Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Will anyone stop the Localism Bill?

"The localism bill seeks to absolve the state from any responsibility for housing provision, or for cleaning up the mess when the market fails to deliver the homes we need."

The last line of Glyn Robbins excellent article about the Housing Bill due to be read this week.

In my package to Clegg I wrote "It's not to late to reconsider the bill" on the article I sent him about capping landlords not tenants. Next to my viewpoint was a letter by someone else urging the Libdems to oppose housing policy. A voice added to mine. There are plenty of voices, they are just not being heard.

Only I was, for a short time, yesterday. I spoke, well wrote and I was answered during a live debate taking place on Guardian Online:
How can housing associations tackle unemployment?

Objectively, a great debate. Oh how do we help the helpless? It was also interesting, I'm sure, for the panelists. For me it was really too hard, many things are great in theory but I'm still reeling at the few that profit at the expense of the poor, all legislated by Government.

Anyway, work isn't really Stiggers domain, housing is!!
Housing and work are married of course and these new policies to up housing association rent to 80% of the market share coupled with fixed term leases.. well work is a frightening concept, I for one am so scared the impact will have on my family should I get affordable rent - I stay poor or risk eviction.

The panelists, largely housing association were having a grown up debate (FTT is a Fixed Term Tenancy - the bolding is all me, what I hear):

From the moderator: A quick question for the Panel,
How do you think the introduction of fixed term tenancies will affect social landlords' ability to engage with their tenants and make the most out of their support provisions?

Jo, not panellist, but professional I assume: I don't think there's any denying that they way things look there is a conflict between wanting to get residents into work and the lack of security introduced by FTTs, and this will make consistent engagement, advice and support very challenging. However, I am sure we will see some creative uses of FTTs to encourage people into work and training, I'm just not quite sure how yet!

Tim housing assoc panellist: Interesting question, we would not seek to let at the lower end of the fixed tenancy spectrum as we don't think this provides sufficient stability or opportunity to support them so that they have better choices at the end of the tenancy in terms of housing options.
I believe that if the positives of flexible tenancies are to be realised, we need to support these customers to give them these options otherwise the risks are either continual reissue of tenancies or poorer outcomes - there are clearly risks though and we need to have more active monitoirng and suport during the life of the tenancy.

Anne Marie HA Panel: Its very difficult to gauge but I guess it depends on the standard or avaliability of move-on accommodation. It may be more challenging to get tenants to engage as stability is key and we lose an element of this by offering fixed term tenancies. I guess it depends on how its managed when the tenant signs up to the property. Its needs to be a positive experience with obvious benefits to the tenant.

Andy not a panellist: A fixed term tenancy as short as two years could act as a disincentive to work, with the tenant, rightly or wrongly, concerned that getting a job means losing his or her home. In reality, it is likely that most fixed term tenancies will be for at least five years. Nevertheless, it will still be important for social landlords to engage with tenants throughout these tenancies to ensure tenants will continue to be adequately housed after the term is complete. This is partly about work, but also about changes in household size, health, and other factors. The changes to tenancy will have to be carefully managed.

when I screamed:

RE: Fixed term tenancies. My 8 yr old child and I have been evicted from each of his three homes on lease ends. Now HA, £350wk rent, 2 yr fixed tenancy. My £6 hr job doesn't pay the rent. I chase low rent but when I get it, if I get a "good" job, me and my boy out on our ear again on the fixed term lease? A total, utter, nightmare has been pointed at all future tenants.

And I was heard:

Steve Panellist:
Good points and shows the dilemma / situation that a policy allowing much higher housing association rents in England could make worse.
It does appear that social housing is yet again being seen as the home of last resort and for people on benefit
The lack of security that goes with private rents is a major problem and can be a cause of people losing their jobs if they cannot find a replacement tenancy close to their place of work.
I have had to help a family friend with four children ( one with special educational needs) after they lost their private tenancy through no fault of their own - they are now living in an overcrowded housing association house, but at least they were able to stay in the same school.
The changes to housing and other welfare benefits currently being brought in appear to be creating the ingredients for a perfect storm / mess

A storm yes, a mess absolutely and perfect for whom?

Any political party willing to oppose it?

No, the feckless arseholes are all too busy claiming expenses on their rents and mortgages, or else ey Cameron renting out their gaffes which doesn't fall into "the cheapest 30%" of the area.

Such noise, a terrific noise, not just by me here but no-one in Whitehall, even those Labour ministers who head the rallies I've been to, no-one it seems is willing to properly stand up to what is happening.

Never mind I Don't Know
I Do Not Understand

(My thoughts go out to all those in Joplin Missouri who lost friends and relatives, their homes and their communities in the devasting tornado that struck the town on Sunday Night)

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