Saturday, 28 February 2015

Government attacked over views on housing

The president of the Chartered Institute of Housing has criticised ministers for ‘pointed and inaccurate’ comments regarding the state of the housing market.

Robin Lawler, CIH president and chief executive of arm’s-length management organisation Northwards Housing, hit out at government politicians at the CIH presidential dinner in London last night.

Mr Lawler said: ‘Several times already this year we have heard pointed and inaccurate comments from ministers, including the prime minister, regarding the state of the housing market and the likely impact of their package of reforms.’

David Cameron has been criticised in recent weeks for telling parliament that private sector rents have decreased as a result of welfare reforms – a claim disputed by the CIH and the National Landlords Association.

Mr Lawler earlier described the coalition’s welfare reforms as ‘the biggest challenge facing the sector’.

He said: ‘Throughout my whole housing career I don’t remember a time when it has been so important for the sector to work together to challenge some of the key assumptions, often misplaced assumptions, about who benefits from welfare, who should benefit and just what the role of the state should be in supporting and helping those most in need.’

Mr Lawler also said the CIH will introduce an annual Sarah Webb Lecture in honour of Ms Webb, the institute’s former chief executive who died last September.

The CIH dinner, which was held at the National History Museum in London, also saw the presentation of the first Nicky Chapman Award under the Positive Action for Disability scheme. This was received by Debbie Smith, who is now an employee at New Charter Housing Trust.

The award was set up in memory of Habinteg chair and tenant Nicky Chapman, and recognises disabled people who are doing excellent work in housing.

Readers' comments (9)

  • Gavin Rider

    According to the Department for Work and Pensions in a response to a question asked under the Freedom of Information Act, David Cameron's claim that the benefit reforms have resulted in a reduction in rents and hence a reduction in the housing benefits bill is based on a select number of cases where the local authority has arranged to pay housing benefit direct to landlords.

    While arranging this direct payment of benefit to the landlords, the local authorities have negotiated the rent downwards.

    This means that the reduction in rent levels is nothing whatever to do with changes to the benefits system, and it is not a general reduction in rent levels, it is only related to direct negotiation that has taken place in a limited number of cases between local authorities and landlords to whom housing benefits will be paid directly.

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  • michael barratt

    Hi Gavin I think such an agreement between landlords and local authorities might be termed bulking billing on the basis of savings due to economies of scale.

    I think that those relying on benefits are generally being treated shamefully and cynically by Central government and giving the lead for local authorities to do likewise. My disabled daughter has been in receipt of direct payments for ten years and now the social worker from West Sussex County Council wants an appointment for a reassessment likely to result in payments to her being stopped along with many others having very significant needs similar to hers. When I phoned the social worker on my daughter's behalf the recorded message said no one was there to answer the call from the WSCC REASSESSMENT AND REINVESTMENT TEAM.

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  • Ernie Gray

    Good to see Robin putting his stamp on the apporach that he will take as the President to challenge in a positive way the issues for social housing and all housing sectors. His knowledge of the practical implications of the reform and the ability to articulate them is key in my view to draw the inequalities that are being created in society.

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  • F451

    Will the CIH now apologise for cosying up to the Tories 2 years ago, endorsing their policies as they were propoesed 1 year ago, and still trying to sup from the same spoon six months ago.

    Welcome back to the land of the living CIH - but you now have a responsibilty to undo the harm you have subscribed to, and then to keep the focus on the harm the government continues to want to do.

    Perhaps the CIH will consider more carefully who they jump into bed with, and what the holistic cost of doing so may be in future.

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  • Gavin Rider

    Michael - apparently the agreements were with individual private landlords and the pressure applied was to reason with them that the rent should be no higher than the benefit allowance because that was set at a reasonable rate for the market...

    As for the benefits reassessment for your daughter, don't feel oppressed about it. Authorities are required to regularly reassess benefits recipients to ensure that they still qualify for the benefits they are receiving. As a taxpayer myself I would expect them to do this to make sure benefits are not going to people who don't deserve them.

    My mother has had her benefits reassessed several times, and the last time an assessor called in was after we were advised by her GP of some additional benefit she is entitled to have which she has not been claiming, so these reassessments are not necessarily always negative towards the recipient.

    However, I am a bit miffed over the "recalculation" of her guarantee credit which supposedly brings her income up to the minimum level the government considers is necessary to live on. The figures were changed for the next tax year supposedly to give pensioners an increase in their income, but the resulting recalculation of her benefit entitlement means that she will actually be receiving less from next April onwards.

    They give it with one hand and take it away with the other...

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  • F451 - couldn't agree more. The CiH has to accept a fair degree of responsibility for providing a veneer of professional legitimacy to the policies adopted by the Coalition. Indeed, some of its proposals over tenancy changes and failure to recognise the insecurities in private rented housing and amongst owner occupation for those with low andinscrue incoems suggests that its view of housing is somewhat limtied. It certainly isn't a 'whole systerm' housing body.

    In spite of the comments amde by the president, the guts and bones of the CiH still seem to be dominated by wannabee-private landlords (housing associations senior managers) who have moved their organisations far from their original altruistic roots. Sadly, and with deep regret after more than twenty years in the profession, I have to say I am not currently proud to be member of the CiH. It doesn't represent my views and I suspect those of many of the various housing teams I manage. And clearly those who use houses as homes are some distance from CiH thinking...

    I guess being al ittle cynical I merely keep the subs up to retain my entitlement to use 'letters after my name' (and the sub to Inside Housing). I wonder how many others feel the same way?

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  • michael barratt


    annual reassessment it not the issue, the Government has slasshed funding to County councils and as a result those local authorities have slashed funding to disabled persons with significant needs requiring support without viable plan 'B'. West sussex County Council should have answered the phone with the recorded message WSCC REASSESSMENT AND DISINVESTMENT TEAM.

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  • Gavin Rider

    Gresley - it is interesting to hear someone "on the inside" expressing similar perceptions to those of people like myself who are "on the outside" (i.e. not working for such an organisation myself).

    I honestly believe that the CIH and other organisations like the NHF primarily exist to satisfy their own objectives for their own gain, not to satisfy the needs of tenants.

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  • Gavin Rider

    Michael - if what you say is true, it is deplorable.

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