Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Mourning the death of social housing? The future of HAs

In the latest issue of the Labour Housing Group newsletter, a non-LHG member Angela Pinter asks “What future for social housing?” Sadly this article is not on the internet as it does raise interesting issues. (I've a pretty poor scanned version - I can be contacted at info @

Ms Pinter suggests that the government is hostile to social housing. She also points out that the Conservatives want a new right-to-buy – a rent-to-mortgage “route to buy”. She sees the death of social housing – and she’s not bothered let alone mourning. To quote:

Whatever happens to social housing in its present form has no future and should be brought to an end in an orderly way.

I agree with her that some of the most promising and “social” developments are in housing co-ops, tenant management, etc. But co-ops currently own or manage less than 20,000 homes. In comparison, housing association account for two million homes. Realistically there won’t be a reversal of this situation in the foreseeable future although we will see more tenant-controlled "community gateway" housing associations and other housing mutuals.

I certainly don’t agree that social housing is past its sell-by date. Ms Pinter says:

It is time to face reality. Arguing for more social housing for the economically inactive is not going to work. The old social housing model by local authority or RSL [registered social landlords ie housing associations] is also obsolete.

Social housing has a vital role for some of the most disadvantaged in our society as well as contributing to regeneration. Moreover, the increasing role of housing associations in offering shared ownership and other flexible options make home ownership at least slightly more affordable.

Ms Pinter's comments about housing professional are somewhat provocative. I am sure that some are arrogant and self-serving - but not the entire profession. I would certainly praise the work that the Chartered Institute of Housing has done on the “community gateway” model. Similarly the National Housing Federation's sponsorship of the Tenant Involvement Commission.

I do see a future for social housing and housing associations although it is likely to be very different from its past.

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