A Week in Housing

Greek philosopher Socrates

Earlier in the week, I dug up a story (that is, saw it in my news feed as I lazily browsed in bed) that silly philosopher Sir Roger Scruton had been appointed by the government to run its new Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission.

I’d idly planned to make some saracstic comments in this week’s round-up about Scruton’s ‘philosophy’ on foxhunting (it’s good because it brings people together, apparently, which, if true, I’m pretty sure justifies burning heretics, too) which I read years ago – but what a difference a bit of a week makes!

As the days have rolled on, the troubled thinker’s rap sheet has lengthened swiftly: so far, he’s been called out for anti-Semitism, homophobia, Islamophobia, and claims that there’s ‘no such crime’ as date rape.

Labour MPs and almost everybody else have called for the theorist to be sacked from his new role. (Well, nearly everybody: fellow ‘thinker’ Toby Young has defended him, which surely tells you everything you need to know.)

Poor old housing secretary James Brokenshire only appointed Mr Scruton at the weekend, and stated that the philosopher’s role included developing a ‘vision and practical measures to help ensure new developments meet the needs and expectations of communities, making them more likely to be welcomed rather than resisted’.

But those plans appear to be in tatters now.

Anyway, if it can scrub off the whiff of fiasco, the government hopes the commission will build on recent changes to the National Planning Policy Framework which set out how ’more consideration can be given to the character of the local area’. We shall see.

***

Over in San Francisco, which is kind of the geographical polar opposite of Roger Scruton’s mind, a tax on big tech firms to pay for homelessness support has been passed by people who pass tax laws.

It is hoped that ‘Proposition C’ will generate $250-300 million to put towards helping people who sleep on ‘sidewalks’, or pavements as they are properly known.

Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness, said: ‘I feel like this is really built on decades of organizing and really creating the conditions that made last night’s victory possible. It’s been a battle just to hold our basic humanity in San Francisco. It’s been a real battle, but we’ve been able to do that, and that’s why we were successful.’

Yes, it’s clearly a great idea – maybe we should do something similar in the UK? Oh, wait: we haven’t any big tech firms. Unless, of course, you want to count all those massive American ones that make lots of money here but pay – it seems sometimes almost literally – peanuts in tax.

Interestingly, Proposition C was championed by some big tech CEOs – including Salesforce boss Marc Benioff, who put $millions into the ‘Yes to C’ campaign.

The modern day kindly Dickensian billionaire tweeted: ‘Prop C’s victory means the homeless will have a home & the help they truly need! Let the city come together in Love for those who need it most! There is no finish line when it come to helping the homeless.’

Meanwhile, over at Castle Twitter, CEO Jack Dorsey has criticised the plan, claiming that it isn’t ‘the best way’ to ‘fix the homelessness problem’. Many have used Twitter to point out that Mr Dorsey’s firm has done very nicely out of a massive tax break gifted to it by San Francisco, which seems to have shut him up.

I’ll leave you with some figures: as stated above, it’s hoped the new tax will raise up to $300m to help homeless people by taxing ALL the big firms in the area, while put-upon Jack Dorsey is PERSONALLY worth $5.4 BILLION. So, I think we can all relate to and sympathise with him.

***

Universal Credit Hasn’t Worked Out Very Well, Part 12,763.

That’s right, and those still hoping for a good Universal Credit (UC) story will have to wait for at least another week.

This time, the spluttering benefits reform programme has struck in the county of Flintshire, where the council’s head of revenue collection has complained that it has had a ‘devastating impact’ on people there.

According to David Barnes, average rent arrears have risen four-fold in the wake of UC’s introduction. Flintshire benefits claimants now face an average arrears of £1,473, compared to £344 in the old pre-UC days.

Mr Barnes told the council’s scrutiny panel that the last two years had been his ‘most challenging’ in 32 years of debt collection, adding: ‘I came across a case last week of a vulnerable tenant who had drugs and alcohol dependency.

‘They admitted they’d buried their head in the sand, and their first payment went to pay drug debts. The reality is not all tenants can budget properly and they fall into arrears.’

Maybe it’s time to put Universal Credit on Universal Credit, see how it likes it?

***

And finally, here’s a word-based list of events HQN has coming up in the frosty Christmas wonderland month of December:

Modern day digital solutions are revolutionising customer service: electric telephones; AI; drones that fly into people’s homes and bake flans. Well, maybe not the last one yet but soon, surely.

Ok, so this exciting new tech is all fine and dandy: but how do we ensure customers are getting satisfaction from their landlord if we’re not talking to them on a regular basis? Well, it just so happens that we’ve an event that addresses this very issue and many more besides.

And all you need to do to book is click this link………………………………….here.

Have you seen that Donald Trump on the tele? Well, leadership isn’t supposed to be like that; you’re actually supposed to inspire and encourage people. It’s an art, so it is. HQN has prepared an event that’ll verse you in these very things. Position your cursor over this blue underlined sentence and click it for more information. (Update: turns out it’s a red non-underlined sentence.)

2019. Like it or not, it’s coming, or so my calendar suggests. And it’s going to be a BIG year for housing. Says who? We do! And we’re holding an event covering this very subject (2019 and its bigness for housing).

As a nice bonus, we’ll also be looking back at 2018 and either laughing joyously or tut-tutting at its peaks and troughs. Click ‘n’ book here.

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