M3 and the NHMF commissions publications on topics of immediate concern to those managing the maintenance and development of social housing.
Hattie the House
"Hattie tells Greg she’s not well – what happens when the house team comes to help her?" Teach residents and their children about condensation and damp with Hattie the House.
Understanding development appraisal
This publication is designed to guide development staff through the methods used to assess whether development projects are financially viable.
Housing policies in Europe
The housing market in Britain is a mess. Rising prices are making housing increasingly unaffordable. For years we have built too few homes where people want to live.
Successive governments have failed to tackle the problem. Prices rose faster under the last Labour government than at any time in history, and this was portrayed as a good thing, lifting the economy. The Coalition boosted demand through Help-to-Buy, for similar reasons. Future generations will have to pay for it and the impact on their lives will be far greater than the public sector debt from bailing out the banks and dealing with the economic consequences when the housing bubble burst. Social housing has steadily declined since the eighties under all governments. There is no political consensus on what is to be done.
Do other countries do any better, and why have Spain and Ireland done so much worse?
This book examines the housing policies of ten European countries, looking at their planning regimes, the way they fund and manage social housing, and regulate their private rental sectors. It comes to some controversial conclusions that are clearly explained by comparing the housing policies of different countries.
The affordability problem can only be solved by levelling the playing field between renting and buying. Taxation subsidises home-ownership and penalises the rental sector. The taxes may be levied on landlords but all have to be paid out of rents. This makes home-ownership highly profitable and renting much more costly, leading to a scramble to get onto the housing ladder so as to benefit from the speculative gains from rising house prices. It does not have to be like that. Market rents are much lower in countries with less of a bias against renting, and often less than we charge on social housing.
The gap between social housing and private renting is wider in the UK than almost anywhere else in Europe. Only Ireland has a bigger difference between private sector and social housing rents. Our social housing offers long-term tenancies at affordable rents but cannot possibly meet the needs of more than a lucky few. No other country gives so little security to private sector tenants, and most give them much more control over the maintenance of their homes.
We must build far more housing, but that will take a generation to have any significant impact on affordability. Can anyone seriously believe the government will now find the money to invest in expanding the social housing sector when it has not managed to do so for the last thirty years during which its share of the stock dropped from 31% to 17%? Social housing can make a very significant contribution but will not solve the affordability problem. That has to be solved by more even-handed taxation of home-ownership and renting. The private rented sector must be encouraged to develop a much better quality product to meet the needs of increasing numbers of families for whom home-ownership can only be a distant dream. Social housing should work with the private rental sector to lead the way.
Talking Housing Repair
In the last ten years the NHMF has funded a dozen or more publications by the National Housing Federation on the repair and maintenance of social housing stock.
Most of them have been collaborative efforts by a small team of authors guided by a readers’ panel drawn from practitioners. We take pride in them and think they are very good.
But this one is refreshingly different. It makes no pretence at balancing one viewpoint against another. Instead you get the wisdom born of many years’ experience, and the clarity of one person’s opinions.
Many people reach retirement and jest that they should write down all the knowledge they have acquired during their working lives but very few actually sit down and do so. The truth is that it simply isn’t possible to write down or store knowledge. Knowledge is gathered from experience and passed on face to face through shared experience.
Through his relaxed, unassuming style Rob gets very close to having a direct conversation with his readers. He shares a wealth of information and an opinion which has been tried and tested in real life. I cannot think of a better book to circulate around members of the board, or tenants who are interested in getting involved in helping to shape their repairs service.
The early chapters are sometimes quite technical, but even these should be quite easy for anyone coming relatively new to the subject to understand. The technical nature of the subject should not obscure the vital and wholly beneficial involvement of tenants that is required in almost all aspects of the planning, design, commissioning and undertaking of repair and maintenance work.
If you put ten of the most experienced maintenance managers into a room and asked them to tell you what really matters, all would agree on most of what he says but none would agree on all of it. I don’t agree with him on diagnosing repairs. You will almost certainly have your own views. It all leads to a healthy debate.
As one of our consultants commented “he’s giving away the crown jewels”. Read and enjoy. Dave Treanor, M3
*Housing professionals who knew Rob personally, will be sad to hear that he passed away at the beginning of March 2016. His depth and breadth of knowledge and his great sense of humour will be well remembered by many of his former colleagues.