CIH head rejects Shapps' attack on social housing
The outgoing president of the Chartered Institute of Housing has added her voice to those criticising Grant Shapps for attacking the social housing profession.
In a letter sent to Inside Housing Helen Collins, who is executive director at Bromford Group, expresses her frustration at the language the housing minister used when launching a consultation on revised guidance on allocations last week.
Mr Shapps said the allocations system was ‘associated with injustice – where rewards are reaped for those who know how to play the system best’. He also said there is a ‘lazy consensus in social housing’ that has prevented this being addressed ‘for an entire generation’.
In her letter Ms Collins accuses the minister of ‘pitting household against household, profession against profession, pointing the finger of blame for housing problems at the people who live in and manage a scarce resource’.
The Communities and Local Government department has since clarified Mr Shapps’ comments, saying: ‘Ministers recognise the valuable work that social landlords do providing good quality housing and support to millions of tenants.
‘As he has done before, Grant Shapps was making clear that he is ending the lazy consensus among politicians, as well as the rigid, centralised laws and guidance that has tied the hands of innovative social landlords.’
Ms Collins states: ‘Ongoing easy public criticism followed by quiet public apology and clarification is no way to develop the mature relationships needed between government, the housing profession and active tenants.’
The CIH president, who hands over to her replacement - Northwards Housing chief executive Robin Lawler - later this month, is the latest senior housing figure to criticise Mr Shapps.
Midland Heart chief executive Tom Murtha has accused the minister of demonising social tenants, and Mick Kent, the chief executive of Bromford, has written an open letter to Mr Shapps calling for an end to the ‘unjustified rhetoric’.
Helen Collins’ letter in full
Grant Shapps’ recent statement about the lazy consensus on social housing allocations had me shouting at the television (again). I’m so frustrated that this easy slight on housing professionals and social tenants is still grabbing headlines. It’s not accurate and it’s not helpful.
My presidency of CIH started with a very direct public challenge to Mr Shapps about his use of the term lazy consensus. At the time he backed down, clarifying that his problem is with national policy not professional practice. As I prepare to hand over the presidency to Robin Lawler later this month, I can’t believe the same claims and clarifications are with us again.
This country has massive housing challenges which affect millions of people as well as communities, businesses and the wider economy. Perhaps Mr Shapps could take a dose of the PM’s ‘we’re all in it together’ rhetoric. National leadership should not mean pitting household against household, profession against profession, pointing the finger of blame for housing problems at the people who live in and manage a scarce resource. There may well be public appetite for robust statements of intended action, but the need for strong working relationships between government and the professionals and tenants whose efforts will address housing problems is more important. Ongoing easy public criticism followed by quiet public apology and clarification is no way to develop the mature relationships needed between government, the housing profession and active tenants.
As Robin takes over as President later this month, I hope we can banish once and for all this misconceived idea of lazy consensus and get on with the job at hand. Readers and Mr Shapps can all rest assured that CIH’s work to champion the profession and support a skills and policy environment in which it can thrive will be stronger than ever in 2012.