  His original policy of 100,000 council housing for rent only policy has only one criticism for me – it is not enough.  He should strive for 150,000+ council houses for rent only and at current council house rent levels not the vague ‘genuinely affordable’ nonsense that sees its first incarnation in 14% to 52% higher council rent levels in the Sadiq Khan plan for London. Councils, even Tory-run ones, are desperate for council housing as the pragmatic and economic case is clear and it saves LAs money and allows greater home ownership to ensue.

The political will is there from local councils and they can readily scale-up to deliver 150,000 new council houses per year and even more under Labour policy to allow them to borrow to build council housing.  The original Corbyn plan lacks ambition in that sense and yet now we see it has evolved into a fudge of a policy that will allow councils to become just as heinous as the private registered providers known as housing associations and councils developing for sale will thus behave “… like private sector property developers rather than responsible social organisations.

__________________________________

Corbyn’s popularity is in large part because he, personally, is seen as a man of integrity and principle.  His entire political career before being elected leader was charcterised by that and also since becoming leader too.  He has put ‘fairness’ back on the political agenda, he has persuaded the electorate that austerity was a choice and not a necessity and even persuaded the public that noe-liberal privatisation does not deliver a better service with the calls to renationalise the railways getting wide support.

Yet if his principles and his integrity over housing policy can be so easily blown apart as above you can imagine what the media will say and use it to discredit Corbyn as having principles and integrity that amount to fur coat and no knickers superficiality.

The secure and affordable housing of the people is far too important an issue to allow those within the Labour Party to naked run with an unprincipled policy such as council housing being built for outright sale.  Allowing councils and housing associations to charge 52% more in rent yet still label that as ‘genuinely affordable’ has no integrity whatsoever and that lack of integrity will be cast on Corbyn himself.

For Corbyn supporters that risk is far too great and for those who desperately need good quality, secure and truly affordable council housing to make their home so they and their family build a home and the community and societal benefits that brings rather than damp, insecure, dangerous and prohibitively costly private renting and being shafted by the feudal rented housing system we now have from losing 100,000 council houses per year for the last 37 years …

15 years to save for a mortgage in London

IF you can save 10% of your total household income it would take 790 weeks or over 15 years to save a mortgage deposit in London.  Ten years ago it took just 4 years to save the same amount for a mortgage deposit. Outside of London it took 3.65 years to save a mortgage deposit 10 years ago and now takes 6.54 years.

Getting on the housing ladder eh?

The figures come from a report by Savills in a report called How the credit crunch transformed the UK Housing Market released at the end of July 2017 and this simple graphic leads to the simple yet powerful explanation above.

mortgage savills

 

Thus in 2017 the London household saving 10% of its £64,263 total yearly income is £6,426 per year saved towards a mortgage deposit and as the average deposit in London is the £97,513 figure it takes over 15 years to achieve that deposit amount.  10 years earlier the comparative figures would have been £5,168 yearly savings to achieve £21,196 average deposit which is just 4 years.

A decade ago in the regions the mortgage deposit saving time was 3.65 years and has now nearly doubled to 6.54 years so it is not just the truly perverse London house prices that prevent getting on the housing ladder it is house prices generally.

Those stark figures are facts and they hit home (no pun intended) far more than the fatuous and superficial assertions we see from politicians about ‘aspirations’ and the like and note well ALL political parties strive for more home ownership for their economic strategy including Corbyn Labour not just to please the electorate into voting for them.

Yet what the figures show is that getting on the housing ladder / aspiration / giving our children a better start then we did, or however you care to phrase the same thing is increasingly out of reach thus ‘aspiration’ starts to become a meaningless term politically and factually.

Even in the regions we see the average mortgage deposit has increased by 109% [from £12,556 to £26,224] in a decade while household income has only increased by 17% from £34,200 to £40,002.  The average mortgage deposit has increased SEVEN TIMES more than household income in just ten years in the regions at 109% to 17%.

To cut to the chase even with the bank of mum and dad the chances of getting on the housing ladder are SEVEN TIMES less likely than a decade ago and by consequence so many more people are having to look at renting rather than buying.

This is where the phrase stating the bloody obvious comes in and the lesser you pay in rent the more and more quickly you can save the mortgage deposit which then leads to yet another stating the bloody obvious conclusion that the more council housing we have the more home ownership we will have!

Home ownership only became the majority of UK households in the early to mid 1970’s and rose quickly to 59% in 1980 when Thatcher introduced the right to buy yet still only peaked at 64% under Thatcher.  It remained mostly stagnant during the Major administrations yet then increased again under Blair and eventually peaked at 71% in 2004.  In 2016 home ownership had fallen back to 63% – an 11% fall in that time – and is still falling with some predicting it will return to the 59% that Thatcher inherited in 1979.

The UK economy for both the Tories and Labour is premised on growth and especially domestic consumption growth with homeowners updating their white goods and adding conservatories onto their biggest asset in their house.  So when home ownership rates fall starkly as they have since 2004 the UK economy is deep in the brown smelly stuff and the only way to correct that is for a huge increase in the supply of the lowest cost rental product in the council house which allows tenants to save more money and save it more quickly.

By contrast if the UK does not build huge numbers of genuinely affordable homes to rent the ‘aspirational’ voter will be stuck with all higher rental products of the HA council rent equivalent which is 10% higher than council rent at £91 to £83 per week; or the misnomer of the affordable (sic) rented product which is on average 53% higher at £127 compared to £83 per week in the regions; or the 92% higher private landlord rented product at £159 per week compared to the £83 council rent level overall average.

All of these higher rent products also mean the tenant can save less towards a mortgage deposit and getting on the aspirational housing ladder and the figures used come from the English Housing Survey table below.

average-rent-srs-201516-jh

You can argue whether the British psyche to get on the housing ladder is right or wrong but you cannot deny it is there.  We all, naturally, want to give our children and their children a better start in life than we did but the only way any government can make that happen is to go back to the 1950’s and 1960’s cross party consensus of mass council house building.

It reads and sounds strange that both the main UK political parties of Conservative and Labour used to argue over which of them had built the most council housing yet they did and the issue was a key general election battleground over those decades.  In order to increase UK home ownership which is what the electorate wants we therefore must return to the mass building of council housing which is why the fact this is Corbyn Labour policy is aimed at those who aspire to be home owners and not just those who can never afford to buy and why it is right.

I am not sure that the Labour policy has this intent of more council housing equals greater home ownership but it does. What I am 100% sure about is that this policy sees many natural enemies of it and not least the ever more commercialised and asocial housing associations who now only want to charge this 53% more in affordable (sic) rent to new tenants rather then the near 10% rent premium they charge over and above council landlords.

Far too much attention is given to the near two million properties councils were forced to sell under Thatcher’s Right to Buy and far too little attention is given to the 1.6 million transfer of public sector council housing to the private registered providers – also known as housing associations and is their correct name – that has happened since 1988.  These HA’s or PRPs by virtue of being non public bodies have no statutory duty to house or rehouse anyone and those mandated duties remain with the councils even though most of them have no housing stock.

In 1980 which is the comparator date for RtB and the film Dispossession I watched last night we see local councils have even more duties to house / rehouse today yet they have just 1.6 million of their own properties to do that compared to around 5.4 million properties in which to exercise those mandated duties in 1980.  Councils ask HA / PRPs to help them with this through what is called nominations agreements yet they can refuse and increasingly do so and they are little more than an intention to help dependant upon whether it is in the HA/PRP interest to do so.

With, for example, the reduced overall benefit cap meaning a couple with 3 children only get a maximum of £50 per week in housing benefit these HA/PRP refusals to accommodate will undoubtedly increase and specifically in relation to the 130,000 or so new tenancies that occur for 3 bed properties in England alone each year.  When the HA/PRP refuse to allocate – and it is a question of when and not if – the the refused tenant household falls upon the mercy of the parish and the law which means councils have to accommodate them in very high cost temporary homeless provision.

The relevance of that is there is undoubtedly the political will amongst local authorities to be allowed to borrow to build more council housing and something they are effectively denied doing by central government policy.  Labour has specifically stated they will allow councils to borrow to build council housing and thus they have a natural ally in local councils for mass council house building.  Yet the housing associations thus become a minor player and they vigorously oppose such an idea and they are happy that Labour’s Shadow Housing Minister, John Healey, is very much a housing association man and resistant to a greater council housing presence.

Yet the vulnerable social tenant and prospective one and the private tenant who is being shafted by the private landlord and the lack of genuinely affordable rented housing and the mum and dad who don’t have the ‘bank’ to subsidise their children getting on the housing ladder and the local councils – even those who are Conservative run – have it in their interests to hope the Labour housing policy of mass council house building goes ahead and that John McDonnell is more powerful than John Healey within the Labour Party.

The Conservatives hate (yet know) the fact that more council housing leads to higher home ownership for ideological reasons and of course high rent private rented housing suits their economic needs for profit.  That is why they bizarrely assert that social housing creates dependency when the direct opposite is true and logical, and why they constantly remind us of the many failings of past council housing of which there are undoubtedly many.  Logically too the lower your rent is the more the tenant is able to take up lower paid employment which is another Conservative aim of suppressing wages and maximising profit.

Yet there is so much incredulous ideological resistance to council housing and closed mind thinking to it and I was reminded of that while watching Dispossession last night when Lord Monckton said the Tory rationale for right to buy was because many tenants were paying HIGH council rents!!  I kid you not that is what he said!!  If ever something epitomised ideological madness it is that statement as council rents then, now and at every juncture in between have always been the cheapest housing option.

The Tories are so wedded to a feudal rented market and make natural bedfellows for the increasingly commercialised housing associations and both seek to screw the tenant for as much as they can.  They both share and hide behind superficial bullshit statements of aspiration and social purpose respectively to disguise this screw the tenant for as much as possible intent.

If Corbyn Labour was as left wing as it is stated it would say that housing associations are a cancer on the 1948 Welfare State central plank of using council housing to slay the giant of squalor and for which there is a strong and valid argument.  Housing Associations are not only cocking a snoop at the most vulnerable and most in housing need, they are also doing so at the aspirational tenant too with their ever higher rent levels denying them the opportunity to save for a mortgage deposit.

Before the usual howls of protests from housing associations ensue take a look here at how one housing association is charging £349 per week in so-called affordable rent for a 3 bed property when the council rent is £127 per week.  That almost £1000 MORE in rent per month … and is also £1000 LESS in mortgage deposit saving per month and we can readily see how housing associations deny aspiration (and why they offer shared ownership which has to be the worst product ever for any home buyer!)

There has been resistance and horror to Corbyn Labour’s housing policy which said at first that the target was 1 million more council houses over 5 years that has now been (ahem) ‘clarified’ to 1 million social housing units over 5 years, that is it includes housing associations.  That is weakness from Corbyn and why he has allowed his original and correct policy to be weakened when the more council housing that is built the greater the home ownership which is what even the ‘working classes’ want is bemusing.

More council housing fulfils the working class element of Labour political theory and also gives a much better hand up to aspirational ‘hardworking’ families and all other such labels on electoral demographics that Labour needs to gain power so Corbyn should urgently resist those withing the Labour Party who resist greater council housing and thus deny greater home ownership.  The argument that the cheaper your rent the more you can save and more quickly for a mortgage deposit is a decidedly easy one to sell to the electorate because it is so easily understood and accepted.

A really simple stating the bloody obvious argument that would see Corbyn Labour as the party of the great property owning democracy no less!  There is no doubt that the ‘working classes’ want a home of their own and equally no doubt they deserve that chance so why is Corbyn not selling this from the highest height that would also expose how the Tory ideological choice of leaving home ownership and getting on and aspiration to the market which has failed hardworking families to such an extent that they have a SEVEN TIMES  lesser chance of getting on the housing ladder now than they did 10 years ago!

Talk about a gift horse …!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ain’t nothing going up but the rent

How have we let social landlords, overwhelmingly housing associations but some councils too, shaft the social housing tenant for thousands of pounds more per year in rent?

In one case a housing association in London is charging £11,584 per year MORE for a 3 bed property than the council social rent level for the exact same 3 bed property – that’s almost a thousand pounds per month more!

Let’s begin with average rents and across England outside of the perverse rent levels in the capital. The chart below uses authoritative data from the English Housing Survey 2015/16 and shows how much more in rent per year social tenants are charged compared with the council house social rent level.

Chart 1 – The English Regions

Excess rent social tenant shafting

Reading left to right the first figure we see in blue is £261 per year and this is the average additional amount a housing association’s normal or social rent level is above the same 1 bed property charged at a councils normal or social rent level.

Bear in mind that around 60% of all housing association properties today are former council properties – around 1.6 million of them – and the figures in blue show additional rents charged of between £261 and £522 per year in the regions,

The next figure (in red) of £1,931 more in rent per year is the average that a housing association (and from last year a small number of councils) charge the social tenant under the so-called “affordable (sic) rent” model (AR) incentivised and permitted by the Tories since 2013 and for a 1 bed property.

Reading from left to right we see that AR has a premium or social tenant shafting amounts Of £1,931 for a 1 bed to £3,392 per year for a 4 bed property.

If genuine affordability is measured at 30% of income then a tenant needs to earn an additional £11,306 per year to afford a social housing 4 bed property at AR,  and that is a net £217 MORE per week in income to afford and this is in the regions not in London!

This first chart excludes London with the capital’s truly perverse rent levels and yet the social tenant is being shafted by both types of social landlord – council and HA – for an AVERAGE £65 or so per week more in rent which is the £3,392 more per year figure.

This is nothing but rampant profiteering and the shafting of the social housing tenant by social (sic) landlords; mostly by housing associations who for the first three years of the Affordable (sic) Home Programme were the sole operators of AR and last year they were joined by councils operating this AR model in a what’s good for the goose is good for the gander

Did you also know that 70% of affordable (sic) rent properties are ‘conversions?’  Oh sorry reader ‘conversions’ is the euphemism given to these properties by social landlords themselves to describe a property that has been converted to AR when it was previously charged out at a social rent – In the plainest of plain English a 3 bed council house with a social rent of £94 per week on a Friday can become an affordable rent level property of £138 per week on the following Monday!

All of this happens in London and as you would expect the rent increases / the amount the social tenant is shafted for in additional rent by social (sic) landlords is detailed in Chart 2 below.  Note these are average figures yet one 3 bed rent recorded in the official data of the SDR (Statistical Data Return) submitted to the regulator by Private Registered Providers shows a 3 bed AR rent of £349 per week compared with the London council 3 bed rent average of £127 per week – the £11,584 per year rent premium I stated in opening.

Chart 2 – London

Excess rent social tenant shafting London

The first thing you notice is that there is an additional column sandwiched between the higher normal or social rent that housing associations charge per year (ranging from £574 per year more for a 4 bed to £1,044 more for a 2 bed) and the extremely offensive higher amounts the social tenant is shafted for in affordable (sic) rent of up to £4,540 more per year.

This middle column is a new variant called the London target social rent and is from the hyperbolic announcement a few weeks ago of Sadiq Khan and the lowest rents that account for one-third of the 49,000 new properties will be between £1,096 more in rent per year for a 4 bed to £2,557 more in rent per year for a 1 bed (or a bedsit).

Now given these huge additional rental streams (aka how much more the social tenant is going to be shafted for in rent) you can bet your bottom dollar that the vast majority of these new builds will be the 1 bed or bedsit property as these provide the most additional rental income for landlords!  How nice to see a labour Mayor of London, himself a Londoner, well and truly shafting the London social tenant!

That political dig is well deserved as the rationale for the affordable rent model or indeed this higher London target rent model is landlords need to charge more in rent as the government is not giving them any subsidy – in short we are getting bugger all off government so let’s go shaft the tenant with hugely increased rents I have detailed here.

YET the Sadiq Khan shafting of the London tenant for up to £2,557 per year more in rent (net rent by the way and service charges on top!) sees each property apparently get £60k in subsidy too and is a very bad deal and has no rationale for the between 14% and 52% increases in rent on this model.

What all of these variants of screwing the social tenant for more in rent mean is that they have to earn more to afford such properties so it is a huge disincentive to the take up of employment AND with the overall benefit cap it means that an ever increasing percentage of social (sic) housing being AR this largely excludes the tenant on social security benefit too.

The target market for AR properties is those in reliable better than average wage employment and the lone parent who works more than 16 hours a week at minimum wage.  A very bizarre mix of target tenant indeed and in the former case the tenant is shafted by the higher rent and in the latter case the taxpayer is as the grossly inflated AR rent will be met mostly in full by housing benefit.

So despite the Tory rhetoric on those on above average earnings should not populate scarce social housing resources we see the exact opposite occurs and is being targeted –   Pay More to Stay anyone? – and the ever more commercial social landlords will no doubt develop more of these higher priced rentals, which data supports and exclude the most vulnerable who cant afford them or in housing speak the same people that constitute social purpose!

The overwhelming majority of these AR cash cows are managed by housing associations who make up 2 in every 3 social housing properties and as will come as no surprise they are making record surpluses year on year all at the expense of the social tenant.

I’m not just struggling to find where this rank profiteering fits under any definition of social purpose, I am struggling with why housing associations charge more at their version of a social rent level than a council landlord!

Can anyone give me good reason why the average housing association social rent property is 11% more than a councils social rent property? And when I say good reason I don’t mean one that justifies the highest paid HA Chief Executive pocketing over half a million per year or more than 3 times the salary of the Prime Minister or 4 – 5 times the salary of their equivalent in a councils Housing Director.

Rant almost over albeit a detailed rant and a decidedly worrying rant if you are a social tenant or an employer or if you are in any way concerned about vulnerable people getting shafted by wolves in sheep’s clothing and there are many more aspects of this scandalous profiteering I’ll leave you to conclude.

Oh and of course this is entirely coincidental the fact that social (sic) landlords evict just as many social tenants as the private landlords do with 46% of all evictions when they have 47% of all rented properties and lo and behold what was charged out at a social rent then becomes an affordable (sic) rent property charged out at a massively higher rent level as a ‘conversion’ ….

___________________________________________________________

English Housing Survey Data

average-rent-srs-201516-jh

Sadiq Khan London Target Rent Data

london-affsicrent

 

 

 

 

LHA Maxima Cap – Errors of Commission

If you are going to bugger it up you may as well do it in spectacular fashion. Reader I give you the Tories LHA Maxima Cap policy that will shaft the most vulnerable in every way possible …

The LHA Maxima Cap policy:

  • Moves from the current complex system of funding to an even more complex one
  • Moves from the current objective funding system to one which is highly subjective and exposed to abuse
  • Moves from a funding system of the costs of support met by right to one met by discretion and whichever way the wind blows in your local authority
  • Moves from a regulatory scrutinised system backed up by decades of case law to a system that allows funding on an unreasonable, unrealistic and none justifiable basis without any scrutiny whatsoever
  • Is premised on myth upon myth and repeated superficial assumption

Local councils know local needs best is the superficial mantra that is used to sell the exceedingly dangerous LHA Maxima Cap policy of the Conservatives.  The local authority commissioning process that flows from it is THE most dangerous heap of equine faeces in both theory and especially in practice.

The existing system of funding for support is complex yet it is rigorous and the costs of providing support to vulnerable client groups is objectively scrutinised under the HB regulatory framework to see if claimed costs are reasonable, realistic and justifiable and any funding that flows is then given by right.

To then move to an even more complex and entirely subjective funding process in which a large part of the funding for vulnerable peoples support is discretionary and can be unreasonable, unrealistic and not justifiable is unadulterated madness – yet that is what the Conservative’s LHA Maxima Cap policy is.

It will be administered by each local council on the superficial local councils know local needs based premise in what is called commissioning – which is equine faeces upon equine faces and with no scrutiny at all of commissioning decisions however subjective they may be and however much they end up costing each local authority more in the medium term.  The inherent short-termism within the commissioning process then adds more equine faeces on top and we end up with an even greater social care crisis than we have today.

Let me absolutely clear that while commissioners have made many critical errors for which they deserve criticism, it is the commissioning process that simply does not work in practice and is nigh on impossible to make work that is the root cause.

That is the lessons learned outcome not just opinion from the last incarnation of local authority commissioning in this area called Supporting People which has resulted in about 70% less funding going into the support of vulnerable people thanks to the high subjectivity and frankly ignorance of local authority commissioners and the impossibility of commissioning.

The LHA Maxima Cap policy instead of realising the mistakes of the commissioning process sees the Tories add more equine faeces on top with a healthy splash of petrol and passing a box of matches to an avowed pyromaniac.  Boy will this shit stink and in moral terms we will see more unmet need and a greater social care crisis and the costs will go through the roof of what needs correcting a few years down the line.

You couldn’t bugger it up more if you planned it but hey local councils know local needs best we can sell to the electorate far easier than the Dementia Tax for which the same electorate kicked our backsides with at the 2017 general election is the Tory position.

For my sins I was nationally recognised as an expert in Supporting People (SP) yet nobody can be a true expert in this area such is the breadth of knowledge needed to be one.  My blogging persona of Speye Joe is simply Joe keeping an eye on SP and I advised over 200 very diverse support providers across the UK mostly, by my choice, the small specialist support providers without whom the entire system of support collapses – what all business text books call the showstoppers.

Supported housing is a complex niche area within social housing.  The term itself is a misnomer and covers every vulnerability you can think of in both accommodation-based support terms and visiting support terms.  Take the first letter of the alphabet and think of all the ‘vulnerabilities’ you can such as alcohol, adoption, abuse, anorexia, autism, anxiety etc and then drill down in abuse to find emotional abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse, child abuse and so – and you begin to realise the breath of vulnerability issues and the housing and accommodation needs it creates and what the term ‘supported housing’ covers – and you see my point as to why nobody can be an expert in this area.  And once you have exhausted the letter A then go on to the letter B …

Yet the commissioning process that was central to SP and becomes central again in the LHA Maxima Cap policy assumes that each local authority has experts who can commission what is needed in terms of what is loosely called housing related support!

These ‘experts’ who become budget holders can decide that Service A is a greater need than Service B or Service C is what commissioning means.  Again a huge area that requires ten PhD theses to correctly explain but in the simplest terms the rationale for housing related support is preventative.  Provide a supported living service to adults with learning disabilities or sensory one or physical one and that prevents the vulnerable persons needs getting so high that they require disempowering and far more costly registered care provision.

I use that example to explain the key preventative nature of support and its relationship to care for good reason.  Firstly, in this context the terms are not interchangeable as they are in lay terms and because they are the same in lay speak confusion reigns.

Secondly, when the last Labour government in 2009 decided to take the ring fence away on support funding (SP) we saw local councils spend this still named grant on roads, libraries and anything but support and we see for one example and by far not the worst my home city of Liverpool now gloating that they spend some £12 million per year on this despite the central government cuts blah blah.  While accepting fully that Liverpool City Council has had severe general cuts in funding they did receive over £30 million per year in SP grant yet now only spend £12 million on it and in actual terms too so much more than a 60% cut in real term funding

Thirdly, and again using Liverpool to illustrate, under SP every local administering authority was subject to grant conditions (which appear highly unlikely in the hands off LHA Maxima Cap policy) as one form of scrutiny and also subjected to a formal inspection on how they administered support funding by the Audit Commission. Liverpool was the ONLY council to fail this inspection AND fail its re-inspection yet it was rewarded for this failure by being given greater commissioning powers and the SP ring fence removed a year ahead of all other local councils!

Fourth, the decision to remove the SP ring fence not only led directly to 60% and higher cuts in funding for support it directly led to the social care crisis that formed so much debate in the general election this year.  When you take away the funding for preventative support you end up with a chronic level of increase in demand for care which is what the social care crisis is. Note the Dementia Tax is just one small part of the social care crisis.

Fifth, an example of the crass subjectivity within the commission process was revealed in the last week in a report which said rough sleeping will increase by 75% which received huge national attention.  Yet the same report had a table which showed the number of homeless hostel spaces had fallen by 5,000 in number from 2011 to 2016 – which is a direct manifestation of the commissioning process subjectivity that is often called the deserving / undeserving issue.

What small proportion of all SP monies spent on support saw was commissioners choosing ‘deserving’ services such as older persons support over the ‘undeserving’ single homeless services as these young people should go back home blah blah blah in the political rhetoric and subjective commissioning that flowed.  No commissioner ever thought to see whether the reason little Johnny or little Mary left home was because of abuse at home that is still exceedingly common as a cause for the flight in the first place – the commissioning decisions were guided by myth and ignorance of reality and on the principle that no commissioning officer is going to have his or her decision questioned over commissioning ‘deserving’ services yet they are over commissioning the ‘undeserving’ ones.

Again 10 PhD lengths of dialogue is needed on subjectivity in the commissioning process but more importantly here, let me state unequivocally that this is not commissioning officer bashing as it may read.  Commissioning is a theoretical concept ONLY and no commissioner or group of commissioners combined can possibly have the expertise needed to commission correctly.  The superficial theory of commissioning that is wrapped up in vague and nonsensical terms such as local councils know local needs best is the biggest pile of equine faeces in reality and practice.

It is the old adage of knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing – and that phrase neatly leads me to another critical point on the idiocy of the commissioning process from the many failings of this in the Supporting People programme.

Sixth is cost and yet more superficiality.  SP saw commissioners use another pithy and superficial premise of why should a vulnerable person have to go into a hostel / refuge / other accommodation in order to get support? They should be able to receive support in their own home, visiting support or as it is misnamed floating support is what we need and what was commissioned in droves while accommodation-based support was decommissioned in the same droves.  Yet using the Audit Commission cost figures which were the actual costs paid in SP we see that the unit cost – the cost of one hours support – was £17 for an accommodation based service yet £23 per hour for a visiting / floating support service.

When you have a cash limited budget as you did in SP and you will have again in the LHA Maxima Cap policy (often dubbed SP2) if you choose to commission services that cost 35% more per support hour then you get 35% fewer hours of support being delivered!  Leave aside that floating support is less qualitative, more reactive, takes longer to deal with support issues and lengthens the need for support and so many other comparative faults, it costs 35% more and so 35% LESS support can be delivered!

Its a classic example of unchallenged superficial myth that sounds good leading to huge extra need and huge extra cost because nobody thought to challenge the superficiality of the myth in the first place.

This is also the same issue in the recent euphoria and hyperbole over the sexy plans for the Housing First model of homeless support in the Crisis / Liverpool City Region report that also received widespread media awareness and widespread lauding … YET the unit cost is £34 per hour and the average support service of all kinds across the Liverpool City Region is around £17 per support hour or Housing First is DOUBLE the cost!  Of course we should accommodate a rough sleeper first and then deal with support issues – the essence of Housing First – yet (a) it costs MORE and (b) can’t work in Liverpool due to it having around half of the national average 1 bed properties the HF model needs, and (c) nobody has yet looked at what this means for traditional existing homeless provision in their myopia over the principle.  A cursory glance reveals it will create bigger problems and for supported and general needs housing provision

The last thing the support of vulnerable people needs is short-term knee-jerk superficially based solutions that are premised on ideological claptrap, assumption and the ridiculous notion that commissioning with its inherent subjectivity can actually work as it can’t.

One final point is the ridiculous one year only lead-in time to SP2 – the reinvention of SP commissioning processes in the LHA Maxima Cap policy.  We has a universally accepted too short three year lead-in process for SP Mark 1 with the Transitional Housing Benefit Scheme so this 1 year lead-in is even more equine faeces!

The policy has to go and ripped up and started afresh and what is needed is what was contained in the first sentence of the first SP report issued on a genuine cross-party basis back in 1999.  It said that the Supporting People programme will place the provision of support on a secure legal and financial footing which is what it has always needed and what will cost less and provide more and save a fortune because it is done correctly on a right first time basis.

That did not happen and it is the greatest failure of the SP programme and its lack has created the Dementia Tax and the much bigger economic disaster that is the Social Care Crisis which will see huge additional cost over a longer period that proves the case for prevention rather than cure which is the key essence of support.  Yes that does mean it must be demand-led which leads to political arguments against it on purely short-term bases and these hold sway and wrongly!

Can anyone tell me how the LHA Maxima Cap commissioning policy will deal with the fact that the latest Family Resource Survey (FRS) that all governments place great store by in terms of policy formulation revealed a 15% increase in disabled persons in the UK and a 22% increase in mental health issues?

Now we have these 15% and 22% increases being increases in demand upon a cash limited budget and this just one example to which we can add the projected 75% increase in rough sleeping as another can ONLY lead to increased higher costs in the longer term for UK plc.  Ever higher increased costs are being stored up with the errors of commissioning that require ever higher taxes and ever longer waits for healthcare in the NHS and this madness simply has to stop.

Supporting People originally did see genuine cross-party support and rightly so as support is an issue of national importance in which superficial political ideology of the day cannot be allowed to play any part and the provision of support has to become without any naivety an issue of for the good of the country first.

It is far easier and far better to prevent providers fuelling demand with allegedly needed support services that are unmerited and there only for cash cow bottom line purposes of those providers rather than the local or national good than to limit support in the costly and ridiculous way of commissioning in the LHA Maxima Cap policy.

It has to go

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Non pedantic footnote – The LHA Cap which those in social housing insist on calling this LHA Maxima Cap is wrong and confusing.  The LHA cap began on 1 January 2012 and is the policy which caps LHA to at most 4 bed properties and excludes those above this size in the private rented sector.  To use this to label the LHA Maxima Cap for social housing (supported and general needs) only confuses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Housing Association rents INCREASE despite Tories imposed 1% rent cut

Goebbels even Donald Trump would be proud of the delusional propaganda that emanates from David Orr on behalf of housing associations.  As the title of this blog suggests – and as usual the pesky FACTS prove  – official data released today shows that Housing Associations have actually increased their rents by 1.54% since George Osborne announced an imposed 1% cut to social housing rents each year in 2015 and for 4 years beginning in April 2016.

By contrast council rents have fallen but only by 0.3% being £82.38 in May 2015 then £82.84 in May 2016 and falling to £82.11 per week in May 2017.

The official data comes in the form of the DWP Housing Benefit figures which show the average weekly payment of housing benefit to housing associations was £92.84 per week in 2015 which then INCREASED in the first year of the imposed cut to £93.96 per week and in May 2017 INCREASED again to now be £94.27 per week

When the 1% imposed rent cut per year was announced by George Osborne it was met with the usual doom and gloom by David Orr at the National Housing Federation – as you would expect – but ALSO with housing association upon housing association getting rid of 15% to 25% of housing staff as I reported at the time.

Yet it turns out that all of those housing staff that were got rid off using the highly convenient excuse of the 1% imposed rent cut now sees INCREASED rent levels not reduced ones – and yet again the social tenant is being screwed both ways in increased rents and less service due to 15% – 25% less staff!

Let’s look again at the hyperbole that is now proven to be propagandist delusion when the 1% rent cuts were announced and illustrated by this Guardian article though I could have used hundreds of similar articles since in the Guardian, Independent, Inside Housing and 1500+ English housing association PR guff …

1% fibbing housing associations

As you can see in the Guardian Housing Network article shortly after the Osborne announcement the doom and gloom was there – and that same doom and gloom and perpetuation of the reduction in rent levels by the housing associations has continued to this day … YET Housing Associations rents have increased!!

And of course George Osborne got it wrong as usual when he stated:

 “We are also going to end the ratchet of ever higher housing benefit chasing up ever higher rents in the social housing sector. 

This will be a welcome cut in rent for those tenants who pay it and I’m confident that housing associations and other landlords in the social sector will be able to play their part and deliver the efficiency savings needed.”

But there was no cut George as your former colleagues failed to check the devious and deceitful Housing Associations who have INCREASED overall rents not reduced them and the alleged saving to the Housing Benefit bill that you said would happen has seen precisely the opposite as the average HB paid to housing associations has INCREASED!

Let’s look at the rest of the doom and gloom and errant predictions in that same Guardian article:

First there is David Orr of the NHF:

Housing associations, however, estimate the lost income will prevent at least 27,000 new homes being built. National Housing Federation chief executive David Orr said: “At the very least, 27,000 new homes will not now be built, though that figure could be much higher. The right to buy for housing association tenants further compounds this.”

Yep he was wrong! Then we see the governments own auditors at the OBR:

The Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts that the policy could result in 14,000 fewer affordable homes being built.

‘Then this:

Sue Harvey, a director at consultancy Campbell Tickell, estimated the reduction would cause social landlords’ expected rental income to fall by 15%.

Oh dear – and we see housing association upon housing association recording record surpluses ever since 2016 and of course as they are getting MORE in rents and MORE in Housing Benefit they have increased rental income not seen it fall!!

And just to clarify here the INCREASED average housing association rents are reflected in the HB data AND there are more HA properties since 2015 so the rent roll has increased significantly and not fallen by this ludicrous 15% prediction.

Then we have the good old CIH getting this wrong:

Charted Institute of Housing chief executive Terrie Alafat said: “We understand the government’s desire to manage the cost of the housing benefit bill – but undermining their income by cutting social housing rents by 1% a year over the next four years is going to make it much tougher to build new homes at a time when we desperately need to do so.”

Ever since this 1% imposed rent cut was announced over two years ago in July 2015 we have had EVERYONE assuming that an actual rent cut has taken place. It has taken place for council tenants as the data shows but rent levels have INCREASED for housing association tenants as the official HB data of today reveals unambiguously.

The same housing associations and councils who tell us the private landlords are bad and evict too many people when HAs and councils evict in the same number.

The same housing associations and councils who state that Universal Credit increases arrears yet will see those HA and LA landlords take 6 times more off tenants for arrears than a court allows under the very same Universal Credit!

Facts are just so damn pesky!!!

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Postscript: – Every time I publish facts that dare criticise the misnamed social landlords I get numerous individuals in housing saying well my HA doesn’t do this and similar comments.  In the absence of 1500+ responses from the 1500+ UK housing associations – and note FOI requests don’t apply to them as they are not public bodies – I can only report on the overall picture.

There are some bloody good and highly socially responsible housing associations yet plenty of de facto asocial and commercially driven private organisations masquerading as social and using social purpose as propaganda and for reputational purposes only.

As I have just said in a Twitter conversation that I “tar all landlords with the same brush as the bad ones” – I will gladly name and shame individual bad landlords and laud the good ones.  Yet when it comes to aggregate numbers and factual data the overall position is that housing associations have shafted their tenants by INCREASING rent levels despite the 1% imposed cut while council landlords have not and rents have reduced, albeit marginally.

Facts often refute the best laid myths and assumptions and regrettably the social landlords are only too keen to invent, develop and propagate myth and assumption while shafting the poor social tenant.  The lazy journalists and researchers in the media and the rest of the housing commentariat then pile manure on these myths and assumptions and social landlords come up wrongly smelling of roses!

In every case be it rent increases as here or scandalously high social tenant evictions that even Shelter and JRF fail to even see as independent bodies; or landlords taking six times the arrears payment that a court would award we find the average social tenant gets well and truly shafted by this tangled web of deceit and that has to stop and FACT however pesky has to prevail over these lies and known propaganda that emanates from the great and the good of social housing!

 

 

‘Social’ landlords IMPOSE poverty on the social tenant

UCAPA sees social (sic) landlords impose greater poverty on a greater number of tenants and at a greater speed and hence the alternate title of this being Hey Landlord why UCAPA the tenants knees? 

godfather

Council and Housing Association landlords love Universal Credit’s Alternative Payment Arrangement (UCAPA) as it sees them wiping out tenant arrears debts up to six times quicker than the legacy system and six times more arrears paid off than a court would allow.

A tenant taken to court over arrears sees that court invariably issue a suspended possession order on two conditions of (a) pay the ongoing rent in full, and (b) a sum of £16 per month off the arrears and this £16 per month is what a court assess as the maximum the tenant on benefit can afford to pay.

Yet UCAPA sees the landlord not have to go to court and instead:

  • Takes £99 per month off the benefit household of a couple at source and gives directly to the landlord.  This is 6 times what the court says they can afford and £1000 more per year from the tenant than a court says
  • For a single person or lone parent household the at source deduction is £63 per month which is 4 times more than a court would award and £570 more per year taken from their social security benefit under Universal Credit

The bean counters who run these so-called social landlords are rubbing their hands with glee at each new roll out of Universal Credit! The more Universal Credit in place the lower landlord arrears become in this bugger the social tenant policy.

So much for the claimed social purpose and social ethos of these so-called social landlords who are – by design and action – taking the food out of the mouths of children already on or below the poverty line.

Recently I met a Labour councillor who is on the board of two housing associations who, as is their want, told me just how endemic his left-wing and true socialist beliefs were … yet then proceeded to bemoan the fact that still his housing associations have just over half all Universal Credit tenants getting the rent paid to them and not to the landlord.

That means these so-called social landlords have managed to get UCAPAs on almost half of UC tenants and thus they are taking the 4 – 6 times more off them in arrears payments than a court would allow!

An avowed socialist scrutinising the avowed social purpose HA landlords anyone!!??

I read this morning a very long article in Inside Housing about Universal Credit and how ideological and offensive and dangerous it is.  It is without doubt, yet this article of over 2300 words compared to the usual 750 word that covers many UC aspects fails to mention the UCAPA and the role that gangster social (sic) landlords play in it!  The social (sic) landlord propaganda machine is in full flow as per usual!

A landlord taking between £570 and £1000 more per year off a benefit tenant household than a court would allow and the law says is affordable is that landlord kneecapping the tenant financially.

SOCIAL (sic, sic, sic) landlords are driving the social tenants to the foodbank and to the loan shark by taking £1000 more per year from their subsistence level social security benefits than a court would permit.

These landlords protest vehemently when anyone dares to challenge their claims to have social purpose yet the facts and their actions show they operate a modern-day feudal landlord system as this UCAPA shows as does the fact they evict as many tenants as the bogey man private landlord as again the facts show and as long as Shelter and the Guardian and all the rest miss this elephant in the room by focusing exclusively on the nasty private landlord, these feudal landlords that we mistakenly label social landlords get away with it!

As I said and is fact about the UK rented housing market and the elephant in the room of staggeringly high social (sic) landlord eviction levels:

• UK has 53% private properties and 47% socially rented ones.

• UK evictions show 54% private to 46% social housing evictions.

That lack of awareness has to change as quite frankly a shitstorm is coming with UCAPA and its consequences.  Luckily we only have about 4% of social tenants on UC yet when this increases 25 times in the full UC roll out we will see homelessness and poverty rocket and for which I say cynically yet validly, the likes of the JRF will issue a lengthy report about years after this post claiming to be both exclusive and authoritative.

Rent Arrears?

20 years ago I headed up a project looking at arrears systems for a large housing association at a time when new Housing Benefit claims were taking over 100 days to be in payment and renewal claims typically taking 60 days.  This new system by definition had to look at what arrears actually are and not just technical arrears caused by HB delays which still to this day sees landlord IT systems spew out arrears letters on such technicalities.

That same investigation into what arrears are also found that around 20% of social tenants have credit balances on their accounts.  Yet we never hear about the 1 in 5 tenants who have overpaid and landlords continue to reap interest upon such monies!

Only about 2% of tenants with arrears are to coin a well-used phrase ‘taking the piss’ when it comes to paying rent.  Data has to be processed correctly to become meaningful and not just repeated like mantra as the same IH article did today:

The experience of other areas with full UC is equally troubling. A survey of councils and ALMOs by the National Federation of ALMOs (NFA) and the Association of Retained Council Housing (ARCH) found in July that 73% of tenants were in arrears, owing an average of £772.21, up from £611.73 a year earlier. This is far higher than the 31% of tenants in arrears under the housing benefit system.

Yes around 31% of tenants under the majority legacy system of housing benefit are in arrears but every social housing tenancy requires rent in advance and every housing benefit payment is paid in arrears.  That is the nature of the beast and with some 3.25 million social tenants in receipt of HB from some 4.3 million tenancies we see HB being claimed in 3 in every 4 social housing tenancies.

As the HB legacy system creates such ‘technical’ arrears this creates a huge problem with UCAPA.  The UCAPA process of landlords getting 4 – 6 times more in arrears than a court allows flows ONLY from the landlord.

The (feudal) landlord informs UC that a tenant has arrears of more than 8 weeks which both the HB system and the minimum 6 week wait for UC payments to flow creates systemically.  The income officers at landlords inform UC who then (a) pay the old HB direct to the landlord, and (b) also pay the £63 or £99 arrears payment to the landlord.

The first the tenant knows of this is when the additional £63 or £99 per month has been deducted at source and their monthly UC payment is £63 – £99 less than they anticipated.

This UCAPA system has the same principle as the bedroom tax that the social landlord is to be believed without question and the tenant is guilty and then has to prove their innocence!

The social landlord has been granted preferential status by the DWP and the tenant can do little about it.  Under the court system the judges interrogate the claimed arrears position before they make a decision and universally they ask whether the arrears are ‘technical’ ones due to waiting for HB to come onstream (or back onstream as HB departments still cease HB payments if a tenant has their JSA sanctioned and upon which guidance was first issued in early 2010 to say they must not do this!) or the local HB department has made a mistake – and note the vast majority of ‘welfare’ fraud and error data reveals error and not from the claimant but made by decision makers such as DWP and HB departments!

Yet the UCAPA system denies any such due process as the DWP simply believe the word of the landlord and the claimant (the tenant) has no say in the matter whatsoever.

When I posted about this nefarious UCAPA the other day I stated – correctly – that the National Housing Federation, the umbrella group for 1500+ housing associations lobbied hard for this UCAPA process and the above explains why!!

The response to that UCAPA post from social landlords has been the expected one in (a) we didnt design the system its all UC’s fault blah, blah and (b) we are owed this money how dare you say we can’t get it back, blah, blah, blah.  The response from the legal social media cohort is how can this circumvention of what is legally just be allowed in the first place.

Yet the REAL issue is the impacts on social tenants and the undoubted poverty this is creating and will increase 25-fold when UC is fully rolled out.  The media focuses on the JAMs – the just about managing – and they would be thrown into poverty by taking these £63 – £99 per month deductions from so how the hell are social tenants and their children going to be affected?!  The consequence of which are there for all to see and don’t need any comment.

Social tenants are being shafted once again by social landlords and once again shhhh don’t tell anyone and the bullshit mantra of ‘social’ landlords the we have social purpose bullshit prevails because nobody gives a flying f*ck about social tenants especially the feodaric landlords they have!

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PS:  My sincerest and deepest apologies for associating one of the greatest films ever made with these feudal landlords who have the temerity to proffer social purpose!