Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Welfare Housing destroys the lives of tenants

I don't have time today to do this justice, and will be coming back to it again. I've been going through a major report from LSE, produced for the government, on welfare housing (or social housing, if you prefer. I don't).

When this was first conceived, renting rather than owning was the norm for much of British society. The Labour government envisioned estates like twee urban villages, where the doctor and the vicar lived side by side with the butcher and the labourer in a democratic social mix. Since 1979 several things have happened; hundreds of thousands have escaped the council estate by buying their houses, a general rise in ownership has meant everyone else who wanted to and could afford it have left, and councils have been prevented from demolishing decent private housing and building welfare slums as they did with such abandon in the 60s. So where are we now? Well, a few snippets from this report:
  • The economic cost to the country of subsidised welfare rents is £6.6bn a year
  • We (the taxpayer) own £400bn in capital value of welfare housing, but our return on capital after management and maintenance is barely 1% per annum
  • It's a myth that council tenants all want to be owner occupiers; given the choice, 39% would prefer to stay as subsidised tenants
  • Barely a third of heads of welfare households are in full time work
  • One in eight private house moves are work related, but just a very few thousand moves a year amongst 4m welfare tenants are for employment reasons
  • Welfare tenants stay put in the same house for a very long time. Over twenty years, they will enjoy the benefit of subsidised rent worth £65,000 at Net Present Value.
  • Despite subsidised rents meaning that in theory it's much easier for a welfare tenant to move from benefits to work than for a private tenant, very few do so.
Add to these the fact that of all residential areas, welfare estates suck in over 80% of police, social services and other tax-funded resources - read any copper's blog to see where all the police time goes - and our continuing to support the idea of welfare housing is economically crippling and destroys the lives of millions of welfare tenants 'locked in' to a system of welfare dependency.

I'll come back to this.

9 comments:

Newmania said...

Raedwald that is a superb post . there are some parts of the report you quote that I am not entirely clear on but I`ll wait to see what you have to say next. The moral effect of infantilising tracts of the population was predicted famously by Frank Field which pertains to your last telling paragraph.

I see this , in my serious moments as the great arguement of the age and the one that must be won for all ou sakes.
Honestly I don`t go around being smarmy ...quite the reverse but this is tremendous stuff.

Bravo

Newmania said...

BTW how do you come to be leafing through LSE reports . Its not quite the laconic countryman image you cultivate is it. How would one even know there was such a thing . I didn`t ?

I suspect you are not quite what you seem to be Radders

mutleythedog said...

I wonder if the problem isn't the housing as such but is the underclass people?

Delicolor said...

I'm not entirely convinced that it is the fact that they are rented houses, as private sector rented housing seems to work well in many European Countries.

Neither is it the quality of the houses as many older ones were constructed to high standards, much better than my rather shoddily thrown up Persimmon Brieze block box.

That leaves the people. Are they infantalised because of the social aspects, not educated enough to grasp that shitting in your own back yard is a stupid thing to do, or just beyond caring?

I'm of the view that most Council House tenants are decent people- it is just that there is a higher concentration of scratters (say 10 compared to 5%) and the culture of it being cool to under-achieve combined with an almost total lack of any effective sanctions from secondary school onwards means that people know and take advantage of being able to get away with it.

hatfield girl said...

The garden cities offered first-class housing and local services to their incoming, economic- migrating populations; parks, schools, libraries, sports facilities and swimming pools. But essentially they offered work, at mixed skill- levels and in modern manufacturing and technological industries.

They thrived for two generations, with outstanding success at providing stable communities and the ladders of social mobility. Their slump into the patterns of deprivation came with the removal of the manufacturing industry, particularly the technologically advanced, large scale manufacturing.

Because of the excellence of the infrastructures, and their location in the globalised London economy, they are back fully functioning and working (in every sense of the word); but they still suffer from sneers about chavs and corporation housing.

It's not surprising people hold on to their housing and communities and services in times of economic recession - if you can't find work in Welwyn and Hatfield where are you supposed to go? Not every generation can leave for Australia. And if retraining, and good schools, are there then sometimes the years needed to reinvest, personally, socially, economically may look like feckless enjoyment of social resources , when really, regrouping takes time.

And it isn't helped in any way by draining the resources for investment in manufacturing through outrageous taxation levels into Treasury control, to be allocated not by the market into profitable growth sectors and areas, but to state jobs and dependency cultures to ensure the vote in the collapsed industrial sectors where the market has shown there is no real hope of growth at all. There, and then, you really will get the dependency culture behaviour, hopeless and permanent.

hg said...

That sounds fiercer than I feel; I plead blog-comment-writing effect on complicated thoughts.

Raedwald said...

HG - good points well made.

Communities and families are the very bedrock of our society, and we deprive them of their legitimacy and authority at our peril.

I've always liked the garden cities - you won't catch me sneering at them. They manage to have character, identity and to create pride and affection in their people.

But I've always rather disagreed with the Canutes (or Cnuts, as the modern scholars would have it) who try to stem the tide. If manufacturing is gone, there's services; warehousing, transport, distribution. e-commerce and internet retailing mean that opportunities can exist anywhere with decent transport hubs and a reasonably skilled workforce - and proximity to London is all.

You're spot on about the waste of creating 'state jobs' - utter stupidity. That's what Scotland's done - the public sector there eats 59% of GDP.

Roger Thornhill said...

The problem of places like Hatfield is down to the corporation housing itself, which limits mobility. Fine if jobs come to you, but for 200 years my family has moved to find work, so why should work move to find me?

I go into this a little more in my comment to part 2.

hatfield girl said...

Social resources used to create social goods which are consumed socially (the Garden Cities infrastructures are an example) shouldn't be muddled with, or condemned, as are other kinds of intervention by local or state authorities. Sports centres, libraries, art galleries, museums, evening classes, community activities and their centres are all provision of access to things that we cannot have individually. I can't hope to enjoy renaissance art works unless Florence makes them available to us all. Municipal generosity can be a mix of private funding and authority funding, and spread over generations; that this is so is shown by the provincial museums and galleries so shamefully being closed, disbanded, run down for the purpose of diverting funding into private consumption by the class of 'qualified claimant'.

It's the privatisation of social consumption or social provision that infuriates me personally and impoverishes us all. No money to fund the public library we all use, but home helps for the 'qualified' etc. Acres of housing and no intellectual or sport provision.

Social funding for social consumption; families for personal stuff.

Raedwald, you could have a polo match on these topics there are so many high horses to ride.