Housing associations continue to abandon social housing

(This is the text of my latest Opinion column in the Brighton Argus, first published on 4th August 2015)

The housing association world is in meltdown. The announcement in the Budget that social housing rents must be reduced is being interpreted in some quarters as a sign that the government has turned on housing associations. Large associations are now saying that they will only build for market rents, shared ownership, and outright sale.

The reality is that many housing associations did not need this Budget announcement to change direction. They abandoned low-cost social housing some time ago.

In Brighton, just 15 new homes at social rents are to be built in the next 3 years by housing associations

I’m not saying anything new, just repeating a point I make frequently, and will continue to make in the future: we have a crisis due to the lack of rented homes that people on low and medium incomes can afford.

This is not an attack on the current Conservative government, the previous Coalition, or the former Labour government. They all share responsibility.

Money was found when the bankers needed bailing out. Money is found if there is a war to be fought. Money will be found for the renewal of Britain’s nuclear weapons.

But ‘austerity’ politics dictates that social housing can’t be afforded. The cost, financial and human, will be felt for years to come, by our children and by their children. I am ashamed of my generation for being so short-sighted and selfish, especially when it was my generation that benefited so much from public investment in services, education and housing.

Rant over. For now at least.

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2 thoughts on “Housing associations continue to abandon social housing

  1. I was reading that there is so much competition for rented accommodation in Brighton now, that landlords are asking for sealed bids and taking the highest offer of rent. How did it ever come to this? As I was saying before I think Co-ops are the way to go- they engender responsibility, community and creativity. Two Piers allowed me to escape bedsit land and save towards my own place and now I can offer decent, affordable accommodation to my lodger. I suppose house prices are so insane that the mortgages for new co-ops would be off the scale.

  2. “The housing association world is in meltdown”… a suitably apocalyptic start to a timely article. Adequate housing is a fundamental Human Right, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is also the main cost of the “reproduction of labour” (i.e. The reproduction of a labour force’s own ability to labour). The low wage work force (like us at BHT) which is needed to man/person the service industries that now dominate our economy need housing, but increasingly can’t afford it. Housing Associations which used to have the role of housing low paid workers are now, through the adoption of market rents and part buy schemes, serving a different role – enabling young professionals to start on the housing ladder. Low paid workers are being abandoned, yet are a crucial part of the overall workforce.
    Therein lies a contradiction which can lead to political turbulence. There are signs of this in Spain, where much of the Podemos insurgency has been focused around housing issues. In Barcelona the recently elected radical mayor, Ada Colau, is a housing activist. In London (and Brighton?) While there are few specific housing campaigns, the stresses of the shrinking housing options are part of the impetus behind the radical upsurge behind the Greens and the Corbyn phenomena.
    It’s rather harsh to blame any particular “generation” for the collapse of Social Housing. The neo-liberal phase of late capitalism, from the 1970’s onward, had social housing in its sights from the start, as needing to be privatized. Callaghan’s Government wanted to sell off council housing but concluded that the Labour Party was not ideologically ready for it at that point. (Subsequent Party “reform” has remedied that problem). From that point on we have seen a steady procession of privatization, culminating in the current situation, where one Housing Association (One Housing Group) is selling an “affordable” property in Islington for £750,000. Changes in tenancy arrangements, ( HA’s are able to offer only AST’s which offer no security and the option of eviction without any “cause”- Family Mosaic have adopted such AST’s), complete the process.
    Can HA’s now play their part in the social cleansing operation which is the solution to one of the conundrums that has always faced the super-rich? That is, how to have the labour of the services industries workers without having them live nearby? The answer- gated communities with access to the pleasures of the inner city, with the former occupants shifted out to the outlying banlieus.

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