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Social housing: A case of 'more from less'?

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Mark Easton | 12:28 UK time, Friday, 22 October 2010

There have been some pretty gloomy predictions about the impact of the government's cuts to welfare and housing budgets for Britain's poorest communities.

Families forced from their homes, forced out of our cities, forced into debt, forced onto the streets.

Certainly we are about to see radical reform of the benefits system and social housing, but should we believe that the consequences are unremittingly negative?

Housing estate


The coalition's argument is that it is possible to get "more from less" public cash, and that is the trick demanded by apparently contradictory ambitions in social housing. This week's spending review has slashed the amount government spends on grants to construct such homes but simultaneously promises to increase the number built: the capital budget reduced by 75% and an additional 150,000 properties in the next four years.

The explanation for the apparent paradox is really the driving force behind the coalition's entire plan for Britain - that if the public sector withdraws, other sectors will move in to fill the vacuum and, freed from heavy-handed state controls, can actually do a better job.

"We've been planning for this moment for three years," David Montague from L&Q housing tells me. "It is a time of liberation".

Mr Montague is one of a new breed of social entrepreneur, chief executive of a housing association committed to helping provide homes for the poorest families.

But instead of just holding his hands out and pleading for public cash to build new social housing, he is devising ways of attracting private investment.

While the government's plans to charge some new tenants much higher rents have led to claims that vulnerable families will be forced out of social housing, people like David
Montague argue the opposite.

He estimates that in London, for instance, a third of those on the waiting list could afford to pay rents much closer to market rates. The freedom to charge some tenants more, creates an income stream against which he can borrow to build more homes for the poorest families.

There is great excitement at the potential of this approach, big number calculations being conducted on the back of whatever passes for a fag packet these days.

One social housing analyst has sent me his workings:

"£1pw on rent = £234 million pa (if social homes = 4.5m). Capitalised at 6% this would be worth almost £4bn. So £2pw = £8bn, £3pw = £12bn and so on. This assumes that all providers can borrow without limit at 6%."

Of course councils cannot "borrow without limit" (a source of some irritation) but housing associations and developers are not so constrained and the potential is huge.

When David Montague at L&Q recently sought £330m in private capital for a mixed-income development, he had offers of more than a billion. "Social housing in the UK is flavour of the month with global investors right now," he tells me. "With demand high and a guaranteed income, they are falling over each other to put money in."

He showed me round a gleaming development in Greenwich which exemplifies the new model for social housing. Some of the homes are for the poorest families who will be charged low rents. Others are reserved for people who can afford "intermediate" rents, up to 80% of private sector levels. The owners may also offer tenants the chance to buy some or all of their home with shared mortgage deals. Those paying more, subsidise the rents of those in most need.

It is a similar argument from some local authorities. At a meeting in Westminster to launch Sunderland's economic "masterplan" this week, I heard Labour leaders explain how they were quite happy for the housing association which now manages all the city's former council houses to offer tenants a deal to buy a share of their home without the need for a deposit or a traditional mortgage. There was a palpable buzz as they discussed how they might look for other innovative ways to raise capital and keep costs down.

I was particularly struck by an idea that good quality social housing could be built in the same way McDonalds constructs its restaurants - in a factory. "You don't build cars outside in the street, so why do we think that is the best way to build houses?" one builder asked. He claimed that a family home could be produced for roughly £40,000 including all materials and labour.

"Won't you just get ghastly pre-fabs?" I asked. Apparently not. In fact, council leaders only concern was that, should such an idea come to pass, the factory should be in Sunderland.

Conservative councillors in Westminster are also rejecting warnings that welfare caps, the end of secure tenancies for new tenants and cuts to housing benefit will "create ghettos of deprivation and affluence" in central London.

Tory housing lead Philippa Roe tells me "that is not how it will work at all". She argues that, while a relatively few large welfare-dependent families renting privately may have to move to cheaper neighbourhoods, this is no different from the situation middle-income families are in. They cannot afford central London prices, so they commute in.

"Why should they have to do that while others who don't contribute to the local economy can live in the heart of the capital?"

But won't the new rules, allowing councils to evict new tenants if their income rises, turn public housing estates into pools of poverty? No, she tells me. The new flexibility in social housing will allow her to offer the property at a higher rent and use that income to provide homes for the poorest in the borough.

What strikes me is that, despite big cuts to council and housing budgets, there is enthusiasm where one might expect there to be gloom.

Last week I attended an international summit on social housing in The Hague. Representatives from over 20 countries from around the world attended and almost all were facing a similar squeeze to public funding.

At the end of two days discussing the huge challenges they were confronting, I asked delegates whether they felt optimistic or pessimistic. To my surprise, and perhaps to theirs, a significant majority were upbeat.

The reason, I think, is that they had realised that the sector has the capability and creativity to devise new ways of solving old problems.

Or as the coalition might put it: "getting more from less".


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  • 1. At 1:15pm on 22 Oct 2010, CommentFromMac wrote:

    There has been a lot of talk of how the housing benefit cut attacks the poor. I'm not pretending it doesn't but surely basic economics of supply and demand indicates that it is the landlord that will pay too. So if a landlord rents a house for £x per month, but now housing benefit is reduced some people will try to move to cheaper housing. Now there isn't a supply of richer people waiting to move in to the more expensive housing so the landlords will need to drop their rents.

    This is what happened to the house prices in the 80's. The government removed the mortgage tax allowance and we all screamed but all that really happened is that house prices dropped to compensate. It wasn't pleasant if you have a mortgage already (I was one) but in the long view much more preferable to the government just lining the pockets of house owners, just as in the long run this will be better than the government (and so tax payer) lining the pockets of the landlords. The houses will still be there with roughly the same people in them just less tax pounds in landlords' pockets.

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  • 2. At 1:48pm on 22 Oct 2010, Les wrote:

    I bet it came as a huge surprise that people were upbeat, if only the BBC would stop frightening people with their reporting.

    All I am hearing is, this "might" be the end of the world, this "could" be the end of the world, this might,could, and not forgetting "possibly" be the end of the world as we know it!!! we are all going to lose out jobs and of course there will be a double dip. Is it too much to ask for balanced reporting?

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  • 3. At 1:51pm on 22 Oct 2010, CommentFromMac wrote:

    There may also be an issue with the approach here. We need to stop thinking of people on higher incomes as cash-cows; that really would be unfair.
    Should there be wealth redistribution? 100% yes! The market simply does not come up with the right answers without some help sometimes.
    Should the increased rents for families that can afford it be used to "encourage" them to leave social housing so that other people can benefit? Yes 100%.
    Should we use this as a mechanism for wealth redistribution? I think we would need to be very careful. We are redistributing wealth to the poor from people not much better off.
    Although by no means perfect the only fair way to redistribute wealth is through income tax and benefits. Surely we don't want all these individual schemes trying to put their finger in the pie.
    This is why many people voted Gordon Brown out. Where as you MIGHT argue that each individual scheme does the right thing if you look at the aggregated effect of all the little schemes in wealth redistribution then the cumulative effect is grossly unfair. This is why people say its better to stay out of work because cumulatively they are given a big hand out.
    This is also why middle England gets so angry in that they can see that some people on benefits get given an enormous amount when you add it all up.
    Please, let's leave wealth redistribution where we can see it and nurture it, in the tax and benefit system, not buried all over the place causing a lot of bad feeling and ending up in it getting taken away.

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  • 4. At 2:15pm on 22 Oct 2010, Graham wrote:

    This is a really interesting article showing that the end of the world is not yet quite nigh, which I hope will get wider broadcast on the main 6 and 10 o'clock news this evening.

    The acid test will be, will it?

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  • 5. At 2:38pm on 22 Oct 2010, watriler wrote:

    "The new flexibility in social housing will allow her to offer the property at a higher rent and use that income to provide homes for the poorest in the borough." This is the 21st century version of Mrs Thatcher's claim that selling council houses would enable and lead to local authorities building more for those who need them. They did not.

    So would those on the waiting list who had been subject to a means test at some point and revealed an income sufficient to pay a much higher rent would get preferential treatment so that the HA could enjoy the enhanced income stream that the construction funding was predicated on? Would existing tenants be periodically 'swept' for evidence that they too would be able to pay more.

    Is it not inevitable you would bifurcate the waiting list into standard and premium applicants. Are we sure that poor aspiring tenants would not be steered to the poorer property as 'premium' tenants paying the higher rate may feel they should have the choice of better property not forgetting they are likely to be more articulate and educated.

    By all means adopt innovative and cheaper methods of house production but in our bigger cities where do you put them - assemble flats on Wanstead Flats!
    We must not ignore the perverting influence of the interests of the HA management who run organisations not far removed from plc's and profit and loss bottom lining where margin and revenue building grabs the attention.

    Tory Councillor Roe perfectly illustrates the dark undercurrent of resentment and weird envy of people worse off than themselves. Social class cleansing - the retribution of wealth!

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  • 6. At 3:09pm on 22 Oct 2010, kaybraes wrote:

    Supplimenting rents to private landlords has always been a ridiculous concept. If the landlords tried to rent at prices not supplimented by housing benefit, they would either go out of business or have to reduce rents to an acceptable level. This would mean cheaper rented accommodation, less demand for buy to rent and a general reduction in the inflated price of housing.

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  • 7. At 3:21pm on 22 Oct 2010, Jim wrote:

    Mark, I think you need to adopt a more sceptical approach when people like Philippa Roe tell you that they have hit upon a wizard wheeze for increasing housing supply for both rich and poor.

    The pressure on the housing stock in central London is so intense and the land available for new construction so small that there are very real trade-offs: massively increasing the rent of a council flat will certainly earn the council more money and it is likely to benefit a middle- or upper-income household to the disadvantage of a poorer one, but there is absolutely no guarantee in law or in practice that this increased income will ever be used to provide new social housing.

    What is most likely to happen is that they will slowly convert council housing into 'intermediate housing' and then pretend to be surprised that there is nowhere in Westminster to build new social housing with the extra income. At worst, they'll use to reduce council tax or fund other services. At best, the money will be spent building new social housing in cheaper places like Barking. The end result? Exactly the segregation of rich and poor which Philippa Roe rather unconvincly says she doesn't want, even while welcoming the prospect of poorer households being priced out of Westminster.

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  • 8. At 4:50pm on 22 Oct 2010, jonah_and_the_whale wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 9. At 5:02pm on 22 Oct 2010, Steve wrote:

    "You don't build cars outside in the street, so why do we think that is the best way to build houses?"

    My neighbours are "social tenants". Unfortunately, they do build cars outside in the street, and under my house, until late at night.

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  • 10. At 5:11pm on 22 Oct 2010, jonah_and_the_whale wrote:

    The future for "social" housing is indeed bleak. What we are witnessing is the end of the social housing model as the huge new RSL's become finance driven developers.

    The markets have indeed won. The notion of a responsible community orientated landlord has been eroded by both main political parties. It is depressing to note that whilst the last Labour government constantly talked about diversity it did nothing in practical terms to encourage any diversity with regard to creating a genuine alternative social model of housing.

    Chief Executives such as the one at Q&L are as much responsible for the housing crisis as the politicians and the financiers. You wouldn't trust a banker to rebuild the finance system so why would you trust the megalomaniac new super housing associations to dictate the future of so called low cost housing.

    Mr Eaton may wish to recall that it was these very same organisations which blindly created new social ghettoes and encouraged extremely regressive key worker schemes which saw massive housing subsidies redistributed to the relatively wealthy and privileged.

    I suggest that if Mr Easton wants to comment on the future of social housing he should take a rather more balanced view. Or is he content to regurgitate the same nonsense which the "social housing" establishemnet has been harking on about for the last twenty years. Anyone care to remember what happened to Quality Street?

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  • 11. At 5:26pm on 22 Oct 2010, ArthursAshes wrote:

    It actually looks like a two tier social housing system is to be created. Correct me if wrong, but I believe that both the Prime Minister and Chancellor stated that the new rules to be introduced applied to new tenants of social housing? I assume therefore that the 8 million that currently live in social housing will continue with their old protected tenancies and wil not be subject to the new 80% of the current market rent rule which would dramatically increase the rent for many social tenants?

    If this is so then clearly a two tier system is being created with people under the older system having more protection and security of tenure and therefore they will be less inclined to move. Their rents will also be substantially lower than new social housing tenants if the 80% rule doesn't apply to them. The Tories did the same when they got rid of the old protected tenancies in the private sector back in the 1980's, introducing 6 month tenancies which give tenants fewer rights and security of tenure. Back then, as long as you stayed a tenant under the old system you were protected, but as soon as you moved the new 6 month tenancy rules applied. Looks like the Tories are pulling the same trick with social housing.

    As for the private housing sector picking up the slack, the problem here is that the margins for profit for many landlords, especially BTL types are quite low considering they often overpaid for property during the recent housing bubble. Many may be even more reluctant now to take on tenants in receipt of housing benefit considering this is also to be cut. And if people have to move to areas where rents are lower, surely that will only put pressure on supply in those places and result in higher rents?

    I'm happy to bet that those 150,000 houses will not be built. New Labour totally failed when it comes to social housing and I doubt whether the tories will care too much to keep to their promises. Chances are it will soon be forgotten when Osborne steps up to make tax cuts just before the next election.

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  • 12. At 8:15pm on 22 Oct 2010, juliet50 wrote:

    Nice to see some optimism amongst all the doom and gloom and the scheme sounds promising. Hopefully this will happen across the country. I live in the South West, although not in social housing, but many people especially young families cannot afford accommodation because it is an expensive area to live. If developments like these get built then this may help the housing shortage. I still think something should be done about all the empty homes you see around though. Can they not be developed or the owners either penalised for leaving them empty and abandoned or give them an incentive to sell to developers for affordable housing?

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  • 13. At 9:06pm on 22 Oct 2010, runciter wrote:

    Why can't the BBC get social housing tenure changes straight?

    The changes to social housing tenure will NOT result in people being thrown out of their council houses. Nor will they end lifetime tenure (incidentally introduced by Mrs T, not Karl Marx). What IS happening is the introduction of a new form of tenure, to sit alongside the other forms of tenure that are already in place. This new tenure will be an option for social landlords to use for new tenancies only and will not affect existing ones in any way. Local Authorities will be free to choose themselves whether to introduce this new tenure in their local area.

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  • 14. At 9:06pm on 22 Oct 2010, VronHarry wrote:

    It is good that innovative ways of tackling housing and housing issues are being looked at, it is also reasonable that a tenant/s who find himself/selves with an income increased to the extent that they could afford a higher rent could be asked to do that. However, at the end of the day, just as one and one makes two, there will always be, in a British system based on capitalism and market forces, the haves and the have-nots. What happens if a tenant's improved income suddenly drops because they lose their job? That sort of situation is bound to happen. It is wrong to create insecurity and anxiety with proposals like being able to evict tenants who become better off, what about laws on secure tenancies, I presume they will be done away with! To my mind, this is more about invigorating the housing market than anything else, especially as there is as usual, the 'opportunity to buy your own house.' It also reeks of Victorian attitudes towards 'the deserving poor' - social housing is a necessity, not a favour. In our society everything is relative; what is given with one hand is taken away with the other and always will be. I lived in housing association accommodation for many years and eventually bought a little house under a transferrable discount scheme. I have had nothing but criticism and terrible resentment ever since, from almost all sections of society, and frankly wish I had stayed in HA accommodation with a landlord who for very practical social reasons provided low, reasonable rents to needy tenants and who did not permit their properties to be privately bought. Policies like the ones now being suggested will be divisive and create even more layers of resentment in our already angered society.

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  • 15. At 01:49am on 23 Oct 2010, Chris Greaves wrote:

    It is imossible to get "more for less". It is absurd to suggest that we can, and has been the mistake since the Thatcher years. Nothing has been learned since then and the Tories are still peddling the same ideology. You get what you pay for - if you want a Rolls-Royce and not a Morris Minor you have to pay for it. You cannot get more than you pay for. If you pay less, you will get less.

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  • 16. At 08:29am on 23 Oct 2010, polly_gone wrote:

    Am I correct in assuming Mr Montague was found on an archaeological dig in Victorian London or even Mediaval Nottingham.

    Let's examine London rental values to determine if they are 'fair' or simply what landlords can get away with because demand exceeds supply?

    Council housing was built because it was a necessity; it is still a necessity but Council's cannot afford to build houses. We have the charade of super-duper-bigger-than-life, and no doubt larger than anything the Cameron family have ever seen in a private viewing, Hamkenwest which is into refuse but not into housing.

    Yeah Cameron's brain cell must have found a mirror.

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  • 17. At 1:02pm on 23 Oct 2010, nautonier wrote:

    There are many aspects to social housing which is part of a larger rented housing sector.

    Requiring housing tenants to pay 80% of market rent is a good idea as is putiing a maxiumum amount on housing benefit.

    Currently, the market rentals of housing are distorted by housing benefits subsidies and which is a huge distortion and causes inflation in the private rented sector and is a massive disadvantage to those who work in the private sector, on low wages and have to compete with govt subsidised welfare tenants and who frequently able to 'outbid them' on rent levels for the higher rents asked by the super greedy bank financed landlords.

    The situation really is a case of getting more from less and should be quite a bit fairer for those who do actually work and are struggling to pay their rent on low wage levels.

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  • 18. At 4:10pm on 23 Oct 2010, AndyS wrote:

    One fundamental flaw in the argument for having massive social housing projects and that is criminality. You only have to look around at the estates today to see how peoples day to day lives are.

    Yes, you will get good and excellent tenants, but there are always a few bad apples and the whole thing starts to go downhill. What is needed is a mixture of public and private housing and a good vetting procedure and not just do what the councils do and let anyone in.

    That is the only way of starting to get rid of the stigma and problems caused with social housing. The mistakes of the late 50's and 60's need to be learned and soon. Otherwise like everything else with British Governments we will just go round in circles.

    I would also insist that every house built is as much eco friendly as possible and built to a high standard, with space to breathe. Not the shoebox type and cram as many people in as possible. That again, would just stir up trouble for the future. It's also all well and good government giving developers some sort of free reign, there does need to be specific criteria when putting these projects together. Even things like making sure each household is connected to broadband.

    We have an opportunity here, unlike the governments already missed opportunities to develop something for the long term and for people to live their lives.

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  • 19. At 7:52pm on 23 Oct 2010, cool_brush_work wrote:

    PM Cameron said today the 'cuts' in Public Spending were fair as the 'wealthiest' will pay a higher percentge.

    PM Cameron is a liar.

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  • 20. At 07:26am on 24 Oct 2010, clamdip lobster claws wrote:

    A man from the USA recently ran on "The rent is too damn high" platform.
    People pay the rent however exhorbitant because its one step away from the street. With everyone losing their job, who will be paying these so called medium rents that are already "Too damn high." If I were a developer, I'd build inexpensive living spaces that can be bought by typical,average families on a typical, average budget. I wouldn't hold out for the high rollers who never really stay. One developer in Los Angeles recently committed suicide after his huge development project went bust or maybe it was a mob hit. Developers should really crunch the numbers in this economy.

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  • 21. At 10:52am on 24 Oct 2010, cool_brush_work wrote:

    Deputy PM Nick Clegg is reported to have said he 'searched his conscience' about the Coalition Government's huge 'cuts' in Public Spending.

    Clegg is a liar.

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  • 22. At 12:07pm on 24 Oct 2010, Not Buzz Windrip wrote:

    Any activity in house building is helpful to recovery and this should be number one priority. The US only really pulled out of the 30s Depression when they activated activity in US domestic housebuilding. Any supply of new housing helps restore the supply-demand balance needed in the housing market ie reduces prices.

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  • 23. At 3:43pm on 24 Oct 2010, Framer wrote:

    Houses for £40,000 are a nonsense even if that figure excludes land.

    How many relatively more expensive houses built in the 1930s are still occupied compared to those built in the 1960s?

    It is ultimately cheaper to build more costly homes.

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  • 24. At 6:46pm on 24 Oct 2010, cool_brush_work wrote:

    Chris Greaves

    Re #15

    'You only get what you pay for' & " less get less."

    Unless of course You happen to be a senior British Bank or Investment Fund Executive.

    Then, after you've PAID with other peoples' monies & risked & gambled & LOST in a greed-driven frenzy for ever-greater bonus enormous sums of ordinary peoples' money plus those of institutions holding ordinary peoples' money, then (despite World Record losses) You get a mansion in the countryside, a multi-million pound pay-off, the latest most expensive limousine, and the unending satisfaction of knowing that whilst You were culpable in every single way for the reckless bankrupting of companies, the unemployment of millions, the social deprivation of multiple millions of ordinary people, You were not even questioned by Police or any authority and GOT AWAY WITH THE WHOLE THING SCOT-FREE & FILTHILY, DESPICABLY RICH INTO THE BARGAIN!

    So Chris Greaves, You see sometimes it is possible to Pay less and get MUCH, MUCH, MUCH, MUCH, MUCH MORE than others!

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  • 25. At 9:02pm on 24 Oct 2010, John Ellis wrote:

    What broke the social housing/private housing was LHA, some strange person though it was a really good idea to base rent on rooms regardless of size and condition of house. This saw many rents double over night, mine went from £465 pcm to £725 pcm as soon as it was introduced. This in turn forced us out of our 'family' home and into our new one.
    Now not that i minded to much kids grown etc etc cheaper bills etc etc..
    Now we are to see the back of the housing market broken in the Uk starting with London, by forceful retracting rents down to old levels many many buy to let(which is morally wrong) will be forced to sell up as they will no longer have fat rents to profit from. Within a few months of this the first market crashes will start happening as people with run down high rent properties start to loose rent as the amounts will no longer be allowed, but due to the age/nature/repair of the property will not attract working private rentals.
    The second part of this will be a lack of low paid workers in london as the average priced houses will now be full of well paid working people or stand empty waiting to be reposed or auctioned off, as the mean rent will be to low to house benefit claimants/tax credited families especially with housing rent caps applied across all claimants working or not.
    My current rent is £6000 pa for a 2 bed house in a very run down area in Wirral, were the council is bailing out single apartment builds that have gone broke in the current downturn.
    I feel very sorry for all the people who will be forced to move or sell up because of this but in the long run it may just get many more first time buyers into cheap affordable housing.

    Once the housing market crashes properly from this...

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  • 26. At 09:38am on 25 Oct 2010, tonyparksrun wrote:

    God how I hate the word "innovative". If it seems too good to be true then it usually is.

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  • 27. At 09:53am on 25 Oct 2010, jon112dk wrote:

    Reading this I get images of some spiv licking his lips at thoughts of private planes and mansions in the caribbean for himself rather than modest houses for the poor in Peckham.

    I wonder how long it will be before we see the collapsing financial schemes, 'this house is rotting' expose on panorama and billion pound tax payer bail outs?

    (Prefabricated houses - had them in other countries for years, no fundamental problem. They can be of exceptional quality if you pay for that - doubt if these ones will be exceptional, but that is not an unavoidable consequence of prefabrication.)

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  • 28. At 2:48pm on 25 Oct 2010, easy_as_pi wrote:

    From the article:

    "He estimates that in London, for instance, a third of those on the waiting list could afford to pay rents much closer to market rates."

    Is it too much to ask for the author to actually check whether this claim is even remotely true? The figures produced by London councils suggest it isn't. Unless the author has identified an alternative reliable source of empirical data suggesting otherwise this is little more than pure fantasy. A fantasy the likes of Mr. Montague - who clearly fancy themselves more as property developers than social housing providers - are clearly more than happy to push in order to blind the general public to the truth.

    That truth being that the vast majority (and by vast I mean much, much more than 2/3) of existing social housing tenants have problems paying their rents as they are now, let alone should they be set at 80% of the market rate, without the assistance of housing benefit.

    So what will happen when their rents are hiked up to 80% of the market rate? It doesn't take much imagination to realise that the most likely outcome is that they will simply become ever more dependant on their housing benefit (which the government have decided to cut anyway). And yet we are supposedly trying to end the "dependency culture" ...

    What we actually appear to be doing is finding ever more innovative ways to shift money from central and local government to the private sector. And housing associations are most definitely the private sector, given that they are largely unaccountable to either their tenants, the local authorities in which they operate or central government.

    As for the continent - I'm not surprised they're feeling confident given that social housing providers on the continent don't appear to be blinded by potential (often illusory) profits and actually appear intent on providing decent housing for not only those on low incomes but those on modest and median incomes too (c.f. Germany where social housing is not stigmatised as it is in the UK).

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  • 29. At 6:03pm on 25 Oct 2010, Piglet3 wrote:

    Without sounding patronising, I'd like to thank the contributors to this particular blog - all very interesting, thoughtful comments.

    Three things which haven't been mentioned occur to me:

    a) Financing can be risky so be careful it doesn't all go pear shaped

    b) The Govt. discouraged many private landlords by giving housing benefit directly to the tenant, although I understand it might help them to take on more responsibility

    c) The quality of housing stock may improve, but at the expense of the poor.

    d) The criticism of the Labour policy many benefit claimants, like most of us, adjusted to their increased income and will find it hard re-adjusting to the new reality (which was always there, but they were sheltered from).

    e) Things will only improve from the poor once this country has sufficient jobs for them, which I think will only come if tax is reduced for the rich who create jobs by investing from abroad. That places me right of centre politically. At the moment manufacturing jobs on a large scale are what we need and I think the Coallition putting this to the fore of their political agenda. I feel very sorry about the illusion Labour created as many were drawn in by it and now have a huge problem adjusting to the new reality.

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  • 30. At 9:27pm on 25 Oct 2010, feargyll wrote:

    So Mark some guy you know thinks you can build a suitable dwelling, service it,get all the necessary consents including complying with building standards, carbon reduction requirements etc and buy the land to site it on for £40,000? Prove it then. Lets see one that's been built in a factory or anywhere else for that matter because I don't think it can be done unless its the size of a kennel and a pretty small one at that. I bet someone will say he did not say that. He said he could build a perfectly good house for that amount. That might be the case but in reality you have to put it somewhere permanently and service it otherwise its a mobile caravan or a tent. Perhaps that what is intended. Temporary dwellings that can be moved on when the smell gets too bad or the residents prove to be objectionable.

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  • 31. At 1:29pm on 26 Oct 2010, JPublic wrote:

    I beleive that while people should have the right to buy their own house, prices should NOT be left to market forces for most types of home.

    The UK economy now has a certain degree of reliance upon house prices and the number of houses being sold. The issue I have is that homes(or at least shelter) are an essential part of human survival and I beleive it is wrong for those with wealth to essentially buy homes only then to either rent them out at 'the going market rate' or as high as people can pay, as I call it. Or, they sell at a large profit.

    I feel this to be wrong. So many people end up over-stretching themselves just to keep a roof over their heads. Their lives for many years are close to the poverty and bankrupt lines but in the meantime, they cannot afford even minor luxuries but are expected by their employers to work in often stressful conditions and long hours at that.

    I beleive for most types of home that prices should be governed and there should be capping and taxation to prevent profiteering in this sector to enable more people the ability to both buy and lead more financially secure lives.

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  • 32. At 2:52pm on 26 Oct 2010, Kickstart wrote:

    28. At 2:48pm on 25 Oct 2010, easy_as_pi wrote:

    That truth being that the vast majority (and by vast I mean much, much more than 2/3) of existing social housing tenants have problems paying their rents as they are now, let alone should they be set at 80% of the market rate, without the assistance of housing benefit.

    Problem is that paying more in housing benefit just pushes the rents up further (which pushes house prices up). We support social housing and so make it more necessary. Those who need it gain nothing, the tax payer loses out from higher welfare payments and higher house prices. The only person gaining is the supplier of housing.

    Take a more robust attitude with what is an acceptable level for rent and there is a good chance the rental property pool will shrink (even if that is just while the landlords bankruptcy goes through and the properties are sold) and risk a crash in house prices (possibly not a bad idea for house prices to drop in real terms but a crash would be destructive.

    Housing benefit should reflect the market rent not be dominant enough to affect market rents. But it is a bit late for that now.

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  • 33. At 3:52pm on 26 Oct 2010, DibbySpot wrote:

    Sorry for this but if you do not work you have no right to live in a high quality house on £400/week housing benefit. Those who do this need to understand they have no god given right to live in a house they cannot afford to buy.

    If poorly paid Pölish workers can buy a house in the UK then so can those unwilling to work. If they cannot live in a central London location move and commute like the rest of us.

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  • 34. At 12:54pm on 27 Oct 2010, ardvaar wrote:

    of course everyone has a right to decent housing.

    The cunning plan from mr montague simply describes the council house model. That is, as long as there is no right to buy, if houses are built and they last for more than the morgage period, the rents eventualy cross-subsidise new build. Its called rent pooling.

    The rest of the article is just fluff

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  • 35. At 3:02pm on 27 Oct 2010, Simonm wrote:

    The whole thing is based on an assumption that people + house = family in home. Having been a landlord for some years, my experience is single mother + baby + house on her own = lonely / social problem / debt. (new house please I've trashed this one)

    I would refocus away from flats and houses towards real social care. Of the new mother, teen, youth, homeless .. whatever. What they need is to be invited in to a community where on the one hand they can get support, but retain at least a room or suite with privacy. However better this is, the prospect of a free house / flat will always win out, however much it is the worse choice.

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  • 36. At 11:12pm on 27 Oct 2010, mausberg wrote:

    A few years ago i lived in a studio flat with my pregnat girlfriend. I ended up in a situation living in a studio flat with me and my girlfriend and our baby. the other flats in our block were all brand new 1 bedroom flats. I was the only resident working paying £780 for a studio the other residents were single males on benifits with their rents 1300. I remember speaking with the estate agents and they told me the landlords have 2 types of rent thoes for working and thoes on benifits. either way i could not afford to live in a 1 bedroom flat their. I have moved since to a cheaper area but i believe its not fair thoes not working can live in brand new flats and not have any worry.

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  • 37. At 2:52pm on 28 Oct 2010, ardvaar wrote:

    Simonm admits that he rents out houses to vulnerable people, giving them no security of tenure and taking a nice wee personal profit I wonder if he and his family would be happy enough to be forced to share a home. I note he concedes that it would be ok to grant them at least one private room.

    More high quality well-managed Council housing is the answer here

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  • 38. At 6:54pm on 28 Oct 2010, Perdita141 wrote:

    I worked in social housing for many years (mainly Council) and regularly witnessed the abuse of benefits and property (e.g. claiming on two properties and sub-letting one) Admittedly, not all tenants do this and there are some good ones, but most of the cost involved in social housing management is in chasing arrears, repairing damage to property, and pursuing the abusers through legal channels. In the end, I gave up with the constant frustration of the endless cycle of abuse of 'the system' and I am glad to see that at last, something is being done to tackle it.

    We all make choices in our lives about how to spend our income. Be it children, holidays, housing, food, fags, booze etc. but that does not mean that those who make poor choices should be subsidised by those who do not, either through the benefits system or subsidised housing. Yes, there sould be a 'safety net' of decent housing for those who really need it, but the current system does require revision.

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  • 39. At 11:09am on 31 Oct 2010, dougwm1 wrote:

    So the Government in the name of the people who elected them are going to cut the level of housing benefit.
    So 5.000 or 10,000 or 20,000 families are going to have to move to cheaper accommodation.
    So the landlords of these properties are going to have upwards of 20,000 empty houses - dream on - when this happens you can guarantee that these rents will fall to accommodate the new requirementsn for Housing Benefit.

    The landlords are not stupid and will adjust their rents to suit the new circumstances - if they do not then who will rent all of these surplus properties at the exorbitant rents now being paid via Housing Benefit.

    NO ONE is the answer there are not 20,000 families waiting out there to pay these rents without Housing Benfit meeting the cost.

    Who pays for Housing Benefit - YOU DO the average taxpayer who has to struggle to make ends meet - Who benefits from Housing Benefits - the landlords amongst whom are a large number of your elected representatives.

    Are we as taxpayers going to be upset by this - NO - one can only question why it was not done sooner - Why it took a change of Government to change the Housing Benefit rules ?????

    Maybe someone from the Labour ranks who is a Landlord would like to respond .

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  • 40. At 09:22am on 04 Nov 2010, diane wrote:

    This is nothing new. When the Tories were in last they sold off council houses to tenants dramatically reducing the pool of social housing such that homelessness and waiting lists were becoming soially toxic and they had to be seen to be doing something. The Tory government turned to the markets to address the social housing gap. I got a job in one of the property companies set up to create in the private sector to build and create social housing. Money was raised on the markets and 200 odd housing companies were developed. Each company was chaired by mainly Tory MPs whose only responsibility was to sit in on Board meetings in London a couple of times a year while the property company sorted everything out. IT WAS A REAL GRAVY TRAIN. The companies built a housing stock within a set time limit (each company had a life - it was a scheme, package to create profit for investors) and quotas achieved would benefit from a government bonus. Profits were tax free and guaranteed. money flowed like water and so did champagne - it was a type of 'hedgefund' operation. Smart but ugly. The strange thing we never saw properties at all in reality, it was all done on paper and our endeavours revolved around reams and reams of reports, minutes and correspondence built up, each company having a file and a 'housing association' type front to meet the criteria. End plan was for stock to be transferred to charities who would use them for social housing. Some of the companies turned into enterprise housing companies who became landlords, and charity status maneouvered to meet the criteria. In the end it was a REAL GRAVY TRAIN. I don't know what happened to the housing stock after I left but I do know is that a lot of very rich people made a very large amount of tax free money on the backs of the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society. A lot of Tory MPs made a lot of money too chairing the board and heaven knows what. It's the same sort of stuff just being recycled from the Thatcher era.

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  • 41. At 09:27am on 04 Nov 2010, diane wrote:

    Why aren't the Tories targeting landlords in stead of the those people who use social housing to live? No, the Tories want an easy prey and it's easier to beat working people into the ground than tackle rich and powerful landlords of which there are many in their ranks.

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  • 42. At 7:51pm on 10 Nov 2010, joskin69 wrote:

    Check out gifting of land by councils and trusts, grab thee a bundle of straw and a few handfuls of cob and hope that the big bad wolf stays away.
    The future of housing?

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  • 43. At 6:56pm on 22 Jan 2011, mamaku pucho wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 44. At 7:13pm on 22 Jan 2011, mamaku pucho wrote:

    I cannot imagine a worse Registered Social landlord than mine -read the comments of George Galloway in Social Unity when he visited the Exmouth Estate in April 2009

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  • 45. At 7:24pm on 22 Jan 2011, mamaku pucho wrote:

    George Galloway was shocked when he visited the Exmouth Estate in April 2009 -250 broken windows left unrepaired,evidence of widespread vandalism and graffiti,entrance doors left unrepaired for months , scaffolding erected without workers working on them for months. We suffered untold suffering but very few people knew the complaint procedures because our previous landlord the LBTH gave us no cause for complaint . Read the article as it appeared in Social Unity in George Galloway's own words.

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  • 46. At 7:29pm on 22 Jan 2011, mamaku pucho wrote:

    Read what 30 Chelmer residents had to say about my landlord and the suffering they endured due to my landlord's lack of proper maintenence .

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  • 47. At 7:34pm on 22 Jan 2011, mamaku pucho wrote:

    Read how a middle aged woman with multiple sclerosis was treated callously by my registered social landlord

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  • 48. At 7:44pm on 22 Jan 2011, mamaku pucho wrote:

    Read about the suffering of a woman in Halstead who discovered maggots in her kitchen in a house owned by my registered social landlord and see the maggots for yourselves.

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  • 49. At 7:53pm on 22 Jan 2011, mamaku pucho wrote:

    Read the article in the Halstead Gazette about a poor lady from Halstead who discovered to her dismay maggots all over her kitchen -the house is owned by my registered social landlord -and just imagine my own plight for the past five years under the very same landlord. Registered Social Landlords never again!!! They are a law unto themselves.

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  • 50. At 9:01pm on 28 Jan 2011, sheila coleman wrote:

    I thoroughly approve of the housing benefit cuts and hope next year they will be cut again it seems far too many landlords have been lining their pockets and all with Labours encouragement. Instead of building more housing we need to cut the poulation, for a start stop encouraging immigration by not allowing them any benefits, aswell as sending back to their own country at their own cost. Only family allowance for a maximum of two children per family any extra children should be taxed. There are over a million empty houses which could be made into one or two bed flats for people who are allowed benefits, to me they should not be housed in a three bed house if there is only one person or a couple. For every house that is built extra polution occurs or extra houses are flooded every time we get heavy rain. The same should apply to offices and businesses as there are so many empty factories etc but planning allows thousands of acres of land to be dug up of course the result is yet more flooding aswell as trees dying through pollution. Lets stop pandering to builders, planners and people who think its their right to have far too many children for the tax payer to pay for. If building work stops it might, just might help our envirement and wildlife to to recover a bit.

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  • 51. At 12:29pm on 29 Jan 2011, TruthAboutExmouthEstate wrote:

    Not all registered landlords are the same; some, like ours, took over troubled council estate and extensively regenerated it.

    If you'd like to see some photographs of The Exmouth Estate now, many residents (members of our estate run computer club) contribute to efforts such as this

    Its important to note that these are photos of the Exmouth Estate NOW. There used to be a very large web site (RAGE) the hosted photographs and movies from 2006 or so, when there was extensive vandalism. Things were cleaned up and those people shut the web site down as problem were fixed.

    Things are looking up on our estate now. Keep in mind we won't be impacted to the same extent by the cuts from central government,as with a registered social landlord we pay our own way.

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  • 52. At 9:20pm on 30 Jan 2011, TruthAboutExmouthEstate wrote:

    We have created a web site documenting the Exmouth Estate today. These photographs show the situation now, not two years in the past

    Residents are very happy with our landlord. The AGM was well attended and the board re-elected.

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  • 53. At 3:22pm on 02 Feb 2011, prefab_dweller wrote:

    I agree that prefabricated construction of housing in factories may be the answer to the housing crisis, just as it was in the 1940s. But why does Mr Easton say "ghastly prefabs"? As a prefab dweller in one of the last remaining estates of 1940s prefabs, I know that these homes were just what people wanted, a detached bungalow with a garden and all mod cons.

    Although they were not intended to last more than 10-15 years, they have lasted more than 60 years and with proper maintenance they could a lot longer. They are now providing a lifeline for many disabled people who actually need ground floor housing, and many people who I have spoken to over the years would gladly give up their 3 or 4 bedroom houses if they had a home like we have, thus relieving the need to build the larger housing that seems to be being built.

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