Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Social landlords urged to get back to basics

Social landlords should concentrate on getting the basics right and avoid being ‘flashy’, a leading academic has said.

Speaking at the Chartered Institute of Housing south east conference in Brighton today (Tuesday), Anne Power said small-scale solutions are often better than large projects at delivering results for tenants.

Ms Power, professor of social policy at the London School of Economics, said: ‘I really think it is important not to try to be flashboys.

‘In the present situation it was the flashboys who got us into trouble.’

Ms Power said building small numbers of additional homes in different places and modest improvements were often more effective than large-scale projects.

She said the sector had to be careful of getting ‘carried away with the kind of ideas that gave council housing a bad name’ - the idea that ‘it can take overarching public action to house everybody’.

She instead urged landlords to focus on the basic task of managing stock, but said they should go ‘the extra mile’ to help tenants. Ms Power suggested UK landlords could adopt ‘social caretaking’ practices used in Italy whereby students receive reduced rent in return for doing 10 hours a week helping vulnerable people in the development.

She said: ‘If you get the basics right and we go the extra mile for communities I think the role of social housing will be defended and protected in the way that the National Health Service and Sure Start have been protected.’

Readers' comments (16)

  • Joe Halewood


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  • Schumacher lives. Small really is beautiful. Or is that Back to Basics, Do Your Knitting, Core is King.

    Whatever. Power, it should be recalled, explained way back in 1980 how housing should be organised. The advent of the housing association as would-be mega corp hasn't altered the wisdom of the original prescription.

    "Flashboys"? I wonder who she could be talking about.

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  • Chris

    Can someone in the vacinity of Ms Power point out to her just how the NHS and Sure Start have been 'protected' as she is obviously oblivious to the range of policies government intends to inflict on them.

    Other than difference of philosophical position, there is nothing wrong with the State building sufficient homes for people to live in and for them to be let at rents that people can afford. Where it goes wrong is when 'expert advisors' decide that when most people live in a social tenure that the landlords should somehow become social engineers, or other 'expert observers' feel that people should be paid in rental days rather than simply paid fair earnings for fair work.

    Meanwhile - please, somebody wake Ms Power up as she seems to be living in some sort of Tory Utopian Dream State.

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  • Joe Halewood

    Social landlords, and the clue is in the name, are landlords first and foremost.

    Yet over the past couple of decades they are 'community champions' or at least have tried to position themselves in such a role. Only yesterday on the Guardian's housing professional network we saw the great and the good talk of 'sweating assets' and 'business process re-engineering' which go alongside their involvement in 'Personalisation' and 'PbR' or whatever is the latest buzzword / idea / concept / consutant-speak.

    I have nothing in principle or practice against social landlords expanding their services, but only if the dont forget their core business, that is being a landlord.

    A month or so ago I read that the CEO of one social landlord issued a news release saying one of his tenants will be going to Eton and the landlord would be paying the £30k per year fees. The tenant had yet to be identified I hasten to add as this was just the latest idea. This is another facet of social landlords and particularly over the last few years, the cult of personality in Chief Executives of social landlords. Add that to the clamour for whatever is the most recent or 'sexiest' idea or concept and we see what social landlords think or believe they have become.

    If a social landlords core business really works well with genuinely satisfied tenants - I even have no objection to customers - rather than whatever we can spin the latest tenant satisfaction survey, then by all means expand into 'community champions' or ancillary areas. But first and foremost social landlords are landlords.

    Woods and trees spring to mind.

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  • Eric Blair

    I'm wary about people who go on about 'getting back to basics', because invariably they don't actually deliver services - and some things are in fact complicated. And as soon as someone mentions 'going the extra mile' I think they are addicted to buzzwords and management speak. It only sounds like it means something!

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  • If only it were possible....however, it seems a day doesn't go by when the 'great and the good' aren't telling HAs what they should and shouldn't be doing with a vieled OR ELSE threat of getting burned by whatever wonderful punishing wheeze our inglorious politicians can think up as the day's current policy buzz word.

    Yes Please leave Social Landloprds to do just that... not fill in the gaps left in public services after ill thought out money saving initiatives!

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  • Eudaimonia

    Agree Eric. Getting back to basics sounds like 'run it with a skeleton crew' - bad for staff, bad for residents, bad for everyone apart from the champagne socialist 'flashboys' earning 10x their worth blustering about the sector.

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  • Maurice Condie

    I have to agree with Joe on this one. Why do big landlords think they are somthing else.

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  • Rick Campbell

    One wonders if basic 'property and tenancy management' would be better if all the other elements that governments and regulators require of housing associations were 'ditiched'.

    One also wonders if the dosh saved would be invested in new build properties, lower rents, more accountabilty/greater transparency and/or higher salaries.

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  • As long as people don't start tearing their hair out when social landlords aren't developing any new properties, then I see no problem with this. They seem to be going the other way at the moment, as without funding, they rely on developments to grow their stock and higher rents to fund maintenance of older stock, and no amount of orating about 'back to basics' and 'going the extra mile' are going to make a bit of difference.

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