Here, have a quick rant…

I was talking with my very good friend Mr Entertainments Officer the other day… as you do… the usual mix of personal gripes, medical/physical comparisons, and our bit of the “Big Picture”… our subject of choice being social housing…
Believe it or not, I am a great believer in social housing… We have, as a species, become victims of our own success’ and therefore too numerous to ever return to a society (or collections thereof) in which individuals can pick their own plot and just build a home… Living in huge cities has become the norm for large numbers of people (I was about to say “preferred method” but I think a lot of people would disagree) especially on the crowded Western edge of Europe, the Coastal bits of the US, (basically, wherever the greatest concentration of money is)… As a consequence, dominant cultures and political systems have, over hundreds of years, tried different ways of providing the solution to housing needs…
As I said, for me, the preferred solution has always been a combination of private ownership, social housing and a regulated and policed private rental… Reasons for and against each I can find, and give… but it is the social housing sector to which our conversation turned the other day…
Worry not, as this is only a quick rant I’m not going to do the whole “we need more social housing properties” (we do), I’m not going to mention “More investment in the people not the banks”, I’m not even going to touch upon the politics of social housing (FuckingShitbagArseholeToryPsychopaths)… No, I’m focussing on the SOCIAL bit…
I know we live in age of “Arms Length Management” and “Housing Association” (not quite) Social Housing… Housing that was built and owned by the local council, now owned and run by private companies… These systems are not designed to give the management companies HUGE profits… Modest profits, yes but not the sort of figures that someone running a private portfolio would expect to make in a system designed to keep housing in short supply and rents at a premium… That being the case, Social Housing “landlords” must try to keep costs to a minimum… Low staffing numbers (with big caseloads), automated/standard procedures, outsourcing, minimum day-to-day expenditure (both financially and personal interactiveness)…

It was the “automated” systems that I’ve been thinking about…
Here, have some background…

Near Mr Entertainments Officer is an empty property… It’s not big, it’s not flash, it’s not going to be on any awards or conservation lists… What it is is two rooms and a bath… Doesn’t sound much but to someone it’s a home, to others it’s a dream… Here’s where our system fails… This property has stood empty for some time now… For details of why are not mine to share (so don’t ask)… One thing I am convinced of though is that nothing was done to prevent this place being left empty… at least not by those whose property it is…

It’s a regular story unfortunately… Here is a property with a tenant… tenant is quiet, clean, sober, pays rent on time, doesn’t create paperwork – from the point of view of landlord, a perfect tenant (easy to ignore)… problem!!! Rent has stopped!! What to do? Current solution… send letter… push problem to next month… send letter… push problem to next month… go to court, get eviction notice… Make tenant pay!!!
At no point along this procedure/automated system has anybody asked: why? (except possibly, with tears in their eyes, over their coffee before having to return to an over-worked, under-funded, unrewarding office…)

In my opinion, where social housing is concerned, WHY? is the first question…

  • Why is this person in need of social housing?

Social housing has never been luxury living (despite what the right-wing press and politicians will tell you) and with social housing stock  becoming increasingly rare and funding for it being repeatedly reduced, it is unlikely to ever be the first choice for most of it’s tenants…

Live where we put you, pay your rent, be good, keep quiet, no you can’t have a new bathroom it’s not in the budget, no we can’t fix that lift, no you can’t have pets, oh the windows are falling out? don’t like it, move out…

People are in social housing for many reasons… Physical, Psychological, Financial to name but three… and it is here that I think the WHY question should come into play…

Find out why your tenants are living in social housing… Keep that in mind throughout their tenancy… Yes, their circumstances may change but that will be the future… Always keep in mind why somebody is doing something and you will better understand when things go wrong…

I’m not explaining this properly am I?

OK, here’s the scenario… You have tenant, mid forties, has a good relationship with their neighbours, is in receipt of benefits, been known to “like a drink”… The rent stops coming… What do you do? As a social housing provider? Here’s my idea… Find out why!!

Too often today we rely on automated systems… Too often the missed rent payment is automatically followed up with a letter telling the tenant that they have missed a payment… miss another payment… another letter, this one with a warning “Your Home Is At RISK!!”… Can you imagine what is happening with your tenant? Are they worried about these letters? Are they having panic attacks about them? Are they aware of them? Are they ignoring them? Hiding them? Are they even there to read them? Are they dead?

Have you tried to find out?

Remember, people don’t move into social housing simply for cheep rent and luxury accommodation… For most people in social housing it’s this or a park bench. Treat your tenants with respect. Don’t treat them simply as a tenancy number and a never empty bank account… Yes, I know you are overworked and underpaid, yes I know that for your bosses (as with pretty much everybody else’s) profit is more important than their own mothers health but is this how we want to treat people?

I’m not saying we should go back to the days of the rent man banging on the door every week because that’s just somebody collecting money…

Housing officer? Great idea… It’s what they claim to be, it’s what their contract claims they are but what they are is overworked, underpaid, under-appreciated, paper-pushers… They don’t have the time, the energy or the incentive… or the budget… and that’s the thing isn’t it? Where’s the money coming from?

Hey, maybe that’s the answer… more investment… more money, more people, more time… it’s SOCIAL housing, let’s be social…

 

Rant over…

Advertisements

One comment on “Here, have a quick rant…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s