Friday, 17 April 2015


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It's hard to miss, but there's hundreds of professional politicians, out there across the UK, all looking for our vote, to help them secure a five year gig down in Westminster. If you work in social housing you can't have missed the feeling that some politicians, in their manifestos seem to want to see the back of us for some reason. Also the back of truly affordable (with a lower case 'a') housing. You know the type, for the poor, 'key workers' (remember that initiative from half a decade back?), nurses, students, barmaids, social workers etc.

If you do Twitter, or spotted the ads in our cities, on the vans of housing repair teams etc, you might also have come across #HomesForBritain, one of the biggest awareness campaigns for the sector in my memory. The key idea is to have politicians and the public wake up to the ticking time-bomb in our midst. The UK fetish of home ownership and wrong headed move to make social housing more Affordable (with a capital A), has the effect of pricing more folk out of affording rented accommodation, reducing new build (as less is funded) and drives the Housing Benefit bill still higher. 

The slogan of #HomesForBritain, "eliminate the housing crisis in a generation" is not actually that ambitious. Some like 'Generation Rent' don't think this is ambitious enough, and I can see where they are coming from. See I can sympathise as I don't think we can wait a generation. My kids can't for one.

Politicians don't have a clue about housing, or the effects of initiatives like the bedroom tax / spare room subsidy (sic), accelerated RTB (Right To Buy) without replacing sold homes. In short, they don't actually feel anyone's pain and why would they? Most have two homes, paid for by us, with expenses for (multiple) kitchens, sandalwood bog seats and banana guards etc. For the rewards it brings I am sure it's a charmed existence. Personally, I would house all 650 MPs in tower blocks in Hackney or some other handy location, just 30 minutes travel time from Westminster, on the Overground. Don't you think they might understand the housing issues then after 5 years of that? They might understand the concept of #WrongToBuy

In my experience a lot of staff who work in housing (and I work with a vast array of extremely inspirational people, I would not work in any other sector it's so rewarding - really!). They struggle with understanding what we do in social housing and why it's so important to our society. We need to educate each other at work, our friends outside it and certainly the pollsters knocking on our doors looking for votes.

We don't bang on enough to spread the word about our successes. We let the press exaggerate the sector through the prism of Benefits Street and six bed houses with huge families supported by the state, keeping a shire horse in their back garden. Clearly, all our HA's have not got many of those, if any at all. well none of the twenty odd I work with anyway.

The recent manifesto (I will leave you to go out and Google which one...) that promoted more Right To Buy with a hefty discount, highlighted how little politicians (of any party) understands of social housing or 'Council Housing' (both of which appear to be understood as interchangeable, but clearly they are not). What could go wrong? In fact, I am surprised, some political party is not advocating something similar for defence.

IE We are short of weapons. Why don't we sell off all the weapons we have at present, cheap and replace them with far less weapons with the proceeds? For some reason no politicians have come up with that one. Well Dave, Ed, Nick, Nic, Nat, Gerry, Nige and that super Welsh lass with the very B52's Rock Lobster beehive, you can have that idea from me for free. Clearly that is the proposition for housing. A confidence trick. The same one that dropped around 50% of the RTB sales in the last 30 years into the laps of PRS (Private Rented Sector) landlords. I lived in one myself for a year, paying three times the social rent that a different type of renter might have paid, who really needed it. 

The message we absolutely need to get out to the UK is that there is a housing supply and affordable (small 'a'), homes shortage, for rent and to buy. Over the last 30 years we have not built a million or more homes, that we really, really needed. We need to start fixing it straight away. That will kick start the economy, provide places for all to live, rent or buy using various tenures, including shared ownership of many imaginative variants.In fact its actually #WrongToBuy

Politicians need to be part of the answer. They are clearly currently most of the problem. Rise up housing people, tell the world, let them know the truth. No one else will do the job for us and if we fail, we only have ourselves to blame.  Take up the fight and lets help change it from here on. Engage and agitate before it's too late. Oh and use your vote wisely, it could be your communities and job on the line here if we cannot turn this around 8-(

Related Post: Has social media taken this election on-board as much as the Scots IndyRef last year?


You can link with me on LinkedIn here - It would be great to connect !

Alice Cooper - ElectedAlice Cooper - Elected.
(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting 07854-655009

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