Tenant view: A new deal for social housing? Here's my take on it.
David Yates, a tenant board member blogs for Tpas with his opinion and observation on the Social Housing Green Paper.
At last after many months and several Housing Ministers later the long wait is over The Green Paper on the Governments thoughts on Social Housing has been produced.
Well. What do I make of it?
In making these comments I want to say that it is based on my own thoughts and not influenced by anybody at CGA or the media. It may be controversial, it all depends on your viewpoint, but how you make comments on a Government paper without being political is difficult and I don’t want to hide away from it.
I think the lead up the presenting this paper sends messages to me that the Government are not fully committed to Social Housing as they didn’t leave the Minister in office long enough to have some stamp on the report, therefore it is difficult to see where it draws its influence from.
I did find the paper negative in many areas and lacking in commitment, although I do agree with a some of the contents and some positive steps that need support and promoting.
I am not going to comment on all the contents of the paper, just some of the points that jumped out at me as I was reading it.
The Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government the RT Hon James Brokenshire MP makes statements on the principles of the paper and it those that I wish to comment on.
He states that “Everybody deserves a decent, affordable and secure place to live”. If I remember it wasn’t that long ago that the Government voted down a motion in Parliament that would have just done that very thing.
Somehow I cannot believe that it is the Government’s aim, I only wish I did.
He goes on to say that “We have listened, and we agree major reform of Social Housing is needed” Well we shall see. I do hope so. Playing political football with people’s futures is not on.
MAINTENANCE, REPAIRS AND POOR LIVING CONDITIONS.
These things cost money, lots of it and I agree with the comment, but If you take money away from the provider then how can they keep up the standard of properties that they and the tenants desire.
If you think back to the governments U turn on rents. When the Chancellor introduced a rent reduction that cost providers vast amounts of money and threw their financial forecast into disarray and in many cases resulted in a reduction of services and loss of staff was the outcome.
Although maybe it was good news for the tenants it did so much damage to many areas around the country, slowed down development plans and made them think very seriously about the direction they wanted to proceed.
I do agree with this, we should expect good governance and financial viability that is what we strive to achieve and I am pleased to say that here at CGA we pride ourselves on our recent rating after the IDA. In this climate we have to make sure that residents are treated fairly and receive the services they expect. I support that viewpoint.
I agree with the comments on Empowering residents to give them the right tools to hold their landlords to account. But I want to see it go further than that. I want to see legislation making it mandatory that tenants are on Boards as equal representatives by right. That tenants have open access to information how their landlords are performing and give them a say in how their services are run and to challenge in a positive way.
Maybe that’s a bit radical, but it is needed to make sure landlords listen to the tenants and engage with them not just to consult.
I can say that I am against these thoughts. We have had league tables in the NHS and in Education and I don’t see that they have improved either I want to see housing providers doing their very best to their tenants and future tenants, not competing against other organisations. We want to share our best practices.
Oh how this topic is so divisive amongst the public. Those that live in Social Housing and those that don’t. The Secretary of State says “residents in Social Housing unfairly face stigma”, of course he is right. I have been to several Think Tank workshops on the very topic, with tenants from many parts of the country. We all agree that the stigma does not come from within but from outside the Social Housing sector.
We spend a lot of time talking about it within our circles, but its time we took that message to those who bring about the Stigma. The Paper’s like the Mail & Express and even the BBC and other tv channels. I am sure many of you remember the TV drama “Cathy Come Home”. Well what has changed since then?
Members of Parliament are just as bad with many of them being private landlords How could we expect them to support people in Social housing.
Taking tenant’s benefits away leads to hardship and evictions. How is this paper going to change all that?
I didn’t choose to live in rented accommodation but events in my life left me with little alternative even after 14 years in private rental. But you know I feel much better living in a social home and having a say in how the services are delivered. Why would I want anything less? You don’t get that with a mortgage or in private rental.
RIGHT TO BUY
Well the old hot potato still lingers on, political dogma at it worst. The housing stock of this country has been destroyed by many years of right to buy.
New housing stock has not been replaced by those lost. Many people choose to rent as they cannot afford to buy.
Terrie Alafat CEO of the CIH has said that private rental is now out of the reach of people on low incomes and 90% of the Local Housing Allowance fails to cover the cheapest rents.
Why oh why are we selling off our properties when there are so many people wanting a roof over their heads.
I am not against home ownership as I once had a mortgage. But for goodness sake let’s make provisions to house first those that need it the most. The very people that Housing Associations are all about. I feel so strongly about this subject.
Another topic I support and feel strongly about is a National Voice of tenants. A body that reflects the views of the tenants no matter where you come from.
We should be campaigning to the Government to insist that this comes about from the consultation paper, as a real constituted body with full backing and funding from the Government.
Well here are some of my views, yes as I said some controversial but I said it as I see it.
I am cynical of the Green Paper but having said that I will make every effort to have tenant’s views listened to and engage more with the Government and to support the positive points and try to change the negative ones.
Let us see what the Government does next. Maybe change the Housing Minister?