Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Council To Buy Back More Than 300 Council Houses

Nottingham City Council has announced plans to buy back more than 300 council houses to tackle the growing demand for social housing in the city. The four-year scheme will involve more than 300 purchases and also include newly-built homes, as well as houses and flats that have previously been bought through the Right To Buy scheme. This scheme will be used to help lighten the load on Nottingham's growing social housing waiting list and homelessness problems. The purchases will be paid for using Right To Buy replacement receipts and council borrowing. Read more on the Nottingham Post website.

Social Rented Housing: Construction – Parliamentary Written Answer

Matt Western: To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, with reference to the oral contribution of the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington of 13 June 2019, Official Report, column 860, whether his Department plans to adopt the target to build 155,000 social rented homes a year with at least 100,000 being council homes.
Kit Malthouse: We do not publish yearly targets but deliver flexibly throughout the years of the programme to achieve our overall target and hold Homes England and the GLA to account for delivery.

Landlords To Have Say In Right To Rent Case

Landlords will have a major role to play in a court case considering the future of the government’s Right to Rent scheme. The government has decided to appeal against a damning criticism by the High Court earlier this year that the Right to Rent breaches human rights law because it causes racial discrimination that otherwise would not happen. Following a Judicial Review of the policy secured by the JCWI and supported by the RLA, the presiding judge concluded that discrimination by landlords was taking place “because of the scheme.” In his judgment he said that discrimination by landlords was “logical and wholly predictable” when faced with potential sanctions and penalties for getting things wrong. Read more on the RLA website.

Labour Plans To Ban Leaseholds On New-Build Homes

Labour has set out plans to ban the sale of new private leasehold houses and flats in an overhaul of property ownership rules that could slash the costs for homeowners of buying their freeholds. The shadow housing secretary, John Healey, said the proposals would end exploitative practices by freeholds, “from rip-off ground rents, to punitive fees to onerous contract conditions stating what they can and can’t do to their own homes”. The government has already announced it will axe leaseholds on all new-build houses, though it is not clear when the measures will formally take effect. Read more on the Guardian website.

UK House Prices Pick Up A Bit More Speed

British house prices rose at the fastest annual rate since early 2017 in the three months to the end of June, mortgage lender Halifax said, adding to other signs that the housing market has stabilized after weakening on Brexit worries. House prices were up by 5.7% in the three months to June compared with the same period a year ago after rising by 5.2% in the three months to May, Halifax said on Friday. A Reuters poll of economists had pointed to a 5.9% rise. Halifax cautioned that the annual increase was flattered by weak price growth in the corresponding period in 2018. In monthly terms, prices fell by 0.3% after a rise of 0.4% in May. Read more on the Reuters website.

UK Housing Crisis Deepens As Benefit Claimants Priced Out By High Rents

Britain’s housing crisis has hit a new low with not one of the single rooms available for private rent in large parts of London and Greater Manchester within the budget of people on housing benefit. None of 87 rooms for rent in outer south-west London – which includes areas such as Feltham and Hanworth – were affordable for people relying on local housing allowance (LHA) and neither were any of the rooms in the southern Greater Manchester area, including Stockport and Wythenshawe, according to analysis of official 2018 data by London Councils, the local government association for the capital. Read more on the Observer website.

MoD ‘Effectively Subsidising Low-Cost Housing’

The Ministry of Defence is “effectively subsidising low-cost housing”, should its land be sold below market price, the House of Lords has heard. Tory peer Lord Hamilton questioned whether such a situation was right when the MoD is one of the biggest landowners in the country. “Some of its land gets sold off for development – it is sold below market price. The (MoD) is effectively subsidising low-cost housing across the country,” said Hamilton. Read more on 24housing.

Make ‘Places Not Just Homes’, Says New Government Report

Town halls should encourage the redevelopment of retail parks and large supermarkets into communities comprising homes, shops, and businesses, a government report has found. The Creating space for beauty report recommends that new ‘mixed use’ communities be built on brownfield sites and that they should be supported by new public transport to reduce reliance on cars. The proposals come as part of plans to revisit ‘boxland’ developments. Read more on 24housing.

Tenants On Benefits Likely To Be “The Biggest Casualties” Of The Plan To Abolish Section 21

The government should “think twice” before changing the rules on eviction in the private rented sector, the National Landlords Association says. In a survey of landlords, the NLA found that of those who had sought to end a tenancy in the past five years, 57% had done so because of rent arrears.  43% said that if the government pressed ahead with its controversial plans, they would become more selective when choosing tenants for their property. This was a clear message that people on state benefits would be the first victims of the plan to abolish Section 21. Read more on the NLA website.

Government Fails To Inform Tenants Of Their Rights And Responsibilities

The Government urgently needs to provide tenants with better information on their rights and responsibilities if it is to avoid a breakdown of trust between renters and their landlords, the National Landlords Association warns. New research, commissioned by the NLA, found that over three quarters (79%) of tenants need better information about what they should expect from their landlords or agents. Worryingly, the NLA also found that more than two thirds (67%) of tenants were not aware of the Government’s How To Rent guide that is designed to help them understand their rights and responsibilities. Read more on the NLA website.

Thursday, 4 July 2019

‘Shocking’ Number Of Homeless Women Sent To Prison

Over 3,000 women were recorded as being effectively homeless on arrival in custody at any one of the nine prisons for female offenders in England and Wales last year – with many likely to return to homelessness on release. Ministry of Justice stats put to Parliament show the number of women recorded as of “no fixed abode” when they entered prison women has now nearly doubled since 2015. Read more on 24housing.

Private Rented Housing: Ethnic Groups – Parliamentary Written Answer

Mr Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what assessment he has made of the effect of right to rent on the ability of BAME tenants to access the rental market. 
Caroline Nokes: The Government published an evaluation of the first phase of the Right to Rent Scheme in the West Midlands in October 2015, which found no evidence that the scheme caused systematic discrimination in the rental sector. This is available at  The scheme was the subject of a public consultation and equality impact assessment prior to the introduction of the Immigration Act 2014. The Home Office is taking forward a further evaluation of the scheme’s operation across England.

5% Decline In Planning Decisions Made Since Last Year

District-level planning authorities granted 357,700 decisions in the year ending March 2019 – down 5 per cent on the year ending March 2018, according to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). Of those 357,700 applications, 46,800 were for residential developments. This was a decline of 3 per cent compared with a year earlier. Of these, 6,300 were major developments and 40,500 were minor developments. These figures show a 2 per cent and 5 per cent decrease respectively on the year ending March 2018. Read more on the Planning Portal website.

Partner With Housing Associations To Use Borrowing Freedoms, Says LGA Chair

The outgoing leader of the Local Government Association (LGA) has said councils should partner with housing associations to make the most of new borrowing freedoms to build more homes. Lord Gary Porter, who stepped down as chair of the LGA this week after serving his four-year term, told Inside Housing there “is a serious issue” about councils having enough internal capacity and experienced staff to develop at scale. Read more on Inside Housing.

Government Takes Another Hit On 300,000-Homes Target

The government has taken another hit on its 300,000-homes-a-year target, with the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee (HCLGC) warning an over-reliance on traditional building methods will see the UK fall far short of such numbers. The Commons Public Accounts Committee told MHCLG to “get a grip” on progressing the housing target, with the resulting report saying the Ministry had no clear plan to make 300,000-homes-a-year happen. In the report, MCLGC has urged the government to unlock the potential for modern methods of construction (MMC) to build homes quicker, more cheaply, while maintaining build quality. Read more on 24housing.

Health Of Older People Suffering In Poor Housing

More than 2 million older people are suffering physical and mental ill health and even death as a consequence of living in substandard and non-accessible homes, according to a cross-party group of MPs. Substandard housing costs the NHS £1.4bn every year with cold, damp and other hazards causing falls and exacerbating conditions such as heart disease, strokes, respiratory illnesses and arthritis as well as contributing to poor mental health, according to an in-depth inquiry by the all-party parliamentary group for ageing and older people. Read more on the Guardian website.

Social House Building Programme Could Stave Off Economic Downturn

A national programme of social house building could help stave off the economic downturn brought about by a No Deal Brexit, a survey says. The Federation of Master Builders surveyed construction SMEs on the top five interventions the new PM could make should the UK crash out of the EU. A quarter of respondents opted for embarking on a national programme of social house building. Read more on 24housing.

HCLG Committee Backs Blakeway As Housing Ombudsman

Richard Blakeway has been backed by the HCLG committee as housing ombudsman – but he’ll have to resign from roles with Homes England and a London borough council and face future committee evaluation. The committee has confirmed its support for Blakeway, despite pulling him up earlier this week over past “highly derogatory” views of social tenants. And the committee has told government of its “disappointment” that MHCLG neglected to consult members on the proposed selection process for housing ombudsman prior to the start of the recruitment campaign, and failed to send information set out in the Cabinet Office guidance within seven working days of the scheduled pre-appointment hearing. Read more on 24housing.

Ombudsman Candidate Grilled By MPs Over Comments On Social Tenants

London’s former deputy mayor for housing and the government’s preferred candidate for the Housing Ombudsman has been grilled by MPs over past comments about social tenants. Richard Blakeway faced a pre-appointment hearing at the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee. Bob Blackman, a Conservative MP and member of the committee, read from a 2009 Inside Housing article that quoted Mr Blakeway as saying: “The quality of life is a joke. Forty-six per cent of social tenants love their dog more than their neighbour. Why? Largely because of the total absence of the market.” Read more on Inside Houisng.

Landlords Want ‘Fast Track’ Tribunal If Section 21 Abolished

Almost four out of 10 landlords (39%) want the government to introduce a fast track housing tribunal if the Section 21 ‘no-fault’ eviction process is abolished, a report reveals. According to Paragon’s Q2 2019 PRS trends report – which surveys the views and experience of over 200 landlords – 84% of respondents said they felt the maximum time from serving notice to taking possession should be no longer than eight weeks. “Some of the main concerns for landlords around a move to the Section 8 eviction process relate to the efficacy of the existing court process,” said John Heron, director of mortgages, Paragon. Read more on 24housing.

Mortgage And Remortgage Approvals Slip During In May

The latest statistics from the Bank of England have revealed that, during May, house purchase mortgage approvals fell back to 65,400 after April's strong numbers. According to the figures, the number of approvals for remortgaging also dipped in May, to 46,700. Net mortgage borrowing by households fell to £3.1 billion in May, the smallest increase since April 2017. However the annual growth rate for mortgage lending remained stable at 3.2%, and has now been around 3% since late 2016. Read more on the Property Reporter website.

Jewish Housing Association Beats Discrimination Challenge

A housing association set up to house Orthodox Jews has again seen a discrimination claim against it dismissed in court. The legal battle between north London-based Agudas Israel Housing Association (AIHA) and two non-Jewish families has been going on for almost a year. The families argue that Hackney Council should not have a nominations agreement with AIHA because its policy only to house Orthodox Jews is “discriminatory”. It was argued in the High Court that Orthodox Jews do not face any disadvantages that are not faced by other applicants for social housing in the borough but were being allowed to “jump the queue”. Read more on Inside Housing.

District Councils Building Homes At ‘Considerable’ Pace

More homes are being built and planned for by more district councils in more places as a result of the lifting of the Housing Revenue Account cap, a new report reveals. And additional freedoms for non-stock holding councils could accelerate plans still further, the District Council’s Network (DCN) says. A DCN survey was commissioned to show that building plans are already advancing for a third of stock holding districts. The survey shows no councils are standing still, as the remaining two-thirds embark on plans to increase the supply of new homes, but that they need more powers and resources to effectively manage local housing markets. Read more on 24housing.

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Housesimple To Sell Homes For Free

The UK’s 5th largest single-brand estate agency, Housesimple, has announced that it aims to save sellers over £3,000 in commission by selling homes for free. The free service, which has been trialled in selected postcodes in Yorkshire since January 2019 and the North West since April 2019, will now be rolled out permanently across these markets before the business makes its move into other regions in the coming months. Sellers will continue to receive local expert valuations, photos and floorplan, ads on Rightmove, Zoopla and others, a ‘for sale’ board, negotiations and sales progression, and the support of a dedicated team from valuation through to completion. Read more on the Property Reporter website.

Government Call For Evidence On Reform Of Deposit Protection

Secretary of State James Brokenshire MP has announced a call for evidence on tenancy deposit protection in England. The call for evidence seeks to understand the barriers tenants face providing a second tenancy deposit when moving from one tenancy to the next and looks at what can be done to speed up the return of deposits to tenants at the end of the tenancy. The Government will look at whether existing initiatives to address deposit affordability are meeting tenants’ needs and whether the market can offer improved products. It will also explore innovative approaches that could be taken to help tenants move more easily, including allowing tenants to passport their deposit between tenancies. Read more on the ARLA website.

Social Housing Green Paper Action Plan Expected In September

In her speech at Housing 2019, Theresa May outlined a timetable for the green paper, which aims to deliver more high-quality social housing, encourage better tenant rights and ensure landlords demonstrate they have acted on concerns. The green paper, released in August last year, proposed league tables for social housing providers, but these are now thought to be unlikely to be introduced. It also proposed “sharper teeth” for the Regulator of Social Housing to intervene to “ensure social homes are well managed and of decent quality” Read more on Inside Housing.

Social Rented Housing – Parliamentary Written Answer

Lord Pendry: To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the merits of ending the practice of converting homes for social rent into “affordable” rented housing, in order to tackle (1) affordability issues in the housing market, and (2) homelessness.
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth: Affordable Rent was introduced to maximise taxpayers’ money. It allows us to build more homes for every pound of Government investment - so more people in housing need can have access to a good quality home at a submarket rent.

Social Tenants ‘Burn Through’ Rent Money To Maintain Smoking Habits

Social tenants with £2,000 a year smoking habits are burning through rent money and need help from housing associations to call it quits. Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) has released stats showing a third of those living in social housing smoke, which is twice the national average. ASH says that with financial motivations to quit smoking significantly more effective than health messages, that’s something social landlords can invest in. The research references the example of a single county – Shropshire –  where, if just 5% of social tenants stopped smoking it would save an amount equal to all the county’s social housing rent arrears. Read more on 24housing.

Right To Buy Sales Plummet

Right to Buy sales fell 23% in the last quarter of 2018/19, while replacements slipped more than 4,000 homes behind the government’s one-for-one pledge. Councils in England sold an estimated 2,612 homes through the policy from January to March 2019, down from 3,396 in the same period last year. Over the whole of 2018/19, 10,213 homes were sold – a 21% drop on 2017/18 and the lowest number since 2012/13 when Right to Buy discounts were raised dramatically. Councils received £219.7m from Right to Buy sales from January to March, an average of £84,100 per home. Find out more on the MHCLG website.

Right to Buy Scheme: Midlands – Parliamentary Written Answer

Craig Tracey: To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, with reference to the response of Homes England to freedom of information request reference RFI2673, whether his Department plans to reopen the ballot for the Voluntary Right to Buy Midlands Pilot for Housing Association tenants as a result of the low take-up in that ballot.
Kit Malthouse: There are no plans to run a second ballot – if this position changes, the Government will make an announcement

Council Housebuilding ‘At Its Highest Level Since 1990’

Council housebuilding is at its highest level since 1990, with at least 9,000 homes directly created by councils in England over in 2017-2018, a report finds. Released by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), the report is based on figures supplied by 83 English councils to an online survey showing that, of these homes, 42% are affordable and 23% are social. Projecting the figure across the whole of England, the research estimates that over 13,000 new homes were delivered by English local authorities last year – the highest since 1990. MHCLG figures suggest that the previous high for local authority housebuilding was 14,020 homes in 1990. Read more on 24housing.

£12.8bn Needed Annually To End Housing Crisis

Top sector voices say £12.8bn of investment a year is now needed to tackle the housing crisis – and tell government that would be money well spent. The NHF has released research reinforcing the 10-year potential of such investment to kickstart the building of around 1.45m homes for social rent or shared ownership. Now, a coalition of leading housing groups and charities is calling for the government to make such investment real – this includes the NHF, Shelter, Crisis, CPRE, and the Chartered Institute of Housing. Download a copy of the research from the NHF website.

Landlords ‘Struggling’ To Keep Up With Reforms

New research shows many landlords are struggling to keep up with new legislative and regulatory reforms introduced over the past year. An independent survey of 400 landlords found 30% do not understand the changes to House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licencing and 28% were unaware of the abolition of Section 21. 27% said they do not understand the tenant fees ban (June 2019) or how it may affect them. A quarter (25%) said they were not up to date with the latest changes to reduce tax relief on Buy To Let mortgage repayments. Read more on 24housing.

Two Thirds Of Landlords Remain Optimistic About BTL

According to new research commissioned by Cambridge & Counties Bank, 64% of UK landlords are optimistic about the outlook for the residential buy-to-let sector over the next three years despite Brexit worries. Of this, 13% are “very” optimistic in terms of investment growth and yields. The specialist property lender revealed that a significant number of landlords are using the current market volatility to grow their portfolios: 19% are looking to grow their portfolios by a third and 11% want to double it over the next three years. The research found that just 19% of landlords are looking to sell. Read more on the Property Reporter website.

Leadership Hopefuls Told Right To Rent Must Be Scrapped

Conservative Party leadership candidates Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt are being urged to scrap the controversial Right to Rent scheme. A coalition of organisations made up of the Residential Landlords Association, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants and the3million, which represents EU citizens in the UK, have united in calling on both candidates to scrap the policy after the High Court ruled it causes discrimination against British ethnic minorities. Following a Judicial Review of the policy secured by the JCWI and supported by the RLA, the presiding judge concluded that discrimination by landlords was taking place “because of the Scheme.” Read more on the RLA website.

Homelessness Minister Accused Of Racist Remarks About Rough Sleepers

The homelessness minister, Heather Wheeler, has apologised after leaked emails showed her using “racist” language to describe rough sleepers before she joined the government. In an email sent in October 2017 to a homeless charity three months before she became minister, the Conservative MP for South Derbyshire described rough sleepers in her constituency as “the traditional type, old tinkers, knife-cutters wandering through”. Read more on the Guardian website.

High Homeless Death Counts Linked To Councils Worst Affected By Cuts

Nine of the 10 councils with the highest numbers of homeless deaths in England and Wales between 2013 and 2017 have had cuts of more than three times the national average of £254 for every household. Labour has released analysis accounting for council funding cuts disproportionately hitting areas that have the highest numbers of homeless deaths among homeless people, according to a Labour party analysis. Shadow housing secretary John Healey said the stats showed the need for a future PM to acknowledge the present £30m effort to end rough sleeping as “pitiful” and back Labour’s plans to build thousands more homes. Read more on 24housing.

HSE Investigating After ALMO Left Hundreds Of Gas Safety Checks Uncompleted

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is investigating after an ALMO failed to carry out hundreds of gas safety checks on time. East Kent Housing (EKH), which manages around 17,000 homes on behalf of Canterbury, Dover, Thanet and Folkestone & Hythe councils, has issued an apology to residents. Rosie Duffield, Labour MP for Canterbury, claimed in parliament on Monday that 544 homes had not been “regularly subjected to vital landlord gas safety assessments” by EKH. EKH said that 384 homes had expired gas safety certificates as of 7 June. Read more on Inside Housing.

Council Brings Housing Repairs Service Back In House

Repairs to Enfield Council’s housing stock will be brought back in house as part of a scheme which aims to improve the service and make it more responsive to tenants and leaseholders needs. Enfield Council owns 10,500 homes and has some obligations to repair a further 5,000 leasehold properties. Repairs are currently carried out by contractors and while there have been improvements in the quality of service in the past six months, the borough’s cabinet agreed on June 12 to bring the service fully under the control of the Council at an initial cost of £1.2m. Read more on the Enfield Council website.

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Nottingham Association Becomes Latest To Join Housing First Scheme

Housing First models are continuing to gain traction across the UK. Now, Midlands based Longhurst Group have announced that they are the latest to join the scheme in bids to help tackle the issue on the streets of Nottingham. The Housing First model has been launched in Nottingham by Opportunity Nottingham, a service that works with people facing multiple disadvantage due to a mixture of complex needs; including mental ill-health, homelessness, substance misuse and involvement in the criminal justice system. Mark Garner, Project Manager for Opportunity Nottingham said: “Opportunity Nottingham is delighted to be launching this scheme in the City with the support of a number of social housing providers and Nottingham City Council.” Read more on 24housing.
and Speye Joe

Council Boards Up Area ‘To Keep Homeless People Away’

Westminster council has boarded up an area in the London borough to keep away rough sleepers, with campaigners warning that local authorities and police are pushing homeless people “out of sight and out of mind”. Large white hoarding has appeared outside McDonald’s in Victoria Street, which homeless people and campaigners say is part of a wider effort to remove rough sleepers from the borough with the largest street population in England. Rough sleeping in London reached an all-time high of 8,855 people for the 2018-19 calendar year, an 18% annual increase. Read more on the Guardian website.

Homeowners 42 Times More Wealthy Than Social Housing Tenants

Austerity policies implemented over the past decade have intensified the gap between those living in social housing and those in other tenures. Six in 10 social tenants are in the bottom 10% of the wealth spectrum, with many seeing a fall in wealth in recent years, while the wealth of the richest homeowners has soared. Less than one in five social tenants have any savings, compared to two-thirds of homeowners and one-third of private renters. Social tenants who do have savings have far less than households in other tenures. Three-quarters of social tenants are ranked in the bottom 40% of the national income spectrum, with almost half placed in the poorest 20%. Read more on Inside Housing.

New Housing Statistics Show Increase In Affordable Homes

Homes England has published its latest annual housing statistics, which show a significant increase in the number of affordable homes being built in England. Between 1 April 2018 and 31 March 2019, there were 45,692 new houses started on site under programmes managed by Homes England and 40,289 houses completed. These are the highest levels of starts for nine years and the highest levels of completions for four years. Of the starts on site, 30,563 (67%) were for affordable homes, a 10 per cent increase on 2017-18. These are the highest numbers of affordable home starts for five years. Similarly, 28,710 (71%) of housing completions in 2018-19 were for affordable homes which is an 11 per cent increase on 2017-18 figures and the highest numbers for four years. Read more on the Homes England website.

Calls For 195-Year-Old Vagrancy Act To Be Scrapped

A leading homelessness charity, police and politicians are calling on the government to scrap a 195-year-old law that criminalises homeless people for rough sleeping and begging in England and Wales. A report by Crisis, backed by MPs and police representatives, outlines the case for repealing the 1824 Vagrancy Act, which critics warn makes poverty a crime and pushes rough sleepers away from help. The act hit the headlines when the head of Windsor council suggested police use the law to clear “an epidemic of rough sleeping and vagrancy in Windsor” ahead of last year’s royal wedding. Read more on the Guardian website.

Staff At Social Landlords Under Pressure To Favour Cost Savings Over Quality In Procurement

Cost savings are a bigger concern to procurement professionals working for UK social landlords and other public sector organisations than quality of work as pressure on budgets intensifies. A survey carried out by procurement company Fusion 21 found that while 39% of respondents said quality was an “extremely important” consideration during procurement activity, a larger proportion (47%) identified cost savings as being the most significant. The survey results represent the views of 100 procurement professionals who work for organisations such as housing associations and stock-owning local authorities, which collectively own more than one million homes. Read more on Inside Housing.

Homelessness Crisis Can’t Be ‘Solved On A Shoestring’

The Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) has launched the final report from the Local Government Homelessness Commission (LGHC). A year in progress, the initiative was set up to investigate how councils can fulfil their obligation to prevent homelessness. Outlined in the report, the LGHC argues that a comprehensive housing and homelessness strategy is “desperately needed” to address the underlying causes of homelessness and give councils the resources they need to carry out duties. While the LGHC welcomed the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act (2017), the report found that, without significant strategic funding, the systems in place under the act may result in an improved assessment process, but will not achieve its ultimate objectives. Read more on 24housing.

Councils Budget For 21% Increase In Spending On Housing

Housing will this year displace highways and transport as the largest area of council capital spending – following the lifting of the housing revenue account borrowing cap. The government has released figures showing English councils are predicting an overall 13% rise in capital spending in 2019/20 (to £28.0bn) compared to last year (£24.7bn). The data show that councils are budgeting for an increase in capital spending on housing from £5.9bn to £7.1bn – a rise of 21% over the provisional outturn for last year. With highways and transport capital spending set to fall from £7.1bn last year to £6.5bn, housing will now make up the largest of all budget areas. Read more on the Room 151 website.

Letting Fees Ban: Agents Urge Landlords To Increase Rents

The government has banned agencies from ripping off tenants – but there is evidence that rents are rising to offset the losses. Just two weeks after the ban came into force, a north London lettings agent has started telling its landlords to raise all future rents by £20 a month to offset the new costs they face. And it is unlikely to be alone in proposing such a measure. The move, which was this week branded by one landlord as “not in the spirit of the law”, had been predicted by some commentators, though few thought it would happen this quickly. Read more on the Guardian website.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Help To Buy Scheme Yet To Prove Worth, Says NAO Report

Help To Buy has increased home ownership and housing supply, but many of those using the scheme would have been able to buy a home anyway, according to a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) which has questioned the scheme’s overall value for money. According to MHCLG’s own independent research, 37% of households would not have been able to buy any property without the scheme. The research also found around 60% of buyers could have bought a property without of Help To Buy. It also highlighted that 65,000 households could have purchased a property they wanted without the scheme. Overall take-up of the scheme is said to have been low in less affordable areas where the ratio of house prices to average earnings is higher. Read more on 24housing.

Council Housing Company To Offer Rent To Buy

Liverpool City Council’s housing company is set to start building homes for a new Rent to Buy scheme. The company, Foundations, will start with a pilot of 14 new homes in Dingle in the south of the city if the council’s cabinet approves the plans at a meeting on 21 June. People will be able to rent a home at 80% of the market rate in order to help them save towards a mortgage to buy the property, with the option to purchase after 12 months and for up to five years at market value. The scheme will be available to people who live or work in Liverpool and are first-time buyers or have had to sell a home because of a relationship breakdown. Read more on the Speye Joe blog.

Planning System Drives Up House Prices In Expensive Areas, Says Report

High house prices in expensive cities have been caused by the planning system’s rationing of new homes in areas of high demand, according to a report out on 11 June. It suggests the planning system should be reformed to introduce the flexible zoning system used in Japan and some parts of America. In its report, Think Tank Centre for Cities explores the relationship between urban economies and housing wealth in England and Wales. The organisation finds that the “restrictive planning system” has made urban homeowners in the greater South East more than £80,000 richer over the past six years than those in other parts of England and Wales. Read more on the Planning Portal.

London Assembly Calls On Khan And Government To Push Ahead With Housing First

London Assembly members have called on the government and mayor Sadiq Khan to provide longer-term funding for Housing First to help homeless people. In a letter sent to housing minister Kit Malthouse, the London Assembly Housing Committee said the government should not wait until pilots in Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool have concluded before expanding Housing First funding. Another letter sent to the London mayor recommended a dedicated longer-term funding stream for Housing First projects. Read more on 

Little Change In Housing Market In May

The outright declines in the interest of new buyers in purchasing a home showed signs of stabilising in May, in the wake of the decision to extend the deadline for withdrawal from the EU till the end of October, according to the latest RICS UK Residential Market Survey. Alongside this, the negative trends in agreed sales, prices and new instructions also all showed some signs of easing, at least at the headline level. Read more on the RICS website.

Hike Second Homes Tax And Build On Green Belt, Says MP

The government should allow affordable homes to be built on “scrappy” land that has been “wrongly designated” as green belt and hike the stamp duty surcharge on people buying additional homes, one Labour MP has claimed. Labour MP for Mitcham and Morden Siobhain McDonagh railed against ministers for failing to tackle the housing crisis and dubbed their record on creating social homes “diabolical”, before setting out her own radical plan of action. She said: “First, it is time to burst the myth that the green belt is green and start using the non-green sites for homes. There are garage sites, waste plants and deserted scrublands all posing as green-belt land.” Read more on the Mortgage Strategy website.

Report Warns Of Self-Employed Homeownership Ambitions

Two in five (38%) self-employed borrowers are making “worrying lifestyle changes and professional sacrifices” just to get onto the property ladder, according to new research from online mortgage broker Trussle. Using insight from lenders and 2,002 self-employed mortgage applicants, the report reveals how challenging the journey to homeownership is for the UK’s 4.85 million self-employed workers. Compared to permanently employed applicants, the self-employed are said to be required to go through extensive affordability assessments, provide further documentation and can face extra costs during the mortgage process. As a result, more than one in eight (13%) self-employed borrowers have seriously considered abandoning homeownership ambitions. Read more on 24housing.

Removing Brexit Uncertainty Won’t Resolve Housing Market Issues

The BSA’s quarterly Property Tracker survey reveals that house prices are of greater importance than Brexit when it comes to housing market sentiment. Respondents who disagreed that ‘now is a good time to buy’ were asked what would change their mind: over a third (34%) said a correction in house prices. Comparatively, 27% said ‘the UK reaching an agreement with the EU’ would make them more positive, and just 11% said a ‘no deal’ scenario would make them more positive. Read more on the Politics Home website.

Vulnerable People Allowed To Transfer Support For Mortgage Interest When Moving Home

Disabled people and others receiving support for mortgage interest (SMI) will be able to request the loan balance be transferred to their new property when moving home, the government has confirmed. SMI is the help offered by government to owner-occupiers in times of need. It is paid as a loan and contributes towards the interest on people’s mortgages if they are in receipt of certain benefits, to protect them against repossession and keep them in their own homes. This change will benefit those moving into a new property due to a disability or health condition, as they will continue to receive uninterrupted support towards their mortgage payments. Read more on the Mortgage Solutions website.

Developer Contributions To Be Made Simpler, Says Malthouse,

Housing minister Kit Malthouse has announced changes to developer contributions to make the system simpler and accelerate the pace of homebuilding. Builders pay through developer contributions (section 106 and Community Infrastructure Levy [CIL]) for the roads, schools, GP surgeries and parkland needed to help areas to cope with new residents. But Malthouse said these measures are “confusing and unnecessarily over-complicated”. The new rules mean that communities would know exactly how much developers are paying for infrastructure in their area, he explained. Councils will be required to report the deals done with developers and set how the money will be spent, so residents can see every step taken to make sure that their area is ready for new housing. Read more on the Planning Portal.

Major Bank To End ‘No DSS’ Private Landlord Mortgages

A major buy-to-let mortgage provider has said it will end rules meaning it does not lend to private landlords renting to people on benefits. Metro Bank made the announcement following a roundtable meeting with housing and homelessness minister Heather Wheeler in Downing Street. The government said the move could help thousands of families relying on benefits to access private rented housing. Property websites Rightmove and Zoopla have also agreed to ban ‘no DSS’ adverts from letting agent listings. Read more on Inside Housing.

Court Rules In Favour Of Single Mother Declared 'Intentionally Homeless'

The supreme court has ordered a council to reconsider its decision to declare a single mother of four to be “intentionally homeless” because she was unable to afford the rent. The unanimous ruling by five justices sets a significant precedent that will expand the housing responsibilities of underfunded local authorities. The case of Terryann Samuels, whose children are all under the age of 16, also highlights the way in which the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) repeatedly refused to support her appeal even though she was in immediate danger of being turned out on to the street. Read more on the Guardian website.

Affordable Housing – Parliamentary Written Answer

Dr Rupa Huq: To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, how many affordable houses have been built in the UK in the last 12 months.
Kit Malthouse: In 2017-18 47,355 affordable homes were completed, an increase of 12 per cent on the previous year, of these over 7,100 (15 per cent) were in London. Details for homes delivered in 2018 -19 will be published in the Departments annual Affordable Housing Supply statistics.

Monday, 10 June 2019

Grenfell Survivors Offered Discounts On Homes Under New Ownership Deals

Survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire will be offered special homeownership deals, including significant discounts on the purchase of new properties by the government and Kensington and Chelsea Council. In a letter to former residents of the tower, housing secretary James Brokenshire and Kim Taylor-Smith, deputy leader at the council, outlined the two offers. The Enhanced Portable Discount will allow residents to use a discount to buy a home on the open market anywhere in the country apart from the one they currently live in. It will involve discounts of up to £160,000, £50,000 more than the Right to Buy. Residents will also be offered the Grenfell Assisted Home Ownership Scheme. Read more on Inside Housing.

BTL Product Numbers At 12 Year High

The latest data released by Moneyfacts has revealed that the number of buy-to-let products available on the market has risen to the highest figure seen since the start of the financial crisis in 2007. According to the figures, 2,396 BTL products are now available, increasing by 21% since June 2018. Meanwhile, average buy-to-let mortgage rates have also risen over the past 12 months, with the average two-year fixed rate increasing by 0.17% from 2.88% in June 2018 to 3.05% and the average five-year rate rising by 0.11% to 3.54%. Read more on the Property Reporter website.

One In 10 Forced To Report Same Problem With Their Social Home More Than 10 Times

Tenants of social rented homes are being failed “by poor regulation”. A study by YouGov for Shelter found that one in 10 had reported an issue with their home more than 10 times within the past three years, including electrical hazards, gas leaks and faulty lifts. The poll did not state whether the issues were subsequently addressed. According to Shelter, which worked with Grenfell survivors’ group Grenfell United for the study, over the two years since Grenfell an estimated 400,000 people (5%) could have encountered issues with fire safety. Read more on the Shelter website.

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Grenfell Council Officers Accused Of ‘Racism Or Snobbery – Take Your Pick’

In an extraordinary address to the Commons, MP for Kensington & Chelsea Emma Dent Coad has accused officers of Kensington and Chelsea Council of “racism or snobbery – take your pick” during a debate on the response to the Grenfell disaster. The House heard Dent Coad pledge to continue exposing the council’s “duplicity and blatant lies, incompetence and cover-ups.” She catalogued examples of a “feudal” attitude officers – some senior –  took towards residents of Grenfell and its surrounds, including:
·         “It’s like Little Africa down there” and “it’s full of people from the Tropics”
·         References to residents as “Muzzies”
·         Warnings of Kensington and Chelsea becoming an “Islamic Caliphate”
·         Money spent on mental health dismissed by “they all look fine to me”
Read more on 24housing.

High Rents In English Cities Forcing Young To Stay In Small Towns

One of the defining patterns of English life in which young people move from small towns with limited prospects to bigger cities to seek their fortune is in dramatic decline. More young people are getting stuck where they grew up or went to university because they cannot afford rents in places where they can earn more money, according to the Resolution Foundation. It found the number of people aged 25 to 34 starting a new job and moving home in the last year had fallen 40% over the last two decades. Whereas previous generations were able to move to big cities to develop their careers, the current millennial generation is enduring a slump in mobility caused by rising rents, which can wipe out the financial gains of a move. Read more on the Guardian website.