Shelter and their abandonment of social tenants

by Dr Rosalind Beck

14:41 PM, 26th July 2017
About 3 years ago

Shelter and their abandonment of social tenants

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Shelter and their abandonment of social tenants

If there is one thing that Grenfell Tower has taught us it is that it often takes a catastrophic event for people’s serious concerns to be listened to; before the Grenfell fire, the tenants’ were forced to dice with death on a daily basis while their reports of the danger they were in went unheeded by their incompetent local authority landlords and also by ‘the left’ in general.  Indeed, there is no evidence that the organisations and individuals on the left who would normally be seen as their ‘protectors’ and advocates did anything at all to help them.

This refusal to listen to social tenants can only be explained as stemming from a misguided idealisation of council and Housing Association housing; a politically-correct vision of it as the preferred tenure for the poor (the ultimate dream of getting a council flat); in contrast to the portrayal of the private rented sector (PRS) as some kind of hell hole. Indeed, a new report out by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation also follows the politically-correct (but factually incorrect) line of assuming the PRS is a uniquely problematic tenure, whilst the social sector is deemed to be Nirvana.

We now see how this this simplistic and false dichotomy has cost people’s lives; it diverted attention from recognising and dealing with incredibly dangerous housing and shone the spotlight instead on housing which, despite its faults, was not putting its tenants’ lives at risk.

The ‘homelessness charity Shelter’s’  role has been especially pernicious in this. As all landlords know, this organisation has single-mindedly led the charge to demonise private rented housing whilst promoting the idea of social housing and more recently, following the Tory agenda, of owner-occupation, as the only tenures with a legitimate role to play in solving the housing crisis.

This is now beginning to unravel. Last week we saw Shelter and John Healey, Shadow Secretary of State for Housing, vying to get in on the act and talk about shoddy conditions in social housing. They will try and portray themselves as though they have been the champions of social tenants over recent years; they have not.

Even for weeks after the fire Shelter was semi-mute about it (possibly because they were frantically trying to work out how to explain the fact that one of their Board members was the sole shareholder of the company which had supplied the cladding to Grenfell Tower); perhaps they also found the switch to criticising the social sector too far out of their comfort zone.

Maybe they don’t see how utterly scandalous their ideologically-driven agenda of recent years has been. Given that additional information in the latest English Housing Survey (EHS) has confirmed that social tenants are more dissatisfied with their housing than private tenants are (data collected before the fire) how do they think they might justify this extremely poor prioritisation of resources?

Other key questions to be answered include:

  • Did Shelter ignore tenants’ groups’ warnings that they were being put in life-threatening situations because of a conflict of interest with their Board member supplying the cladding?
  • Where is the evidence that they were ‘advocating’ for social tenants across the country in general? (what proportion of their resources was spent on this?)
  • And why did they see their main role as pursuing private landlords to the near-exclusion of all else?

A glance at Shelter’s Facebook page over the months preceding the Grenfell fire reveals that it was spending a significant amount of time and resources during this critical time highlighting things like ‘mould and condensation’ issues in the PRS (often caused by occupants’ lifestyles – a fact Shelter does not like to acknowledge) and focusing its energies on pushing for private landlords to grant minimum 5-year tenancies, when tenancies last an average of 4.3 years anyway, according to the EHS. It gives a terrible new meaning to the phrase ‘fiddling while Rome was burning.’

The damning fact of the matter is that not only has Shelter not protected social tenants with its annual £60 million budget; not only has it relentlessly harassed private landlords (and supported George Osborne’s insane fiscal attack on private landlords which is an attack on private tenants as much as on landlords – a punitive fiscal attack on landlords can only lead to higher rents), but it has also not provided one roof over anyone’s head during all the time it has been undermining those of us who do.

I think many members of the public, including those who donate to the ‘charity’ would be surprised to know that despite the assumption behind its name, it provides no shelter.

Incredibly, notwithstanding all of this, somehow Shelter’s reputation has remained intact. Indeed their former Chief Executive Campbell Robb (now heading up the Joseph Rowntree Foundation), who presided over this catastrophic mismanagement, has also escaped scot-free and into another lucrative position in the voluntary sector, leaving Shelter in what can only be described as a moment of existentialist crisis.

What does it now stand for? Who should it be helping? And how should it be doing this?

These are fundamental questions which its new Chief Executive, Polly Neate, who is about to take up her post, must urgently address. If she cannot drastically re-frame Shelter’s priorities so that it helps rather than hinders in solving the housing problems of this country, then I suggest Shelter shut up shop as it is not fit for purpose.

Dr Rosalind Beck

Dr Beck is a porfolio landlord based in South Wales, who has written a critique of the Government’s ‘fiscal attack’ on landlords: Click Here


Dr Rosalind Beck

14:15 PM, 28th July 2017
About 3 years ago

I also spent all my working life before becoming a private landlord in the voluntary sector. I don't see how having worked in the voluntary sector is relevant. I'm interested in substantive arguments rather than ones along the lines of: 'I worked as an x, y, z so I know certain (mysterious) things.' If anyone saw my exchange with 'Professor' Danny Dorling a while back, they will have seen that status in a certain role is irrelevant to the amount of sense talked or written. I'd rather listen to a cogent argument from a barrista (the currently favoured occupation to refer to in these instances), than to a load of biased, ideologically-driven claptrap from the Chief Executive of a 'charity' or a professor. The Guardian has published a couple of outrageously biased articles (whilst, dishonestly, calling itself an 'independent' paper in Facebook adverts asking for donations), both by and quoting such people in the last week, calling for further attacks on the PRS, and we need to defend our sector both for our own and our tenants' sakes, with logical, honest and rational arguments. Unfortunately, contrary to what some of the comments indicate above, we do not have the ear of Government and/or the influence which we need and the Conservatives are not on our side at all. They're the ones who have stuck the knife in most.

Robert Mellors

23:15 PM, 28th July 2017
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Dr Rosalind Beck" at "28/07/2017 - 14:15":

The mention of having worked within charities is relevant to whether or not charities are "parasites" as was stated by one of the commentators. It is relevant as to whether charity workers are dedicated individuals who care about their particular client group. Of course that has little or no bearing on whether the philosophy or aims of any particular charity are correct, or whether they put out misguided or even dishonest propaganda. Yes, all arguments need to be cogent, logical, and based on fact, not fiction, and yes that could come from a barrista or anyone else.

I'm not sure which comment you think indicates that private landlords have the ear of the government, I saw no such comment, only a very vague reference to large corporate landlords and the Tory party, (but this does not apply to most private landlords who only have a few properties which are held personally, not via a large corporation).

I agree that the PRS does need to defend itself, but at the same time I think it would be good if the likes of Shelter would listen to our cogent arguments, and we could all work together to deliver an effective private rented sector that works for both the landlord and the tenants. Perhaps I am just an idealist and this will never happen, but that does not stop it being something worth aiming for.

terry sullivan

8:46 AM, 29th July 2017
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Annie Landlord" at "27/07/2017 - 20:58":

nearly all shelters funds come from taxpayer mostly via local govt--its a scam

Old Mrs Landlord

9:30 AM, 29th July 2017
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "terry sullivan" at "<a href="29/07/2017" rel="nofollow">">29/07/2017 - 08:46":
Too true, Terry, and a point I have made before on this forum because I find it particularly galling - we landlords are paying Shelter to excoriate and vilify us! I would much rather my taxes went to those who, through no fault of their own, have health issues which mean they genuinely need support with housing costs.

philip allen

11:46 AM, 29th July 2017
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Sandra Pomeroy" at "27/07/2017 - 20:31":

So the Tory party represent private landlords' interests, do they? Are you aware of Section 24, 3% surcharge on second homes, removal of wear and tear allowance, etc, etc? What planet are you from?

Sandra Pomeroy

12:09 PM, 29th July 2017
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "terry sullivan" at "29/07/2017 - 08:46":

In fact most of it's income is from donations and gifts as well as legacies-
Also from sales income (some £9.6M a year or so ago)

Sandra Pomeroy

12:18 PM, 29th July 2017
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "philip allen" at "29/07/2017 - 11:46":

"What planet are you from" (?). I don't believe anything I have written has been personally offensive.
It is perfectly possible to disagree with someone else's opinion without resorting to such comments.

paul thomason

22:38 PM, 29th July 2017
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Sandra Pomeroy" at "27/07/2017 - 17:44":

if shelter are so good let them house all the tenants on hb private landlords will not be able to with section 24

Sandra Pomeroy

12:32 PM, 30th July 2017
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "paul thomason" at "29/07/2017 - 22:38":

I don't think I claimed Shelter were 'so good'; I've never worked for them, nor have any special interest. I responded to this thread - which specifically mentions Shelter - merely to point out that the organisation can only act within their own mission statement, which is to provide advice, training etc
They have never been a housing association, providing actual houses.
Perhaps someone in power should call their bluff by offering them £billions to set up the provision of social housing for HB tenants (?).
Until that happens it can only be speculation as to how 'good' or otherwise they are

Cheryl Waugh

16:18 PM, 30th July 2017
About 3 years ago

I was in total agreement with Dr Beck's article. I let in an area that requires our properties to be licensed. For the privilege of being allowed to let them out we are charged £500 per property but receive nothing in return. However, helping a friend move into a social housing flat recently , I was horrified at the standard it was in. The new tenant could not get gas or electricity because of the debt left by the previous tenants, the toilet did not flush and I was told that this is not an emergency and someone would be out in three weeks- in the meantime use a bucket. The repair for a leak under the sink was to turn off the water to the cold tap. I would not dream of treating my tenants in this manner. The dream of a "council house" would as likely turn into a nightmare for many.

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