Memorandum by Tenant Participation Advisory
Service (TPAS) (AFH 47)
TPAS is a membership organisation of over 300
social landlords and 800 tenant groups that exists to promote
tenant empowerment. As such this response is primarily aimed at
social housing rather than owner-occupation or the private rented
In general terms TPAS supports the concept of
affordable housing. This allows a basic right to a home for all
citizens, irrespective of circumstances. TPAS would welcome a
definition of affordability based on ability to pay rather than
the Government's current approach of average earnings in an area
and value of the property. Indeed the DTLR have acknowledged this
implicitly by restricting increases in rent for high value areas,
such as London, to such an extent that it will take dozens of
years for social housing rents to reach their "real"
TPAS believes there is a wide range of people
who want access to social housing. These include three groups
that will need or wish to have access to affordable social housing:
those who are retired or unlikely to work, low paid employees,
and employees with a very flexible work pattern.
It is worth noting that the composition of tenants
has changed substantially over the past 20 years. The proportion
of tenants in work has halved from 50 per cent to 25 per cent.
Demand for affordable housing is now facing two contrary forcesthe
aspiration for home ownership and the explosion in flexible working
patterns. Social housing remains unable to respond to either successfully,
although the Government is to be congratulated on considering
tenant equity stakes as a possible way of meeting home ownership
The above means that affordable housing, including
social housing, will continue to be a significant part of housing
provision irrespective of growth in the economy. It also means
that provision will need to continue to be affordable throughout
Although the link between affordable housing
and work has been weakened it is clear that local economies are
being adversely affected by the inability of employees to live
locally. This has been most obvious in London and for public sector
workers such as teachers and nurses. However the thriving house
market in London (and some regional capitals such as Bristol and
Manchester) means that owner occupation is increasingly less affordable
and private renting becomes increasingly expensive. It is only
the Government's own restrictions of social housing rent increases
that is stopping social housing becoming the exclusive preserve
of the non-employed.
TPAS believes that the trend to expensive housing
in certain areas will continue. London and to a lesser extent
regional capitals such as Leeds (biggest growing local economy
in Europe) will draw in jobs and investment. This means that areas
with the biggest ability to sustain jobs will be increasingly
unable to provide affordable housing as house prices rise to meet
demand and income.
TPAS's view is that in areas of job growth and
high house prices there should be a substantial increase in the
provision of social housing. This can provide housing for local
workers, especially those with limited incomes or flexible work
patterns. It will also deflate overheated housing markets, bringing
prices down in the medium term and creating more affordable owner
occupation. This would allow a pattern of workers being in social
housing for a period of time and then fulfilling their aspiration
to home ownership as their circumstances allow.
Implicit in the Government commitment to decent
homes is that social housing does not meet decency standards at
present. The Government is right to recognise this and to take
steps to improve social housing standards. Investment is an important
building blockfor too long social housing has been at the
back of the queue of political priorities and it shows. However
investment is not enough. There needs to be two explicit additions
to ensure that the additional funding provides the success that
both Government and tenants want.
Firstly there needs to be a better relationship
between landlords as providers of social housing and tenants as
recipients of social housing. Although Best Value has aimed to
put the customer first there is still deep-seated resistance to
a more tenant-inclusive approach. Again the Government is to be
congratulated for a very explicit policy for tenants based on
Tenant Participation Compacts and for funding this policy. However
this very useful initiative has lost momentum and funding, and
has never been promoted by the Housing Corporation for Registered
Secondly there needs to be a better relationship
between landlords/tenants and providers of other public services.
TPAS identified the relationship of higher need for public services
with poorer provision two years ago in its response to the National
Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal consultation. This has been
acknowledged more recently by the Deputy Prime Minster's comments
about a postcode lottery. This is particularly important for crime
and anti social behaviour. Social housing has become closely identified
with both to the extent that tenants with choice leave social
housing at a far higher rate than their ability to afford to buy.
As mentioned earlier there is growing demand
for affordable housing in London and regional capitals. This is
not being met for a number of reasons:
social housing does not meet quality
there is insufficient social housing;
social housing does not meet the
aspirations of flexible workers;
social housing is closely associated
with poor services and crime.
There is a sharp debate between those who view
this in simple terms. On one side there are the "let's spend
all the money in London meeting demand" and on the other
"if we spend all the money in London then social housing
elsewhere will simply become unsustainable". Everywhere should
have decent, responsive social housing and there are special issues
where local and even regional economies are driving need for additional
investment in social housing, for sound economic reasons. Although
London is the most obvious symbol of this debate the growing strength
of regional economies will create similar debates within as well
as between regions.
This suggests that the funding plans may need
to distinguish between supporting decent social housing and meeting
investment/job driven local demand. It also suggests that more
funding is needed, at least in the short term.
It is tempting to suggest that existing planning
powers will provide the level of affordable housing needed. However
more drastic solutions are needed in London and may be needed
elsewhere in the not too distant future.
TPAS, perhaps unsurprisingly, believes that
social housing has an important part to play in meeting housing
need and especially in providing affordable housing. In broad
terms it supports the idea of tenant equity stakes, about to be
tried shortly, in both meeting homeownership aspirations and also
in changing the relationship between landlord and tenant.
Given the very regional nature of the increase
in demand in certain areas it is very appropriate for Regional
Planning Guidance to deal explicitly with affordable housing provision.
However there are also overlaps with Regional Economic Strategies,
drawn up by Regional Development Agencies and Regional Housing
Strategies, drawn up by ad-hoc groups of Government Offices, landlords
and Housing Corporation regional offices.
TPAS is cautious about the funding that is provided
being sufficient. Due to interpretations on public spending, which
are inexplicable to tenants, the Government has effectively presumed
that local authority tenants will vote in sufficient numbers for
stock transfer to lever-in the private finance necessary for the
sums to stack up. This may not happen. For some of the larger
local authority landlords it is unlikely that any option will
allow them to meet the decency target and additional Government
funding will be necessary.
The creation of mixed communities needs to be
given more priority. It will be a slow process as house building
inevitably takes a long time to both build up and change communities.
Given the likely demand is for affordable housing
in London or regional centres TPAS would favour brownfield sites
to meet that demand. TPAS is concerned about density issues and
the idea of "packing them in" is one that is resisted
by tenants living in areas of high density.
Much of this submission has been about the necessity
of bringing together affordable/social housing with local economies.
This is already having a negative impact on those economies and
without providing affordable housing in areas of high demand the
likely effect will be to increase travel to work times with consequential
knock-on effects for family life.