This is a second comment piece from LTF discussions on Housing without Landlords, which were held in the preparation work for developing The London Tenants Manifesto – a positive future for social housing.
The comment is from Richard Lee, a Southwark council tenant.
After 4 decades of housing privatisation and the domination of the homeowner ideology, the objective has to be non-profit (social) rented housing for a wide part of the population, as a genuinely attractive alternative to owner-occupation.
The model for this is not municipal housing, which fails to give tenants control over their future and where rights to participation have often been dependent on party political control. This is a spent force. Neither is it small co-operatives dependent on people with a high level of commitment – therefore a solution for a few only – and unable because of their scale to address the social, environmental and economic issues of the neighbourhood.
The principles for non-profit rented housing are:
- localised housing management
- under tenant control
- with collective ownership of housing and land
- and addressing local issues to achieve a sustainable community
We want a system that is tenant led, not top-down and paternalistic. This means all residents having a say, from initial ideas to the final product, and a sense of ownership. It requires organisational structures that are democratic and accountable and offer real involvement, developing tenant confidence and expertise.
Large scale Tenant Management Co-operatives (TMC) seem the most appropriate model. However, TMC’s must have their own Tenants and Residents Associations (TRAs), to avoid ending up with control being taken away from tenants on the estates and put in the hands of a few Tenant Director’s rubber stamping what the professional experts tell them. The TRA’s need access to legal and professional support, which can be provided by a TMC Board, but the TMC Board needs estate based self-organisation to reach and empower all tenants. If tenant control means all tenants having a real say, then TMC’s must be properly scrutinised and accountable to the TRA membership.
Tenants place a high value on a sense of community and local issues eg health and well-being, the local economy, green space and play space, a community centre where tenants and residents can come together. Larger tenant-controlled organisations can have influence over these and access the resources to do the job.
Tenant control requires a structural change in both housing and land ownership. The transfer of housing is not enough as land ownership is where the power lies. We need to reduce the concentration of land ownership and increase community and co-operative forms so that land is considered as a Commons, a source of wealth that belongs to all of us.