A Week in Housing

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Let’s start with a tale full of festive cheer and kindness: private landlords have declared war on some retail outlets that have been giving money to a homeless charity.

Am I tripping? you ask. No, it’s absolutely true. Unbelievable but true.

Led by the National Landlords Alliance (NLA), disgruntled property renter-outers are to attempt a mass boycott of demonic shops like Marks & Spencer and B&Q who have had the audacity to donate money to Shelter.

A few fuming landlords have already penned letters to B&Q, threatening that they will no longer frequent their orangey high-shelved premises on the hunt for hinges, cement and sheds.

B&Q’s crime? This Christmas it hopes to raise £25,000 for Shelter through the sales of dolls. Horrible. Marks & Spencer, meanwhile, has already donated £millions to the charity.

Incensed landlord (cool name alert) Dr Ros Beck gave B&Q both barrels in a whinging missive, saying ‘I am a private landlord who has known for some time that B&Q has been helping to fund Shelter. So far, I have chosen to ignore this unpalatable fact, but frankly I have had enough now.’

But…why? Well, according to Dr Ros, though Shelter might claim to help people get housing, apparently ‘the only way they can do that is by persuading private landlords to take the risk of housing homeless people – as there is practically no social housing available for this purpose’.

The doctor went on: ‘You might think that given the fact that we are the only housing providers in a position to help with homelessness that they would build positive relationships with us in order to facilitate this. They do not do this, however.

‘Instead, they push a relentless anti private landlord agenda. I have asked that they rename themselves as they provide no shelter, whilst demonising those of us who do.’

Responding to this incredible mean-spiritedness, Shelter’s director of fundraising, Andy Harris, said: ‘Shelter’s partnership with B&Q provides vital funding for a specialist team of DIY skills advisers, as well as much-needed support for our other vital frontline services, helping thousands of people every year.

‘In addition to allegedly helping people into housing we have also heard how they and others ‘help’ tenants remain in their housing by informing them that they can wait for the bailiffs in cases of eviction – a process which is ruinous and devastating for landlords.

‘Thanks to B&Q’s generous support, this service alone has helped almost 1,400 people to create homes where they can feel happier, safer and more secure.’

Defending its thoughtless charity agenda, B&Q said: ‘At B&Q we believe everyone should have a home that they can feel good about and recognise that this is not the case for many people.

‘As the leading UK-wide charity tackling the issues that impact both poor housing and homelessness, we believe that Shelter is the right organisation for us to work with.’

Other enterprises that could soon find themselves in the NLA’s crosshairs for do-gooding include British Gas and Nationwide – though in British Gas’s case it’s easy to imagine the charitable urge may be designed to offset the guilt of bankrupting people as they try to keep warm through the bleak midwinter.

***

A minister who works for the government that tries to run the UK has suggested that struggling families take in a lodger to help make ends meet.

Useful ideas person and welfare minister Justin Tomlinson told the Commons Work and Pensions Committee that some benefit claimants have made changes to their housing costs by ‘for example, taking in a lodger’.

Stunned Labour MP Ruth George interrupted Tomlinson’s flow: ‘Take in a lodger? These are large families, they’ve often got three children in one bedroom, how are they going to take in a lodger?’

The man had an answer: ‘If there’s three children in one bedroom then you should start joining us in supporting releasing more family homes through our spare room subsidy changes, which have helped remove half a million people off the bedroom tax.’

Aha, I thought this all rang a bell. Back in the days of the much-loved bedroom tax’s genesis, Lord Freud, one of the policy’s parents, told Scottish claimants suffering from motor neurone disease to take in a lodger if they wanted to plug the gap.

There’s nothing new under the sun.

Anyway, MP Tomlinson has been slammed by, among others, shadow chancellor John McDonnell, who said: ‘This government is out of touch and totally clueless about the damage inflicted on families and their cruel benefits system.’

Rumours that the minister also advised those hit by the benefit cap to skip every other meal, shower in the rain, and keep warm by doing rigorous exercise have not been substantiated.

***

And here’s a little rundown of some events that we here at HQN have crafted for you:

In January’s frozen wastelands, behold: Practical magic! No, it’s not a day of easy-to-apply sorcery but an event that’ll focus on the tech solutions that already exist in the world that housing providers can apply NOW as the world digitally transforms.

It’s all about digital transformation these days – for instance, I got myself one of them smart TVs last week. Was too smart for me. I tried to get it to record Emmerdale and instead it lectured me on Hegelian dialectics for two hours!

But enough of my misadventures, this bit’s a link to book your place.

Before January, in the month I like to call ‘December’, the Residents’ Network annual conference 2018 gets-a-hosted. What can we expect? Well, the green paper for starters, plus regulation, best practice workshops and loads more.

Click this link I have diligently created by copying and pasting the event page URL into the text.

Customer service is changing. Software, social media, AI and mobile tech are allowing organisations to offer 24-hour services without the need for skin ‘n’ blood-based humanoids.

But how will all this wonderful stuff affect landlords’ relationships with their tenants? That’s the quandary our Customer Service in the Digital Age event will attempt to probe. And you can come along if you click any of this bit.

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