STO opposes the privatisation of Housing Associations

In Scotland’s housing the neo-liberal Hayek and Freidman creed takes another step with a move to legally formalise private status of housing associations.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the administration’s Programme for Government 2016-17 yesterday (Tuesday, 9 September 2016), which includes a Housing (Amendment) Bill to address a potential reclassification.” (Inside Housing, 7th Sept 2016)

As reported on the Scottish Government has opted to
follow the frequently mocked, ‘transfer route to privatisation’ of public
sector housing as warned by housing campaigners a decade and a half ago.

Tenant campaigners fought and won at the European Court for Housing Associations to be
viewed as public bodies; though the Housing Associations in England persist in
calling themselves ‘private’ while in Scotland they have mostly used the term,
‘voluntary sector’. Gordon Brown did not want Housing Associations to be
classed as ‘public’ as the might be included in the PSBR (public sector
borrowing requirement), but he was overruled by the EU Court. How long will it
be before a large tranche of housing will be owned by a U.S. ~ Australian holding Co. or a commercial wing of a French, Chinese or German Gov Department?

Further Reading:

Neil Gray’s report on Housing Association privatisation on Bella Caledonia

Statement on ‘Model Tenancy Agreement’ from the Scottish Tenants Organisation

In the context of other recent policy manoeuvres from the Scottish Government that are of concern, such as the formalising of private status of Housing Associations, and in the context of Bedroom Tax 2 looming, the Scottish Tenants Organisation reject the new ‘Model Tenancy Agreement’ on various grounds. One concern in particular is with
Section 29 of the ‘Model Tenancy Agreement’ and what implications it has for delegating AntiSocial Behaviour Orders to the private rented sector, in how this substantially differs from the current and already worrying arrangement where private landlords are subject to managing ASBOs. We see the ‘contractual as consensual’ relation between tenant/ factor/ landlord as put forward in the ‘Model Tenancy Agreement’ as ignoring, in fact hiding, the highly uneven power relations between these parties. In response to the AntiSocial Behaviour (Scotland) Bill in 2003, Shelter identified a number of clauses in the bill that
would have a negative affect on the power relations between tenants and landlords, putting tenants in increasingly precarious situations. Some key points Shelter identified were that the AntiSocial Behaviour (Scotland) Bill:

  • Introduced provisions intended to ensure that private landlords manage the antisocial behaviour of their tenants.
  • Extended the use of ASBOs to 1215 year olds, linking ASBOs for under16s with security of tenure, which saw tenancies converted to short term tenancies that could “result in punishment of a whole family on the basis of the reported behaviour of one individual, sometimes in situations quite unrelated to their housingcircumstances”.
  • Since then, we have seen Housing Associations adopt policies which suspend housing applicants from consideration for allocation or from eligibility for 2 years from any ASBO issued.

We argue that the ‘Model Tenancy Agreement’ once again sees the Scottish Government being portrayed as being an allegedly neutral, technical mediator. However, the Scottish Government’s fantasy of ‘concertation’ that the Agreement intones is already undermined by its existing ASBO regime.

Key points we would hope are investigated by other media organisations:

  • ASBOs are yet again being normalised through how this consultation is framing them, a formulation that having neglected Shelter’s previous advice obviously runs deeper than this current consultation. This framing indicates that it is already part of a regulatory groupthink which disregards earlier professional advice.
  • Welfare conditionality is already the case for social tenants, ie living under the shadow of a disciplinary tool requiring vulnerable people to meet particular conditions and behave in certain ways. The proposals would further imbue these sorts of regulatory mechanisms into everyday routines and relations.
  • The ‘Model Tenancy Agreement’ fails to address both historical and current misuse of ASBOs by ‘moral’ entrepreneurs (e.g. Housing Associations, with them having been folded into a larger disciplinary apparatus. It ignores the pressures the rented sector is already under to pursue an increased use of ASBOs and the harmful consequences this can have on households.

Read the 2003 Shelter Report here: __data/assets/pdf_file/0003/48576/PP28_Briefing_on_the_ASB_Bill.pdf/

Read the, ‘Recommended Model Tenancy Agreement for private tenants in Scotland,’ from @ScotGov Section 29 of the agreement is the ASBO clause and can be read here.

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