Friday, February 16, 2007

Defend Council Housing and "predatory social landlords"

Defend Council Housing have just issued a new briefing (pdf available). It attacks housing associations as you’d expect.

Government's claim that tenants won't be worse off with privatisation but Registered Social Landlords provide 'assured' not secure tenancies and so have higher evictionrates; they charge tenants more in rents and service charges and they are unaccountable.

A single contract for council and housing association tenants is on the horizon – that will take away one argument against stock transfer. Increasingly there is a leveling of the playing field on rents too. Housing associations are unaccountable? Tenant surveys suggest that housing association tenants are more satisfied with their opportunities to participate in decision-making than council tenants. Hopefully we will see housing associations working even harder on this with resident scrutiny panels and/or other forms of enhanced accountability.

Shelter's Adam Sampson, speaking at a fringe meeting at Labour conference, expressed his concern that RSLs were becoming increasingly dominated by the banks and focuson homes for sale rather than their tenants.

Housing associations are only responding to the government’s agenda. Hopefully we will soon see the (long awaited) step change in building for social rent.

I know that housing associations are not perfect. They could do better and at times they can be prone to complacency. But they are not the villains of DCH mythology.

(I should also say that I think that the government should offer another route to Decent Homes improvement funding where councils choose to retain existing arrangements for council housing and these arrangements are demonstrably working.)

What I find so frustrating about so much of the rhetoric from DCH – as well as the prejudice against housing associations - is that it seems to assume that all is well with council housing. There is an unwillingness to suggest any thing other than more cash. Any change in the form of council housing – such as council-owned Arm’s Length Management Organisations – is immediately condemned as “privatisation”.

At least there are people like the Confederation of Cooperative Housing who show more open-mindedness and promote new models of social housing.

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