A Public Service Announcement

Every now and then an article comes along that, a bit like Top Gun, takes your breath away (oh my, that volleyball scene…). Whilst I doubt Mike Iszatt will ever be my Goose, or even my Iceman, after reading his article I did feel the need, not for speed but to counter his piece.

The article’s opening salvo was to question whether our glorious country will become a nation of housing association tenants. Well actually what he meant was whether this would happen to the lovely, leafy Borough of Broxbourne in Hertfordshire (I didn’t know where it was either, used those adjectives to pad this out a bit). And by that he meant it appears that a number of new developments have quite steep proportions that must be set aside for affordable homes. So, to allay Mr Iszatt’s fears about the UK becoming one big social housing love-in I feel it is my public duty to highlight some facts and fun tit-bits.

1 – We are losing social housing, not gaining it

Between 1981 and 2010 the UK pretty much saw a net loss of social housing every year. Every year. A slight upturn in 2010 (go figure…) has hardly reversed the long term decline in those who rent from Housing Associations and Local Authorities in Great Britain. At the same time private ownership and private sector renting has blossomed. Don’t worry Mike I think we’re safe from becoming a nation of housing association tenants just yet. If you want the figures just nip over to the DCLG website and look at the live tables.

Dwellings by Sector

2 – Whilst all social housing is affordable housing not all affordable housing is social

Just like that fact that whilst all Catholics are Christians but not all Christians are Catholics the merry-go-round regarding social housing terminology keeps on spinning faster. It is a deliberate misuse of wording to conflate a large package of measures in order to hide the inexorable fact that we are haemorrhaging truly social housing in this country. Alas Mr Iszatt also appears to be suffering from this affliction. Quite often when he states Affordable, he means social. Again the DCLG have produced some figures which highlight why choosing your words carefully. @Churchiechat might also be able to enlighten you.

DCLG Live Tables 1009 Additional New Build and Acquired affordable homes (England)

Dwellings by Sector new

3 – Waiting lists are sign of a larger problem

As someone who works in performance, whose very job is to look at performance trends and delve into data your cavalier approach to waiting list figures is utterly shocking. Causality v correlation my friend, they are tricky thing. Waiting lists are generally an indicator of wider structural issues not just people being sneaky little so and so’s. If the private market is providing for the masses there won’t be too much demand for social housing. The problem for Broxbourne, and the UK in general is that it isn’t.

House prices are rising way above wages and for many home ownership is out of reach, even private renting is a struggle. Based on a quick look on Zoopla the average value of a property in Broxbourne is a whopping £391,867, for the rest of England it is £279,985. A £60,000 cap on an applicant’s yearly income seems pretty reasonable in this light. Particularly because if you were looking to buy £60,000 will only enable you to borrow in the region of £200,000 (provided you have a deposit of £10,000). I can see why people might want to be on that housing list. Yes some housing lists may need a bit of a spring clean (double counting of applicants isn’t unheard of) but still focus on the main issue. You know, the complete failure to build enough housing, of all tenures to meet the demand.

4 – Councils provide very little grant funding to housing associations

Yes some Councils do provide capital grant to housing associations in order to ensure the building of social housing within their localities. But on the whole capital finance comes from the DCLG via the Homes and Communities Agency or from the private sector. However Councils do provide a very large sum of money to us via housing benefit. Though this is ultimately paid for by central government coffers (in the end), Local Authorities merely act as the middle men. However, I fully agree with you that this should be reduced. Given that one of the largest growing group of claimants of housing benefit is those in work (see graph below) I guess I have your support for a living wage for all UK workers? What about a reversal in the 60% cut in capital funding for social housing builds since 2011? More houses means lower rents, means less housing benefit being paid. What you say Mike? We might even get those pesky housing waiting lists down.

Housing Benefit Claimants in Work

HB Claimants in Work

Source: Single Housing Benefit Extract (SHBE), Department for Work and Pensions

5 – What on earth does your last paragraph mean?

At one and the same time you seem to lament and support Right to Buy. Bemoaning council housing being sold off cheaply but then stating the private sector is doing a good job? I find this paragraph odd because A) your party, the Conservatives introduced the policy and is trying to extend it to housing associations. And B) it makes no fricking sense, literally what are you trying to say?

Anyway I hope I have cleared a couple of things up. If you ever need some help on things to do with housing just holla. Failing that, there are some lovely chaps and chapesses at the National Housing Federation or Chartered Institute of Housing who would be more than willing to help. Toodle pips.

If you feel so inclined (I wouldn’t advise it, you will be disappointed) you can follow me on Twitter here or find me using the handle @ngoodrich87, you can view the rest of my blogs here.

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