Antisocial behaviour was the issue that just wouldn't keep quiet this year. From January to December Whitehall churned out ideas faster than you can say "ASBO" and it seemed the world and its Rottweiler had an opinion on the way to tackle troublesome tenants.
In January, Tim Winter, national organiser for the Social Landlords' Crime and Nuisance Group, said: "Increasingly social landlords are becoming aware that tackling nuisance and antisocial behaviour is part of their core business." Later the same month, home secretary David Blunkett sprung an offensive aimed at both yobs and bureaucrats, giving housing associations powers to apply directly for antisocial behaviour orders.
In June, after MP Frank Field stoked the debate with proposals to strip unruly tenants of their housing benefit, work started at the Department of Work and Pensions on a register of troublemaking tenants. The idea was slammed by the National Housing Federation and the Chartered Institute of Housing, which both warned benefits minister Malcolm Wicks not to use the tenants' rent to target loutishness. But that didn't deter Fearless Field. He just moved on to his next brainwave: putting nuisance neighbours in bunkers under motorways. Field's bill ran out of parliamentary time and there was no mention of the proposals in the Queen's Speech in November, although the speech otherwise crackled with promises to get tough on everything from teen tearaways to chewing-gum louts.
Finally in November came the news that homelessness czarina Louise Casey is to be shunted over to strike fear into the hearts of nuisance neighbours at the Home Office's new antisocial behaviour unit – and what better proof that the prime minister is taking the issue seriously than the headline-grabbing appointment of yet another czar?
Stars in their high rise
The sector that glamour forgot? Certainly not. This year we had more links with luminaries from the glamorous worlds of pop, rock, royalty and sport than you could shake a copy of Hello at.
Pop queen Madonna (left) ruffled feathers in September when she was quoted in Vanity Fair saying she loved London "minus all the council estates". Incensed, Greenwich council invited the material girl to visit its estates. "How would she feel if she was homeless and had nowhere to go?" fumed tenant Maureen Johnson.
Pink Floyd guitarist Dave Gilmour was more gracious: the man who once said the amount he earned was "obscene" pledged £4.5m from the sale of his London home to charity Crisis in January.
Big Brother housemate Jade Goody and French aristocrat Prince Henri VII were both in trouble over unpaid rent in July. Prince Henri sold some heirlooms to pay his £96,000 bill; Jade, on the other hand, made enough wonga from her mercifully brief infamy that she'll never again be troubled by arrears.
Meanwhile, ex-football manager Big Ron Atkinson (above) should know a thing or two about transfer – at least that's what Birmingham council must have thought when it got him on side to sell stock transfer to an unimpressed public. It ended up being an own goal, though, as tenants resoundingly rejected transfer.
In December, fellow sportsman Phil DeFreitas (above) wrote to Housing Today after Stonham Housing Association agency manager Adam Penwarden revealed he once hit the test cricketer "for a six and a four off successive balls". Nonsense, said DeFreitas, it was "an inside leg narrowly missing leg stump".
The umpire strikes back?
Trouble at the top
What the columnists said"Creativity often works best in groups and, of course, the fire brigade would look silly at home waiting with a bucket of water"
Sandi Toksvig on the shortcomings of telecommuting
"The Tories didn’t want to know about the future of the NHS drugs budget, they wanted to know about their hips and haemorrhoids"
Niall Dickson braves the Tory conference
"With physical harm and humiliation out of the picture, what else is there? What about eviction? Hang on, we can’t do that any more"
Gerorge Tzilivakis tackles nuisance neighbours
number of stars awarded by the Audit Commission to the housing maintenance services at the prime minister’s local council, Sedgefield in County Durham
1 in 10
number of housing completions deemed affordable as a result of planning gain, a Joseph Rowntree Foundation report found in October
number of antisocial behaviour convictions in three years before housing benefit would be docked under Labour MP Frank Field’s proposals
councils facing government takeover after this month’s comprehensive performance assessments
councils in line for extra borrowing powers because of the same performance assessments
estimated number of years a person spends on a council waiting list before being housed, north-east London’s Waltham Forest council warned in July
ambitious number of homes to be created in London and the South-east through the Challenge Fund, a quarter of them to be affordable
number of homes Birmingham must transfer if it is to meet the decency target, said the independent housing commission’s report in December
number of affordable homes that could be built in the growth area around Milton Keynes, said government-backed consultant Roger Tym & Partners
Nurses in need
Defining images 1
Defining images 2
Director of planning council room, Kelvin Macdonald
PFI: politically frankly impossibleThe next big thing that never was. There was yet more evidence in 2002 of the problematic nature of housing PFI. Experts issued doom-laden verdicts on the policy. In March, transfer consultant Graham Moody warned “the private sector is running scared because of the risks involved”. Steve Wilcox, professor of housing policy at York university, declared in August: “PFI in housing is a dodge to get additional resources for long-term projects that otherwise wouldn’t get funding.” The same month the government tried to breathe life into the flagging policy by announcing it would increase spend on housing PFI by £390m over the next three years to £1bn. In a move that smacked of desperation, the government held urgent talks with councils on how to rescue the troubled initiative.
Just say no
The year’s bon mots"I no longer have the convenience and comfort of the tumbler of water always ready at the dispatch box. There have been times when I have addressed the house in the past 12 months when something stronger than water may have been helpful"
Ex-housing minister Stephen Byers settles into the backbenches
"We have not heard that Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge are about to march on the city, and in the absence of such a stimulus we cannot believe that over 26,000 council properties are in imminent danger of being abandoned"
An upbeat response to the Audit commission’s verdict on Hull council, from Labour group leader Colin Inglis
"Stock rationalisation is a bit like colonic irrigation. It’s good for you but you know it’s going to hurt"
Housing Corporation northern supremo Max inberg gets to the bottom of the matter
"The council wasn’t Old Labour, it was positively prehistoric"
Independent councillor Chris Jarvis on formerly left-controlled hull council’s descent into chaos
"If you beamed down from Planet Zog you would think it strange that housing association staff get so much money, while board members hardly get a penny"
John Castleberg, chief executive of Kingston-upon-Thames Housing association, on the alien concept of paying board members
Wrongs of right to buyThe right to buy, Thatcher’s proud flagship, came under heavy fire this year Labour MP Oona King kicked it off by calling for the policy to be suspended in regeneration areas, then Shelter wanted it scrapped in high-demand areas. But news that the government would review right-to-buy abuses led to a surge of applications in September – some councils reported a 45% increase. A Mori poll for Housing Today found seven out of 10 members of the public want to keep the right. This didn’t dissuade the office deputy prime minister who warned the Labour Party conference in Blackpool in October that he “will act” to stop abuses, and six out of 10 backed Tory shadow deputy prime minister David Davis’s suggestion that right to buy should be extended to housing association tenants.
Let us pay?She wasn’t quite giving, as she insisted in February, “a nod and a wink” to the issue of pay for board members, but Housing Corporation chair Baroness Dean hinted the matter would be on the agenda within the year. As if by magic, in October Corpy unveiled its plans for board members to be paid up to £20,000 a year. Immediately, the sector was divided.