Thursday, 11 December 2014

Something Changed

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On a visit to an ALMO in Derbyshire recently, I was surprised to see a message on the back of a repairs van. It extolled the virtues of ‘Pay To Stay’. That's not something I see a lot, occasionally in clients where I work, I have encountered strap-lines like ‘Something for something’, but what was on the van went further.

Laying my cards on the table from this second paragraph, I believe wholeheartedly that as a sector, we really do need to get on with making the ‘Think Commercially, Act Social’ philosophy, something practical and real. Something that will drive efficiency as well as helping our tenants and wider customers in their communities. Culturally, we have been propped up by a piped in feed of directly paid Housing Benefit, with little need to have to think like a bank or dare I say it, the PRS.

No-one can deny we need a lot of change, our systems and processes need to change and we have got to change the mindset of our staff and management.

When universal Credit forces HB to be paid direct to claimant, where will social housing be in the hierarchy of what gets paid first. I suspect that credit cards or payday loans will be paid in preference, as these both cost more, the longer the debt is owed. Could we see a day when housing associations and ALMOs levy interest on arrears debt? We need to be thinking how our systems might allows us to add our interest as an automated charge code, after a period agreed in the tenancy agreement.

A few repair teams I work with already levy a £15 or similar charge if a no-access is encountered. Some also credit £15 if they as contractor miss the appointment too. If the same was applied to rent transactions, where a tenant was in credit, maybe we encouraged that by paying a reasonable rate of interest. E.G. 0.5% over base rates.

I apologise if these suggestions appear jarring, but I think you can prepare for some more thinking on these lines, in the months and years ahead. Are we needing carrots, sticks or both, going forward?

Related Post: Are your Social Media types 24 hour party people?


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Pulp - Something ChangedPulp - Something Changed.
(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting 07854-655009

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  1. Helping tenants wholly reliant on benefits to gain budgeting skills and do the things most people in work do every week/month is no bad thing.

    However, "Pay to Stay" is a policy of charging market rents to those who earn high salaries, but still live in social homes with subsidised low rents.

    That is a good thing for two reasons. First, it is fair to taxpayers, second, it generates a higher income for RPs who can use that for enhanced repair and maintenance or building more homes.

  2. ...Helping tenants wholly reliant on benefits to gain budgeting skills....

    If I could have a pound for every time I see this. How many people do you know that can budget £73.00 per week to live on minus your rent but possibly not council tax and not the Spare Room Penalty 14% of overall rent for 1 room 25% for 2 or more.
    Sure there are no doubt people who do need help with budgeting skills but more than the general population? I'd like anyone of the people I know who work to survive on my disability benefits without falling into debt or having to juggle who you pay when.

    As for new and innovative ways to encourage people to pay their rent. Well here's a tenants perspective It's typical that the only person who contacts me in a timely fashion is the Rent Enforcement Officer who seems to think that people on Housing Benefit don't pay rent as I'm told over and over again my rent is '£29.72 pw' and I must pay this in advance. Problem is that that amount represents the amount I have to pay for my none spare bedroom. If my council had to pay £15 for every missed appointment it would start to eat into the repair budget. Or standards would suddenly leap and people like me would feel more inclined to make sure the Spare Room Penalty is paid in advance from my disability benefits. You see I don't want bribing to pay my rent I just want an adequate service in return for my rent.