Why Social Housing Matters

The timely release of homelessness figures is a reminder for both the sector and Central Government why social housing is badly needed. And why Right to Buy, whatever its guise, is wrong.

Amongst all the glitz and glamour of the NHF’s annual conference you might be forgiven for missing one of the key datasets still released by the DCLG. The quarterly Statutory Homelessness update dropped today and the figures, like so many relating to housing in this country, do not make great reading. The number of households in temporary accommodation is up 12% on the same period last year. Some 66,980 individuals or households are currently reliant on this emergency form of housing.

The lack of security associated with assured shorthold tenancies (AST) is also laid bare. Around 30% of all households accepted by local authorities as being owed a homelessness duty had lost their ‘settled’ home due the ending of an AST. When looking at long-term trends of households accepted as homeless by local authorities the below chart, shameless ripped from the DCLG data release, further worrying trends are evident. After a massive reduction between 2006 and 2010 in both households in temporary accommodation and those being accepted as homeless there has been a steady increase. The former creeping closer to mid-financial crash levels.

Homeless FiguresThese figures only relate to ‘official’ homelessness, rough sleeping and ‘hidden’ homelessness are not counted here. However a research piece by Crisis and friends, released in February this year, shows that both these forms of homeless are also increasing sharply.

As earnings further decouple from housing prices, as the consequences (intended or otherwise) of changes to in work benefits begin to pinch, as parts of our economy continue to under-perform the above numbers will rise further. Yet we are on the cusp of either being forced to, or ‘voluntarily‘ give up swathes of housing designed to help those very people. Why? Because ideology, not evidence or pragmatism is holding court for this Government and the housing market.

I noted a little while back that having a voluntary right to buy is a win-win for the Government, and in many instances for housing associations. It is not a win for local authorities who retain social housing stock. What decent assets they have will likely be forced to sell off to fund replacement properties for social landlords. I cannot fathom how on any level, except a business one, Housing Associations can sign up to such a deal. The sector has spouted the mantra social hearts, business heads. Yet, in leaving local authorities up an estuary without the proverbial wooden implement we are certainly not following our social values.

The part that angers me the most is that every single bit of evidence has so far shown that right to buy properties are not replaced at anywhere near the level they are lost at. For local authorities, hands tied behind their backs by funding and finance rules, how are they meant to replace their stock? The simple answer is they’re not. We look like we have survived this attack by Government, but only by throwing council owned social housing under a bus. This leaves a particularly nasty taste in the mouth. By agreeing to ‘voluntary’ right to buy the Government also neatly avoids a messy confrontation with the social housing sector, the House of Commons and the house of Lords. It is a fight that we could well win. Yet we sit back and go for a slow death.

As social landlords we are uniquely positioned to provide housing of all tenures to meet the varying needs of those lower down the food chain. Affordable (i.e Intermediate Market Rent), Shared Ownership, Private rent. All of these have a part to play. But we must secure social rent, truly social rent as the base on which to build. That is non negotiable.

Rant over.

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Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right…

The Guardian’s latest opine (though a legitimate one) on the potential further cuts said to be drafted up by Whitehall rams home the point that those receiving state assistance are fair game politically.  Regardless of the repercussions.

I am constantly amazed that those in a position of wealth, security and responsiblity continuously, and dishonestly, shun those below them.  A significant undertone to the pre-election campaigns has been the denigration of those at the margins of society.  Let me be clear these proposals (outlined below) are immoral, unworkable and will fail to deliver what is needed to help the economy recovery properly.  They also forget that we are all a couple of missed pay cheques, a stroke, an accident, a bereavement away from being in the same position of many of those we help on a day-to-day basis.

In short the proposals include:

  • Prevent the under 25s from claiming housing benefit and incapacity benefit (because of course no-one under 25 needs any state assistance)
  • Increasing the bedroom tax (because that has worked so well so far)
  • Freezing benefit payments across the board
  • Stricter fit for work tests (because the current ones run so smoothly)

Whilst a neoliberal’s wet dream these potential changes are simply horrific.  And if they are anywhere near as unsuccessful as the benefit cap, the bedroom tax v 1.0 and the already stricter fit for work tests they will cause havoc and poverty to those already struggling.  They will not re-balance the economy, they will not drive up employment, they will fuck over those who least deserve a good kicking.  They are a set of policies symptomatic of a political set that simply cannot, will not understand what it is like to be on the bread line.

I have been steadfast in my desire for our sector to be more proactive, more influential and to be more progressive in its efforts.  Whilst much more work is needed to be done the momentum gained pre-election has been welcome.  Housing is much higher up the agenda and those at both SHOUT and the Homes for Britain campaigns deserve credit for their efforts.  We must however be broader in our remit.  We must defend those who live in our homes, not just because it makes sense financially but because it is often the most vulnerable who have the least say.

David Backwith has recently written (well yesterday in-fact) that social workers must work with service users to understand and counter the detrimental impacts of austerity and poverty.  I would argue we need to go further and fight with them, not just on their behalf, but actually together (not just like resident involvement in decision-making, real collaboration).  Because otherwise these proposals will help shrink state support to some bizarre Victorian-esk level.  And frankly the 19th century was a bit shit, so let’s not go back there.

Ultimately you judge a society by how it treats those at the margins, those at the bottom.  I would rather be on the side that offered a hand up rather than a slap down.  I believe as a sector we do a great, great amount of work to help communities and individuals that otherwise would be cast aside.  It is time we did a bit more to stand up for them.

As always you can follow me on Twitter here or find me using the handle @ngoodrich87, you can view the rest of my blogs here.

The Importance of Being Earnest

Social landlords have often been left open to the charge of being too quiet on the issues that affect their customer base. In the interest of self-preservation it may now be necessary to become a bit more vocal.

The social housing sector is often caught between a rock and a hard place. We operate in, provide homes for and work with, those on the margins of society. However we are also compelled to work within a highly political context. Not only dealing with whims of Central Government, contradictory policies from different departments. But also muppets who have epiphanies on inner city housing estates in Glasgow (who then go and miss the point of said epiphany). And that is before the minefield of dealing with a myriad set of Local Authorities and councillors with their own agendas. As a consequence we tend to be a bit vanilla in our criticisms of Government.

A couple of pieces caught my eye earlier this week.  The first involving Isabel Hardman and how we as a sector can get more of an influence in westminster.  Noting that moaning about a policy and then using it isn’t the best move.  And that as a sector we have an image problem with the ‘Right’.  The second was from Hannah Fearn noting that too much power lies with social landlords and not enough for their tenants.  Whilst I don’t agree with all her points I am firmly with her on the statement that we should serve best our tenants, not Government.  Key to both these pieces is that they reinforce the problem for our sector.  In an attempt to be all things to all people (politically speaking) we become not much of anything.  Or worse still, we piss off all sides.

The current set of welfare reforms have never been about just getting people into work. They are cost cutting measures, part of a long-term move to reduce state support and intervention. In short, they are a neo-liberal wet dream. The problem with such fantasies is that they are often only workable for the people who dream them up. It always narks me that those who make ‘tough decisions’ have probably never really had to make a tough choice in their personal life. Well I guess if you include the horrific decisions to be made over chilli humus or quiche then maybe, but you get the point.

Yet despite the impact the reforms have on our customer base we have always been too focused on the direct impact of the changes on our bottom line and not openly angry about indirect ones.  At least not uniformly. For me this is all the more bizarre because from a housing point of view we are paying for these reforms (and associated cuts in budgets for Local Authorities) 3 times over. 1) In higher rent arrears as more draconian sanctions cut benefits for a larger group of people, who then can’t pay us. 2) Because we then have to pay for interventions to help assist those having to deal with the fall out of ‘tough decisions’. 3) We then have to pay for schemes that provide a service formerly under the auspices of local authority but jettisoned due to budget cuts. As a sector we appear to have failed to be convinced by the moral argument to publicly oppose the reforms, at least en masse. Maybe a financial one will do the trick?

There are a few that have been systematically quantifying the impact of the reforms and being very vocal about their impact.  Real Life Reform, the JRF and the LSE have all produced research pieces showing the detrimental impact of the reforms.  SHOUT have also been very active in promoting the case for more social housing and the negative impact of the current Government’s policies. But as a sector we have more often than not done the equivalent of tutting, going “too bad” and moved on.  The consequence? Just look at the figures.  The number of social homes is at its lowest for years. Capital grant is at its lowest point for decades. The number of households relying on food banks is rising, as is the number of working households claiming HB. We have gone through 3 (or is it 4?) housing ministers since 2010. Frankly that paints a picture of being crap at influencing.

The Benefit Cap and right to buy policies are popular but when people learn more about the ins and outs of many of the welfare reforms support falls (as G.I Joe always said, knowing is half the battle…). We have a Government that relies on soundbite policies delivered to an uninformed public to drive through its agenda. It is part of our duty to address this imbalance when those policies affect us and the communities we ultimately serve. But maybe that’s just me being a bit naive.

Regardless of who wins the next general election we need to look at our approach to influencing.  We need to be better at understanding how housing influences (and is influenced by) changes in other policies areas.  We need to be better at supporting our tenancy base in its battles against the unintended (and intended) consequences of poor policy decisions.  We must accept the fact that in the game of politics passivity is not an option.

You can follow me on Twitter here or find me using the handle @ngoodrich87, you can view the rest of my blogs here.

Eat, sleep, collect data, repeat

Report from Sheffield Hallam University highlights the sector still has work to do around data and their approaches to Universal Credit.

So first off here’s the caveats, whilst researched and published by Sheffield Hallam the report was commissioned by Housing Partners.  Given that their primary business is heavily tied into providing IT solutions to the social housing sector a pinch of salt is needed here.  That being said SHU has a long history of research, particularly in the social housing sector.  Hell they even had the pleasure of my company for a year whilst I bumbled my way through a Masters Degree there.  Forgiving the deepest of sins (I did my undergrad degree at the University of Sheffield) #UniTilliDie and fundamentally both the report, and Housing Partners’ associated trumpeting of it, carry some weight.

Given the monumental delays, recriminations, borderline lies and fluster coming from Iain ‘never knowingly gives sound statistics’ Duncan Smith and the DWP you would be forgiven for forgetting that we are midway through the roll out of Universal Credit.  And whilst there are undoubtedly many more rocky steps to take, piss poor project management aside, it is here to stay.  It is therefore somewhat surprising to see that a number of social landlords are still in a bit of a muddle around their customer’s data.  The greatest advantage we have as a sector is that there is no element of surprise, rumblings around UC started in 2010, so we don’t really have an excuse.  But the findings from the guys and gals t’up north show the same issues that we had a couple of years ago are still around.  It does make you wonder what the fudge have we been doing?

I appreciate the monumental task at hand, particularly for the larger social landlords.  People move in and out of our properties, have kids, get married, get divorced, get married again (on a number of occasions to the person they divorced) etc etc.  Mobile phone numbers are as concrete as a chocolate tea-pot and no-one and I mean no-one takes ownership of the bloody data.  But it is not just the day to day grind around data that we appear to have a problem with.  As usual there appears to be a disconnect between the IT systems we have, and the systems we need to use.  I say this from something of an odd position because the organisations I have worked with have had pretty solid, if unspectacular IT systems. Their data collection, protection and insight processes, whilst not perfect, are pretty advanced and are being used in the correct way i.e. to inform the business and improve customer satisfaction.

The most interesting thing about the Bedroom Tax, Universal Credit and now the report from SHU and Housing Partners (from a purely data point of view, not the suffering and utter shiteness of the policies themselves) is that they have illustrated how little we know about our customers.  Or in some cases our own stock. It does make you wonder what the situation would have been like without such external stimuli.  Would we as a sector remained largely oblivious to how bad our data was?

Many organisations when the Bedroom Tax came out probably looked at undertaking a census.  No doubt many who responded to SHU’s survey are thinking of doing the same again.  These bad boys are great at providing a big bang effect.  It will indicate areas where you have been lacking data (typically you will see a sudden spike in certain demographics sets) but they are only part of the solution.  It is in the day to day interactions that you will gather the majority of your information. To truly keep your data fresh you need identify how and when you and your customers interact and make the most of those opportunities.  You also need to make sure you properly store the data you already have.

I find it deeply alarming that some 42% of the 167 or so organisations surveyed admitted to using paper based systems (i.e. paper) to store some data on its tenants.  This is utterly horrendous and frankly unforgiveable.  Storing data on off-system spreadsheets is bad enough, but paper?  How the hell do you ensure any consistency, any accountability and any basic audit trail if part of your data is on paper!?  If your IT system can’t store the data you need there are plenty of options out there.  Side note, if you are procuring make sure the business and not the IT bod is the customer and the lead on the project.  IT facilitate, they don’t lead on business focused IT procurement. Though quite often no-one tells them that.

By and large data is a simple beast. Work out what you need, why you need it, how you are going to store it, how are you going to keep it fresh but most importantly how are you going to use it.  That my friends is basically it.  Everything else is just mere details.

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 Twitter handle @ngoodrich87, you can view the rest of my blogs here.

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.

Das Capital

Right to Buy, the Russians acting like an empire (again), big hair, leggings and electro music being popular amongst the ‘yoof’, a Government pushing policies that continuously undermine those further down the food chain.  You’d be forgiven for thinking this is the 1980s with Thatcher in her prime.  Regrettably it is 2015 and it’s an election year.  Whilst Cameron and co may be stopped I can’t do a lot about the fashion choices and poor taste in music amongst the hell spawn younger than even I, sorry.

As if it needs spelling out Right to Buy is a bit like kryptonite to our beloved sector.  It is the perfect political weapon to decimate social housing.  In a country obsessed with home ownership and asset based capital it is a highly potent mix of aspiration and access to cold hard cash.  It’s better than Help to Buy, it’s better than Shared Ownership and pretty much every other initiative designed to assist those with lower incomes acquire a property.  Why?  Because you can buy the property you are currently living in, in the neighbourhood where you have built up substantial local networks.  More importantly you can do so for a fraction of the cost of even the best low cost home ownership products out there.  Though frankly as a sector we have been bumbling through the provision of those products for years.  Even better you can sell it on for large profit after a few years, especially if you are in the right part of London and the South East.  It’s the postcode lottery (the good kind, not the one where your local hospital is shit).

Unsurprisingly it is bloody popular.  The figures below show just how many people have bought their council/housing association property through Right to Buy (and it’s watered-down cousin Right to Acquire).  So it is no surprise that the announcement last week that Right to Buy may be extended to include Housing Association properties has caused nothing short of alarm.  Though nowhere near its heyday peak of the early 1980s allowing Housing Association tenants to purchase their home under Right to Buy will give the figures below a significant kick up the bottom.

On a side note for a beautifully biting critique of our reaction as a sector and attempts to nullify other policies of the Coalition I do suggest you read Rob Gershon’s piece in 24 Dash.  The chap has a wonderful way with words.

Depressing Chart 2 – Right to Buy Sales – England

Right to Buy SalesIn addition to decimating social housing stock (see depressing graph 2 below) Right to Buy provides piss poor value for money to the tax payer.  As a policy it has the dubious honour of being paid for by the taxpayer twice.  The first time to build the property then, after it has been sold, we pay again as the property is rented back by the Local Authority that sold them, at higher rents.  For a (slightly) oldie but goldie report on this utterly stupid situation please see Tom Copley’s report.  His report, a year old today (Mazel Tov my friend) highlights the cost of Right to Buy in London, but it is a situation likely to be repeated up and down the UK.  You know this, I know this but does the general public care?  Probably not.

Depressing Chart 2 – Dwelling stock by tenure, UK, 1980 to 2012
Dwellings by Sector

As Colin Wiles notes (I really do need to write my blogs quicker) Right to Buy is bollocks on a number of levels.  It is an ideological weapon to suit the needs of those who wield it, a means by which to rid the country of a housing sector that has no real place in the vision of the UK held by those in Government.  Interestingly, for me at least, Right to Buy’s second lease of life raise a number of questions in relation to the long term direction of our sector.  Is this another nudge towards going it ‘alone’?  How would it work if housing associations were allowed to buy their way out of historic debt/grants?  Will this serve to discourage future uptake of grant (no grant, no strings, no Right to Buy)?

So what do we do?  Fight the inevitable an uphill battle, because in essence we need to convince the general public that social housing is worth fighting for.  But more critically that they should sacrifice the opportunity to make a quick buck in order to maintain it.  Telling the Treasury to keep its dirty mitts off the Right to Buy sales receipts would also be worth doing.  Cheeky sods.

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.

Talk less, listen more, stop with the biscuits and coffee!

The fluffy stuff might not always grab the headlines but it is an important part of who we are as social landlords.  We just need to get a little bit smarter about how we go about it.

The chances are when resident involvement is mentioned in a housing office eyes start to role over.  I can actually hear yours going now…stop, come back to me, this is worth it.  Just as hippies have often been bemoaned for having their hearts (if not their hygiene) in the right place, but ultimately being a bit ‘out there’ so too have all things involvementy (not sure that is a word but let’s go with it) been given the “ah bless ’em” treatment.

The notion of involvement in social housing is an incredibly woolly and vague concept.  This doesn’t help its perception as largely being a bolt-on to the mainstay of a landlord, i.e. rent, housing, repairs and maintenance.  Does involvement mean allowing residents on the board of the organisation (they often are)?  Does it mean residents taking part in procurement exercises (my pet hate)?  Does it mean dragging a few out to sign off the yearly annual report to residents (another bugbear of mine)?  Does it mean paying lip-service to engaging with residents in the hope that they stop all that moaning (depressingly this is occasionally the case)?

For me, the main problem with resident involvement is not so much the end game i.e. an organisation that is responsive to the needs and opinions of its customers.  But the way we go about it.  As a sector we still rely far too heavily on cost heavy, labour intensive approaches by which to engage and involve our customers.  With offices only open 8am – 6pm (give or take…) we seem to think that we will get a representative group of people to hold us to account and drive service improvement by having meetings mid-afternoon on a Wednesday (or any other week day for that matter).  This is of course utter bollocks.  What happens is that those who largely have the time, space etc to come along, do.  Consequently, residents groups are made up heavily by the grey brigade with a few out of work and long term sick customers thrown into the mix.  All bring valuable insight into the way in which we operate and how it affects them.  But they do not provide the whole picture, nor should they be expected to.  Just as I couldn’t possibly represent the voice of a generation neither can the the grey brigade fully speak for the people who so kindly keep us in our respective jobs.

That is not to say we should shut up shop and stop trying to engage and involve customers, quite the contrary.  We do however need to be more open to different ways of going about things.  A fine example of a non traditional approach can be seen at the Mecca of social media in housing, Bromford.  Although on paper not a great PR episode for the chaps and chapesses over in the Midlands, with long term issues of damp resulting in a resident driven online campaign.  The fact that a group of residents identified a problem, held the social landlord to account and ultimately set in motion the wheels to rectify the said problem (without the need for a midday meeting organised by the organisation) highlights my point.  We do not always have the answers, we should not always be the guide.  We should however listen.  The best companies in the wolf pit of the private sector adapt their offering according to feedback (both company and customer initiated).  We would do well to follow suit.

So how do we go about avoiding the old pitfalls of relying on a largely unrepresentative body of guys and gals?

  • Targeted communications – use the data your organisation has on your residents, want to know what first time customers think about their new property and the issues they face? Ask them. Look at who is involved and target the exact opposite.
  • Non meeting reliant feedback – you do not need to have residents in a meeting to get their opinion, facilitate remote working within your involved customer base and reap the results.
  • Do not just do 9-5 working – this means more weekend and evening meetings and yes more online based communication.
  • Expand your customer surveying approach(es) – it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that if loads of negative feedback is filtering through about a particular service area then you should do something about it.  But you have to ask people in order to get their opinions, or better yet listen when the phone/text/email/tweet their issues.  For god’s sake though do not just rely on paper surveys when asking people what they think!

Or maybe I’m just talking a load of gibberish and we should just make the same old mistakes (pro tip, we shouldn’t). For an interesting blog on this subject I suggest seeing Mr Paul Taylor’s latest offering.  Thought provoking as always.

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