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Welcome to the learning4housing blog. I will be posting my thoughts and opinions on a range of issues facing the social housing sector. You are more than welcome to post your comments, whether you agree or disagree on the points. The aim here is to stimulate some debate on these issues, whether they are about current government policy or about best practice in housing management or strategy.

is an independent training provider for the social housing sector. We cover a wide range of subject areas, including anti-social behaviour, homelessness, resident involvement, void control, choice-based lettings, and complaints management, as well as personal skills development around communication, negotiation, assertiveness, influencing, managing people, etc. Please visit the main website for more information at

Please call David on 07986 246406 to discuss your training needs and how we can help, or email at

Tuesday, November 11

Housing Day 2014

So, today is Housing Day.  But what does it mean and why should this be any different from the many different 'days', 'weeks' and 'years' that are aimed at drawing our attention to a range of worthy subjects? For instance, did you observe the 'International Talk Like a Pirate Day' on September 19? Or the 'Hug a Drummer Day' on October 10th. No? Well, neither did I to be honest. So why should we be celebrating Housing Day today? Well, the short answer is that it matters. Now don't get me wrong, the many aspiring Captain Bluebeards across the land would have clearly been in deep water if they hadn't donned their eye-patch and parrot and Aaarrggghhhed! whenever appropriate or possible last month. And why not hug a drummer? Often the butt of musician's jokes which imply their lack of musical ability and a tendency for drooling. If anyone deserves a hug it's a drummer, and who am I to deny them. Yes, to those who have very specific points of view, a national day is just the ticket. It raises the profile of many good, and some bizarre, causes, and it matters to them. 

Housing on the other hand, matters to everyone. Even if you are happily housed in a warm and secure home, with hot water, central heating, a cat curled up on the rug, and enough bedrooms for everyone in the household (perhaps even a spare for when granny comes to stay), it is likely that you will either know somebody, or be related to somebody, who has a housing problem. Perhaps this is a son or a daughter who should really have flown the nest by now, but is stuck in the family home, which whilst providing the usual creature comforts, does not really promote those feelings of independence and privacy that those of my generation enjoyed at that age. But it might not be too easy for young Jane or John to leave. The cost of housing is rising. Mortgage deposits are high. Private rents are going up. So-called affordable rents are out of reach of many on low or average pay. The shortage of housing at a genuine affordable price, either to buy or to rent, has led to a generation who have been unable to begin their independent lives. And worse than this, the problem of homelessness continues to blight our 'civilized' country. 

Sadly I am old enough to remember the screening of Cathy Come Home in 1966. The plight of Cathy and her young family touched a national nerve at the time. Homelessness shouldn't have been happening in the 'swinging sixties', when the welfare state was still attempting to provide help from 'cradle to grave'. Cathy's story made people angry. Angry that people were being punished for no fault of their own, leading to appalling treatment by officials and bureaucrats who were supposedly responsible for 'helping' people, but were often intent on breaking up families rather than providing genuine assistance. But, surely we have moved on from all that. We are living in 2014 not 1966. Things must be better than they were. The answer to that is yes they are, but perhaps some housing problems are different, whilst some are much the same. Several pieces of legislation have served to improve housing over the years, but yet, despite the advances that have been made, there are still constant reports and articles about the 'housing crisis'. 

So, what is this crisis? There is a crisis around the supply of housing in general, and the supply of genuine affordable housing in particular. Social housing - or housing that has been built with assistance from a meaningful public subsidy to ensure its affordability - is almost a thing of the past. Increasing private sector rent lines the pockets of private landlords with housing benefit, who, due to the lack of adequate regulation, are free to let and evict at will, thus adding to the crisis.

But Housing Day should be about the positives. We all know the problems, so what are the positives about social housing? Really, they shouldn't need stating, but sometimes stating the obvious is necessary. The benefits of good quality housing have often been explained. The benefits to good health, good education and to general wellbeing have all been evidenced many times. The savings to other purses of providing decent housing have also been calculated. And yet, here we are today, still arguing the case.

Going back to basics, a decent home is a right that we should all have. A home that is safe, warm and dry. A home that doesn't require you to have three jobs to enable you to pay for it. A home that should be an achievable aspiration for us all, not just the few who have been lucky enough to inherit. A home that is not blighted by inadequate neighbourhood facilities, such as health services, decent shops, and good schools. A home that is not overcrowded and has space for children to play and flourish, space for older people to relax, and space for families to grow together. I don't think this is too much to ask, given the relative wealth of this country. Wealth that our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents all contributed towards. And that also goes for many of our immigrant communities. The historical contribution towards the accumulated wealth of this country by many people from abroad should not be ignored. 

There are very strong moral arguments for state intervention in the provision of decent housing for all. Equally, there are strong economic arguments, which seem to hold more sway in today's market-driven society. Social justice is something we should all be striving for, but the plight of the modern-day Cathy's poses some very challenging questions. Let us continue to make our case and to make sure that housing is an important issue in the forthcoming election.

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