Thursday, 21 September 2017

Where has our affordable housing gone?

Our 'affordable housing' situation is not very good:
Futures Forum: The failure on affordable and social housing

In fact, it is now very clear that most housing being built - especially in rural areas and smaller towns - is anything but 'affordable':
Futures Forum: Rural areas risk becoming ‘enclaves of the affluent’

The Campaign to Protect Rural England continues to ask awkward questions:

Where has our affordable housing gone? 

19 September 2017

Where has our affordable housing gone?
In my previous blog in June on the subject of affordable housing, I highlighted that developers are routinely failing to provide the affordable housing they originally promised in large new private housebuilding schemes across rural England. Even worse, there is an ongoing debate about whether the official definition of ‘affordable housing’ is as stringent as it should be.
Three months on and a team of us at CPRE – with some kind assistance from the consultancy Rural Housing Solutions – have carried out some further investigation of the rural housing picture. And the picture emerging is not a pretty one.
In June we saw how local communities’ targets, as developed by councils, to address the affordable rural housing shortage, are regularly being flouted, and developers’ profit margins given more priority. Generally, if developers can opt out of building affordable homes on grounds of 'viability', they will make more money from a given scheme. These renegotiations are happening time and again, but are very hard to keep track of, as the details are often buried within local authority planning application databases and committee reports. But a hint of how widespread the problem has become can be gleaned from the use of a special, time limited mechanism (referred to as ‘Section 106BC’) for appealing affordable housing agreements that had effect from November 2013 to May 2016.
CPRE analysis found that, of the 23 appeals submitted in predominantly rural districts under this mechanism, the developer’s desired reductions were allowed either wholly or in part in 17 cases. This meant that of the 1,153 affordable homes intended when planning permission was originally given in these cases, 478 were lost, usually replaced instead by more profitable general market housing.
The communities most affected by the use of the Section 106BC mechanism were Faringdon in Oxfordshire, where 80 affordable homes were lost, and Lydney in Gloucestershire, which lost 138. It is also important to remember that the end of this mechanism has not prevented ostensible commitments to affordable homes being watered down. Developers and local authorities can still use the more established ‘Section 106B’ power to modify any planning agreement, including for affordable housing, five years after the original agreement was signed.
And it looks like worse is to come. We now seem to be set for a vicious downward spiral of failing to meet rural housing need, as the policy targets themselves are first watered down, and then often not met in practice. We analysed 62 rural local authorities* that have adopted plans since 2012 (see tables below), when the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) came into force.
In general, local plans produced since the NPPF came into force are seeking to meet the overall or full objective assessment of need. The Government estimatesthat the average overall assessed need for a single local authority is 781 dwellings per annum and the average housing requirement per local authority is 671 (targets are currently meeting 86% of assessed need). But, just to add to the confusion, overall assessments of need lump in market demand with social need. 
When it comes to meeting the part of the need assessment that relates specifically to affordable housing, the plans come up short by a very long way. There was a need for 46,100 affordable homes in total across the 62 local authorities. But the actual plans only have an overall ambition for 29% of the new homes planned to be affordable, to be achieved through negotiations with developers on individual sites in the plan. This means that the local authorities will only seek to provide 25,500 homes – little more than half of the assessed need – in practice.
If current trends continue, actual delivery is likely to be much lower, because developers can also negotiate down the policy requirement on an individual site through the use of a viability assessment. This can take place even before a planning agreement is signed, and once an agreement is signed then the affordable housing can be negotiated down still further. Indeed, in the past three years only 26% of all new homes built, or 18,700 homes, have been affordable in the 62 authorities we surveyed.

Survey of 62 rural local authorities with post-NPPF adopted local plans
 Proportions Notes
 Affordable housing need 68%Need as a proportion of the local plan housing requirement
 Affordable housing target 29% Target as a proportion of new development
 Affordable housing delivery 26%
Affordable homes as a proportion of all new homes (annual average over the past three years: 2013/14 to 2015/16)

Survey of 62 rural local authorities with post-NPPF adopted local plans
 Proportions Notes
 Affordable housing need 46,100Based on figures from Stategic Housing Market Assessments quoted within the local plan document. A total 37 local authorities have quoted such figures.
 Affordable housing target 25,500Extrapolated from affordable housing policies within the local plan
 Affordable housing delivery 18,700
Based on an annual average over past three years delivery from DCLG

The overall picture is clear: since the NPPF came into force, performance on delivering rural affordable housing has been poor, and the Government’s planning reforms have served to encourage this reduction in delivery. We now have a chance to tell the Government about this problem. A new consultation on revising the method for calculating housing need has just been published. Our immediate response to it is here and we’ll be going into it more detail in the next few days.

* The local authorities surveyed were:
Allerdale, Babergh, Basingstoke and Deane, Bath and North East Somerset, Broadland, Cannock Chase, Carlisle, Cherwell, Cheshire West and Chester, Chichester, Copeland, Cornwall, Dacorum, Daventry, East Cambridgeshire, East Devon, East Dorset, East Hampshire, East Northamptonshire, East Riding of Yorkshire, East Staffordshire, Fenland, Great Yarmouth, Hereford, High Peak, Horsham, Lewes, Lichfield, Malvern Hills, Mendip, North Dorset, North Kesteven, North Somerset, North Warwickshire, Ribble Valley, Richmondshire, Rother, Rushcliffe Borough City, Ryedale District Council, Selby, Shepway, South Derbyshire, South Norfolk, South Northamptonshire, South Somerset, Stafford, Staffordshire Moorlands, Stratford-on-Avon, Stroud, Suffolk Coastal, Teignbridge, Test Valley, Vale of White Horse, Wealden, Wellingborough, West Dorset, West Lancashire, West Lindsey, West Somerset, Wiltshire, Winchester, Wychavon

Where has our affordable housing gone? - Campaign to Protect Rural England
F&FF - Technical and Business Information

Plans for Port Royal: anticipating a Regeneration Board >> reference group to meet today as process nears completion

The Scoping Study for Port Royal is nearing completion:

> Scoping Study consultation >> proposals now available 

> Scoping Study consultation > an overview of the maps and the options 
> Scoping Study consultation > a full analysis and a proper alternative scoping study 
> Scoping Study consultation > Vision Group report 2012
> Scoping Study consultation >> "People have been pleased that the Councils had not leapt ahead with detailed plans or designs and were not presenting the initial findings as a fait-a-compli." 
> "There are no proposals, no plans and no schemes being put forward." 

> Scoping Study consultation > SVA response
> Scoping Study consultation > calls for the site to be developed "imaginatively and conservatively" 
> Scoping Study consultation > 'No plans or designs are being considered or decided on at this stage, purely the possibility of improvement and viability of the important seafront site.' 
> Scoping Study consultation and "independent experts" 
> Scoping Study consultation update

> Scoping Study consultants' report due to be presented to Reference Group > Thursday 21st September 
> "Nothing is decided" > full report 
> "It is important to start a project with no preconceptions about what should be removed or retained in order to achieve the desired result." 

Later today, the Reference Group will be meeting with the consultants who will present their draft report. Here's an overview from the Sidmouth Drill Hall Rescue site:

Dear Friends,

I thought it was time I wrote to clarify where the campaign to save the Drill Hall fits within the Retain-Refurbish-Reuse campaign.

The campaign for the Drill Hall still exists as a separate entity, it is in full support of the aims of 3Rs as they exist at the moment but it is not going to disappear into the larger campaign. Neither does the aim to save the Drill Hall limit the ideas 3Rs are willing to consider, the Drill Hall is just one of the buildings on the site. It is therefore incorrect and foolish of people to try to claim that 3Rs are only concerned with saving the Drill Hall no matter what effect that has on the other users of Port Royal.

It is also wrong to suggest that those who want to save the Drill Hall want to do so any price. The reasoning behind saving the Drill hall is that it will be an asset to the town, not that everything which has ever been built should be kept. If I didn't believe that there were many viable uses for the hall I would just be advocating it being properly recorded before demolition to free up the space.

The 3Rs campaign has garnered a lot of support, around 2,000 signatures so far. Being part of this campaign is the best way forward for the Drill Hall at the moment. However, there has also been a lot of vitriol aimed at the campaign and we need to help counter that. All of us need to have facts at our fingertips so that we can correct unsubstantiated allegations from those who want to demolish everything at Port Royal and start again.

One comment which seems to be being made quite frequently is that EDDC spent a lot of money to acquire the Drill Hall and that the District as a whole needs some sort of pay back for this. The figure quoted is £600,000.
There are two fallacies in this position. One is that the total cost to EDDC of the land swap and building of replacement facilities for the Cadets was £550,000 according to the Herald report at the time, the other is that every part of East Devon receives and contributes the same amount to the District.

Sidmouth was promised when the planning application for Sanditon was passed that £1.5 million would go from that development into affordable housing in Sidmouth and to the tourist economy in Sidmouth to make up for the loss of hotel accommodation. Over the years this changed and most of the money has gone to the District, investing in a revived Drill Hall would be 'pay back' for this loss.

Of course Sidmouth will also lose when all the Council employment moves from the town to elsewhere, and the proposed Knowle developments give practically nothing back. It is worth noting that the new CIL payments, even if they apply to any Knowle redevelopment, have to be split between town and District because it is a Community Infrastructure Levy. The town would get 15% of the money ( increasing to 25% if we have a Neighbourhood Plan in place) and bear all of the loss. The same would apply, of course, to any redevelopment at Port Royal: do not be fooled that a great deal of the money would benefit the town or go towards paying for the sea defences.

The meeting of the Port Royal Reference Group tonight (21st Sept 2017) is therefore of huge importance to the town. They are the ones who were supposed to be informing the Consultants and making sure they didn't come up with inappropriate ideas, but couldn't as they only met them once before the day the ideas were shown to the public.

It is to be hoped that the public response to the Consultation has given the Reference Group more status and that they will feel able to move the proposals into a more acceptable track. However, this statement on the EDDC website is not heartening. It acknowledges the Consultant's survey and the Neighbourhood Plan survey but completely ignores the petition which numerically almost equals both put together.

Kind regards,

Reference Group meeting today

Politicians, wonks and technocrats

We don't seem to like 'politicians' very much:
Futures Forum: Why do we fall for the lies of our politicians?

Perhaps we need a little more 'citizenship':
Futures Forum: "Seeking truth in public life is the citizen’s responsibility"

We certainly need less fakery:
Futures Forum: Fake news, the UK general election and local news
Futures Forum: Big data and big lies...
Futures Forum: Brexit: and the use of data analytics
Futures Forum: Brexit: and post-fact politics

But do we need more 'outrage'?
Futures Forum: Brexit: and looking beyond revolt: "If we’ve learned one thing in the last week, it is that communities – not Westminster - must agree what works for them."

Much of this outrage has been against the 'expert':
Futures Forum: Brexit: and democracy: "Ordinary voters never took much interest. Perhaps they didn’t care whether they were ruled by a faraway elite in Brussels or ditto in Westminster."

Hilary Clinton's memoir is reviewed here in The Baffler as the sort of wonkery that we seem to have had enough of:

A Wonk on the Wild Side

Hillary Clinton’s book is a technocrat’s lament

CONSIDER THE WONK. The term is omnipresent in today’s political discourse—particularly when it comes to describing a certain breed of knowledge-class policy specialist in and around the centers of power in Washington. But it’s of surprisingly recent vintage—it passed into common usage with the ascension of Bill Clinton and his cohort of New Democrat technocrats in 1993. During that heady time, wonk’s vogue fulfilled a clear ideological mission. It said, in essence, that the executive-ready, smart, and detail-driven Democratic Party was no longer an obliging plaything of “special interests”—the African American and urban ethnic voting blocs, the student protesters, the environmentalists, and (perhaps most of all) organized labor, with their imperious demands, retrograde policy prescriptions, and tone-deaf sloganeering.
The whole point of being New Democrats, after all, was to signal that you were grown-up students of pragmatic politics in the real world. You were poised to put away the childish things of interest-group politicking—the messy workplace organizing, the faintly embarrassing strikes and protests, the boycotts and sit-ins— and get down to business. You were problem-solvers, not panderers. You were well-educated and ambitious. You were smart, crisply direct, and managerial. In time, the electorate would gratefully frolic in the targeted tax credits you would lavish on them, as the Information Economy chimed in pleasing unison with the dictates of New Democratic governance. Better yet, the country at large would come to emulate and resemble you, as U.S. citizens, too, became better educated, more impressively credentialed, more wired and suburban, footloose and knowledge-based.
Commentators and political players are now greeting Hillary Clinton’s post-election memoir, What Happened, as an extended epilogue to the great, deranging debates of the 2016 election cycle. We are all being urged once more into the breach, as the former Democratic presidential nominee revisits the familiar chronologies of James Comey’s (objectively bizarre) handling of the FBI’s inquiry into the candidate’s usage of a private email server while she served as Barack Obama’s secretary of state—together with a host of other election-branded, mind-bending developments. As she once more ponders the enormity of Russia’s alleged hacking of the election, the tsunami of Facebook-fueled fake news that overtook the general election season, the many bigoted outrages of Donald Trump and his fan base, the systemic sexism and misogyny of our political establishment and elite media, we can feel the onrush of the bad old days of late 2016 overtake us in a familiar, and almost perversely welcoming, glow of bafflement and indignation.
At bottom, though, What Happened is less a campaign postmortem than a wonk’s lament. The search for single-bullet explanations of the catastrophe of 2016 will long outlast Clinton’s book, and the assortment of takes, counterspins, and rebukes, continuing to multiply even as I type, will only prolong that likely futile quest. But the most revealing admissions in What Happened don’t concern the trench warfare of our money-drenched, tech-addled, message-tested presidential campaigns. No, the places where Clinton’s memoir serves as a robust and persuasive diagnosis of our political ills all concern the candidate’s own confessed, still unresolved disorientation at the specter of an angry, populist electorate. The impatience of a body politic still struggling to piece together some semblance of a decent, debt-free living amid the jobless squalor of the anemic recovery from the 2008 economic meltdown clearly doesn’t register on Clinton’s normal wonkish neural paths. She speaks with manifest scorn about the “outrage primary” stoked by the likes of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, which had her struggling to play catch up, and to voice a measure of populist organizing fire that’s anathema to her temperament and worldview. As she ponders her limitations in framing some sort of persuasive appeal, not merely to a Platonic sense of policy fitness, but to a raw and mounting sense of complete institutional collapse and corruption, Clinton frets about how she got into this awkward spot:
Usually when I meet people who are frustrated and angry, my instinctive response is to talk about how we can fix things. That’s why I spent so much time and energy coming up with new policies to create jobs and raise wages. But in 2016 a lot of people didn’t really want to hear about plans and policies. They wanted a candidate to be as angry as they were, and they wanted someone to blame. For too many, it was primarily a resentment election. That didn’t come naturally to me. I get angry about injustice and inequality, abuse of power, lying, and bullying. But I’ve always thought it’s better for leaders to offer solutions instead of just more anger.
It’s hard to do justice to how deeply ill-suited this stolid technocratic ethos is to the conduct of democratic politics—but Clinton goes on to demonstrate just that point, in abundant and painful detail. She describes how her campaign planned a stopover in rural Mingo County, in the heart of West Virginia coal country, after the right-wing media leapt upon an out-of-context aside Clinton had delivered in an Ohio townhall meeting about how the transition to a low-carbon economy was going to “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.” Emblazoned across the chyrons of Fox News and the homepage of Breitbart News, that admission was made to seem heartless, even predatory. Shunning her senior staff’s counsel to contain the fallout with a visit to a more Democratic-friendly urban center like Charleston, she insisted on delivering her apology in Williamson, deep in the heart of Hillary-hating Trump country. 
She was stunned by the rancor that greeted her there—protesters demanding her imprisonment, hurling obscenities, and parroting Hannity-esque talking points about her sinister designs on America’s working-class interior. What’s more instructive here, though, is how Clinton records her own efforts to grapple with Mingo County’s deindustrialized plight. Noting that spotty wifi coverage in rural West Virginia “drove [my] traveling team nuts,” she moved on to “the bigger problem” of deficient connectivity for rural America’s infrastructure. “Nearly 40 percent of people in rural America don’t have access to broadband, and research shows those communities have lower incomes and higher unemployment, and one I was eager to take on.”
It’s not clear what research Clinton is citing here, since there are no endnotes in What Happened. But as the deflated enthusiasms of Richard Florida and other prophets of hyper-wired abundance have already shown, there’s precious little causal evidence that connectivity, by itself, is an engine of more equally distributed prosperity. Indeed, the larger pattern of monopoly concentration atop the tech economy suggests very much the opposite trend—and in any event, the biggest outlays for connectivity come in already-affluent communities, as a raft of other research shows. Here Clinton appears to be approaching the digital divide from the wrong end of the telescope, and musing about policies that will do almost nothing to alleviate structural economic inequality in rustbelt and rural America.
It gets worse. Continuing to speculate on what can be done to fix the anger of these unhinged rural populists, Clinton briskly dismisses the notion of embracing a battery of redistributionist economic positions, in the Bernie Sanders vein. After all, the coal boss Don Blankenship, recently convicted on charges of conspiracy to evade safety regulations that resulted in the deaths of twenty-nine miners working for his company, Massey Energy, had been among the Hillary-bating protesters in Williamson. So it naturally follows that “it’s hard to believe that voters who embrace Don Blankenship are looking for progressive economics”—it’s a steadfast principle of public life that people automatically assume the worldview of the richest person they happen to be standing next to, after all.
To nail down the case against populist left economics, she cites the impressionistic maunderings of right-wing hillbilly laureate J.D. Vance to summon the stubborn cultural grievances of economically humiliated Appalachian men. She then runs through the familiar litany of empty Trump promises to revive coal-mining, and American manufacturing generally—together with Trump’s many bigoted appeals to the racist fears and resentments of economically displaced mineworkers. And bizarrely, she pivots to a vision of the broader arc of wonkish demographic determinism. The neoliberal wonk class has the future on its side—and together with it, the priceless political commodity of American optimism:
One of the most important but least recognized facts in American politics is that Republicans tend to win in places where more people are pessimistic or uncertain about the future, while Democrats tend to win where people are more optimistic. Those sentiments don’t track neatly with the overhyped dichotomy between the coasts and the heartland. There are plenty of thriving communities in both blue and red states that have figured out how to educate their workforces, harness their talents, and participate in the twenty-first century economy. And some of the most doom-and-gloom Americans are relatively affluent middle-aged and retired whites—the very viewers Fox News prizes—while many poor immigrants, people of color, and young people are burning with energy, ambition, and optimism.
You can almost hear the faint strains of “Don’t Stop” rise cloyingly in the background. Here, in all its exuberant soaring glory, is the great wonk catechism: the country’s demographics are shifting, in profound tectonic fashion, into a grand Democratic mosaic; workers are getting smarter, richer, and nimbler, while Fox News diehards are retiring or dropping dead in their dens.
An enormous irony of this vision is that, as a blueprint for aspiring policy wonks, it makes zero mention of the most relevant policy shift hollowing out the manufacturing interior—NAFTA, the WTO, and the other free trade accords signed into law by Clinton’s husband under the grand modernizing dispensation of New Democrat dogma in the mid 1990s. Trump played on the worst misogynist and racist strains of right-wing populist tradition—as have, of course, his many enablers in the alt-right media. But he also whaled away on the material harm wrought by free trade, and this was the first time in a political generation that displaced manufacturing workers had heard any political leader on the national stage acknowledge the pain of seeing the entire economic basis of company towns and unionized working life blithely shipped abroad, and written off as an inevitable sacrificial offering to the gods of the market.
Trump’s assault on the orthodoxies of free trade were steeped in self-serving lies, of course, as is virtually every word out of the president’s mouth. But the larger political point here is that he identified an actual set of economic grievances and minted them into readily mobilized bigotries and gender resentments. In the face of such a threat, it is all the more incumbent on liberal politicians offering a rival vision of economic equity to deliver a viable set of populist remedies that don’t trade on white nationalism, patriarchal resentment, or other billionaire thuggeries.
Instead, Hillary Clinton dreams of more reliable rural broadband, and mythic communities of the future “where people are more optimistic.” She also, after ruminating a bit more on the plight of the economically abandoned working class, winds up suggesting that the smart wonkish solution is to prepare them to turn their economic displacement into the geographic kind: “After we do everything we can to help create new jobs in distressed small towns and rural areas, we also have to give people the skills and tools they need to seek opportunities beyond their hometowns—and provide a strong safety net both for those who leave and those who stay.”
This is another sort of wonkish confession: that a lifelong member of the caring class like Hillary Clinton no longer can abide the idea that people can opt out of her own plan to improve their lives. Coming hard on her manifestly sincere effort to identify with the economically redundant white working class, the proposal to have them depopulate their homeland in order to realize their optimistic economic destiny is more than a little breathtaking. It is also, not incidentally, simply adding to the asocial dynamics of information age capitalism that has already hollowed out the creaky institutional life of the working-class interior. Urging its inhabitants to stop loitering around the economic moonscapes of heartland America and move to somewhere optimistic and better capitalized already will only work, over the long haul, to further drain working-class communities of their own autonomous political leadership and self-determined life chances. It is to abet, in other words, their further collapse as communities.
This, to address another hulking irony here, was the impossible-to-miss moral of The Rise of the Meritocracy, Michael Young’s 1958 dystopian novel that introduced the notion of meritocracy into common parlance. Young saw the consolidation of a duly tested-and-credentialed civil service in England as a body blow to working-class politics, and working-class solidarity. By quickly identifying and recruiting the most talented and intelligent members of the lower orders, the lords of the meritocracy robbed the working class of its natural leaders. This same act of talent-poaching meanwhile reconfigured the British ruling class into a knowledge elite, one that lived off the sweated labor of deskilled service workers until the whole works came crumbing down in a violent proletarian uprising.
It’s more than a little shocking to see the class apocalypse prophesied by Young presented as a straight-faced solution to rural economic decline by an American major-party presidential candidate. But then again, Americans misapprehended the prophetic intent of the meritocracy’s coinage from the word go—no doubt, in part, because of all the preternaturally optimistic communities that make up the backbone of our republic. In larger part, though, the American gloss on meritocracy has become the fallback creed of our own knowledge elite—of which Hillary Clinton is, indeed, a prime specimen. Again and again in What Happened, she goes out of her way to impress on her readers how she’s indefatigably, perennially on the hunt for the best information, the most crisply targeted policies, and the most ambitious, numbers-crunching experts to implement them.
The upshot of all this fervid wonkery is to dramatically circumscribe the range of the politically possible. The Sanders uprising among left-leaning Democrats, for instance, was objectionable chiefly because Bernie Sanders refused to recognize the legitimacy of the wonk playbook: “He didn’t seem to mind if his math didn’t add up or if his plans had no prayer of passing Congress and becoming law. . . . I’ve always believed that it’s dangerous to make big promises if you have no idea how you’re going to keep them. When you don’t deliver it will make people even more cynical about government.”
True to her credo, Clinton does briefly entertain a couple of quasi-redistributive policy proposals as it dawns on her that the Sanders and Trump rebellions won’t be dispelled by their own defective math. But tellingly, it’s math—albeit of a very specific kind—that prevents her from moving forward with any of these proposals. One such proposal was modeled on Alaska’s Permanent Fund, which redistributes oil-industry revenues to Alaskans who meet certain residency requirements. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t make the numbers work,” Clinton ruefully reports:
To provide a meaningful dividend each year to every citizen, you’d have to raise enormous sums, you’d have to raise enormous sums of money, and that would either mean a lot of new taxes or cannibalizing other important programs. We decided it was exciting but not realistic, and left it on the shelf.
Likewise, a GOP-branded plan to redistribute energy revenues under a carbon-trading plan ran afoul of the Clinton numbers-crunchers: “We looked at this for the campaign as well, but couldn’t make the math work without imposing new costs on upper-middle class families, which I had pledged not to do.”
In other words, once Clinton began looking into the direct redress of wealth and income inequality, she realized that it involved the actual appropriation of wealth and income—something that a good neoliberal wonk must always rule out on principle.
But this isn’t “math” as a neutral arbiter of policy outcomes at all—it’s a foundational question of our politics to adopt a model of revenue distribution (which is always happening in one direction or another) that always benefits the already privileged. What Clinton and her coterie of advisers see as immutable laws of policy divination are in fact political choices that benefit the material interests of one body (or class, if you prefer) of citizens against those of another. Yes, the redirection of resources under a scheme roughly akin to a Universal Basic Income would entail the loss of tax benefits to those in the upper-middle class and above—but it would also entail direct material gains for a far larger, and less privileged group of Americans.
None of this gets sustained mention in What Happened for the same reason that no acknowledgment of NAFTA, the Glass-Steagall repeal, and the Commodity Futures Modernization Act ever appears: To discuss any of these historical developments, and the political-business alliances underwriting them, would be to expose the wonk’s game for what it is—the technocratic ideology of a privileged class, and an all-purpose rationalization of Democratic political failure over the past twenty-five years to deliver any meaningful approximation of economic fairness.
For all his math-averse sloganeering, Bernie Sanders understood this. It was why he insisted, at every available opportunity, that the reforms he proposed mandated a political revolution. His candidacy was intended as an opening salvo in that revolution—but by no means, it’s true, an expert-massaged white paper on piecemeal measures to manipulate the tax code to marginally reduce wealth inequality.
Clinton, in turn, rightly understands this brand of economic populism as a direct threat to her preferred model of Democratic power, and What Happened teems with puerile taunts at Sanders’s political immaturity and core disloyalty to the Democratic cause. Early coverage of this leitmotif in the book has been exhaustive, and there’s no need to revisit it here—save to note that the low point of it all is Clinton’s reverent reproduction of a lame Facebook joke about Sanders promising America a pony, and Clinton being repelled by demented Sanders supporters claiming that Hillary hates ponies, and a reckless media complex egging them on. Hardy fucking har.
Likewise, Clinton’s concern that Sandersism leads to public cynicism points up another distressing feature of the wonk faith: its distrust in the capacity of ordinary people to decide their own political fates. This strain of patrician liberalism harks at least as far back as Walter Lippmann’s reactionary 1920 tract, Public Opinion, which sought to demonstrate that the democratic ideal of the “omnicompetent citizen” was an untenable myth in an age of rapidly specialized knowledge and management by experts. At times, Clinton’s vision of neoliberal governance seems ripped straight from the pages of Public Opinion:
I try to learn as much as I can about the challenges that people face and then work with the smartest experts I can find to come up with solutions that are achievable, affordable, and will actually make a measurable difference. For the campaign, I hired a policy team with deep experience in government and relied on an extensive network of outside advisors drawn from academia, think tanks and the private sector. The crew in Brooklyn proudly hung a sign above their desks that read “Wonks for the Win.” They produced reams of position papers. Many included budget scores, substantive footnotes—the whole nine yards. It felt like a White-House-in-Waiting, which is exactly what I had in mind.
Amid this serene roll call of credentials and smartly conceived policy modulations, it’s easy to forget that Clinton is describing a political campaign. A “White-House-in-Waiting” is many things (few of them good, one must stipulate), but it is not a vision of the common good that invites mass democratic participation. It’s true that a platform of policy initiatives depicted as “achievable, affordable and will actually make a measurable difference” is not a heavy-breathing Bernie-style populist insurgency—but it’s also not a model of public deliberation that gives ordinary Americans anything to do. Likewise, Clinton is clearly proud-to-bursting that she enlisted expert aid from “academia, think tanks, and the private sector”—but this, too, is high Lippmannism in its worst guise; there are, you’ll note, no unions, community organizers, or any other brand of “special interest” activist in this hallowed litany of expertise. And, given the deeply corrupt state of academia, think tanks, and the private sector, it’s also a de facto prescription to sustain status-quo power relations throughout our ailing political economy. When Clinton bemoans that the unhinged conduct of the 2016 campaign had left voters with “the false perception that I was a defender of the status quo,” one can only marvel at the epically un-self-aware professional vanity on display here—either that, or wonder just what planet she wrote her book on.
As for “Wonks for the Win,” the less said the better—except that it’s impossible to plough through What Happened and come away with the conviction that Hillary Clinton and her allies should be allowed to name anything, ever. The aforementioned revenue-distribution plan modeled on the Alaska Permanent Fund was known around the campaign as “Alaska for America,” which any non-wonk would instantly greet as a plan to freeze the country to death in a long dark winter. And the campaign’s premier slogan, “Stronger Together” was symptomatic of the Clinton team’s chronic, wonkish irresolution: It stated a vague truism, but again exuded political inertia. Is there a direction in which a newly strengthened and unified country should move? Or should our collective strength be carefully husbanded until a team of think-tank analysts return to tell us just what is achievable and affordable? (To make matters worse, Clinton proudly reports that after extensive in-house deliberation over an array of potential general election slogans, “Stronger Together” was the consensus choice of three separate messaging teams on the campaign—again: Yay, expertise!)
“Make America Great Again” was a shameful display of white nationalist dog-whistling—and it was lifted from the first Reagan campaign, to boot—but it at least conveyed motion, and a larger purpose for Trump adherents to pledge their allegiance to. Pressed to come up with a rejoinder to the Trump slogan, Clinton again made just about the worst possible call: “America Is Already Great,” which effectively told anyone leaning Trumpward, in another magisterial flourish of Lippmannism, “You’re Too Stupid to Know How Good You Have It.”
If the Clinton team had simply been careless or inattentive to the electorate’s mood, the candidate’s reminiscences would be less painful to read. But Clinton makes it clear that throughout the 2016 cycle, her campaign was shot through, from the top down, with an instinctive distrust of the rites of civic persuasion that all national campaigns impose on candidates. As she ran up the Democratic delegate count in the primaries and her nomination became (phew!) a mathematical certainty, Clinton relates that she was at a loss to characterize the history-making moment at hand for public consumption:
For a long time, the campaign had been trying to figure out the best way to talk about the historic nature of my candidacy. There were brainstorming sessions in Brooklyn, as well as polls and focus groups. Many of our core supporters were very excited by the idea of finally breaking the glass ceiling. Celebrating that could help keep people energized and motivated in the general election. But some younger women didn’t see what the big deal was. And many undecided women in battleground states didn’t want to hear about it at all.
Clinton for her part, recurs once more to the wonk-Yuppie standard of career performance: “I wanted to be judged by what I did, not on what I represented or what people projected onto me.” But her very dedication to the rigors of wonkish excellence appears to have bred a kind of tunnel vision when it came to sizing up the historical breakthrough of being the first woman to earn a major-party presidential nomination: “I had worked so hard to get to this moment, and now that it had arrived, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself.”
There is real pathos here. It is absurdly difficult for women to gain the authority that men take for granted in our deeply patriarchal political culture—and women are indeed forced to work harder and smarter simply to be taken seriously. Meanwhile, sexist cultural norms perennially push them to downplay their achievements in the public sphere in favor of the sanctioned role of deferential helpmeet and domestic peacemaker.
Still, Clinton’s bewilderment at the brink of history-making seems to bespeak something deeper. As she sat down with speechwriters and campaign aides to draft her never-delivered general election victory speech, the same destabilizing wish for a golden-mean measure of the moment kicks in sharply: “There was also history to consider. If everything went as we hoped, I would be giving this speech as the first woman elected President. We had to find a way to mark the significance of this moment without letting it overwhelm everything else.”
Come again? When Barack Obama was elected the first African American president, there was not much manifest worry about letting that historic moment overwhelm everything else. And when you win a bruising two-year presidential campaign, it’s proper and healthy to revel in the moment—and especially so if you’re the first woman to cross the threshold of national executive power.
But it’s the historic nature of wonkishness to obsessively calibrate and second-guess your own efforts to win popular acclaim—even, evidently, after you have decisively succeeded in doing so. This, too, points at the gnawing self-doubt lurking just beneath the self-regard of the crisp political manager. Yuppies have been long reputed to suffer from “imposter syndrome”—the well-documented crippling inner suspicion among meritocrats that the baubles of success piled up over the course of their heroically striving careers are not well and truly deserved. But it’s an eloquent indictment of how passionless and managerial liberal politics has grown that Clinton’s impression-shaping anxieties are here projected onto a truly historic and landmark social movement for gender justice.
Far from chafing at the specter of “what people projected on to me,” Clinton was poised to professionalize and personalize the broader feminist struggle in her own image. It was right there in the symbolism of the “glass ceiling,” which overconfident election-night event planners had arranged to be shattered in paper form over the soaring atrium of Manhattan’s Javits Center; this was a testament to a singularly accomplished Yuppie striver winning the ultimate promotion, not the effort to confront patriarchy as it distorts the life chances of poor and working-class women, rural women, and women of color. (Not to dwell on the Clinton campaign’s tone-deaf sloganeering, but this was also the glaring flaw in the “I’m With Her” campaign refrain—Clinton needed, more than anything, to demonstrate that she was with us.)
And what was the “everything else” that Clinton was so keen to rescue from the snares of invidious feminist gloating? It was, evidently, a wonk’s-eye-view of rhetorical American unity, of the sort that launched Barack Obama into the national spotlight when he urged the melding of red and blue America into “one America” before the 2004 Democratic National Convention:
The election, I would say, showed that ‘we will not be defined only by our differences. We will not be an ‘us versus them’ country. The American dream is big enough for everyone.’ . . . I’d talk about how much I had learned over the course of the campaign by listening to people share their frustrations. I would be candid about how hard it had been to respond to the anger many felt and how painful it was to see our country so divided. But, I’d say, the outcome showed that ‘if you dig deep enough, through all the mud of politics, eventually you hit something hard and true: a foundation of fundamental values that unite us as Americans.”
As we now know all too well, the outcome of the 2016 presidential balloting showed nothing of this kind. A racist corporate insurgency has captured the leadership ranks of the Republican Party, and the wonk’s credo has yet to conjure into being the placid, managerial dream of America as a giant Googleplex or Microsoft campus. And with the country’s lead political institutions more divided than ever on key issues of collective self-definition, and economic fairness, the Democratic Party now is courting political irrelevance, with an anemic presence in state legislatures, governorships, Congress, and the executive branch unparalleled since the party’s long pre-FDR tour in the political wilderness. The longer-term origins of this crisis have much more to do with the Clintonite direction of Democratic strategy than with the infuriating conduct of James Comey, Russian hackers, or wayward Facebook news algorithms. Here there’s another painful, glaring irony to register: Opinion polling shows, over and over, that populist economic reforms, truly universal government-funded health care and higher education, and environmental responsibility are political winners, by striking margins—but the wonkish neoliberals guiding the Democratic Party have been endlessly resourceful in waving away direct and popular appeals to such sentiments.
But Hillary Clinton has emerged from the bruising trials of 2016 with her meritocrat faith intact. She reports that, after a long bout of self-care in the Clinton home in Chappaqua, she was inspired to resume her public career in no small part by an invitation to deliver the 2017 commencement at her alma mater, Wellesley.[*] It was the third such invitation, dating back to her own matriculation in 1969. She signs a photo of her at that occasion that the 2017 student speaker at commencement—the daughter of a Syrian immigrant family from Ohio named Tala Nashawati—has unearthed for the occasion. “Like so many Wellesley students,” Clinton recalls, “Tala was ridiculously accomplished and well rounded: a Middle Eastern Studies major, sought-after kickboxing instructor, and soon-to-be medical student.” Nashawa then pays Clinton the ultimate meritocratic compliment of quoting her from the commencement podium:
In the words of Secretary Clinton, “never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance in the world to pursue your dreams.” . . . You are rare and unique. Let yourself be flawed. Go proudly into the world with your blinding hues to show everyone who’s boss and break every glass ceiling that still remains.
So yes: as you sink into debt, precarity, and fear before the specter of homegrown American fascism, take heart. What Happened is ultimately an epic of renewal: Hillary Clinton has returned home.

[*]Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Hillary delivered the 2016 Wellesley commencement speech. She gave the speech in 2017.

A Wonk on the Wild Side | Chris Lehmann

There are 'alternatives':
Futures Forum: Brexit: and taking back control
Futures Forum: Other ways of doing politics >>> "New experiments in democracy around the world are trying to take politics back to ordinary people"
Futures Forum: Managed democracy: "The deliberate undermining of people's perception of the world, by creating confusion and contradiction ... undermining any opposition to existing power structures ... which leaves us feeling helpless and depressed and to which the only response is: 'Oh dear'."

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Knowle relocation project: a very nice place to hold a celebration

The Knowle grounds and members' lounge are the perfect setting for many an occasion:

Sidmouth couple celebrate diamond wedding anniversary

PUBLISHED: 18:26 07 September 2017

At a celebration on Saturday they were joined at Knowle by loved ones. 

And it's a question of looking after your assets:
Futures Forum: Community Assets

The best way to deliver “localism” is to take councils out of the equation altogether

Local government is dying:
Futures Forum: The assault on Local Government: The Strange Death of Municipal England:
Futures Forum: Local government finance: "It looks as though we’re approaching a cliff edge and no one has any idea how to stop us hurtling over it.”

And 'localism' died a long time ago:
Futures Forum: How democratic is local government in England?
Futures Forum: Localism and 'East Devon First'
Futures Forum: LOCALISM restated >>> "Power should be decentralised down to the lowest appropriate level - to councils, to community groups and to individual taxpayers"
Futures Forum: "Claims for 'localism' are a fiction from a Tom Sharpe novel" - Growing disquiet across the West Country

But maybe it doesn't matter - because local government is pretty useless anyway.

Businesses don't get much help from local government:
Futures Forum: Giving small businesses more opportunity >>> how local government can help
Futures Forum: Corporation tax, small towns and small businesses >>> giving SMEs the same 'level playing field' as multinationals

And local communities can't do much to determine their local business profile:
Futures Forum: Sidmouth: a town of charity shops and coffee shops?

But is it reasonable to ask communities to simply pick up the pieces?
Futures Forum: Communities filling the budget gaps in the Jurassic Coast
Futures Forum: Communities filling the budget gaps by filling the potholes...
Futures Forum: Communities filling the budget gaps by cutting the verges

As this sort of 'volunteerism' is not actually about giving more decision-making to communities:
Futures Forum: Volunteers in the community: 'doing jobs for free' or 'empowering communities to take local action'?

What would be needed would be real 'bottom-up' empowerment rather than hollowing out of institutions people have come to rely on:
Futures Forum: REconomy... and community-led economic development

Or as Simon Heffer put it in the Sunday Telegraph recently:

PressReader.com - Connecting People Through News

This is how East Devon Watch interpreted the same:


10 SEP 2017

Just before the last general election, Swire made one of his very rare appearances at what he called a “hustings” in Exmouth. Except no other parties were invited to participate and his one guest was Telegraph journalist Simon Heffer.

In today’s Sunday Telegraph Heffer calls for privatisation of everything that currently makes any semblance of profit, or which might make profits in future, and hiving off the loss-making tasks to unitary authorities or, in our case, the unelected, unaccountable and opaque business-run Local Enterprise Partnership.

Oh to be a fly on the wall when Swire and Heffer have their fireside chats …

He says:

“… There is too much local government. Pointy-headed theorists have banged on about localism, but all that is missing is evidence that “local” people are either capable or motivated enough to deliver “local” services. The best way to deliver “localism” is to take councils out of the equation altogether, as has been done in many cases by removing schools from their control. …

But local government will not work well until it is stripped of duties that individuals or the private sector can provide for themselves: which brings us back to social care … the government must … develop an insurance scheme that will encourage private providers to take over what threatens to become a crippling state responsibility …”

Sunday Telegraph, Sunday Comment, page 16

The Telegraph - Telegraph Online, Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph - Telegraph

Unfortunately Mr Heffer neglects to explain how private providers, with shareholders mouths to feed, will be able to do it more cheaply.

What Swire’s mate Heffer thinks of local authorities | East Devon Watch

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

The failure on affordable and social housing

Policies to create more affordable and social housing are not working.

In Sidmouth, plans for new housing are anything but:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: building for a lucrative market

The question is to what extent the neighbourhood planning process can help:
Futures Forum: Neighbourhood plans and social housing
Futures Forum: The limits to how developers can 'outmanoeuvre' neighbourhood planning

Maybe local councils could help:
Futures Forum: "Giving councils more power to get housing built" - by getting them to calculate ‘objectively assessed need’

Meanwhile, though, it is becoming clear that central governments attempts to help are not working:
Futures Forum: Help-to-buy "has played a crucial role in buttressing the market for housebuilders."

And, besides, a developer can always cry 'unviable':
Futures Forum: Pressure on developers to publish viability appraisals
Futures Forum: "Some developers use viability reports to wriggle out of building more 'affordable' housing."
Futures Forum: When is a development 'viable' or not?

The East Devon Watch blog highlights several stories today on the issues.

From the Times:


19 SEP 2017

Government thinks 20% profit is acceptable for developers.

We all know that, as developers make their case to cut affordable homes on a development by development basis, and not on aggregate figures, they can make numbers tell any story.

Seems weird that, with this system, as so many developments don’t make enough money to fund affordable homes, their profits soar, their directors get bigger and bigger bonuses and their shareholders get higher and higher dividends.

It’s a magic money tree!

“The countryside is facing a shortfall of 33,000 affordable homes over the next five years despite builders making record profits at a time of rising rural homelessness.

Profits at Britain’s three biggest builders have quadrupled since 2012 to £2.2 billion, yet they regularly cite financial constraints when cutting affordable homes in developments. Builders miss targets for affordable homes in the countryside by 18 houses a day, research by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) shows.

Profits at Barratt Developments, Britain’s biggest developer, increased almost sevenfold from £100 million in 2012 to £682 million last year. Meanwhile, the number of affordable homes fell from 23 per cent of the total built in 2012 to 17 per cent last year.

Developers use “viability studies” under planning laws to pressure local authorities into cutting the requirement for affordable homes. The reports are kept confidential, on commercial grounds, but documents seen by The Times show that officials from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) ruled that 20 per cent profit was a “reasonable” margin for a developer. They backed a builder’s attempt to cut the number of affordable homes at a development in Gloucestershire to safeguard that return.

Sajid Javid, the communities secretary, has said that failing to fix Britain’s “broken housing market . . . would be nothing less than an act of intergenerational betrayal”.

Research by the CPRE found that the government overruled councils fighting house builders in 17 out of 23 appeals since 2013. Matt Thomson, the CPRE’s head of planning, said developers had councils “over a barrel”. “The developers will say, ‘Either you give us the 20 per cent profit we need, otherwise we won’t build the houses’,” he said. “It’s just extortion at the end of the day.”

The charity analysed more than 60 local plans, which are council blueprints for new housing, and found that the average rural authority needed 68 per cent of new homes to be affordable. Affordable housing includes shared ownership schemes, council houses and properties owned by housing associations which are rented at no more than 80 per cent of the market rate.

In practice, the councils cut the official requirement to just 29 per cent affordable, on the ground that developers would never agree to 68 per cent. Even that has proven unachievable. Just 26 per cent of new homes in the countryside were classed as affordable over the past three years. The average rural authority is short of 46 affordable homes a year. Across 145 rural authorities in England that is a shortfall of 6,670 homes a year.

A separate report by the Institute for Public Policy Research found that 6,270 rural households became homeless in 2016, part of a 40 per cent rise in rough sleeping since 2010. The centre-left think thank partly blamed “shortages in affordable homes”.

Polly Neate, the head of Shelter, a charity for the homeless, said the crisis would only get worse “if we keep letting developers off the hook”.

The Home Builders Federation, which represents developers, said local authorities “should be realistic”. “Making projects unviable reduces overall housing supply, including the supply of more affordable housing,” Andrew Whitaker, its planning director, said.

Georgina Butler, head of affordable housing at Barratt, said the company was “absolutely committed to delivering the homes of all types that the country needs”.

A spokesman for the DCLG said almost 333,000 affordable homes had been built since 2010, more than 102,000 in rural local authorities. A funding crisis in social housing will continue unless the government “breaks with the past” to provide financial backing for new affordable homes, the head of an influential housing sector body will say today.

Billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money could be saved by building social housing instead of channelling housing benefit to private landlords, David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, will tell the organisation’s annual conference.

The government decided in 2010 that no further public money would be made available to finance social housing, which provides accommodation at below-market rents to those on low incomes. Britain needs to build about 250,000 new homes a year to cope with an existing shortage and a growing population, but only 141,000 homes were built last year. About a million families are on the housing waiting list, said the NHF, which represents housing associations and social landlords.

In a report published today, the NHF says that the government is now spending “more than ever” on housing benefit to accommodate people in private rentals instead of cheaper social homes, which cost £21 a week less per person. The amount of housing benefit channelled to private landlords almost doubled in the last decade to £9.1 billion. “This is poor value for the taxpayer and has a knock-on effect on everyone struggling to rent or buy,” the NHF said.”

Source: Times (pay wall)


Times leader column attacks housing developers and the government
In "Affordable and Social Housing"
"Gentrification of the countryside"
In "Local Plan"

One thought on “Developers, magic money trees and (un)affordable housing”

Paul F says:
19 Sep 2017 at 10:34am

This entirely misses the point – or rather two points.

1. If a development is not viable with the affordable housing required, then it’s simply NOT VIABLE. So don’t develop the land – or sell the land off to a smaller developer with lower overheads and lower profit expectations who can develop it viably.

2. A Viability Study is something that a developer should undertake BEFORE submitting their planning application. Once the PA is approved, then the motto should be “a deal is a deal” and if the developer suddenly realises that the development is not viable, then tough.

The concept is that the private sector accepts the commercial risks – it is neither the government’s job nor the local planning authorities job to give developers a guaranteed profit.

Indeed, I will even go so far as to suggest that this government guaranteeing a profit margin to developers has the appearance of corruption given that developers are major donors to the Conservative Party.

(Note: I call them sponsors or investors rather than donors. If you are a property developer or a multi-millionaire businessman looking for tax-cuts, a multi £100k donation to the Conservative Party is by far the best “investment” you can ever make by possibly two orders of magnitude.)

Developers, magic money trees and (un)affordable housing | East Devon Watch
Affordable homes shortage blights the countryside | News | The Times & The Sunday Times


19 SEP 2017

(see also post below)

“Anyone who has fielded rival bids for a kitchen extension is likely to be familiar with the pattern: once contracts are signed and work is under way the winning bidder finds ways to cut costs or otherwise boost profits. Committed to the project, the client’s options are to sue or surrender.

In the multibillion-pound business of updating and expanding Britain’s housing stock, the equivalent of the kitchen extension is the mixed-used development that includes affordable housing to be let or sold at below-market rates.

Affordable housing is in critically short supply. This drives up prices in precisely the areas where buyers and the broader housing market need them to come down. It forces low-income families to live farther and farther from places of work, especially in the southeast, and it is storing up trouble for a weak Conservative government with little traction among voters aged under 40.

This is a government that has promised 1.5 million new homes by 2022. In principle almost all these homes are to be built by the private sector. In practice developers are being allowed to game the system by promising generous allocations of affordable housing only to dilute those commitments once planning permission has been granted and building is under way.

Examples of this underhand but technically legal approach are legion in cities. It has now spread to rural Britain too. The country’s biggest builders are rowing back on affordable housing commitments to the extent of 18 much-needed rural homes a day, leading to a projected shortfall of 33,000 affordable homes in the countryside as a whole by the end of this parliament.

The government should be acting to fix the problem. Instead it is making it worse, siding with developers against local councils in 17 of 23 appeals by builders seeking to cut the number of affordable housing units for which they have had to budget since 2013. Worse still, the process is shrouded in secrecy because it hinges on “viability assessments” that developers are allowed to keep confidential unless a court demands wider access.

These assessments should be open to public scrutiny as a matter of course. Sajid Javid, the communities secretary, claims to have adopted an “honest, open and consistent” approach to assessing local housing needs. It is none of these things.

In the housing plans that all local authorities are required to produce, the average requirement for affordable housing in rural areas is 68 per cent of the total. Under pressure from builders that share has fallen to 29 per cent, even as the companies post record profits. Those of the country’s three largest housebuilders have quadrupled since 2012.

Britain is a crowded island. Space for new homes is at a premium. Demand for land reliably outstrips supply. Landowners sell to high bidders who seek guaranteed generous profit margins to protect against downturns in a market that they are helping to overheat.

This is a classic market failure that might warrant state intervention in the form of publicly funded housebuilding to balance supply and demand at the lower end of the property ladder. This government has ruled that out, however, cutting public spending on social housing by 97 per cent since 2010 and on affordable housing by half in the same period.

At the same time, as the head of the National Housing Federation tells its annual conference today, housing benefit payments have risen by 51 per cent over the past two decades, to £25 billion a year, to help to cover inflated private sector rents.

If the government insists on staying out of the housebuilding business itself it must at the very least make affordable housing quotas binding, and high enough to house those unable to get on the housing ladder any other way. The alternative is a property-owning democracy that founders for want of property to own.”

Source: Times (pay wall)

Times leader column attacks housing developers and the government | East Devon Watch
Country Unfair | Comment | The Times & The Sunday Times

And from the Guardian:


19 SEP 2017

Owl says: But why is everyone surprised? This is the free market in operation – what Conservatives have ALWAYS believed in. This automatically favours “survival of the fittest” which most often means the most wealthy. Nothing new there. Just get wealthy – problem solved.

Unfortunately, those low down in the pecking order seem to think that, if they vote Conservative, they will be helped to become rich. That isn’t how it works – the rich like their exclusivity and power. Sharing that power with more people isn’t in their interest as it dilutes both – less exclusive, more power-sharing = not a good idea.

Wise up everyone: if you want change in a Tory constituency or in the country, hold your nose and vote for whoever in your constituency is most likely to come second, and make them first. Change IS hard – but it is desperately needed if we are to do the right thing by all generations.

David Orr, National Housing Federation:

““… The prime minister is right that we’ve not paid social housing enough attention. After the tragic fire at Grenfell, this crisis can no longer be ignored. The government must be bold and make a break with the past by making money available to build genuinely affordable homes.

“There’s more than a billion pounds that remains unspent on Starter Homes. Let’s put this money to use and let housing associations build 20,000 of the genuinely affordable homes the nation needs.”

Orr, who is chief executive of the federation, is expected to argue for a complete shift in government policy. Since 2010 the government has overseen a massive reduction in the provision of homes for social rent, instead focusing on “affordable” rents, which can be as much as 80% of the market value.

A report by the federation, produced to coincide with the conference, says the amount of capital committed by the government to homebuilding has fallen from £11.4bn in 2009 to £5.3bn in 2015.

In combination with this, the decision to stop public funding for social rented homes led to a decline in construction of these from 36,000 starts in 2010/11 to slightly over 3,000 the next year. The report says the only new social rent homes now are coming either from previous funding commitments or through cross-subsidies within housing associations projects, amounting to just under 1,000 starts in 2016/17.

It says the increase in rented housing stock has instead come from the private sector, with a 57% rise in real terms over the past two decades. The federation says private rents are on average £21 per week more expensive than their social let equivalents, meaning that over the last 20 years the annual spend on housing benefit has risen from £16.6bn to £25.1bn.

There is another cost, the report says. “Not only is it 23% more expensive to house someone in the private rented sector than social housing, but none of that money increases the supply of new homes. Social landlords do reinvest in new homes, building a third of all new homes last year including for social rent from their own funds, but the same does not happen in the private rented sector.”

In his speech, Orr will argue that this is an unsustainable situation. “It is absurd that we’re spending less on building social housing than we did in the 90s – there are even more people today on housing waiting lists than then, despite increasingly stringent criteria. We know we need more, better quality social housing. And yet, rather than putting public money into building the homes we need, we are propping up rents in a failing market. Ultimately, this is poor value for the taxpayer and has a knock-on effect on everyone struggling to rent or buy.”

John Healey, the shadow housing secretary, said: “Conservative ministers have washed their hands of any responsibility to build the homes families on ordinary incomes need. Ministers try to hide their failure to build more affordable homes by branding more homes ‘affordable’. The Conservative definition of affordable housing now includes homes close to full market rent and on sale for up to £450,000.

“Public concern about housing is around the highest level for 40 years. Millions of families are struggling with high housing costs. Faced with this, ministers have turned their back on the way they can help most – by building low-cost homes to rent and buy.” …”

Another savage attack on government failure on affordable and social housing | East Devon Watch
Social housing crisis can no longer be ignored, says housing chief | Society | The Guardian
Sajid Javid promises social housing review following damning report | The Big Issue
Housing money wasted 'propping up rents' - BBC News