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Private Management of Public Properties: the Social Housing Sector

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Pathfinder’ s projects cover areas most acutely affected by low demand and abandonment in order to return these to sustainable communities. The Pathfinders will restructure the areas’ housing markets to ensure there is a more sustainable balance between housing supply and demand and address any other social and economic regeneration issues. Rochdale is one of the areas to be covered under Pathfinders projects. The supply-side stimulus provided by the Corporation’ s developmental grants, demand-side, means-tested Housing Benefit funded by the state has put low-income tenants in a position to pay rent to Registered Social Landlords (RSLs).

The growth of RSLs can be understood partly by reference to the failures or limitations of, and difficulties associated with other rental sectors. Many for-profit landlords originally left the housing market following the development of extensive restrictions and regulations in this field. It is only recently that the for-profit sector has emerged as a directly funded social housing operator; for-profit sector operates as a de facto provider of social because Housing Benefit-funded tenants have chosen this option. Mid 1980s legislation permitting transfers of local authority property to RSLs after tenant ballots have added to the momentum.

However, the environment for RSLs changed with the 1988 Housing Act, which initiated a revolution in the system of housing finance. Spurred by a desire to stimulate “ efficiency” , the new financial framework requires RSLs to raise funds from their own reserves or private lenders to supplement the public subsidy, for which they must now bid on a competitive basis. According to Hills (1989, p. 264), support for RSLs during the 1980s was forthcoming because they appeared to offer “ variety and organisational style which gave them a good reputation for innovation and good management” .

The RSL’ s now had to raise funds by offering security and charge rents in order to be able to service the debt. The role of Government was gradually rolled back and rents rose to unprecedented levels.

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