Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Minister Admits Disabled People Are Wrongly Refused Benefits

A Tory minister has been forced to repeatedly admit that some disabled people are being wrongly refused access to vital disability benefits, adding further weight to accusations that cuts have left the welfare system unfit for purpose. On three occasions, Penny Mordaunt, the disabilities minister, was forced to defend the Government’s treatment of people with disabilities, after opposition MPs cited a number of examples of their constituents being messed around by the Tory welfare system. MPs from across the House rose to speak about how disabled people in their constituencies were struggling to claim the support they desperately need. Read more on Welfare Weekly.

Letting Fee Ban Will Hit Loyal Tenants Hardest

The Government’s proposed ban on letting agent fees will cost tenants who stay in properties the longest hundreds of pounds, ARLA in partnership with Capital Economics can reveal.
·         There are 4,000 jobs at risk if an outright ban is passed
·         The Exchequer is in receipt of £400m in employee taxes from letting agents
·         Some landlords expected to exit the market if they don’t inflate rents, adding to already high pressure on supply and demand in the rental sector

Read more on the ARLA website.

Social Rented Housing – Parliamentary Written Answer

Lord Beecham: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact of the reduction in social housing rents on the maintenance and improvement of the existing housing stock, and on the building of new houses between now and 2022.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth: The fiscal impact of the social rent reduction policy on public finances was included as part of the Office for Budget Responsibility’s policy costings for Budget 2015 which can be (attached) found at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/443195/Policy_costings_summer_budget_2015.pdf . In September 2015 the CLGcarried out an impact assessment of the effect of the social rent reduction policy on housing associations which can be (attached) found at http://www.parliament.uk/documents/impactassessments/IA15-006F.pdf .  Social housing providers are well placed to manage these reductions and have proved themselves to be more than capable of adapting and responding to change. The Government is investing £7.1 billion in the expanded Affordable Homes Programme from 2016-21, which will support housing associations and local authorities to build another 225,000 affordable homes by March 2021.

Homelessness Figures Reveal “Devastating Impact” Of Expensive And Insecure Private Renting

Evictions from the private rented sector have fuelled the massive rise in homelessness revealed by the latest government statistics, according to Shelter. The latest figures from the CLG revealed that:
·         In the last year alone, 59,260 households were accepted as homeless by their local council – a rise of 22% over the last five years
·         The loss of a private tenancy remains the single biggest cause of homelessness, with 18,750 households becoming homeless after an eviction from a privately rented home in 2016
·         Since 2011, the rise in the number of households evicted from a privately rented home has accounted for 78% of the rise in homelessness

Read more on the Housing Excellence website.

Record Numbers Rely On Parental Cash To Buy A Property

The number of first-time buyers relying on the "bank of mum and dad" for financial help has hit a record high, according to new research. Analysis for the Social Mobility Commission suggests that more than a third of homebuyers in England depend on money from their family. Using the latest official data available, from 2013-14, researchers found 34% of buyers needed cash or a loan from their parents. That compared with just 20% in 2010/11. A further 10% of buyers relied on inherited wealth, the research found. Read more on the BBC website.

Housing Scam Reaps Millions

Thousands of unemployed benefit claimants are being “warehoused” in small rooms in terraced houses that landlords are presenting as flats in order to obtain the highest possible housing benefit, a Sunday Times investigation has revealed. Council officials say the bogus flats, which have been found in London, the West Midlands and Leeds, are costing taxpayers tens of millions of pounds in wasted housing benefits. A two-bedroom terraced house can be divided into up to six rooms with lavatories without planning permission. Landlords say the units are single rooms for the purposes of avoiding planning enforcement, yet insist they are flats when claiming housing benefit.  Read more on the Sunday Times website.

Brexit Means We Need Fewer Houses - Or Does It?

It is an obvious claim, already made by some newspapers opposed to building in the countryside: if we are leaving the EU, there will be fewer migrants, and so we can build fewer new houses. In the latest edition of the 2017 UK Housing Review – just published by the Chartered Institute of Housing – we have looked at whether such a claim stacks up. Demand for housing depends mainly on household growth. The latest projections for England were made before last June’s referendum. They suggested that we need to build 227,000 homes a year up to 2024, with a lower target after that. Of the total, 37% – or 84,000 a year – results from migration. Read more on the CML website.

Ministers To Reverse Universal Credit Policy For Homeless Families

Ministers are to bow to pressure to exclude homeless families from universal credit after it emerged that design flaws in the troubled new benefits system have triggered an explosion in rent arrears, costing council tax payers millions of pounds. Local authorities in London say rent collection levels for homeless tenants placed in emergency accommodation have collapsed following the introduction of the universal credit digital service last year. Croydon council says it faces an unpaid £2.5m rent bill this year as a result, and has warned ministers this scale of losses is unsustainable. It said the costs were leaving councils potentially unable to meet their statutory duties under homelessness law. Read more on the Guardian website.

Letting Agents ‘Routinely’ Flouting Fee Rules

Rules for letting agents are being routinely flouted with newly released research revealing rogue agents enjoy a very low risk of facing any penalties from councils. An investigation examined enforcement work done by the capital’s councils since new rules on displaying letting fees and membership of deposit and redress schemes were introduced in May 2015. The results show that less than one third of complaints made were acted upon. Despite 1,351 complaints made to councils about letting agents, only 444 visits were made by trading standards officers, just 462 warning letters were sent and only 52 final notices were issued. Read more on 24housing.

Planning Approvals For Residential Schemes Up By 6%

Planning departments approved 6% more residential applications than a year ago, official statistics released today show. Figures from the CLG revealed that councils in England granted 12,700 residential planning applications from October to December 2016. Permission was granted for 82% of major residential developments and 74% of minor developments. There were 112,100 planning applications submitted, a 1% increase on the same period in 2015. Read more on Inside Housing.

Mismatch Between Wages And House Prices Increases

Airline pilots,flight engineers, electronics engineers, rubber process operatives, energy plant operatives, and merchandisers and window dressers all have seen housing affordability improve over the past five years. These account for just 2 per cent of occupations. The figures, compiled by mortgage broker Private Finance and based on information from the Office for National Statistics, highlight the growing mismatch between wage rises and house price increases. While average earnings grew by just 9 per cent from 2011 to 2016, the average house price soared by 26.7 per cent, meaning the number of years’ earnings required to afford the average home increased from eight to 9.2. Read more on the FT Adviser.

More Than 100 Housing Estates Receive Regeneration Cash Boost

Funding will be distributed to local authorities and housing associations to speed up the building of thousands of new homes. More than 100 housing estates across the country are set to benefit from a significant investment to kick-start their regeneration, the Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has announced. From Gateshead to Plymouth, the £32 million Estate Regeneration Fund will be distributed to local authorities and housing associations across England to speed up the building of thousands of new homes. After successful engagement with local communities, a total of 105 estates will benefit from the funding, to be used to speed up regeneration schemes in their early stages.  Read more on the CLG website.

Starter Home Initiative – Parliamentary Written Answer

John Healey:  To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, what progress his Department has made on rolling out the Starter Homes Land Fund.
Gavin Barwell: The Housing White Paper confirmed that the £1.2 billion Starter Homes Land Fund will be invested to support the preparations of brownfield sites for starter homes and other affordable home ownership tenures. 30 partnerships with local authorities were announced in January 2017 to identify and bring forward land opportunities. As of the end of February 2017, the Homes and Communities Agency had invested £61 million in 27 sites across the country, which have the capacity to deliver over 1,600 starter homes and other affordable home ownership units, and it is now undertaking detailed due diligence on further sites.

Osborne's Stamp Duty Rise Hits House Prices

House prices in parts of London have tumbled by nearly 15 per cent in the past 12 months following a tax raid by George Osborne, according to a report. Savills said the stamp duty surcharge on second homes and buy-to-let properties was ‘the final nail in the coffin’ for the London market.  Estate agency giant Knight Frank said values have been slashed ‘as a result of higher rates of stamp duty’ introduced by the former Chancellor before he was sacked and that ‘price declines may be close to bottoming out’ as the fall in the pound following the Brexit vote makes property in Britain more attractive to wealthy foreign buyers. Read more on the Daily Mail website.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Changes To Benefit Entitlements From April 2017

·         Employment and Support Allowance work-related activity group - Work Related Activity component is being abolished so those in this group will receive the same rate of benefit as those claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance
·         Families with children - support provided through Child Tax Credit will be limited to two children; Universal Credit will be limited to two children
·         New taper rate - a reduction in the taper rate to 63%, from 65%
·         Universal Credit and the benefit cap - From 1 April 2017 if a claimant is in work they will be exempt from the Benefit Cap if weekly earnings are equal to or greater than the equivalent of 16 times National Minimum/Living Wage rate, rather than a flat rate of £430 per month/£100 per week.

Read more on the NHF website.

Right To Buy Extension Pilot Could Damage Supply In West Midlands

A West Midlands pilot of the Right to Buy for housing associations could add to stock pressures in the region, a new report warns. The report, which was authored by independent think tanks Futures Network West Midlands and the Human City Institute, argues that associations offering tenants the right to purchase their homes at a discount could lead to dwindling numbers of high quality social housing stock. Housing minister Gavin Barwell has said the West Midlands is a “strong contender” for a regional voluntary Right to Buy pilot for associations. Read more on Inside Housing.

Homelessness Bill Passes As Temporary Accommodation Numbers Rise

The Homelessness Reduction Bill cleared its third and final reading in the House of Lords – as new figures confirm the number of households in temporary accommodation in England rose by 10% over the course of 2016 to 75,740 up 58% on the low of 48,010 on 31 December 2010. The CLG figures confirm councils accepted 14,420 households as being statutorily homeless between October-December last year – down 3% on the previous quarter and down 0.4% on the same quarter of last year. These are households that are owed a main homelessness duty to secure accommodation as a result of being unintentionally homeless and in priority need. Read more on 24housing.

Private Rented Housing – Parliamentary Written Answer

Richard Burden:  To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, what steps his Department is taking to improve awareness for tenants in the private rental sector of their rights and responsibilities as tenants.
Gavin Barwell: The Government has published ‘How to Rent: the checklist for renting in England’ to help tenants to understand their rights and responsibilities when renting a property in the private rented sector. This can be accessed online at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/how-to-rent. The guide provides detailed information on each stage of the renting process, including how to get help if things go wrong.

Builders Turn To Bolt-Together Homes

The prospect of Brexit choking off the supply of EU workers is reshaping Britain's homebuilding industry, with big companies increasingly looking to factory-manufacture houses in sections that can be slotted together on-site with minimal labour. Many of Britain's leading housebuilders, including Berkeley, Taylor Wimpey, Persimmon and Your Housing, told Reuters they were either planning new developments of prefabricated homes or considering doing so. This represents something of a turnaround in a country where "prefabs" have borne a strong and lingering stigma dating back to the 1940s when Winston Churchill ordered tens of thousands of cheap, flimsy, ugly units to be built to address a shortage housing after World War II. Read more on Yahoo News.

Want To Reduce Homelessness?

The Homelessness Reduction Bill heralds a renewed emphasis on prevention: government statistics show that in the last year alone, 59,260 households were accepted as homeless by their local council. That’s a rise of 22% over the last 5 years. And behind these statistics are thousands of families trying to raise children, living through the indignity and worry of being unable to house themselves. When the new legislation is implemented, councils will be legally required to try to prevent homelessness, rather than pick up the pieces. But why is homelessness rising year on year and what can we do about it? It’s rising because of short-term rentals.  Eviction from a private tenancy accounts for 78% of the rise in homelessness since 2011. Read more on the Shelter blog.

Guidance For Housing And NSIPs

The government has published guidance confirming the details of measures that will see major infrastructure projects that include up to 500 homes considered as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP). This follows regulations about such schemes being laid before Parliament. The guidance covers changes to the Planning Act 2008 made by section 160 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016, which received Royal Assent in May last year. The guidance states that the government wants to ensure that the flexibility being provided to allow an element of housing to be consented under the 2008 Act “does not undermine the local planning process and the wider responsibilities for local authorities to plan for housing needs in their area”. Read more on the Planning Portal.

Two-Thirds Of Councils Struggling To Find Tenancies For Homeless People

Nearly two-thirds of councils across England are struggling to find tenancies for homeless people. Out of 162 councils, 64% said they are finding it increasingly difficult to house homeless young people and large families, and 85% said they are struggling to help single people aged 25-34 into accommodation. An overwhelming majority of councils said they expect the roll-out of Universal Credit to exacerbate homelessness, mainly because of the potential impact it will have on landlords’ willingness to let to homeless people. Nearly half (49%) said they are finding it very difficult to find private rented accommodation for homeless applicants. Read more on Inside Housing.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Landlord and Tenant: Housing Benefit – Parliamentary Written Answer

Stephen Timms: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, what his most recent assessment is of the extent to which private landlords are unwilling to let to tenants on housing benefit; and if he will make a statement.

Gavin Barwell: The English Housing Survey Headline Report 2015-16 (published March 2017) shows that 24 per cent of households privately renting are in receipt of housing benefit. This suggests that recipients of housing benefit are able to access the sector.

Councils Warn Housing Shortfall And Benefit Cuts Fuelling Rising Homelessness

Almost two thirds (64%) of councils across England are struggling to find social tenancies for homeless people, while half find it ‘very difficult’ to assist applicants into privately rented accommodation, according to a report by Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). The report, which includes evidence from 162 of England’s 326 local authorities, reveals that councils are finding it particularly difficult to house homeless young people and large families, with 85% of responding councils having difficulties assisting single people aged 25-34 into accommodation and 88% finding it difficult to house large families. Read more on the Housingnet website.

Empty Homes Review Service Brings 9,000 Homes Back Into Use

Over 9,000 empty homes from 73 local authorities were last year helped brought back into use by an Empty Homes Review service. The service is looked to have made local authorities millions in terms of New Homes Bonus revenue, which allows money to be put back into the local community. Since its launch in 2011, the EHR service has helped 156 local authorities in England bring over 40,000 properties back into use, achieving on average nearly £1m in New Homes Bonus per review for each local authority. This accounts for approximately 40% of the long-term empty homes brought back into use since the launch of the New Homes Bonus. Read more on 24housing.

MP Warns Of Housing Strain Caused By Holiday Lets

Illegal sub-letters and property magnates are taking advantage of Airbnb and similar-style sites to rake in tax-free cash, an MP says. Labour's Karen Buck said renting out properties for short holiday lets can produce up to three times the income of more traditional flat rentals. Growth in the industry is also contributing to a loss of residential accommodation, she told the Commons. She wants the 90-day limit for renting out homes each year to be enforced. Ms Buck says the sharing phenomenon is putting a strain on housing stock, neighbours and cash-strapped councils that are having to deal with anti-social behaviour arising from noise and waste issues, over-crowding and a whole range of other forms of disturbance. Read more on the BBC website.

Housing Crisis Looms As Population Growth Outstrips New Builds

Manchester’s population is growing nearly 15 TIMES faster than homes are being built, new analysis reveals. Stagnating levels of house-building in the city combined with a surging population is likely to mean the current housing crisis will only get worse over the next few years. According to the latest official figures, just 290 homes were built in the city in 2015-16, bringing the total number of dwellings (houses and flats) to around 218,500. That translates to a growth in Manchester housing of just 0.13 per cent between 2015 and 2016. In comparison, the population of the city grew by more than 10,000 people between mid-2014 and mid-2015 - the latest data available. Read more on the MEN website.

Most Landlords Will Keep Their Letting Agents Despite Ban On Tenant Fees

The majority of landlords using a letting agent won’t be put off if they see their own costs rise following a ban on tenant fees, a survey claims. According to the survey by the UK Association of Letting Agents (UKALA), 71% of landlords would continue to use a letting agent even if their premiums rise. What’s more, the research  shows that eight in ten landlords (79%) think their letting agent will increase their fees as a result of the proposal to ban charges to tenants, as announced in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement last year. However, just 9% of landlords say they will part ways with their agent if their premiums rise. Read more on Housing Excellence.

Benefit Cap Plunging Private Renters Into Poverty

When the overall household benefit cap was introduced in 2013, it limited the total amount of benefits that a household working less than 16 hours per week could claim at £26,000 a year. It’s now at £20,000 a year outside of London, or £23,000 in the capital. An analysis on the impact of the lower cap on private renting families paints a pretty bleak picture: in more than half of England the cap means that, after paying rent, a family with two children living in a small two-bed home would have less than £8 per person per day to cover all their essentials like food and bills. This would leave them at least £100 a week under the UK poverty line. Read more on the New Statesman website.

Tory Slammed After Dismissing Concerns Welfare System Is Forcing People Into Rent Arrears

The Tory benefits boss has been slammed after dismissing concerns his new welfare system is causing hardship and forcing claimants into rent arrears. Damian Green claimed “teething problems” had cleared up despite council figures showing average rent arrears of more than £900 among some Universal Credit claimants. The Work and Pensions Secretary downplayed evidence of problems raised by MPs and MSPs during a joint Westminster-Holyrood committee meeting. SNP MP Pete Wishart, who chaired the session, said areas where the full service began, including Inverness, reported a sharp rise in housing arrears. Direct payments to landlords are taking between six and 10 weeks to process. Read more on the Daily Record website.

Social Rented Housing: Housing Benefit – Parliamentary Written Answer

Frank Field:  To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, pursuant to the Answer of 19 January 2017 to Question 60098, what progress has been made on amending the regulations governing the under-occupancy penalty.
Caroline Nokes: The regulations in relation to two Supreme Court judgments concerning the removal of the spare room subsidy were laid on 2 March 2017 and will come into force on 1 April 2017. From this date an additional bedroom will be allowed, subject to certain criteria, where a disabled child or adult non-dependant requires a non-resident overnight carer (or team of carers); or where a couple one of whom (or both) are disabled and those disabilities prevent them from sharing a bedroom.

UK Urged To Relax Green Belt Restrictions To Tackle Housing Crisis

Britain should relax planning restrictions in green belt areas to help deal with its housing crisis, an international economic think tank has recommended. Shortage of housing was one of a number of factors identified by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as holding back UK growth, alongside poor skills and a lack of investment in infrastructure and research. Among its other recommendations were more toll roads, an expansion in vocational education and lifelong learning and better provision of social housing. Read more on the Belfast Telegraph website.

Average House Price At 7.6 Times Annual Salary

Rising house prices now stand at an average 7.6 times the average annual salary, more than double the figure for 20 years ago, according to official figures. The new figures for housing affordability in England and Wales between 1997 and 2016 have been issued by the Office for National Statistics. They said the median price paid for a home leapt by 259% over this period, while median individual annual earnings could only manage a 68% rise. The ONS said housing affordability “has worsened in all local authority districts”. In 1997, house prices were on average about 3.6 times workers’ annual gross full-time earnings. Read more on the Guardian website.

Government ‘Head In The Sand’ Over Universal Credit

The government has been slammed for having its ‘head in the sand’ over the roll out impact of Universal Credit on claimants and councils. In a response from Government to the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, the DWP claims that rent arrears associated with UC “are likely to be of a short duration” and “should not present an insurmountable obstacle to landlords”. The DWP’s own analysts have urging caution about drawing conclusions from historic data, based on a small number of cases and the Government was unable to provide any of the basic, up-to-date, specific data that the Committee asked for. Read more on 24housing.

Right To Buy Sales Pass 50,000 Since Discounts Raised

Councils sold more than 3,000 homes through the Right to Buy in the final quarter of 2016, taking the total sold under large discounts to over 50,000. 3,115 homes were sold between October and December last year – a 4% drop on the previous year, the CLG revealed. However 18 councils did not provide any Right to Buy figures, so the true total figure is likely to be higher. This took the overall figure for Right to Buy sales to 51,351 council homes since discounts were increased to £75,000 five years ago. Only 794 replacement homes were started or bought in the same three month period. This was a 47% increase on the previous year but a 39.4% drop on the previous quarter. Read more on Inside Housing.

New Grant For Council Homelessness Services

The government is transforming the way councils fund homelessness services, giving them greater flexibility to prioritise homelessness prevention. The new ‘flexible homelessness support grant’ is a replacement of the tightly controlled funding currently given to source and manage temporary accommodation for homeless individuals and their families. Under the existing ‘temporary accommodation management fee’, funding can only be used for expensive intervention when a household is already homeless, rather than on preventing this happening in the first place. The new grant will empower councils with the freedom to support the full range of homelessness services. Read more on the CLG website.

Charities Criticise Government Fund To Address LHA Rate Freeze

Charities have slammed a government fund intended to mitigate the worst effects of the Local Housing Allowance freeze, after it confirmed just £13.3m will be available next year. Recent research by Shelter revealed one in four families in a two-bedroom home must find an extra £100 a month or more to make up the shortfall in their rent due to the LHA rate freeze. Marc Francis, policy and campaigns director at anti-poverty charity Z2K, said: “In those parts of the country experiencing the sharpest rent rises, there is little or no benefit, leaving disabled and unemployed private tenants with an increasing shortfall between the rent they owe and the housing benefit they receive.” Read more on Inside Housing.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Rise In Right To Buy Sales Leaves 'Lack Of Social Housing'

The number of tenants buying their council homes is at the highest level for almost a decade.  Latest figures published by the CLG show that 362 homes were sold under the Right to Buy scheme in 2015/16 - the highest number since 2006/07 when 382 council tenants bought their property. The number of Nottingham residents buying their council home every year has steadily increased every year since 2010/11 when the figure dipped to 73. In Nottinghamshire - excluding Nottingham city - 185 council homes were bought by tenants in 2015/16. This is the highest number since 2007/08 when 209 homes were sold. Read more on the Nottingham Post.

Later Life Housing ‘Largely Ignored And Not Understood By Government’

A new survey from Winckworth Sherwood has found a series of aspects of older people’s housing are ignored by government. The government are also failing to provide the choice of tenures and care options and is confusing for buyers, says a new report from law firm Winckworth Sherwood and Housing LIN, a specialist housing network of housing, health and social care providers. The report – The other end of the housing market: Housing for older people – also notes a marked rise in the number of private developers moving into this market and fear over high service charges holding back decisions to move. Download the report from the Housing LIN website.

Universal Credit – Parliamentary Written Answer

John Healey: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, if he will place a copy of any unpublished impact assessment on the Universal Credit (Housing Costs Element for claimants aged 18 to 21) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 in the Library.
Caroline Nokes: There is no requirement to complete an Impact Assessment in respect of these regulations because they have no direct impact on business, charities or voluntary organisations.An Equality Impact Assessment was completed to enable me to ensure compliance with my Public Sector Equality Duty. There is no requirement for this assessment to be published and I have no plans to do so.

Rent Rises, Low Pay – Millions ‘Living On Brink’

Exorbitant rents and stunted wages are leaving 3.5 million Londoners without enough money to meet their basic needs, research shows. The number falling short of a minimum level of living in London has increased by 400,000 since 2010, researchers found. Private rents rose by 7.2 per cent in London between 2014 and 2016, double that in the rest of Britain, while the cost of letting “cheaper” properties has gone up four times as much as the rest of Britain. And the minimum wage increase to £7.20 an hour for over-25s hasn’t helped, with high costs of living meaning single adults are actually worse off than before the rise, despite a benefit outside the city. Read more on the Morning Star website.

Construction Industry Could Lose 8% Of Workforce Post-Brexit

New RICS figures reveal that the UK construction industry could lose almost 200,000 EU workers post-Brexit should Britain lose access to the single market, putting some of the country’s biggest infrastructure and construction projects under threat.
·         8% of UK construction workforce comes from the EU
·         Post-Brexit, should UK lose access to single market, 176,500 jobs could be under threat
·         Industry is already facing skills shortages, jeopardising a predicted £500 billion project pipeline

Read more on the RICS website.

Home Buying Activity Declines In January

On a non-seasonally adjusted basis, lending in January:
·         Home buyers borrowed £8.4bn in January, down 28% on December and unchanged on January 2016. This came to 45,700 loans, down 28% on December and 1% on January 2016.
·         First-time buyers borrowed £3.6bn for home-owner house purchase, down 29% on December but up 9% on January 2016. They took out 22,600 loans, down 29% month-on-month but up 7% year-on-year. 
·         Home movers borrowed £4.9bn, down 25% on December and 4% year-on-year. This equated to 23,000 loans, down 27% month-on-month and 7% compared to January 2016.  
·         Gross buy-to-let saw month-on-month increases, up 11% by value and 12% by volume. Compared to January 2016,  both the number of loans and the amount borrowed decreased by 16%.    

Read more on the CML website.

Legislation Will End The Right To Buy

A Bill to abolish the right to buy in Wales has been introduced in the National Assembly. The Right to Buy and Associated Rights (Wales) Bill will abolish the Right to Buy for council tenants and the Right to Acquire and Preserved Right to Buy for housing association tenants. The Bill should complete its passage through the Assembly by the end of the year. The Right to Buy would end after a period of at least a year following Royal Assent. If it does, Welsh Government will inform councils and social landlords within a month of Royal Assent, and they will have to inform tenants within one more month. Qualifying tenants will then have a further ten months to decide whether to apply to buy. Read more on the Welsh Housing Quarterly website.

Growing Concerns Over Universal Credit Roll-Out

Submitting evidence to the Scottish Government consultation, CIH Scotland has welcomed the planned introduction of certain additional flexibilities for Universal Credit claimants in Scotland. These include giving applicants the option of having their payments made twice monthly and having payments of rent made direct to landlords. CIH Scotland says social landlords are being forced to commit substantial internal resources to support tenants with their claims while demand for financial support from alternative sources such as the Scottish Welfare Fund and referrals to food banks are also on the rise. CIH Scotland has also raised concerns that private landlords appear increasingly reluctant to let property to Universal Credit claimants. Read more on the CIH website.

UK Average Annual Rents Fall For First Time In Six Years

Rents in Britain have recorded their first annual drop for six years, according to the UK’s biggest estate and lettings agency. In February, the average rent in Britain was £921 a month, £5 lower than a year earlier, and the first annual decrease since 2011. Countrywide, which compiled the figures, said the buying frenzy ahead of the hike in stamp duty last year pushed up the supply of new homes for letting by 10%. Meanwhile tenant demand has been dropping, particularly in London, possibly related to Brexit. Read more on the Countrywide website.

Housing Benefit: Pensioners – Parliamentary Written Answer

Luciana Berger: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of extending the local housing allowance from pensioners in the private rented sector to those in the social rented sector.
Caroline Nokes: Local housing allowance rates will not be introduced in the social rented sector for general needs housing until April 2019, and only then where tenancies have been taken out or renewed on or after 1 April 2016; and the tenant’s rent is higher than the Local Housing Allowance rates set for private sector tenants. Pensioners in the private rented sector have been subject to Local Housing Allowance rates since 2008. It is therefore only right that we bring about parity of treatment across both sectors, but pensioners in the social rented sector are unlikely to be affected unless they are substantially under-occupying their properties or they have high service charges. Discretionary Housing Payments remain available for those who need help transitioning to the change.

Call For Affordable Housing In London

The high cost of renting a house in London has fuelled a huge increase in the number of people in the capital who do not have enough income for a decent standard of living, a study shows. Research for the Trust for London charity found 3.5 million Londoners have less money to meet their basic needs and have a minimum level of living, an increase of 400,000 since 2010. The increased cost of private renting was singled out which has risen four times as much as in the rest of the UK, said the report. Although single adults in the rest of the country have benefited from the National Living Wage, those in London are less able to afford a decent standard of living than before the rate came in last year. Read more on Yahoo Finance.

Associations Will Not Build Supported Housing Without LHA Cap Certainty

Housing associations will not spend government funding earmarked for supported housing schemes unless more certainty is given over the Local Housing Allowance cap. Several providers told Inside Housing they are not willing to start building supported housing developments despite bidding for the funding through the HCA’s Shared Ownership and Affordable Homes Programme. It comes amid warnings that £2bn of government funding to fix social care announced in the Budget this week could be undermined by uncertainty over supported housing funding. 27 housing providers, some bidding as part of consortia, were recently awarded supported housing funding. Read more on Inside Housing.

Associations Tenure Diversification ‘Risky’

Housing associations building in the commercial market is “risky” according to the ratings agency Moody’s. Analyst Jeanne Harrison said: “The income generated from outright sales activity are far less predictable than those from rents in the social housing. It also exposes them to the cyclicality of the property market.” She added that social housing was a better bet, although it depended on how it was funded: “We do have a hierarchy of the tenures of what we think is the most risky to the least risky, and we do view core business with rents linked to government is very safe. Social rented properties because of the lack of capital grant are being funded by debt and sales.” Read more on 24housing.