‘Housing Charity’ Shelter – Clearly a Double Misnomer

by Dr Rosalind Beck

15:27 PM, 24th August 2018
About 2 months ago

‘Housing Charity’ Shelter – Clearly a Double Misnomer

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‘Housing Charity’ Shelter – Clearly a Double Misnomer

Serious questions were raised by my colleague on P118 ‘Free Advice for Shelter, concerning the so-called ‘housing’ charity Shelter. As we know, it is clearly a double misnomer to call this multi-million pound organisation a ‘housing’ charity or ‘Shelter,’ as it provides neither.

Clearly, most of the money goes on salaries and those salaried employees spend a significant amount of time campaigning against actual housing providers and slurring our name. These attacks are now reaching a crescendo.

The success of Shelter’s latest campaign against landlords – proposing the mandating of 3-year tenancies – has emboldened the extreme organisation ‘Generation Rent’ which is now suggesting that 3 years is not enough and that it should be made extremely difficult if not impossible for landlords to ever regain possession of their properties.

Already private landlords are running for the door. The predictable consequences will be a shortage of rented accommodation and the homes which remain in the sector will become more expensive to cover the huge taxes landlords now face and the risk associated with all this regulation. The lowest-paid will have to leave the PRS and go begging the councils for the homes they no longer have because they sold them all off and now expect the PRS to pick up the slack, whilst we are simultaneously attacked from all quarters.

Logic and reason account for nothing in this febrile environment. It doesn’t matter that Shelter’s consistent campaigning is built on wildly inaccurate statements and distorted representations of the sector.

There are three particular claims which are highly questionable, contained in a quote from their Facebook site:

 ‘Renting is unaffordable, unstable and unsafe.’Click Here

  1. Shelter’s claim that renting is ‘unaffordable’:

Facts:
Firstly, to clarify, when Shelter talks about ‘renting’ in this context it is only referring to renting from ‘private’ landlords. This is clear in the following statement made by Shelter:

‘It’s even worse for people on low incomes who rent. They’re trapped paying ever-rising rents, and can’t access social housing – let alone save for a home of their own.’

It makes additional claims in this context which serve to emphasise its point about unaffordability: for example, in its advertising campaign in May 2017 the logo reads: ‘How much have you spent on rent?’ The advert featured prominently the single phrase: ‘rip off.’

The Oxford dictionary defines a rip-off as: ‘A fraud or swindle, especially something that is grossly overpriced.’

Also, on the 20th of May 2017, Shelter referred to ‘soaring rents.’

In fact, Shelter’s claim that renting in the private sector is (uniquely) unaffordable is open to challenge on various fronts:

Regarding the idea that private rents are unaffordable per se:

‘The insurance company Homelet has shown that, assuming an affordability measure of rents being a third of gross salaries, in most regions rents are below affordability requirements.

Research from Savills and YouGov reached similar conclusions to the Homelet research, showing that most tenants are spending anything from 20% to 30% on rent.

A Hometrack report found that:

  • ‘Rents have tracked earnings over the long run. Rental affordability is worst in London while it is the best for a decade in regions outside southern England.’

I have more examples and evidence, which I omit for the sake of brevity. However, the following graph provides a good illustration

If London were excluded from this average picture it would be even clearer that rents are highly affordable and under 30% of gross income in most regions of England and also in Wales.

It is thus simply not true to say that rents are unaffordable and/or have soared.

  1. Shelter’s claim that renting is ‘unstable’ and the counter-argument:

Shelter has been campaigning for 5-year tenancies as they see 5-year tenancies as ‘stable,’ with longevity of contracts deemed the defining characteristic of stability.  The average length of tenancy in England was 4.3 years in 2015-2016 (EHS 2015-2016).  I would suggest that, comparatively, a 4.3 year average is therefore also pretty ‘stable.’  The claim is therefore extremely weak.’

The evidence is also clear that where tenancies end prematurely this is overwhelmingly due to tenants’ decisions and/or behaviour, so it is the tenant who largely dictates the length of the tenancy. These might therefore be seen as ‘tenant-controlled rentals,’ rather than as rentals lacking in stability. The Residential Landlords Association had the following to say:

‘In dismissing these allegations which Shelter has been making for several years even before the latest claims, the Residential Landlords Association has pointed out that the reality is that nearly all tenancies are ended by tenants. Just 9% are ended by landlords, usually as a result of tenant rent arrears or anti-social behaviour.’

Further evidence that tenants are ending their tenancies includes a YouGov survey from Savills which shows that tenants mostly move to find a better property, with fewer than 15% of tenancies being ended by landlords. Click Here

  1. Shelter’s claim that renting is ‘unsafe’:

I have been unable to find a single definition of what Shelter means when it states that private renting is ‘unsafe.’ It is not easy to combat an accusation that is not clearly explained, so I will have to guess and take it to mean that fire safety, trip hazards, electrical safety and so on are deemed by Shelter to be not up to scratch in the private rented sector.

In fact, the English Housing Survey has stated that the sector’s safety has improved dramatically – so it is misleading of Shelter not to mention this:

‘Over a quarter (28%) of private rented homes failed to meet the Decent Homes standard in 2015. The comparative figure for social sector rented sector was 13%. Although the private rented sector has always performed less well than other tenures using this measure of housing quality, there was a marked improvement in the proportion of non-decent private rented homes over the 2006 to 2013 period from 47% to 30%. Since then the proportion of non-decent homes in the sector has remained virtually unchanged.’

Although this means a proportion are considered to be non-decent, non-decent does not mean ‘unsafe’. The definition of ‘non-decent’ was created to measure the social sector, not the private sector and is defined by Shelter in the following terms:

‘The Decent Homes Standard is a programme aimed at improving council and housing association homes to bring them all up to a minimum standard.

To meet the Decent Home Standard, your council or housing association home must:

  • meet the HHSRS minimum safety standards for housing
  • be in a reasonable state of repair
  • have reasonably modern facilities and services
  • have efficient heating and effective insulation click here

However, in the private sector, there is a disproportionate number of older properties than in the social sector, so it is harder to achieve the same level of insulation. This must be taken into account.

To use one index, in 2015, when ‘rogue landlords’ were targeted, and 40,000 inspections undertaken, this resulted in 3,000 cases where further action or prosecution resulted. So even within this extreme category, 92.5% were considered safe enough to warrant no further action. click here

This is in contrast to inspections of Local Authority tower blocks last year, where 0% were considered to be safe.

Shelter’s findings in an earlier report that 33% of private rented homes and only 15% of social rented homes contained a ‘Category 1 hazard’ is thus open to serious question click here

In light of these facts, it would be reasonable to expect Shelter to withdraw its claim that private renting is unaffordable, insecure and unsafe and to desist from repeating similar, unsubstantiated claims in future.



Comments

AA

18:35 PM, 24th August 2018
About 2 months ago

An excellent piece of analysis HOWEVER we have to get the message across to the lay person, Mr and Mrs Joe Average. We need sound bites, that's what sells. Something like " Shelter are a lying bunch of left wing commie b's" … now that s a headline. You can't take up meaningful negotiations when someone has a driven agenda . Remember WMD 's ?

Mark Alexander

22:47 PM, 24th August 2018
About 2 months ago

The problem is that Shelter has £millions to spend on PR every year.

How much do landlord bodies have?

Property118 runs on less than 1% of Shelters income!

Sunita Rickman

8:19 AM, 25th August 2018
About 2 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Mark Alexander at 24/08/2018 - 22:47
A great piece Mark
It sounds like a valid legal argument to me !!
I just wondered , do you know;
Where do shelter get their money from ?? Surly It can't all
be from charitable donations - As it seems they have a lot

Arnie Newington

9:13 AM, 25th August 2018
About 2 months ago

A lie will be half way round the world before the truth gets its trousers on - Winston Churchill

Shelter have no interest in helping solve the housing crisis they are a Machiavellian organisation that has worked out that the worse that they can make the housing crisis then the more money they get to alleviate the situation.

AA

11:05 AM, 25th August 2018
About 2 months ago

Blue sky out of the box not had my morning coffee thinking - Is it possible to legally question their charitable status ? For example Rolex is a charitable foundation albeit in Switzerland. They would not get the same here as no one has ever received anything by way of financial aid or otherwise. Can't think of what Shelter does. They can't say advise. Google does that in this day and age. Maybe a complaint to HMRC that this a political lobbying group and out with what constitutes a charity. The GAAR rules are quite opaque. Anyway off to Starbucks. Making sure my taxes end up overseas in fear that they may end up in the coffers of Shelter.

Appalled Landlord

15:25 PM, 25th August 2018
About 2 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Sunita Rickman at 25/08/2018 - 08:19
Hi Sunita

Another article shows the various sources of Shelter’s income: https://www.property118.com/free-advice-shelter/#comments

Those figures came from the annual report to March 2017.
https://england.shelter.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0013/1405030/OBR-1521_Annual_Report_DIGITAL_FINAL.pdf?

Note 4 on page 69 is an analysis of the types of source of the £17.9m for housing services. £2.9 came from the Big Lottery

Page 85 lists contracts and grants from statutory bodies and local authorities in excess of £2,000.

The total from English and Scottish councils was £4.7m. Most of this came from Sheffield, Birmingham and London. £9.5m came from government departments: DCLG, Legal Aid, MoJ and the Scottish government.

Donations and legacies are dealt with on page 43 where Shelter gives thanks :““We’d like to say a special thank you to those who have helped us this year towards achieving our vision of a home for everyone."

A footnote says: ”Donors, Trusts and Foundations, Corporate Partners listed on this page have given £5k+ and have requested recognition, Legacies listed are the top 30 estates by value unless anonymity was requested.”

Comic Relief and Big Lottery Fund are shown under Trusts and foundations. So you might be contributing to Shelter indirectly, without knowing it

There is a section called Celebrities. This lists several male comedians, a few female singers, a couple of former footballers you see on the telly, a lot of people I’ve never heard of, and Ken Loach who directed the play “Cathy Come Home” shown on TV ten days before Shelter was launched in 1966.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shelter_(charity)

This entry shows that 14% of revenue comes from Shelter shops. This comes from a pie-chart on page 39 of the annual report. The pie-chart next to it shows that 12% of Shelter’s expenditure went on its shops, (i.e. salaries for 177 employees and “other shop costs”) but this fact was omitted by whoever wrote the piece for Wikipedia, giving a very misleading impression of the contribution that the shops make to its net income.

AA

17:58 PM, 25th August 2018
About 2 months ago

"The total from English and Scottish councils was £4.7m. Most of this came from Sheffield, Birmingham and London. £9.5m came from government departments: DCLG, Legal Aid, MoJ and the Scottish government." This is way out of order. I want my taxes to go to the NHS or care for the elderly or medical research to find cures for horrible diseases, and not to a parasitical self serving quango. This is genuinely alarming, given cuts in critical areas of social support that this organisation can tap into pockets of money depriving other genuinely needy causes.

Luke P

18:33 PM, 25th August 2018
About 2 months ago

Reply to the comment left by AA at 25/08/2018 - 17:58
That is a very good point. Aside from the whole landlords not being particularly keen on Shelter, in times austerity where some basic services, such as social care, are having budgets cut, there is no place for handing out money to charities (or otherwise). All public money must be spent by those accountable on the agreed needs of the country. The way it is now, the board of directors get to decide how to spend public money, our money, and in some cases that could be to attack others. It’s not on!

AA

19:43 PM, 25th August 2018
About 2 months ago

Polly Neate, chief executive of housing charity Shelter, said: 'Too many renters suffer at the hands of landlords who regularly exploit their tenants.

In all fairness I would say that too - if I had my a** in the air and snout in the trough. !

But as I don't

How about " Too many tax payers suffer at the hands of self serving parasites who regularly exploit those exercising personal responsibility so as not wishing to rely on the state"

Christopher Marsden

10:26 AM, 28th August 2018
About 2 months ago

Reading some of the foregoing could seriously damage your health (raised cortisone levels etc)
Dr Rosalind should be presenting her excellent critique at the Tory Party conference next month but unfortunately that's not going to happen.
I am not sure what we can do to chip away at the mass of Landlord bashing institutions and their funding.
We seem a world away from even 10000 signatures on a petition let alone the 100000 that we should be able to raise from 2.5 million landlords.
Mark you clearly have tried to change this situation. Have you tried approaching the mortgage companies (is there a collective body that represents them?) for a joint initiative to improve the status of the industry?
I guess a structured approach will be required that helps get the message across as I don't think turning around section 24 would appeal to the mortgage companies.
Without critical mass being willing to provide some support I fear we will not make any inroads to improve how we are seen.

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