Monday, April 30, 2007

ACCOUTANCY TRICKS IN CALCULATING SOCIAL HOUSING NEED

THE DISSAPEARING HOMELESS

The Scottish Tenants’ Organisation asks all candidates and parties to look again at how the Scottish Executive and local councils calculate housing need. They argue that the current method allows councils with growing housing waiting lists and homelessness to claim that they have surplus housing, leading to untold misery for thousands of families.In particular, they are asking that politicians look again at the assumptions that they call ‘social housing’ should only be made available as a last resort (with the presumption that everyone else should rely on the market even if it leaves them just above benefit levels) and the completely arbitrary decision that councils should only have to meet 1/10 of the backlog of housing need each year.

_Background for editors_

In planning their housing policy, local councils make use of the Local Housing Need and Affordability Model for Scotland, drawn up by academics at Heriott Watt University for the Scottish Executive and Communities Scotland. This includes a daunting number of tables and equations, which can be expected to put most people off looking beyond the headline figures. But it is not necessary to work through these – or even to question whether it is possible to predict incomes or house prices or household numbers fifteen years ahead – to have serious concerns about this model.

In fact the two basic assumptions that underlie all the figures should raise the alarm for anyone who is hoping to be allotted social housing (council or housing association). Social housing need is made up for the most part of the needs of new households plus the existing backlog. (There are also some people moving from owner occupation and variations due to migration.) (page 11 table 2.2) In estimating the need from new households, the model assumes that there will be no need to provide social housing for any family who can afford to buy or rent in the private market, and that this may reasonably involve a mortgage of 3 ½ times the household salary, or rents of up to 30% of income, and a /residual income after housing costs only just above benefit level./ (p 87) Social housing in these assumptions is reduced to a safety net service for those who absolutely cannot afford any other option – a very far cry from its post-war role as a source of good quality housing, and a tenure of choice.

The other basic assumption concerns the backlog of people inadequately housed. While those families who make up the ‘backlog’ might be forgiven for thinking that they should be recognised as having an immediate housing need, the model allows this need to be met in annual instalments of 10%. The authors explain that they are following government guidelines that say that local authorities should not plan to exhaust the backlog. The government recommend a maximum quota of 20% per annum, and in choosing to reduce this further the authors hope that families will be pushed to find other sources of housing. (p 89)

So, to take the example of Dundee, although the report acknowledges that the city has a backlog need for 6061 homes (p 117) – almost half due to overcrowding and sharing – this is translated into a backlog quota of 605 homes a year (p 11), which – with the restrictions on social housing eligibility – can be more than met by current turnover. That allows the report to claim Dundee has a net _surplus_ of social housing relets of 700 homes a year (pp 11 and 8), and the council to conclude that there is no need to increase its production of new social housing from 200 homes a year (note AN 90-2007 to Housing Committee Agenda for 19^th March 2007) – less than the number of homes currently being lost to the public sector under the Right to Buy.

(For Glasgow the figures are: backlog 29,603 – annual surplus, 4,590, Edinburgh has a backlog of 23,626 and an acknowledged need of 2,480 homes a year.)

The /Local housing need and affordability model for //Scotland// – Update (2005 based) /was published in November 2006 and can be downloaded from the Communities Scotland Website

For more details contact Dr Sarah Glynn 01382 774370

or call The Scottish Tenants Organisation on 01698 281 488 0r 07976 718 111.

1 comment:

Howard Clark said...

A recent letter to Inside Housing argues that CBL doesn't deliver real choice.

Read the letter here:

http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/story.aspx?storycode=6504295

See Steve Maser of Portsmouth City Council talking about Choice Based Lettings:

http://www.thesystemsthinkingreview.co.uk/index.php?pg=18&backto=18&utwkstoryid=153&title=Portsmouth+City+Council+talking+about+Choice+Based+Lettings+&ind=1

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