Just like 99% of the people who work within it I am passionate about the social housing model.
The social housing model is the best product and the best service all at the best price yet it has an image and reputation problem and is often called the housing of last choice despite being the best product, service and price. How the hell has that happened? In what other industry or sector would that be allowed to happen – and I stress allowed for it undoubtedly has.
Imagine you are a PR expert or sales person and you have a product that is often half the cost of its only competitor, that holds far greater benefits that customers want in terms of tenure security, that you can evidence far greater service levels and instead of having to seek new customers as old business’ needs they come to you regularly and you even have millions of them waiting for a chance to purchase your product.
All of those reasons and many more besides make social housing such an easy sell yet your only competitor in the private renting landlord has become the largest vendor and overtaken your market share. How the hell has that been allowed to happen?
The social housing sector comes up with excuse upon excuse to explain these perversities away.
It’s the lack of subsidy being a very common and pervasive excuse repeated mantra like yet as the official figures show social landlords have built 20% more with this alleged constraint in the six years since 2010 that they did in the six years before with ‘subsidy’ aplenty and the additional Decent Homes money.
I could go on with fact upon fact which reveal that the perceptions and mantras within the social housing sector are, largely, excuse upon excuse, and while this discussion is aimed at the social housing professional audience – the alleged sector which I maintain does not exist – audience is a huge problem as housing only ever talks to housing.
Despite my sales person analogy with millions wanting and contacting providers about the best product at the best price and so on above every industry still needs to promote what it does.
In the social housing model we see a collective failure to do that as housing has never done that and has never sold the social housing model to the wider UK marketplace. Instead the various umbrella bodies such as NHF, CIH, NHC and so on, as well as individual social landlords only talk to each other or to the government of the day.
The social housing sector has not ever sold the social housing model to the public and the fact that no one umbrella body or agency sees this as their role only accentuates that. I was minded of this point I have made dozens of ties before in re-reading the ever excellent Colin Wiles in a January 2017 piece in Inside Housing when he said:
Four years ago I was brave (or foolish) enough to write a blog for Inside Housing on immigration. It was the most read and commented-on blog I’ve ever published, with more than 10,000 views and 504 comments, many hostile.
Inside Housing is a trade magazine and the perception of immigrants get all the social housing is a huge issue of misperception and despite the clear fact that a lower percentage of immigrants are allocated social housing than the UK percentage of immigrants the myth pervades. Yet ONLY attempting to argue the facts in the silo of social housing explains precisely why such myths are allowed to pervade.
More than 10,000 views over an unspecified time is a large viewing number or audience within housing: By contrast some of my blogs about housing in my SpeyeJoe alter ego have had 200,000 views in a day and many more have had well over 100,000 views and that explains my point about audience – and specifically the stupidity of the sector in not addressing that audience, the social tenant and no social tenant, with customer-facing articles.
Why would, for example, the National Housing Federation put out a very purposeful statistic as they did recently in saying housing associations house 1 in 10 of the UK population yet fail to address this huge and latently powerful audience in any of its communications?
Note too that the 2.6 million or so housing association properties will also statistically contain about 3.6 million eligible voters who can put far more political pressure on government than they ever could or can. Governments have to listen to voters more so than any industry lobby.
Such customer-facing omissions are unforgivable by every part of the so-called sector and hold no common or business sense at all. Housing only talking to housing is THE most stupid strategy there is yet that has been the case ever since the initial Thatcher right to buy gave the very powerful cultural and societal perception that merely renting is second if not a third class position or aspiration and something which the sector wholly failed to counteract even if they actually saw this cultural aspect of RTB. Regrettably many did not and chose to only see RTB in its cut price sale and cheap vote buying political aspects.
I will keep this short and finish on something that jumped off the page to me in the recent housing white paper.
Figure 1: Affordability and FAB
What jumped off the page at me was a 26 year-old memory of a sales training course I was sent on while working as a systems analyst that said Features have Advantages which give Benefits (FAB) and you always sell the Benefits.
So why has nobody ever in the social housing sector ever said social housing is cheaper (the Feature) which enables the customer to save more (the Advantage) thus giving the Benefit of social housing provision gives the tenant the greatest chance of having their own home much more quickly and readily than any other alternative?
Instead of being wholly focused on lifetime tenancies which is a landlord focus and benefit than on what the customer wants in a home of their own, the sector misses one of its many huge benefits that is could and should sell.
How many other Benefits has the sector failed to sell due to its lack of customer-facing?