A future for social housing?

Submitted by Janine on 12 May, 2005 - 5:45

by Tony Osborne

Some Councils, like Hackney where I live, are scrabbling to get on the Arms Length Management Organisation (ALMO) ladder. They think this is the only way they are likely to raise the money after years of (their own!) neglect and mismanagement, to comply with central government’s directive that all Council homes must reach a “Decent Homes” standard by 2010 However, this is by no means guaranteed even if given ALMO status.

Some ALMOs are reaching the end of five-year contracts. What are the Councils in those areas thinking about now? Do they now take homes back under direct Council control and proceed to a further 30-year cycle of mismanagement? Or do they extend the contracts with a view to eventually selling the homes off and so privatising them? Probably the latter if the following is anything to go by:

  • High performing ALMOs are on the verge of securing a Government deal that would give them the same freedoms as housing associations. They will be able to borrow money and build new homes.
  • Keith Hill, Housing Minister, has recently said there “remained no option for attracting Government investment in social housing other than Stock Transfer, Private Finance Initiative or Arms Length Management Organisations.”

People in supported housing — the elderly and the frail — are the latest victims of the decline of social housing .

Supported housing providers are charging tenants top-up payments to plug the gaps in their budgets.(Inside Housing 6 May 2005)

Housing associations operating in at least two councils are expecting residents to pay towards support services, placing the local authorities in breach of Supporting People funding rules.

Who suffers the most?

Those on Housing Benefits, as it comes out of their benefits.

Who should pay for support services where Councils have contracted the running of their Supported Housing to outside agencies such as Housing Associations?

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister says the duty was on local authorities to meet the cost of supported housing services.

A spokesman for the ODPM went on to say that supported housing providers shunting cost onto the housing benefit system are already facing a government crackdown.

Meanwhile several local authorities told Inside Housing that Hanover Housing, (who also now run Hackney’s supported housing), had told them it would have to start charging tenants if its funding demands are not met.

The association said it was not charging at the moment but was considering the option.

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