Housing Associations take on ‘challenge’ of evicting tenants while public sector workers take charity

Kate Davies, Notting Hill Housing’s boss, is said to be ‘shocked’ by residents’ fierce opposition to the merger with Genesis.

Like the other HA supremos, local government bigwigs, contractors and the odd journalist on a 2017 Homes Event ‘asset management’ advisory panel, Davies inhabits a universe a bit different from ours. Theirs deals in, amongst other things, strategies for evicting tenants and deciding what on earth to do with the proceeds of ‘high value’ property sales. Savills the ‘real estate services provider’ hosted the panel’s meeting.

Davies’s universe doesn’t deal with real wage drops since the early 2000s of 14% and 12%. Central government and their financial advisers in the City are specifically targeting nurses, teachers, local government workers and police officers – public sector workers – in order to weaken and then destroy the UK’s free health, education and law and order services, and local authority services. The result? More and more public sector workers are applying for charitable ‘relief’, as they called it in Charles Dickens’ day. Whoops. In Queen Elizabeth 1’s day. Last year, nurses using food banks hit the UK’s headlines.

When they apply for charity, they’re catching up with medium, low, and sometimes zero paid workers in the private sector, like carers, security guards, and shop and office workers. Public sector workers’ tendency since the 2008 financial crash, to borrow off legal payday lenders is changing. Payday lenders increase the interest rate the longer a customer takes to pay off the loan. Illegal loan sharks charge huge fixed rates of interest. They’re the ones who prey on mothers at school gates in poor areas.

All medium, low and at times zero income workers are more likely to rent or lease in the social housing sector, or rent in the private sector, than be freeholders. The current government wants HAs, whom successive governments have, since the early 2000s, been privatizing, to ‘solve’ the housing crisis, a policy which will make the crisis worse. It’s the latest phase in the destruction of low cost social housing which began in the 1980s. The 2016 Housing and Planning Act paves the way for HAs to set their own rents in 2020. If this happens, many HA tenants will have no government protection from market driven rent rises. This is good news for lenders of all stripes.

However, HA tenants and residents, and council tenants, are refusing to lie down and die. In fact, the November 2017 Homes Event in west London was picketed with great splendour by the anti-NHH/Genesis merger committee and many others.

Here are some quotes from the notes taken at the Homes Event advisory panel’s February 2107 meeting:

Voids are serendipitous but the challenge is decamping. We need to find methods or rewards for residents to move out of high value properties without getting into financial bargaining.

We’re identifying low performing properties to divest and where to invest in acquisitions.

We’ve been selling low performing stock for a while but it’s difficult to decamp because people start to see the value of social housing. A big incentive would be to move them into a new home. It’s a struggle to maintain the decamp process.

The question is – what do we do with the proceeds from the sale?

How do Local Authorities feel about Housing Associations flogging stock?

Is there potential for underinvestment in stock if we don’t see a change in rent policies?

We need to encourage a shift in tenant mind-sets and be stricter on expectations i.e. repercussions for property damage. It’s not an entitlement – that mind-set is not sustainable now.

No-one expects to have their bin collected weekly any more, Tesco offers economy brands for cheaper prices – we need to challenge everything. For example, why are houses bigger than they need to be?

My concern with demand-led repairs is that it’s customer driven rather than property driven through a survey. It needs to be both to avoid the risk of underspending in the short term for some properties.

I was one of the judges on the UK housing awards and there were a number of applications where they delivered a great service because they got rid of a contractor and brought in-house. Yes there’s the potential that scale can drive down cost but what about things like additional annual leave? It’s not all more efficient and we should challenge that perception.

Could the industry get to point where Housing Associations deal with tenancy admin and letting and the rest of it is outsourced?

Savills ‘offer a wide range of consultancy advice and support to housing associations, local authorities and other public sector organisations.’ In other words, they’re running a nice line of business in grooming our previously charitable HA landlords and their local authority ‘regeneration’ partners in the ways of private, unregulated and government-backed property dealing and development. The struggle for social housing continues.

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