Com­ment Some home truths about Mrs May’s ‘good news’...


pre­cisely this pol­icy re­ver­sal, he “nearly cried”, de­scrib­ing it ex­cit­edly as “ab­so­lutely mas­sive. We can de­liver half a mil­lion units over the course of the next Par­lia­ment – a hun­dred thou­sand units a year”.

Un­for­tu­nately, the Min­istry of Hous­ing, Com­mu­ni­ties and Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment, who wouldn’t be ex­pected to del­uge on the PM’s pa­rade, did just that, es­ti­mat­ing a much more mod­est 10,000 ad­di­tional homes a year.

The Min­istry, of course, knew just how many coun­cils still had HRAs, as now do we.

Fol­low­ing some rather lim­ited “re­search” – ap­par­ently a phone call to the Min­istry – Mon­day’s In­de­pen­dent re­vealed “that only 160 of the 326 coun­cils in Eng­land with re­spon­si­bil­ity for hous­ing have HRAs”. Not a bad guess, was it!

The Indy did, though, name names, not­ing that “some of the most de­prived towns and cities with the great­est need for new homes, in­clud­ing Liver­pool, Bolton and Wake­field, are among ar­eas that will miss out.”

Which seemed par­tic­u­larly tough on Liver­pool, whose mayor only re­cently an­nounced plans to spend £50 mil­lion build­ing ini­tially 500 and even­tu­ally 10,000 new homes for the home­less, foster car­ers, large fam­i­lies, the el­derly and peo­ple with dis­abil­ity through the coun­cil’s new “eth­i­cal hous­ing com­pany”, Foun­da­tions.

The new com­pany was re­quired be­cause in the mid-2000s Liver­pool’s cash-strapped coun­cil, like so many oth­ers, felt it had lit­tle chance of meet­ing the Gov­ern­ment’s De­cent Homes Stan­dard with­out ac­cess­ing the ex­tra gov­ern­ment fund­ing that would come with trans­fer­ring its re­main­ing 15,000 hous­ing stock to a hous­ing as­so­ci­a­tion, Liver­pool Mu­tual Homes. In the re­quired bal­lot the ten­ants over­whelm­ingly agreed.

In Birm­ing­ham a com­pa­ra­ble sit­u­a­tion had played out very dif­fer­ently. In 2002, Birm­ing­ham’s 80,000 ten­ants, of­fered a sim­i­lar but less ap­peal­ing deal, had fol­lowed those in Dud­ley in de­ci­sively re­ject­ing their Labour coun­cils’ stock trans­fer pro­pos­als.

It was par­tic­u­larly em­bar­rass­ing for Birm­ing­ham’s lead­ers, fol­low­ing a costly pro­mo­tional cam­paign; also for New Labour’s whole hous­ing pri­vati­sa­tion pro­gramme, for which Birm­ing­ham was an in­tended van­guard.

The two coun­cils’ op­tions, al­ready lim­ited, were now con­strained by knowl­edge of their ten­ants’ views.

Sandwell, whose ten­ants had also re­jected a stock trans­fer op­tion, cre­ated an Arm’s Length Man­age­ment Or­gan­i­sa­tion (ALMO), whereby the coun­cil re­mained own­ers of the stock, but with all man­age­ment trans­ferred to Sandwell Homes.

Wolver­hamp­ton con­cluded a sim­i­lar re­la­tion­ship with Wolver­hamp­ton Homes.

Both these coun­cils nat­u­rally re­tain their HRAs, as do Birm­ing­ham and Dud­ley, who for dif­fer­ing rea­sons even­tu­ally chose the Lo­cal Au­thor­ity Stock Re­ten­tion op­tion.

In the Metropoli­tan West Mid­lands that leaves Coven­try and Wal­sall coun­cils.

Their roughly 50,000 ten­ants have for some years now been in homes both owned and man­aged by hous­ing as­so­ci­a­tions, so they cer­tainly won’t be cel­e­brat­ing any­thing the PM chooses to do to HRA bor­row­ing caps. Chris Game is a lec­turer at the In­sti­tute of Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Stud­ies, at the Uni­ver­sity of


> Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May

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