An all-out assault on the principles of social housing (August 2013)

A recent Inside Housing article neatly summarises the recent Government changes to social housing, described by Inside Housing as ‘an all-out assault on the principles of social housing’. The article particularly highlights the current lack of any tenant representation body.

I wonder what the next principle to be ‘assaulted’ will be?

It’s fair to say the last few years have not been the best time to be a social housing tenant.

The coalition government has launched what many have seen as an all-out assault on the principles of social housing.

Security of tenure has been eroded further, while low rents are becoming a thing of the past for new tenants due to the government’s so-called ‘affordable’ homes programme. The government keeps exalting the virtues of help to buy, right to buy and home ownership, while seeming not to care about traditional social housing.

Similarly social tenants will also be forgiven for thinking the government has little interest in ensuring they can get their voice heard.

The coalition wasted little time in scrapping the short-lived National Tenant Voice and slashing funding for the Tenants’ and Residents’ Organisations of England.

The social housing regulator also now effectively no longer deals with tenant complaints. Indeed, the new threshold for intervention, ‘serious detriment’, is so high that not a single complaint has so far met it out of around 500. Housing associations are under pressure to use their assets more effectively, and some have responded by collapsing their structures. Some landlords, as we reported recently, are in danger of alienating tenants as a result.

With all of this going on, there arguably never has been a greater need for a properly funded, independent national tenant body.

We do not have that.

The closest thing to it is TAROE, which does a sterling work on a shoestring budget.

As Inside Housing reports this week, TAROE is becoming a charity in a bid to raise the money it desperately needs to survive. Around £150,000 a year is needed to enable it to continue its work visiting tenants up and down the country to represent their interests.

Although TAROE is often, by its very nature some might say, critical of social landlords, one would hope councils and associations appreciate the valuable job it carries out in trying to give tenants a voice. I would also hope that housing associations can find money to donate – £150,000 is peanuts to the sector, but could make all the difference. Tenants deserve to have a proper representative body during these tough times.



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