Thursday, 15 November 2018

Councils face objections to accessible homes

The Home Builders Federation (HBF) has launched objections against councils bidding to boost the building accessible homes. This week, 24housing reported research by Abode Impact revealing that in the private rented sector alone four in five are currently living in a home that fails to fully meet their needs as a wheelchair user, while 91% have experienced barriers to accessing the sector. HBF says councils have a responsibility to ensure housing plans are viable and not subject to a ‘blanket’ approach. Read more on 24housing.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Rule Changes 'Risk New Social Housing Black Hole' In England

A proposal designed to speed up the creation of new homes in England risks “supercharging” a get-out clause allowing developers to build properties without providing social housing, the charity Shelter has said. The government has proposed new rules that would allow builders to buy and demolish commercial buildings and create new homes without planning permission. The plan would extend permitted development rights, which allow the conversion of office buildings to homes. The rules have also allowed developers to build tiny homes, some as small as 13 sq metres. Almost one in 10 new homes created last year were created this way. Read more on the Guardian website.

PRS ‘Not Fit For Housing Vulnerable Tenants’

Debt issues in the private rented sector (PRS) are “so complex” government should review the suitability of PRS for housing vulnerable people, a new survey says. The survey of StepChange Debt Charity clients shows the hidden housing problems caused by debt, particularly in the PRS. Given the findings, StepChange says it is particularly worried about the position of clients in the private sector. Four-fifths of the charity’s clients rent and 40% of StepChange clients are private sector tenants – by far the single most common tenure. Read more on 24housing.

Government Fail To Meet 300,000 New Home Pledge

Despite insisting in the 2017 budget that the government intended to build 300,000 new homes a year to help ease the housing crisis in England, latest figures by the Office for Budget Responsibility have found that hosing stock in England is falling short of the 300,000 pledge by over 20%. At current levels, the OBR claims that 233,430 new residential properties will be built in 2018, 66,570 dwellings short of the required amount. Further predictions have indicated that within the next five years this figure would rise to around 250,000 new homes per year. Read more on Today’s Conveyancer website.

Universal Credit: Rent Arrears Double For Benefit Claimants

Council tenants on universal credit have on average more than double the rent arrears of those still on housing benefit. In Flintshire, north Wales, one of the first counties to test the new payment, the council says rent arrears have gone up by £1m.  But the UK government said it had listened to concerns and universal credit was working well. The BBC contacted every local authority in the UK that has council homes about their arrears. The results from the 129 councils that responded showed the average amount owed by tenants claiming universal credit across the UK is £662.56. For those still on housing benefit it is £262.50. Read more on the BBC website.

Landlords Pushing Up Rents To Exploit Housing Benefit Shortfall

Benefit cuts and unscrupulous landlords have combined to create an explosion in temporary housing that is costing taxpayers more than a billion pounds a year. The latest figures reveal that housing benefit does not cover rents in 95 per cent of the country, pushing thousands of families into homelessness. The gap between welfare support and costs is more than £100 a month in much of England and in excess of £900 in central London. Spending by councils on emergency bed and breakfast accommodation has risen by 147 per cent in five years. The number of units has grown by only 32 per cent, leading to claims that rates are being inflated by “wily landlords” to take advantage of spiralling demand.

£230m Windfall For Top Builders Since Start Of Help To Buy

The bosses of Britain's biggest builders have been paid more than £230million since the Help to Buy scheme was launched five years ago, the Mail can reveal. The chief executives of seven leading companies including Persimmon, Barratt Developments and Taylor Wimpey have seen their pay triple on the back of the taxpayer-funded subsidy. Profits have also jumped fourfold since George Osborne's housing programme was introduced in April 2013. But the number of new homes built has grown by just 50 per cent. Read more on the This is Money website.

£2m Fund Announced For Councils To Tackle Rogue Landlords

Housing Minister Heather Wheeler has announced a £2m fund for councils to crack down on rogue landlords. The fund is intended for a small minority of landlords who continue to break the law and offer inadequate or unsafe housing. Councils will be able to bid for funding to increase enforcement action against irresponsible landlords and to develop and test innovative ways to clamp down on unsuitable accommodation. Read more on 24housing.

MPs: Protect Housing Allowance From Benefit Sanctions

The government must stop deducting money from Universal Credit claimants’ allowances if they have already been sanctioned, a group of MPs have said. The Work and Pensions Select Committee has recommended that deductions from a claimant’s allowance for things such as rent arrears be postponed if a person has already been sanctioned. The MPs argue that the combination of deductions and sanctions can have a knock-on impact on a claimant’s housing and child benefit allowance which is supposed to be protected under the current regime. Read more on Inside Housing.

‘Unforgivable Cowardice’: Company ‘Gagged’ From Criticizing May In Wake Of Grenfell Fire

The company hired to test flammable cladding on government-built buildings have been ‘gagged’ from criticizing Prime Minister Theresa May. Engineering firm WSP signed a government contract worth more than £100,000 to carry out testing of cladding on buildings, 12 days after the Grenfell Tower fire. A prerequisite of the deal was WSP having to sign a gagging clause preventing the company from being able to create “adverse publicity” for or “embarrass” May and her Cabinet Office. The deal was agreed at a time when the prime minister was receiving criticism for her handling of the disaster, much of which was related to her failure to meet residents and survivors of Grenfell Tower in the immediate aftermath. Read more on the RT website.

Housebuilding Targets More Than Six Years Behind

Councils have fallen more than six years behind their own house-building targets. Development is on average 6.2 years behind the rate of building needed to hit targets identified as part of the government’s 10-year plan ending in 2026. The MHCLG jointly set out annual housing targets with local authorities up to 2026 and published these in September 2017. However, building in 316 locations is set to fall short of housing need by 889,803 homes over the decade. Some of these areas  are keeping pace with housing requirements but just one year in, 241 locations are already in deficit, leaving them 9.2 years behind target on average. Read more on the HR Director website.

Grenfell Tower: Unsafe Cladding 'Still Affects Thousands'

Thousands of people in England are still living in tower blocks with unsafe cladding more than a year after the Grenfell disaster. More than 400 high-rise residential buildings still have the same type of external covering blamed for the rapid spread of the deadly blaze, official figures show. BBC News found other buildings with different cladding also deemed unsafe. The government said building owners should make their properties safe. One of the tower blocks identified as still having Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) present in their structure is the 128-flat Skyline Apartments complex in Leeds city centre. Read more on the BBC website.

Regulator Should Be Widened ‘To Cover All Landlords Of Social Housing’

In response to the Social Housing Green Paper, the National Federation of ALMOs has issued some strong recommendations on the future for regulation. The trade body, which represents ALMOs around the country, said “regulation needs to have teeth”. It added: “The Social Housing Regulator should be strengthened to be proactive in relation to consumer standards and widened to cover all landlords of social housing, including councils and their managing agents.” The body also called for residents to “be involved” where they want to be in the regulation of their landlord and that there needs to be “stronger representation for tenants at a national level”. It added this could be supported by “strong regional structures underneath” the representation at national level. Read more on 24housing.

More Than 70% Hit By Housing Benefit Caps Are Single Parents

Housing sector bodies have spoken out against the “cruel and ineffective” benefit cap after it was revealed that more than 70% of those who have seen their housing benefit capped were single parent households. Figures released by the Department for Work and Pensions revealed that 58,000 households in Great Britain had their housing benefit capped in August this year. A total of 42,000 of these households were found to house single parent families, with more than 75% of these families containing at least one child under five years old. Read more on Inside Housing.

Housing Association Model Of Delivering Social Housing ‘Not Working’

The policy of relying on housing associations rather than councils to deliver social housing is ‘not working’. A study by the public sector procurement specialist Scape Group has found the average council in England would like to build 1,800 homes for social rent every year. However, it learnt that most councillors only expect to build up to 1,000 homes over the next decade. Scape polled 50 senior managers and decision-makers within local authorities in England and found that almost two-thirds (65%) were ‘very concerned’ about the provision of social rented housing in their area. This rose to 75% in the south, including London. Read more on the Local Gov website.

Half Of Female Prisoners Being Released To Homelessness

Half of female prisoners are left homeless after their release from prison, a report into the largest women's prison in Europe has found. A study by the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) on HMP Bronzefield found 50 per cent of inmates left with no fixed residence. The report drew attention to the impact the Offender Rehabilitation Act has had on the number of recalls to prison. The law sees former inmates frequently taken back to prison for minor infringements where they can spend several more weeks in prison without achieving proper rehabilitation. Read more on the Independent website.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

May's Flagship Policy To Solve Housing Crisis Will Deliver No New Homes In Half Of England

Theresa May’s policy for a revival in council housebuilding will not deliver a single new home in more than half of the local authorities in England. The prime minister announced a major change that will see the government scrap restrictions on how much councils can borrow to fund housing. However, ministers have admitted that less than half of councils have the type of account that will allow them to increase their borrowing. Only 160 of the 326 councils in England with responsibility for housing have housing revenue accounts (HRAs). Councils set to miss out on the potential funding boost include several with some of the longest housing waiting lists in the country. Read more on the Independent website.

'Councils Should Get First Refusal On EVERY Home Up For Sale In Britain'

An ally of Jeremy Corbyn has said all private homes should be 'nationalised' by giving town halls the right to buy them. Hard-left Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle told a rally that council bosses should be given the power of first refusal on houses up for sale. The plans would see swathes of privately-owned property being taken into public control. In response, Tory chairman Brandon Lewis tweeted: 'Even your home is not safe from Labour now.' Read more on the Mailonline website.

Number Of New UK Homes At 'Highest Levels For Over A Decade'

New home registrations in Britain have reached their highest level in more than a decade, boosted by a number of large developments in London, according to an industry body. But the National House Building Council (NHBC), which released the figures, also warned of caution in the industry until the economic impact of Brexit becomes clearer. The NHBC said 43,578 new homes were registered between July and September, up 15% from the same period a year earlier. It is the highest total since the third quarter of 2007, when 49,520 new homes were registered. Read more on the Guardian website.

Incompetent' Council Kicked Out Of Government Housing Scheme

A city council has been branded “incompetent” and kicked out of a Government scheme designed to protect tenants against rogue landlords. The selective licensing scheme allows councils to keep tabs on landlords and make sure they are providing good accommodation. Under the scheme, landlords must obtain a licence to ensure they are doing the right thing and meeting safety and quality standards. Brighton and Hove City Council was granted permission to operate a selective licensing scheme. But now Housing Minister Heather Wheeler has written to the council to revoke its licence. A source close to the minister said the decision was due to “incompetence, mismanagement and a lack of due diligence”. Read more on the Argus website.

Government's New Council House Building Drive Will Come At Expense Of Housing Associations

The government’s council house building drive will come at the expense of fewer new units constructed by housing associations. The independent Office for Budget Responsibility said it expected new council house construction of 20,000 units over the period as a result of the lifting of the HRA cap. However, the OBR, also added that it expected this to crowd out private house building, with every two new council houses resulting in roughly one less new private house, meaning the net impact on new housing supply from lifting the cap would be only 9,000. Read more on the Independent website.

Budget 2018: What Do The Housing Measures Mean?

More help for first-time buyers and plans to create more homes on the High Street have been announced in the Budget. Most first-time buyers of shared ownership properties will now no longer pay stamp duty, under the measures unveiled. Chancellor Philip Hammond said Britain's housing market needs to be fixed, adding it was key to boosting UK productivity and pushing up living standards. The UK is facing a shortage of housing. The number of homes on the market is at a 10-year low and fewer people are taking out mortgages. So what has the chancellor said he is going to do about it? Read more on the BBC website.

Record Number Of People Sleeping Rough In London

A record number of people are sleeping rough in London, with charities reporting a spike in street homelessness. Figures show that 3,103 people were found sleeping rough in the capital between July and September 2018 – the first time the total has exceeded 3,000 in a three-month period. Charities attributed the surge to a lack of affordable housing. The data, from the Combined Homelessness and Information Network, shows the number of rough sleepers has risen by 20% on the previous three months, and by 17% compared with the same period last year. Read more on the Guardian website.

Homeless Charity Head 'Gagged' Over Universal Credit Remarks

A charity head said she was told her organisation may miss out on National Lottery funding if she continued to criticise universal credit. CEO of Humanity Torbay, Ellie Waugh, posted a video saying she was told to stop speaking out about contentious issues or risk losing out on a grant. In a statement, the Big Lottery Fund said it was "concerned" about the case. It said it did not withhold funding from organisations on the basis of what they said publicly on social issues. Read more on the BBC website.

New Project To Examine Allocation Of Social Housing In England

The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) is launching a new project to explore how social housing is being allocated across England. The Rethinking allocations project aims to analyse what housing associations and councils are doing now and why they are doing it, and hopes to stimulate debate about how things could be improved. Rethinking allocations is the next stage of CIH’s Rethinking social housing project, which saw more than 3,000 people have their say on the future of social housing via workshops, an online survey and public polling. Read more on the CIH website.

Potential For £320bn Windfall From New Generation Of Social Housing

Councils could generate £320bn for the country’s economy over the next 50 years if they were able to build a “new generation” of high-quality council housing, the LGA says. Analysis examining four different future economic scenarios demonstrates how new social housing will deliver huge gains to tax payers. Even the worst-case scenario referenced by the LGA still results in a £10bn return. LGA chair Lord Porter said the findings offered the Chancellor the chance to go beyond lifting the borrowing cap and deliver “once-in-a-lifetime change” to benefit thousands across the country. Read more on 24housing.

Crisis Releases Homelessness Report

A new report from Crisis gives government no let-up on homelessness. Despite his matter-of-fact admission to the obvious on rough sleeping, Chancellor Philip Hammond’s budget didn’t pledge much to address the problem. So, Crisis has said what the Commons should have heard, focusing specifically on the difference five government departments could make in preventing homelessness: the Department for Work and Pensions, the Ministry of Justice, the Department of Health and Social Care, the Home Office and the Department for Education. Download the report from Crisis.

Budget 2018: Housing

The Treasury has issued a summary of housing related measures announced in the Budget on 29 October 2018, including:
• a new Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme that will run from April 2021 for 2 years
• extending Stamp Duty Land Tax relief for first time buyers to purchases of all qualifying shared ownership properties
• further investment to deliver more homes, including an extra £500m for the Housing Infrastructure Fund
• confirming that the Housing Revenue Account cap that controls local authority borrowing for house building will be abolished from 29 October.
Read the full briefing on the Treasury website.

Housing Benefit Bill ‘To Hit £71bn By 2050’

The housing benefit bill will rise to £71bn a year by 2050 unless levels of social housebuilding increase, an influential thinktank has warned. Analysis by the Centre for Social Justice’s (CSJ) housing commission predicts that half of that money will go to private landlords. People receiving housing benefit while living in the private rented sector cost the taxpayer 25% more on average than those living in social housing, researchers said. And they warned that affordable housing products – such as affordable rent, which can be up to 80% of market rates, or shared ownership – “will do nothing to reduce the burgeoning housing benefit bill”. Download the CSJ’s analysis.

How Universal Credit Is Fuelling Britain’s Homelessness Crisis

Government welfare reforms are fuelling a rise in homelessness in towns and cities across the country, an Observer investigation has found. Interviews with homelessness charities across England reveal a support system in crisis as the rollout of universal credit and freezes to local housing allowance rates put even basic accommodation beyond the means of many. One shelter said universal credit was a factor in a third of its clients ending up in its care. The Commons public accounts committee said universal credit was responsible for increased debt, rent arrears and food bank use.But it has also emerged that it is a significant contributor to both “invisible” homelessness – such as people “sofa-surfing” or living in emergency accommodation – and rough sleeping. Read more on the Observer website.

Number Of Homeless Households Moved Out Of London Soars

The number of households being moved out of London by councils has increased dramatically, rising by almost 50% in the first half of this year as town hall leaders blame rising homelessness, tightening public finances and a chronic lack of new cheap homes in the capital. Councils have sent homeless households as far away as Glasgow, Newcastle and Cardiff in the last year, according to figures collected by local authorities and seen by the Guardian. Seven hundred and 40 households have been relocated to Kent, 574 to Essex, 30 to the West Midlands and 69 to Surrey. More than 1,200 households were sent out of the capital in the first six months of this year – a 46% rise in the number of out-of-London placements. Read more on the Guardian website.

MHCLG To Tighten Health And Safety Standards For Rental Sector

Renters get greater protection under plans pitched by MHCLG to overhaul health and safety standards for rental accommodation – updating a system hasn’t been updated in over 12 years. Housing Minister Heather Wheeler said the reviews allowed for a revisit of current health and safety ratings and carbon monoxide alarms to ensure that both are fit for purpose and meeting the needs of tenants. “By looking again at these rules, we can make sure that they are working as they should to keep people safe and give them peace of mind in their homes,” she said. Read more on 24housing.

MPs Back Legal Action Against Rogue Landlords

New rights for tenants to sue landlords if they do not properly maintain their properties have been approved by MPs. The Commons has passed a bill requiring homes in the private and social rented sector to be fit for human habitation and enabling tenants to take legal action if basic standards are not met. Housing minister Heather Wheeler said a "stubborn, hardcore minority" of rogue landlords were being put on notice. They should "improve their properties or leave the business", she said. Read more on the BBC website.

Housing Targets Will Not Be Reduced

The government intends to change the calculation of local housing need to stop councils citing the lower 2016 household projections issued by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) as a reason to reduce totals. A consultation that runs until 7 December proposes that for the short term, the 2014-based data will be used to assess local housing need. National planning guidance would make it clear that the lower numbers in the ONS’ 2016-based projections “do not qualify as an exceptional circumstance that justifies a departure from the standard methodology”. The consultation said the 2016-based ONS projections had “led some areas to reconsider the number of homes they were planning for”. Read more on Inside Housing.

Friday, 26 October 2018

Developers Hog Land For Record 130,000 Homes

Developers are sitting on land for more than 130,000 homes in England that have never been built – the worst gap on record, according to new analysis. The record gap between planning permissions granted and new homes being built has led to calls for tough new penalties to be enforced against developers that sit on land rather than build. North-west England and London had the worst gaps, with only 50% of new homes being built where planning permission had been obtained between 2012 and 2017. Read more on the Guardian website.

Social Housing Being Sold Off On Rightmove While Homelessness Soars

Social housing is being sold off to private landlords via Rightmove because housing associations don't want to spend money refurbishing the homes. One provider, Jigsaw, has sold off scores of homes to the private rental sector in the last three years, arguing nobody else wants them and it is ‘not economical’ to do them up itself. Jigsaw, which took over Manchester housing association Adactus earlier this year, says it is using proceeds from the sales to build more homes for rent. But none of them are in the south Manchester neighbourhoods where many of the sell-offs have taken place. Read more on the Manchester Evening News website.

Malthouse To Face Commons Committee Over Green Paper

Housing minister Kit Malthouse gets quizzed next week over the Social Housing Green Paper by the Commons Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee. The paper outlined five principles as the basis for future policy, focusing on expanding housing supply and home ownership, improving quality, and providing effective support for residents and complaint resolution. In an evidence session set for next Wednesday (Oct 31), the committee will test Malthouse as to how effectively the Green Paper provides mechanisms to resolve the challenges it sets out, as well as questions on the funding needed to build more social housing, the role of the proposed Regulator of Social Housing, and how the perception of social housing as an option of last resort or a ‘springboard’ can be changed. Read more on 24housing.

53 Councils Have Not Prosecuted A Single Landlord In Three Years

More than one in seven councils in England and Wales have failed to prosecute a single bad landlord over the past three years, despite some having very high numbers of homes classed as “non-decent”, the Guardian has found. Freedom of information responses show that 53 of the 349 local authorities with responsibility for the private rented sector did not convict any landlords for breaching property standards in 2015, 2016 or 2017. Some of these councils have thousands of private homes in poor states of disrepair and hundreds of illegal bedsit-style homes, which typically have the worst overcrowding and living conditions. Read more on the Guardian website.

Property Asking Prices Slashed By £26,000 As UK Housing Market Slows Down

The asking price of almost two-in-five properties for sale in Britain has been reduced by an average of more than £26,000, new research has found. Sellers have cut the price of 37.9 per cent of homes, up from 32.4 per cent in April, property website Zoopla said, in the latest sign that the UK market may be slowing down. The figures highlight big differences in the housing market across different regions with Manchester and Glasgow performing well while London lags behind. Read more on the Independent website.

UK Mortgage Approvals Drop To Six-Month Low

British banks approved the fewest mortgages for house purchase since March last month and demand to refinance home loans also fell following the Bank of England’s interest rate rise in August. The number of mortgages approved for house purchase dropped to a six-month low of 38,505 in September from 39,241 in August, down 6.7 percent on a year earlier. Britain’s housing market has slowed since the Brexit vote in June 2016. Most of the weakness has been in London and neighbouring areas, which have also been hit by a rise in purchase taxes for property worth over £1 million. Net mortgage lending dropped to £1.550 billion last month from 1.617 billion pounds, the weakest since January. Read more on the Reuters website.

Tenants Will Get Access To Rogue Landlord Database

Theresa May has pledged to give tenants access to the government’s new rogue landlord database after an investigation revealed that not a single name had been entered into the system in more than six months since its launch – and that even when landlords’ names were listed, the public would not be allowed to see them. The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “Our rogue landlord database has only been in place since April and … only offences committed from April this year can be included, and it can take several months to secure convictions. We are clear that we expect to see entries in the database from the new year. We also intend to make information in the database available to prospective and existing tenants.” Read more on the Guardian website.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Social Rented Housing: Regulation – Parliamentary Written Answer

Rushanara Ali: To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, with reference to paragraph 94 of the Social Housing Green Paper and paragraph 19 of the Review of Social Housing Regulation call for evidence, whether the proposals for changes to the threshold of the serious detriment test used in the consumer home standard would require the introduction of new legislation.
Kit Malthouse: As part of the review of social housing regulation we will consider whether serious detriment remains the right threshold for intervention, and any change to this threshold will require amendment to primary legislation.

Landlord Remortgaging Reaches Record High

The number of landlords looking to remortgage is now at an all-time high. Paragon’s Financial Adviser Confidence Tracking (FACT) survey for the third quarter of 2018 highlights a sharp increase in the proportion of landlords remortgaging – up from 49% in the second quarter to 57% of all buy-to-let business. In contrast, the proportion of first-time landlord business fell from 14% to 10% and landlords looking for finance for portfolio expansion was down from 23% to 19% of the total. Read more on 24housing.

Planning Permissions Stay High

There were 355,000 planning permissions granted in the year to June 2018, but the government’s 300,000 target for the housing supply remains a way off, according to an industry report. The Home Builders Federation and construction data provider Glenigan’s latest joint Housing Pipeline report shows the number of permissions for the last year is hovering around 2016/17’s record levels. It states the number of permissions is a good indicator of future housing supply however, housing supply for 2016/17 was 217,000, 72 per cent of the government’s target of 300,000. Read more on the Mortgage Strategy website.

Stats Show UK Rental Market ‘Remains In Recession’

The UK rental market remained in recession during the third quarter of 2018 (Q3 2018) according to latest figures from the Deposit Protection Service (DPS). In its new Rent Index – based on a database of millions of properties across the UK –the DPS reports that average rents decreased for the third consecutive quarter in Q3 2018, falling from £764 to £761. The Index also shows that average UK rent has now decreased £14, or 1.83%, since Q3 2017 and is now lower than the national average for 2016. Read more on 24housing.

Law Fails To Stop Rogue Landlords

Convicted landlords who have been ruled unfit to rent out their properties are continuing to operate by exploiting loopholes in the law that is supposed to protect the most vulnerable tenants. The rogue owners are collecting rents – often funded by taxpayers via housing benefit – despite being convicted of housing offences and failing to pass the “fit and proper” person tests required by housing legislation in England and Wales. Because of the way the law is written, this is usually perfectly legal. Read more on the Guardian website.

Rental Payments Will Be Included In Credit Reports

Tenants could find it easier to access finance such as mortgages, with a major credit checking company now including information about rental payments in its reports. Experian said it is adding the data to credit reports, enabling firms offering finance to take these payments into account in a similar way to mortgages. For some tenants, this could potentially help them jump on to the property ladder and make it easier to access other types of finance. The credit checking company said more than 150 social housing providers, local authorities and letting agents are reporting data in an initiative called the rental exchange. Read more on the Yahoo Finance website.

Universal Credit – Parliamentary Written Answer

Ged Killen: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment she has made of the number of instances where universal credit claimants have not received universal credit payments due to being paid every four weeks rather than per calendar month.
Alok Sharma: Some claimants are paid in differing patterns, including four-weekly, fortnightly, weekly or on a variable day every month, which may mean that for some months these claimants receive two or more sets of earnings during one Universal Credit assessment period (AP). This may reduce, or in some cases completely reduce the Universal Credit award the claimant receives that month.

Flexible Right To Buy

Many in council accommodation are there due to current prices in the UK’s cities. High prices mean, even with the current Right to Buy discount, that many mortgages are out of reach for those in these homes. Today we call for a reboot of Help to Buy: by making it flexible.
·         Social tenants eligible for the Right to Buy should be given a Flexible Right to Buy, entitling them to buy a new home, using the value of their Right to Buy discount.
·         The tenant’s previous home would then be sold, funding the discount and raising additional revenue.
·         A conservative estimate of the impact would see 21,000 tenants take advantage of the scheme with £2 billion of discounts on £9 billion of stock and net receipts of £7 billion.
Read more on the Adam Smith Institute website.

Sector Has Scope To Save ‘Millions’ Annually On Repairs

The sector has the scope for multi-million pound savings year-on-year if repairs demand was managed more effectively, a new report reveals. Vantage has published its  financial state of the sector FY17/18 to show last year’s improved financial position has largely held with total turnover up  just over £1bn. But the analysis sees scope for improvement in the overall spend on repairs and maintenance –  with its increase by 5.7%. Notwithstanding the costs of restructuring, the analysis offers little sign of economies being achieved in any of the major cost areas. Read more on 24housing.

Easing The Housing Headache

No doubt about it, housing is a headache for many young people today. The dramatic fall in the home ownership rates of the under-35s often produces the sharpest pangs for politicians. But there are other sources of pain as well. Just as ownership rates have collapsed, so too has the share of young people that live in social rented homes (from 22 per cent in 1981 to just 10 per cent in 2018). As a result more than one in three young families live in the private rented sector today, the least secure and lowest quality tenure of all. Read more on the Resolution Foundation website.

Council Housing: Construction – Parliamentary Written Answer

Lord Greaves: To ask Her Majesty's Government whether local housing authorities that divested themselves of their council housing stocks in the past and closed their housing revenue accounts (HRAs) are able to set up new HRAs and build new council housing under their new proposals for lifting the cap on local authority borrowing for such purposes or otherwise.
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth: Yes. All local housing authorities (LHA) retain the power to provide housing under Part II of the Housing Act 1985. Where they do they are under a duty to account for this in a Housing Revenue Account by section 74 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989, unless that requirement is disapplied by direction by the Secretary of State – which may be considered appropriate if the LHA only has limited housing stock.

‘Give Tenants Designs On New Social Housing’ Says LGA Chair

LGA chair Lord Porter says ‘self-build’ is the future for social housing, with future tenants having designs on the design of up to 100,000 new homes and building regulation the only criteria. Next week, the chancellor Philip Hammond is expected to confirm that from as soon as next month councils will no longer have to doff a borrowing cap to housebuilding. Porter wants to push for bolder – councils directly working with tenants on design rather than councils simply commissioning volume housebuilders. Read more on 24housing.

Legal Aid Agency Taken To Court For Refusing To Help Rough Sleepers

A human rights organisation is taking the national provider of legal aid to court because it is refusing to help rough sleepers challenge councils over the use of potentially unlawful powers to move them on. Liberty has launched the legal challenge against the Legal Aid Agency because they will not offer assistance to rough sleepers and other local residents who cannot afford to pay lawyers if they want to challenge local authorities’ use of public space protection orders (PSPOs). A PSPO allows councils to ban activities they deem to have a detrimental effect on the lives of others. Read more on the Guardian website.

Hundreds Of Tower Blocks Across UK At Risk Of Collapse

Tower blocks across the UK, home to an estimated 100,000 people, have a systemic structural flaw that puts them at risk of collapse. In the wake of the Grenfell disaster, safety problems have come to light at towers built using the Large Panel System (LPS) method during the 1960s and 1970s, which house more than 41,000 flats in cities up and down the country. The flawed construction method has left cracks in some flats wide enough to allow residents to slide their hands in between the walls. It also leaves them at risk of complete collapse in the event of a fire or gas explosion. Read more on the Independent website.

Worries Among Tenants Over Deposit Return

Nearly a fifth (18%) of tenants renting from private landlords say they have waited more than three months to get a deposit back, according to a survey. Mortgage lender the Nationwide said 4% of those asked had a delay of more than six months. A leading deposit protection scheme says the money should be returned within 10 days of the tenant requesting it after they move out of the property. A landlords' group suggested disputes could slow down these refunds. Read more on the BBC website.

Thousands More Homes Pledged By Councils Under May’s New Rules

Sixty local authority leaders have pledged an immediate drive to build thousands more council homes by exploiting new rules announced by Theresa May. Dozens of councils across the country, led by both Labour and the Tories, have signed an open letter vowing to use new powers to borrow more money to build a new generation of properties. It has led to hopes of the biggest council house-building programme since the 1970s. However, it leaves Philip Hammond with a major headache ahead of his budget later this month. The extra borrowing could add £1bn to the deficit and further constrain his room for manoeuvre, as he already needs to find money to fund the NHS. Read more on the Observer website.

Survey Shows PRS Ready To Defy ‘Armageddon’

Almost two million landlords will increase portfolios next year, defying claims the private rented sector faces “armageddon”. According to the study by investor forum and advice website The Property Hub, the vast majority of landlords will buy at least one more property in 2019. And 70% say even a no-deal Brexit would be unlikely to affect their growth plans. Read more on 24housing.

Tenant Services Authority – Parliamentary Written Answer

Rushanara Ali: To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, for what reason the Interim Chair of the Social Housing Regulator decided against appointing any tenants of social landlords when the regulator expanded its board in April 2018; and if he will ensure that the regulator now undertakes a process to make such appointments.
Kit Malthouse: The Assessment Panel considered applications against the essential criteria set out in the published candidate pack. Recommendations were made for appointments, which the then Housing Minister, on behalf of the then Secretary of State and the Prime Minister, agreed to. Work has begun to launch a further recruitment campaign to strengthen the board of the Regulator of Social Housing. In the recent Social Housing Green Paper, we committed to recruit someone with extensive experience of consumer regulation.

Most Buy-To-Let Lenders Refuse Loans When Tenants Are On Benefits

Urgent action is needed to tackle discrimination against benefit claimants by mortgage providers, according to the Residential Landlords Association (RLA), which has found lenders representing 90% of the buy-to-let market refuse a loan where a tenant is on housing benefit. Research carried out by the RLA’s mortgage consultants found that two-thirds of lenders representing 90% of the buy-to-let market did not allow properties to be rented out to those in receipt of housing benefit. About 4.2 million people in the UK claim housing benefit. The RLA has called on the government to use the influence it has in banks in which it has shares to end these discriminatory practices. Read more on the Guardian website.

£11 Million Is Being Released In Property Wealth Every Day In The UK

Home owners in the UK aged 55 and over are releasing the equivalent of £11 million every day from their homes, according to the latest quarterly lending figures from the Equity Release Council. Total equity released reaches £1.02 billion in the third quarter of 2018, up 24% or £195 million since the same period in 2017. And owners are not splashing out with the figures also showing that average plan sizes are consistent with a modest approach to using property wealth. It means that over £1 billion of property wealth was unlocked for the first time in any quarterly period. Read more on the propertywire website.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Government Sets Date To Lift Borrowing Cap

Councils’ Housing Revenue Account (HRA) borrowing caps will be scrapped in less than two weeks’ time, a government document has revealed. Communities secretary James Brokenshire has written to the chief executives of all stock-retaining local authorities presenting a draft plan for removing the cap. Measures outlined in the document will come into force on 30 October, the day after the Autumn Budget. HRA borrowing will be restricted by the Prudential Code only. Read more on the Newstart website.

Seven In 10 Renters ‘Say They Would Need Lottery Win To Get On Housing Ladder’

Seven in 10 renters think they would need a lottery win to afford to buy their own home, a survey suggests. Some 72% of people currently renting said that they would need a lottery win to buy their own home and four in 10 (39%) are pinning their hopes on a family inheritance in order to buy a property. The survey was carried out across England and Wales to mark the launch of the Affordable Housing Commission. The commission has been established by think-tank the Smith Institute with the support of charity the Nationwide Foundation. Read more on the AOL website.

Where Are House Prices Rising The Fastest?

House prices are rising the fastest in the East Midlands, increasing by 6.5% in the year to August, according to official statistics. Wales also showed a significant rise - up by 6.2% over the same period, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). However, a "sustained slowdown" in the south and east of England has pulled back house price growth across the UK. On average, the typical UK home has risen in value by 3.2% over the year. Read more on the BBC website.

UK House Prices Rise At Their Lowest Annual Rate In Five Years

UK house prices grew at the slowest rate in five years in August, in the latest figures to identify a growing divergence between a sluggish London property market and faster rates of growth other regions. The average price of a UK home increased by 3.2% in the year to August, to £232,797, in the lowest annual rate of growth since August 2013, according to the figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and Land Registry. London was the only region where prices fell on an annual basis, down 0.2% in year to August, but it was still easily the most expensive place to by a home, with average prices at £486,304. Read more on the Guardian website.

Over £1bn Of Tenancy Deposits “At Risk”

New research has revealed that a possible 1,500,000 renters could be at risk of losing their deposits believing their bond has never been placed in a deposit protection scheme. The survey, carried out by price comparison website,, has suggested that renters in 33% of the UK’s 4.5m rented homes think that their landlord has not placed their money into a compulsory deposit protection scheme (DPS). This equates to in the region of £1,200,000,000 of deposits which could be unprotected. Read more on the propertyreporter website.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Regulator: Reputational Risk For Housing Associations ‘Greater Than Ever’

The social housing sector faces a greater level of scrutiny than ever before bringing increased reputational risk, the Regulator of Social Housing has said. In its annual sector risk profile the regulator said it is “vital” that boards consider the expectations of stakeholders in their decision making. It also warned about increased sales risk, noting the increase in housing associations relying on income from market sales to fund affordable housing. Read more on Inside Housing.

Social Rented Housing: Consultation Papers – Parliamentary Written Answer

Siobhain McDonagh: To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, with reference to page 10 of his Green Paper: a new deal for social housing, Cm 9671, which states that Ministers in his Department met and talked with almost 1,000 residents of social housing at events across England, if he will publish his Department’s analysis of the views that those residents expressed to ensure that Members are aware of the concerns that their constituents raised.
Kit Malthouse: The Green Paper ‘A new deal for social housing’ reflects the views of residents that Ministers met during 14 listening events and a further 7,000 people sending their views online. The key messages from residents are set out in the Green Paper: that we must ensure homes are safe and decent; provide swift and effective resolution of disputes; empower residents to ensure their voices are hear and strengthen the regulatory framework; tackle the stigma faced by residents; and deliver the affordable homes this country needs. The Green Paper is currently out for public consultation, closing on 6 November 2018, and Ministers are holding a further 8 events around the country to engage with social housing residents directly.

New APPG To Tackle Employment Needs Of Social Housing Tenants

A new parliamentary group pitches a better policy environment that recognises the role of housing providers in tackling unemployment and under-employment among tenants. The new Housing and Employment All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) delivered its pitch as new research by the Centre for Social Justice revealead households living in social housing are four times more likely to be workless than those living in private housing. Secretariat support for the APPG is being provided jointly by Give us a Chance (GUAC) and PlaceShapers. Read more on 24housing.

Weaker Buy-To-Let Market Gives Hope To First-Time Buyers

Further evidence that the crackdown on buy-to-let investors has had the desired effect, thus giving hope to first-time buyers, has come from two surveys. Rightmove, the UK’s biggest property website, said a less active buy-to-let market had led properties with two bedrooms or fewer to drop 0.1% in price last month. Subdued prices provide first-time buyers with an “opportunity this autumn”, it said. First-time buyers are now paying an average of £190,000 for their home, compared with £307,000 across the whole market, it said Meanwhile, the upmarket estate agents Hampton International produced figures showing that money spent on buy-to-let purchases across the UK is currently 30% below what it was in 2015.Read more on the Guardian website.

FTB Numbers Hit Highest Level In 14 Months

The latest data and analysis from UK Finance has revealed that, during August, there were 35,500 new first-time buyer mortgages completed in the month, a 2% rise against the same month a year earlier. The data shows that the £6.1bn of new lending during August was 5.2% more year-on-year and that the average first-time buyer is 30 and has a gross household income of £42,000. According to the data 38,000 new homemover mortgages were completed in the month, some 2.3% fewer than in the same month a year earlier. Read more on the property reporter website.

Calls For Councils To Pursue Joint Ventures After Borrowing Cap Scrap

Councils have been urged to seek out joint ventures with local housing associations by LGA Chairman, Lord Porter. Issuing the call via Twitter, Lord Porter said: “Start your conversations with your best local members of National Housing Federation to see about doing JV deals to use the new headroom.” He added: “Also start talking to the Federation of Master Builders about contracts to build. We don’t have time to waste reinventing the wheel.” Read more on 24housing.

Housing Market Registers Slowest September Growth Since 2010

The UK property market has recorded its slowest September growth for eight years.  House prices traditionally rise at this time of year as the number of properties on the market falls, but new figures show an increase of just 1 per cent for the month – the lowest since 2010. Homes with two bedrooms or fewer dragged the average down with a 0.1 per cent fall for the month, partly due to a reduced number of sales to buy-to-let investors. Read more on the Independent website.

Landlord Purchases Down 30% In 3 Years

During the first half of 2018, landlords spent £12.1bn on new buy-to-let purchases - a £5.2bn or 30% drop in value than the same period during 2015 according to the latest report from Hamptons International. The total value of homes purchased by landlords has reached the lowest level in five years (since H1 2013 - £11.2 billion), having peaked in H1 2016 at £21.2 billion when second homeowners rushed to beat the 3% stamp duty surcharge which was introduced in April 2016. Read more on the property reporter website.

Government Urged To Tackle 205,000 Long-Term Empty Homes

A campaign is calling on government to end the “national scandal” of hundreds of thousands of empty homes. Most recent data shows there are more than 605,000 empty homes in England and 205,000 of those are long-term empty homes, many to be found in areas that have experienced under-investment for a generation. The national Coalition for Community Investment, led by Action on Empty Homes, is calling on the Government to invest in areas with high levels of empty homes, to help community-based programmes bring these back into use for those in housing need. Read more on 24housing.

Rents Continue To Rise But Landlords Are Concerned About Impact Of Brexit

Average rents in the UK have grown steadily over the last month, but the potential impact of Brexit is causing concern among landlords, according to the latest index report. They are 1.7% higher than a year ago at an average of £943 but when London is excluded they have increase by 1.8% to £780 while in London rent are up 3% to £1,632, according to the HomeLet rental index. The data also shows that the region with the largest year on year increase is Scotland, up 5.6% increase since September 2017. Read more on the Property Wire website.

Help To Buy ‘Could Be The Next PPI’

Help to Buy could be ‘the next PPI’ says house move quote specialist reallymoving releasing data that reveals first time buyers using the scheme are paying on average 8% more than those buying new homes without it. The PPI comparison is, says reallymoving, particular poignant as the five-year interest free part of the Help to Buy loan is now coming to an end for the first users of the scheme. According to data collected from almost 70,000 first time buyers using reallymoving for home move services, first time buyers purchasing a new build home without Help to Buy pay on average £257,908 compared to £277,968 paid by those who use the scheme. Read more on 24housing.

£20m Fund To Help Homeless Into Private Rented Homes

Thousands of vulnerable people facing homelessness are set to benefit from the launch of a £20 million scheme to help them secure a private rented home. The Private Rented Sector Access Fund announced by Communities Secretary, Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP, is a dedicated fund designed to help up to 9,000 people who are or at risk of becoming homeless to secure their own home. A key part of the government’s expert-backed Rough Sleeping Strategy, the fund will be used to either help set up locally-led schemes or expand those currently in use. These schemes will be tailored to match the needs of each local area’s residents and landlords. Read more on the MHCLG website.