Selling off dead expensive social housing?
Published by Phil Morgan on Tuesday, August 28th, 2012 at 09:58 am
There seemed something apt about sitting in the former cemetery just outside Euston station doing the radio interview about selling off expensive social housing. Was social housing now dead? Or the way we viewed it dead instead?
Either way the publication of the Policy Exchange’s Ending Expensive Social Tenancies managed to dominate the media earlier this week. Grant Shapps, eager to stake his credentials for a Cabinet post, managed to get a very clear message across – sell expensive social housing and build loads more. In my radio interviews I was asked whether tenants had the right to live in expensive areas which others couldn’t afford.
Certainly the report is well written and even persuasive in parts. It convincingly makes the case for more housing, shows some humility when talking about the handful of extreme cases picked up by the press and shows public support in polls for expensive social housing to be sold.
Some of the reaction from the housing world has felt defensive. That doesn’t mean to say it is necessarily wrong but it lacked the crispness of the Shapps message.
In my interviews I focussed on the centralising enthusiasm contained in the report. All expensive properties that become vacant must be sold off. The receipts raised by the sale of these properties wouldn’t go to the Council or Housing Association. Instead they must handed over to a ‘regional pot’ controlled by the Homes and Communities Agency. They would then decide on where to build replacement homes.
Of course the Policy Exchange’s centralising tendency has been shown before in Making Homes Affordable where they advocated renationalising all current and former council housing. This time they want to take billions of pounds each year away from social landlords and give it to an unelected quango.
There is a solid case for a considered asset management approach for all social landlords. This is consistent with the ramped up requirements on demonstrating value for money. I don’t have a problem about selling off expensive social housing when it is right to do so and using the receipts to build more homes.
I want those decisions to be taken in the light of professional advice, Council’s housing strategies and common sense. What I do have a problem with is social landlords being told they must sell and must give the money to the HCA.
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