I was reading an interesting article this morning about the proposal from Affinity Sutton to regenerate a Social Housing estate in Chelsea, yielding 144 fewer affordable homes and 106 new private apartments, many expected to be worth more than £4m each.
Now I’m not a Housing professional, and this blog isn’t a chance for me to jump on my soapbox in defence of either side, but I feel this was always going to happen at some point, given the nature of the market at the moment.
Affinity Sutton claim that many of the properties are below Decent Homes standard, so the work is necessary. That makes sense. If they left them as they were, complaints would be made about conditions, costs of maintaining them would be crippling etc.
So, it stands to reason that something needs to be done.
However, when the rest of the market is crying out for more affordable housing to be built, not less, it makes the decision to reduce the numbers by a pretty significant 144, more difficult to take. The SHOUT campaign and Homes for Britain campaigns are doing some great work in bringing the issue into the public domain, but this surely flies in the face of this?
On the other side, the lack of support from Government for Social Housing, mean Associations need to generate additional income to further invest in other developments, and the income you can generate from a small number of private apartments in Chelsea is too big to ignore isn’t it?
I wrote in an earlier blog about the move to a more “commercial” Social Housing industry, and the above situation was surely always the path we were heading towards when the Housing market in London became so crazily inflated?
Keith Exford (Chief Exec of Affinity Sutton) wrote in a CIH briefing document about the role of Social renting in the new world, which explains the complexity of the Housing world we have created, and probably clarifies the reasoning behind the decision around the Sutton estate in Chelsea. I also think it shows the contrary world that Housing Associations find themselves in- charitable organisations whose purpose is to provide low-cost or affordable Housing, but are forced to enter the murky world of commercial housing in order to finance the former.
So do we still have a Social Housing Industry? How does a Social Housing tenant feel, when the organisation that is there to provide their home, is evicting them and moving them elsewhere in the country, in order to provide luxury apartments for foreign investors?
Working in recruitment, we were always taught to ensure we have “an elevator pitch”- that is a clear, concise explanation of our service and our USPs, that you could convey to someone on a lift journey. What is Housing’s “elevator pitch”? Have things become too complex for industry professionals to understand, let alone a simple layman? If thats the case, what chance do SHOUT and Homes for Britain stand- even with Betsy the Bus? We need to strip out the complexities, evolved through tinkering by various political parties over decades, and get back to the core aim.
Especially as in the future, lift journeys will be so much quicker……
“Beam me up Scotty!”