About Red Brick

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Red Brick is a “superb blog analysing social housing policy”. The Guardian

Welcome to Red Brick, a blog founded in 2010 by Tony Clements and Steve Hilditch and now edited by Steve and our pseudonymous friend ‘Monimbo’.

It is a progressive political blog with a particular focus on housing policy. As a forum it is open to anyone interested in progressive debate about homes, housing and communities, and wider politics. We are linked to the Labour Housing Group but the views expressed here are those of individual authors and/or the editors and are not necessarily the view of LHG or London LHG.


Steve Hilditch is retired after a 40+ year career in housing. He worked all over the country as a housing consultant for the last 20 years, having previously been assistant director of housing for a London borough and head of policy for Shelter. 

He advised a number of Select Committees, including a major inquiry into homelessness and inquiries into the implications of the credit crunch for housing.  He worked on the Labour government’s review of the council housing finance system and drafted the first London Mayor’s Housing Strategy (Mayor Livingstone, that is).  He chaired the government project group that established the National Tenant Voice, regrettably closed down by the Coalition government shortly after its birth.

Steve has been a Labour Party member since 1972 and chaired Paddington constituency party and the Labour Housing Group in the 1980s.  He was a leading Westminster ‘objector’, helping expose the Homes for Votes scandal under Lady Porter. 

Brought up on a council estate in Newcastle, Steve studied economics and geography at University College London and housing and planning at LSE and has been visiting professor to the University of Westminster.  His hairshirt is that he is a lifelong supporter of Newcastle United.     

Tony Clements worked as a policy adviser for John Healey when he was a DCLG Minister, working more recently for housing associations and local authorities.

Monimbo is a senior housing policy specialist writing under a pseudonym.  

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10 Responses to About Red Brick

  1. lukemcresswell says:

    Shortages, a failure to replace council homes sold-off and the pressure on lettings have restricted council house tenancies to those most needy and desperate amongst us.
    The so-called free market in housing has been a recipe for social divisiveness, increased inequality, the intergenerational denial of opportunities and, for too many of us, a source of growing insecurity.
    The building of thousands of new homes for sale and rent are at the centre of Labour’s approach to resolving Britain’s housing crisis. The focus is often on numbers, and properly so; limited supply has underpinned shortages, ratcheted up house prices and costs and restricted access. 
    Yet we also need to register the changes in public housing that years of privatisation, neglect and a policy preference for home ownership over renting has produced. Council homes with local authorities as landlords have undergone a transformation. They were once the popular and welcomed solution – providing good standards and security of tenure as an alternative to the bombed-out urban areas of wartime and the overcrowding, dilapidation and racketeering of slums and rogue landlords.
    That’s changed. Too often today, local authority or housing association ‘affordable’ housing to rent carries a stigma. Even relatively cheap rents are likely to be seen as second preference to a tough-to-afford mortgage by many. Estates where public housing remains concentrated are seen as undesirable; spaces associated with people who are problems rather than people with problems.
    We need to recognise how far a view of houses as investments rather than secure homes have skewed our approach and our economy. People have been encouraged to see ever rising house prices as desirable. House values now provide scope for some to scale down and cash-in on retirement; a preferred alternative to occupationally based pensions. Second-homes, bought to let, are tax-privileged as safe investment opportunities – effectively subsidised by housing benefits paid to their tenants.
    Meantime, for younger generations, those without access to the bank of Mum and Dad for the significant deposit needed to buy, or already loaded down with education debt, have expectations of ever owning any home dashed completely. The so-called free market in housing has been a recipe for social divisiveness, increased inequality, the intergenerational denial of opportunities and, for too many of us, a source of growing insecurity.
    The Labour Party should now commit to the mass construction of council houses and extend council homes to low earning people currently pushed onto the private rental market.
    Yes, it would be costly, but this is an investment. The new tenants would pay 80% of the private market rate to the council, which could then use the money to invest in local services such as schools. This would be a regular income for the council, as the new tenants would be the working poor and will pay rent from their wage. If the council collects the monthly rent rather than individual property owners, the money can be reinvested into the community.
    It would save the government huge sums of money in benefits, particularly housing benefit, as well as improving the quality of life for the tenants. The jobs created (and taxes received) by the mass construction project would also boost the national economy at this fragile time.
    Jeremy Corbyn is right to pledge he will tackle our housing problem, but we need to look beyond raw numbers and issues of tenure. Some years ago, the Labour Housing Group discussed how we might develop the idea of the ‘right to a home’. Today, that remains a right worth having and a right worth fighting for. 

  2. Thanks Monimbo- found the article very interesting for the ElphickeHouse Review #LAHR14 – happy to talk in person if you want to get in touch, Natalie

  3. sue waller says:

    Monimbo? Hope this doesn’t reference the extreme right wing cold war spy thriller Monimbo by Arnaud De Borchgrave-Robert Moss from1983, which according to the New York Magazine is an “excuse for big-bottomed arm-chair warriors to have a nice wallow in blood and contempt.”

    • monimbo99 says:

      No: a different Monimbo.

      • sue waller says:

        That’s good. As a former private tenants’ rights campaigner, now a housing needs professional and LHG member – really like the blog. Would be interested in insights about the use of PRS to discharge homeless duty. I think there needs to be some investigation into procurement groups such as Finefare Lettings who I believe have been involved in a prosecution for illegal eviction  Islam v Yap [2009] EWHC 3606 (QB), 20 November 2009 but local authorities including Labour councils are still using them.

  4. Pingback: Single Aspect's Blog » Blog Archive » Right to buy III

  5. Paul Eastwood says:

    I am deeply concerned that the move to 80% market rents, and the ending of Council tenancies for life will undo all the good work that has been done in creating mixed communities. Given the underlying uncertainty that fixed term tenancies creates new Council tenants will probably be reluctant to “put down roots”, which is something all good landlords would wish them to do. A sense of place and continuity are what marks out all good places to live. Council estates seem set to become transitory neighborhoods, and housing of last resort rather than housing of choice. The full social impact of this will only unravel over time, but we do need collectively to be highlighting this issue and getting this message across as a key them for elections on 5 May.

  6. Kerry Pollard says:

    I worry about ‘affordability’ in the brave new Shapps world. It seems to me that on the route we are being forced down ( 80% of market rents) that there will inevitably be a sharp increase in people needing to claim housing benefit, exactly counter to what the Tory led Government espouses.

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