An open letter to supporters of Homes for Britain

Today, we're very sad to say that we have to withdraw our support for the Homes for Britain campaign. The title's great but in reality we believe the strategy is so flawed that it has to date undermined the interests of people suffering the consequences of the housing crisis.

We're not suggesting anyone else leaves the coalition, but we are asking signatories to work with us on a more effective, loose campaigning network, and to influence Homes for Britain so that it advocates solutions to the housing crisis that are significantly more timely than within a generation.

Our letter to Homes for Britain supporters is below, but of course we have no such list. We'd be grateful if you could share this letter by email and social media. Anyone organisation that wants to participate in delivering material change, whether that be by asking a network for support or by offering it, or even simply keeping abreast, should email us at info@generationrent.org

Thanks so much,

Alex Hilton
Director, Generation Rent

Dear Homes for Britain Supporter

At Generation Rent we are dedicated not just to helping get housing to the top of the political agenda but to leverage that into delivering real, positive and rapid change.

Today that meant that finally we were forced to leave the Homes for Britain campaign having failed to convince the steering group to adopt a strategy that met our goals, which we believe most of the HfB coalition partners share.

Although I have written about our decision here (http://www.24dash.com/news/housing/2015-04-14-Opinion-The-right-to-buy-assault-on-housing-associations-suggests-Homes-for-Britain-was-worse-than-a-failure), I felt it would be appropriate to explain why we felt we had no alternative option and to ask you to consider how Homes for Britain can be more effective.

Our concerns were about a power analysis. We believe that before elections is the peak time for voter power and that HfB was intransigent about engaging voters in a worthwhile manner. We felt civil society, housing campaigners and trade unions should have been engaged more fully and enthusiastically to maximise individual involvement in Homes for Britain.

But we were also concerned that the asks were not just weak, but allowed politicians too much political space. “Ending the housing crisis within a generation” simply isn’t good enough for a person experiencing the housing crisis; and “publishing your proposals within a year of taking office” should have been a demand to publish proposals before people vote. We felt these added up to get out of jail free card for politicians.

We have spent the best part of a year trying quietly to move HfB on these matters with a modest goal of getting it to a status of minimum viable campaign. But with the Conservative proposal on extending Right to Buy to Housing Associations, and now Labour’s silence on whether they would support or oppose this proposal, we think our concerns have been proven correct. Homes for Britain, with a £750,000 budget, has though its funding outvoiced all but the most exceptional housing campaigns and yet has not even attempted to box in politicians into positive policy positions.

No significant advance in housing policy has been achieved from any party in a year and, in fact, retrograde policies are now a reality.

We believe this is because HfB has taken a lowest-common-denominator approach when that denominator is the Residential Landlords Association. And of course, Right to Buy in the HA sector will principally benefit private sector landlords.

We’re not asking you to leave Homes for Britain. But apart from the RLA, we believe its scope is less ambitious than the aims of almost every other member of that coalition. So we are asking you to consider how to support effective campaigning in the light of that lowest common denominator. You can:

  1. Work with us to develop an informal network of ambitious organisations who want to share information and ideas and seek each others’ support in post-election campaigning. This doesn’t even have to have a name.
  2. Work with HfB, calling for it to reassess its strategy so its resources can be more effective in the battle to end a very real crisis for millions of people.

If you’d like to work with us, we’re planning a strategy day on Saturday 16th May in London. Please do let me know if you would like to send a delegate or two. If not, let me know if you would like to designate someone to join our campaign network mailing list anyway.

If you agree HfB could be more effective I suggest you raise this with the secretariat at the National Housing Federation. We hope you will take both of these options. We still have faith that Homes for Britain can be an effective force and that we will be able to re-engage.

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