By Carl Davis
Only in the prevailing twisted purely anti-liability driven corporate world of the UK social housing sector could a large supposedly ‘social’ housing provider fail to notice that a lone tenant had died, then leave her decomposing in her flat for almost three years, then characterise this horrific and terribly sad tragedy as a series of ‘ missed opportunities’.
This was the description given by housing consultants Altair in their report on the tragedy, and reported in The Guardian (above) and elsewhere.
Sure, we get that the picture. Bigger social housing providers – not just Peabody – have generally shifted from local neighbourhood patch management to a more remote, silo tenancy management culture. This in part explains how Sheila Seleoane went ignored even after rent stopped being paid and her gas was cut off.
We ‘get it’ as for years tenants, residents and social housing workers have complained about how that same, near sector-wide, remote management culture not only prevents social landlords from meaningfully responding to a whole raft of problems from disrepair to anti-social behaviour but actively encourages social landlords to ignore them.
We also ‘get’ that the police and local authorities, who abysmally failed Sheila Seleoane and the residents of Lords Court in this case too, have long been subject to the same pressure to cut costs and corners and operate more and more distantly and remotely.
But the charmingly polite language of corporate psychopathy shouldn’t be allowed to excuse or distract from the brutal fact that this is an ideological problem at heart and that as a society we all bear the terrible brunt of this toxic, uncaring, and appalling way of managing services, people and resources. And this applies whether we live or work in social housing or not.
In social housing we’ve become so used to being at the sharp end of remote and bullying mismanagement for private profit that it sometimes seems that it is completely natural and normal. We are lulled into thinking that there couldn’t possibly be any alternative ways to provide and manage social housing or other services.
There are alternatives, but they require us to acknowledge and radically challenge the degree of systemic contemptuous neglect in the sector. At the moment, an expired club sandwich would get more attention in a remote board room of our largest and most predatory social landlords than an expired tenant.
And you can be sure that if such a thing did happen, someone would be held accountable for offending the refined sensibilities of housing executives who haven’t missed a trick in lining their own pockets, getting their own wants and needs met, and living the good life at our expense.
The Need to Organise Ourselves
We need to organize and make sure that those who manage social housing are accountable and restore some balance and human decency to the sector.
SHAC is a network of tenants, residents, workers and activists in housing associations and cooperatives. It is aligned to the Unite Housing Workers Branch which represents staff in these organisations.
We campaign to improve the lives of those who live in housing association properties and to reduce the commercialisation of the sector. Our demands include genuine tenant and resident democracy, improved repairs and maintenance services, reduced rents and service charges, better health and safety provisions for all, and an end to the exploitation of housing workers.
1 August 2022
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