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Is this the beginning of the end of ‘affordable’ rent and the benefit trap for residents?

At last, amongst all the gloom and doom and misery that is social housing in England, a glimmer of hope.

The Independent reports (1) that Labour has pledged to dump the government policy allowing housing associations to increase social rents by converting them into unaffordable “affordable” rents.  This increase is usually in the order of 40%.

Genesis and particularly Notting Hill Housing seized on this policy with relish when it started in 2011.  The result is very clear – it is a benefit trap for residents who earn low wages. The Executive Team and the Boards knew this very well but it appears they did not care.

Between 2014 and 2016 Notting Hill and Genesis admit that they converted 1,322 homes from social to “affordable” rents explaining “We have had to do this…..(as)…a requirement of government grant funding since 2011.”  This is simply untrue – they did not have to do it.

In a document published in December 2017 the results are obvious – particularly in the case of Notting Hill. A NHH social rent two bedroom home averages £145.25 while the ‘affordable rent’ average is £213.54. So the affordable rent is some 50% higher than the social rent (2).

Notting Hill Genesis now pay only lip service to social rents. They are scrambling to get up there with the big boys of commercial property development driven by their toxic combination of greed and ego.

The Independent reports that “Affordable” homes has resulted in twice as many social rent homes vanishing than the Right to Buy scheme.

Labour’s latest housing pledge may draw a line under the “affordable” rents farce which has attacked the less well off in society in favour of the better off for far too long.

Will the Executive Team and Board do the right thing and end ‘affordable rent’ right away?  And will they ensure that residents already struggling to pay ‘affordable’ rent receive rent cuts down to social rent levels?

(1) https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/labour-social-housing-policy-affordable-homes-100000-converted-coalition-government-a8256776.html

(2) Q&A sessions – responses to additional questions regarding the proposed merger. 14 December 2017

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