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THIS DOCUMENT WAS PREPARED BY THE DEFEND COUNCIL HOUSING GROUP, AND SHOULD NOT BE TAKEN TO REPRESENT THE OPINIONS OF THE ESTATE STEERING GROUP. NEVERTHELESS IT RAISES IMPORTANT POINTS WHICH WE HAVE BEEN WORKING TO AVOID WITH THCH.
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IntroductionMore Evictions, Higher Rents and Worse Services
Council tenants´ secure tenancies are replaced with less secure ?assured´ tenancies, making eviction easier. 16.5 percent of RSL evictions involved the use of automatic powers under controversial ?Ground 8´ (which cannot be used against council tenants) according to a National Housing Federation survey of 116 RSLs. Evictions by RSLs (Registered Social Landlords) have risen by 36 percent.
Figures from Communities Scotland show the number of housing association evictions has risen by 64 per cent in two years to stand at 522 in the year 2000 to 2001. That equates to 3.7 in every 1,000 tenancies, compared to what Shelter says is 2 in every 1,000 for councils. (Inside Housing 19 Feb 03Guardian 27.8.03)
On the other hand, ordinary workers lose out after housing privatisation. Many RSLs are anti-union or have very limited recognition agreements with unions. Dissatisfied staff leads to worse services for tenants.
Privatisation and the Market
RSLs are classified under law as private companies. "Large Scale Voluntary Transfer is a private-sector landlord in legal terms" (Gwynneth Taylor, then Head of Housing at the Local Government Association, 2002). A recent attempt to classify them as public companies under European law lead to outrage from RSLs, the Housing Corporation and the British government. RSLs borrow directly from private lenders at higher costs than councils. They function increasingly like businesses, with mergers, takeovers and lenders in the driving seat. The biggest run more homes than most councils, and are keen to become ?for profit´ landlords. Acton Homes has already transferred the ?security´ of some tenants´ homes to the Prudential!
The Housing Corporation, watchdog over Registered Social Landlords, actively encourages mergers and takeovers (Rationalisation and Restructuring, Housing Corporation Nov 2002).
John Belcher, chief executive of £185.8 million turnover Anchor Trust, says ?We´re a business and all our divisions are expected to make a surplus´ (Guardian 8.1.03) They make it at our expense.
David Cowans, chief executive of Britain´s largest housing association, Places for People group (turnover £164.5 million) says he would consider converting to a plc (Inside Housing 20.12.02)
Less Democracy, Less Tenant Participation, Less Choice
Direct accountability of council landlords is lost. Transfer landlords often cross council boundaries and cannot be held to account locally, affecting services to the homeless, joint waiting lists and nomination rights. Politicians say housing privatisation offers ?choice´ to tenants. In reality a few big money-makers are dominating ever-more of the growth industry around housing privatisation. Many tenants who accepted transfer to a local housing association set up especially to manage their homes suddenly find themselves (without warning, and without a ballot) the tenants of a completely different landlord who manages stock all over the country and has no interest in their local concerns at all.
Very few RSLs have effective tenants´ associations. Some have tenants on the board but they are not legally allowed to act as representatives of other tenants. The Housing Corporation now allows board members to be paid, making them more like the directors of commercial, profit-making companies. A study by Liz Cairncross for the Housing Corporation found that RSL boards are "increasingly dominated by professionals", leaving tenant board members "marginalised". (See page 6 for more details on tenants´ involvement in boards).
Expensive Waste of Public Moneyleast deprived local authority areas (Source: Hansard, written answers, 4 July 2002, col 563W)
The number of new homes built in Britain over the last five years is lower than at any time since the second world war. ?The biggest loss of new homes is in the social sector...caused by the ending of the local authority housebuilding programmes´
(Roof magazine July/August 2003)
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