Thursday, 19 July 2018

New Council Homes Cost £627,000 More Than Expected

A new housing scheme funded by Nottingham City Council has gone way over budget, and new funds have had to be spent to meet the shortfall. Back in 2014, the Council approved funding for 55 new homes, at a cost of £5.915 million. However the total cost of the scheme has ended up at £6.542 million - £627,000 more than originally planned for. The scheme to build 46 houses and nine bungalows was managed by Nottingham City Homes. A council report into the issue said: “This scheme is one of a number of new build schemes delivered by Nottingham City Homes where cost have exceeded the approved budget. In future improvements in budget setting and monitoring are needed to ensure that increased costs are approved in advance. The impact on viability needs to be checked before significant additional costs are committed to.” Read more on the Nottingham Post website.

Social Rented Housing: Construction – Parliamentary Written Answer

Lord Kennedy of Southwark: To ask Her Majesty's Government how many new build council and housing association homes were (1) completed, and (2) occupied between 6 May 2010 and 7 May 2015 with funding approved before 6 May 2010.
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth: Since 2010, we have delivered over 378,000 new affordable homes, including over 273,000 affordable homes for rent. Between 6 May 2010 and 7 May 2015, 98,700 affordable homes were completed with programme funding approved before 6 May 2010. This is across Housing Associations, Local Authorities and NonRegistered Providers. We do not have data on occupation.

Leasehold: Reform - Parliamentary Written Answer

John Healey: To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, what the timetable is for the Law Commission to publish the outcome of its work on leasehold reform. 
James Brokenshire: The final report on enfranchisement is scheduled to be published in June 2019. On commonhold the Law Commission is scheduled to publish a consultation in October 2018 and a final report in June 2019. We expect the Law Commission to consult on the right to manage in November 2018 with a final report scheduled to be published in September 2019.

Ministers Consider Sector ‘League Tables’ For Social Housing Green Paper

Ministers have been exploring the idea of ‘league tables’ of housing associations as a key policy recommendation in the imminent Social Housing Green Paper. Officials have been developing the idea of publicly available leagues tables to rank associations’ performance in terms of services to tenants. Sources said the league table suggestion would involve ranking housing associations on key metrics, such as the time taken to complete repairs, customer satisfaction or complaints. The paper is expected to include proposals surrounding a beefed-up role for consumer standards in regulation and suggestions of ways to reduce stigma for social housing tenants. Read more on Inside Housing.

Subsidies For New Household Solar Panels To End Next Year

The renewables industry and green groups have accused ministers of striking a major blow against household solar power after the government said a green energy subsidy scheme would end next year without a replacement. The closure of the feed-in tariff (FIT) to new applicants from next April marks the final chapter for the scheme, which has encouraged more than 800,000 households to install solar panels since it was launched in 2010. Solar installations had already largely dried up after the incentives were cut drastically in 2016, but renewables advocates had hoped a replacement would take its place. On Thursday, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy made clear there would be no extension or new alternative. Read more on the Guardian website.

First-Time Buyers 'Driving' Housing Market

The proportion of first-time buyers snapping up homes has overtaken the number of existing home-owners moving house for the first time since 1995, analysis has found. Across the UK there were 170,000 home-movers in the first half of 2018 compared with 175,500 first-time buyers, according to the Lloyds Bank Homemover Review, which only looked at properties bought with a mortgage. It was the first six-month period when the proportion of first-time buyers had been higher than home-movers since the first half of 1995. Moving costs, a lack of suitable properties and potential interest rate rises may be weighing on home-owners' minds when deciding whether or not to move, the report suggested. Read more on the AOL website.

London Needs 40,000 New Social Rented Homes A Year

London Tenants Federation (LTF) is calling for 40,000 new social rented homes to be built each year in London for the next 10 years to address the city’s housing crisis. In a statement, A positive future for social housing in London, published ahead of the Social Housing Green Paper, LTF call for the government to make social housing central to a radical shift in housing policy. Since 2005 average delivery rates for social rented housing in London have been below a tenth of what is needed. LTF, an alliance of democratic tenants and residents’ organisations in the capital, is calling on the government to provide sufficient grant funding, ringfenced for social housing, to address this shortfall within the next 10 years. Read more on 24housing.

Mcvey Admits Ongoing Problems With Universal Credit

The welfare secretary Esther McVey has admitted there are continuing problems with the much-criticised universal credit system and signalled that further changes are in the pipeline. She also said DWP ministers and officials needed to listen more carefully to claimants, campaigners and frontline workers when they reported problems and complaints. The DWP was heavily criticised for its “culture of indifference” in a scathing report by a cross-party group of MPs, which accused it of refusing to accept expert advice and slowness to act when policy errors were identified. The DWP needed to reach out to, and learn from, all organisations that could help officials design and implement a system that fully supported claimants, she said, such as the National Audit Office. Read more on the Guardian website.

Councils Get Stronger Powers Over Empty Homes

Councils across England will have powers to charge even greater council tax premiums on homes left empty for many years following an amendment to a Government Bill. The amendment was made during the Third Reading of the Rating (Property in Common Occupation) and Council Tax (Empty Dwellings) Bill in the House of Lords. Under the amendment, decisions on whether to charge a premium, and the exact rates to be charged will remain a matter for councils, taking local circumstances into account. It is anticipated that councils will be able to charge 100% premiums from April 2019, 200% premiums from April 2020 and 300% premiums from 2021. Read more on 24housing.

Leasehold Law Set For Radical Reform

Radical new proposals to provide a fairer deal for leasehold homeowners have been announced by the Law Commission. Following hot on the heels of plans by the Government to ban the sale of houses on a leasehold basis, the independent legal body is outlining a range of measures to help existing leasehold homeowners buy the freehold of their houses. These include:
·         options for changing the valuation formula, having been asked by Government to examine how to reduce the price while providing sufficient compensation to landlords
·         making it easier for homeowners to buy the freehold
·         removing the requirement that leaseholders must have owned their house for two years before making a claim
Read more on the Law Commission website.

Prices Of Flats Stay Unchanged For A Year, Says ONS

Millions of flat owners have seen no growth at all in the value of their homes over the past year, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). That is the first time that has happened in six years. The main reason is that a quarter of the UK's flats and maisonettes are in London, where prices are falling. Overall house prices rose by 3% in the year to May, the ONS said - the lowest increase since August 2013. The continuing slowdown in price growth was driven by a cooling market in the south and east of England. Read more on the BBC website.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Housing Revenue Accounts – Parliamentary Written Answer

Justin Madders: To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, pursuant to his Answer of 6 July 2018 to Question 160268 on Housing Revenue Accounts, how many of the 104 eligible authorities are in the (a) South East, (b) North West, (c) east of England, (d) West Midlands, (e) South West, (f) Yorkshire and the Humber, (g) East Midlands and (h) North East.
Kit Malthouse: Of the 104 local authorities with a Housing Revenue Account that are eligible to bid for the additional borrowing programme: (a) 29 are in the South East, (b) 4 are in the North West, (c) 20 are in the East of England, (d) 5 are in the West Midlands, (e) 11 are in the South West, (f) 3 are in Yorkshire and the Humber, (g) 2 are in the East Midlands, (h) 1 is in the North East

Councils Call For Additional Powers To Tax Empty Homes

The Local Government Association (LGA) has called for the House of Lords to support an amendment to the Rating and Council Tax Bill. The bill was launched by the government in March this year after initially being announced in last November’s budget. In the original bill, it states that for long-term empty properties the premium councils can charge can go from 50% to a maximum of 100%. However, the amendment would allow councils to charge beyond the 100% premium on an escalating scale from 2020. This would mean councils could charge a 200% premium for homes empty for five years or more or 300% for homes empty for 10 years or more. Read more on Inside Housing.

Residents Avoid Re-Cladding Costs On £225m Scheme

Residents at a £225m Mace development in London found to have Grenfell-style cladding will not be forced to pay for its removal. Mace confirmed that remedial work would now be carried out on two blocks at the £225m Greenwich Square scheme but that it would come at no extra cost to residents. Last month, CN revealed the cladding on the development needed to be replaced after it was found to be category 3 ACM cladding, the most combustible of the three ACM cladding types. In the letter to residents seen by CN, Mace said that after “complex work” investigating the matter the company had decided that two blocks at the development will require remedial work. Read more on the Construction News website.

Construction Industry ‘Riven With Conflicts Of Interest At Every Turn’

A construction industry “riven with conflicts of interest at every turn” needs urgent and wide-ranging action from government to ensure high-rise safety post-Grenfell, a key Commons committee says. The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee recommends extensive changes to building regulations, following the publication of the final report of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety set up after the Grenfell disaster. “The industry is riven with conflicts of interest at every turn, with manufacturers choosing the most lenient testing bodies for their products.” Read more on 24housing.

Government Plans To Save A Further £3.6bn From Property Sales Over Next 20 Years

The Government is planning to save around £3.6bn in the next two decades by dramatically scaling back its property estate as part of a sweeping cost-cutting drive. The Cabinet Office will outline plans to move thousands of public sector jobs, including senior roles, out of London by 2030, reducing Whitehall buildings from around 65 to 20 over the same period. Around 20 so-called Government "hubs" will be set up in the regions by the end of this parliament in 2022. In total, the strategy commits to reducing the number of government-owned office buildings from 800 to under 200. Read more on the Daily Telegraph website.

Social Housing Green Paper Expected By Recess

The Social Housing Green Paper is still expected to be published before parliament breaks up for summer recess next Tuesday, the government has confirmed. There had been speculation that the paper might be subject to further delays after a new housing minister was appointed recently. However, this week the government confirmed it still intended to publish before recess, which is scheduled for next Tuesday. Dominic Raab was promoted to Brexit secretary and replaced as housing minister by Kit Malthouse. Before leaving his post, Mr Raab said the green paper would include measures to “strengthen the role of the regulator, to give it more teeth” and “also to empower residents as consumers and give them the voice and ability to hold landlords to account”. Read more on Inside Housing.

Universal Credit Claimants Make Up 25% Of Council Rent Arrears, Report Finds

Universal Credit households now account for 25% of unpaid council rent despite representing just 4% of tenants, according to a new report. The study, published jointly by the National Federation of ALMOs (NFA) and the Association of Retained Council Housing (ARCH), found 72% of council tenants receiving Universal Credit are in arrears, compared with 26% of all households. And households using the new welfare system had also fallen further behind on rent than others struggling to pay – owing an average of £520 compared to £328 average arrears. Download the report from the NFA website.

Net Loss Of 133,000 Homes To Let In Coming Year

A trade body says the country faces a net loss of 133,000 homes for private rent over the next year - and only a radical rethink on lettings taxation can avoid it. That’s the view of the Residential Landlords Association, which says that government figures themselves show a loss of 46,000 private rented properties in England alone between March 2016 and March 2017. The RLA says that based on questioning over 2,600 landlords, no fewer than 84 per cent have seen tenant demand increasing or at least remaining stable - and this is despite some years of policies which, the association claims, have been geared to increasing owner occupation. Read more on Letting Agent Today.

Housing Sales Remain Subdued As Rent Expectations Continue To Heat Up

Sales activity in the UK housing market remained subdued, according to the latest RICS UK Residential Market Survey. Survey in brief;
  Activity indicators suggest subdued picture in the market will persist
  Improvement in new properties coming to the market likely to be very short-lived
  Rent expectations consistent with the lack of new supply
Download the survey from the RICS website.

First-Time Buyers On The Rise As Buy-To-Let Mortgage Market Falls

The number of first-time buyers rose in May while the number taking on new buy-to-let mortgages fell, in a sign that government policies and tax changes are rebalancing the housing market. There were 32,200 new mortgages completed for first-time buyers over the month, 8.1% more than in May last year. The £5.4bn of new lending was up 12.5. The average first-time buyer in the UK is 30, has a gross household income of £42,000 and takes on a loan of £142,452 at a loan to value of 85%.  However, the number of new buy-to-let mortgages fell by 9.8% in May. Read more on the Guardian website.

The Fall And Rise Of Social Rent

In the 12 months to April 2011, at the height of the recession, a shade below 40,000 new socially rented homes were built in England. By April 2017 this figure had collapsed, undergoing an 85% fall to a negligible 5,900 units – 2.7% of overall housing supply and the lowest figure since records began. But this, it appears, may be a nadir. Social rented housing is making a comeback. The next set of government funding programmes – in London and the rest of England – will include homes for social rented housing, supported by grant rates of up to £100,000 of public money per unit. Read more on Inside Housing.

Study Reveals Significant Fall In Number Of First Time Buyers In The UK

The number of first time buyers in the UK has fallen by 24% since 1994 and the number of lone first time buyers have seen a more significant 45% decrease, new research has found. Also, those aged 16 to 34 are down by 49% since 1981 while 41% of people aged 35 to 44 are not earning enough to save for a deposit and 21% of over 55s are renting rather than owning a home. The study from price comparison website MoneySuperMarket reveals the changing face of home ownership and suggests that a large portion of British people are putting their dreams of buying a home on hold. Read more on Property Wire.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Raab’s Record? Six Housing Failures In Six Months

As Kit Malthouse goes through the revolving door of the MHCLG, Theresa May is onto her fourth housing minister in less than two years. This despite declaring housing to be a top domestic priority – one of the “burning injustices” she was determined to do something about. How did he do in the six months he was responsible for housing?
1.       Genuine affordable house building at its lowest levels since records began
2.       Home ownership at a 30-year low
3.       Planning policy lets developers get away with dodgy deals
4.       Council housebuilding blocked by Tory policies
5.       Grenfell survivors let down time and again
6.       Lack of action on fire-safety to learn the lessons on Grenfell
Read more on the Labour List website.

APPG Launched To Tackle Unemployment In Social Housing

A new All Party Parliamentary Group has been formed to tackle unemployment and in-work poverty in the social housing sector. The group launches as new research by the Centre for Social Justice revealed that households living in social housing are four times more likely to be workless than those living in private housing. This new APPG will be focused on advancing the role that social landlords can play in promoting social mobility, employment, and supporting in work progression for social tenants. Read more on 24housing.

Anti-Poverty Coalition Calls For Overhaul Of Universal Credit

Church leaders and food banks have called for an overhaul of universal credit to halt a surge in vulnerable claimants being pushed into destitution, hunger and debt when they move on to the benefit. End Hunger UK, a coalition of 73 poverty charities and faith groups, said excessive payment delays, common administrative errors and lack of support for claimants struggling to navigate the online-only system was driving up use of food banks. It called for a dramatic reduction in the time claimants must wait for a first payment from a minimum of five weeks to just two weeks, saying the long wait was financially crippling for claimants who had no savings to fall back on. Read more on the Guardian website.

A Poor State Of Repair Puts Off Home Buyers In The UK

Damp, bad smells, poor maintenance and broadband blackspots the top things that home buyers in the UK say puts them off a property. Some 69% say they would not buy a home if there were damp stains on the walls and ceilings, while 63% would be out off by smells including damp, food, cigarettes and pets. Research also shows that 59% would fail to put in an offer if the property was in a poor state of repair from obvious issues like rotten window frames and peeling paintwork. No parking would put off 56% of buyers while poor broadband is a deal breaker for 53% of those surveyed and 53% also said that they would not buy a property with unfinished building work. Read more on Property Wire.

House Price Rises Will Struggle This Year And Next

One of the UK’s leading group of economic experts has repeated its warning that housing market is not going to see any significant improvement at all in the second half of the year. The EY ITEM Club, a group of economists whose reports are routinely considered by ministers and the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee, says that while housing market activity has come off its 2018 lows, “it is still relatively limited and finding it hard to gain traction amid challenging conditions.” The Club says it is unlikely that “any meaningful upturn” will take place over the next few months and by the end of 2018 house prices will on average be 2.0 per cent higher than a year earlier. Read more on Estate Agent Today.

Housing ‘Shake-Up’ Could Save £3bn On The Welfare Budget

A housing shake-up that could knock £3bn off the welfare budget rewards housing associations that turn tenant lives around. Citing social housing tenants as “four times more likely” to be unemployed than private renters, the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) is calling on associations to extend skills training – with big falls in rent arrears as an incentive. The Government is already giving the idea serious consideration given its potential to save some £3bn on the welfare budget. CSJ says that with housing associations, with their “established personal relationships” with tenants – are best placed to support individuals facing barriers to work, the report argues. Read more on 24housing.

Tenants' Lives At Risk After Government Refuses To Act On Weak Safety Rules

Tenants’ lives are being put at risk because the government has refused to beef up weak safety rules in rented housing despite the Grenfell tragedy, experts are warning. Hazards such as inadequate fire doors, faulty electrical equipment and dangerous heating systems cannot be tackled because officials are unable to prove they fail outdated guidance, they say. Ninety-seven per cent of environmental health professionals have called for action – with more than half reporting they had “witnessed hazards that could not be addressed”.  Read more on the Independent website.

Malthouse Openly Admitted Making Homeless People's Lives 'Uncomfortable'

The new Tory Housing Minister openly admitted he made life "uncomfortable" for the homeless as part of a zero-tolerance crackdown. He can expect scrutiny over his previous approach to homelessness when he was deputy leader of Westminster City Council, which he left in 2006. Under his watch, the council was accused by one London Assembly member of adopting a "ruthless" policy towards homeless people that included "hosing them out of doorways". Asked in 2008 if he was behind such a "hosing" policy, Mr Malthouse replied: "We certainly instituted a policy of making life - it sounds counterintuitive and cruel - more uncomfortable; that is absolutely right." Read more on the Daily Mirror website.

Kit Malthouse Appointed Minister Of State For Housing

Kit Malthouse MP has been appointed Minister of State for Housing, following the promotion of Dominic Raab MP to Secretary of State for Exiting the EU. Mr Malthouse was previously Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Family Support, Housing and Child Maintenance at the DWP. He is a chartered accountant and, before entering Parliament, was a member of the London Assembly, serving as Deputy Mayor for Policing and Deputy Mayor for Business and Enterprise. Prior to this, he was a councillor on Westminster Council and was also on the board of the authority’s arm’s-length management organisation (ALMO), Citywest Homes. Read more on the NLA website.

Mortgage Lenders Relax Affordability Criteria In The Hunt For New Business

Some of Britain’s major banks and building societies are loosening their mortgage affordability restrictions in a bid to boost lending.  Many would-be homeowners have struggled to obtain loans because of strict affordability assessments introduced in April 2014. In some cases applicants have been penalised for having adult children living at home, even if they are financially independent from their parents. However, data published by trade body UK Finance showed that the number of new house buyers had been stagnant, meaning lenders are being forced to open up if they are to attract customers. Read more on the Daily Telegraph website.

Complaints To Housing Ombudsman Up 16%

Complaints to the Housing Ombudsman rose 16% in the past year, its annual report shows. The body received 6,806 complaints in 2017/18, up from 5,870 the previous year. In 2015/16, 5,802 complaints were submitted.  Repairs were the biggest grounds for complaints, making up 37% of the total. Tenants’ behaviour was the second most common cause at 11%. The number of complaints which were formally investigated by the ombudsman after completing the landlords complaints procedure rose 7%. Nearly four in five (79%) of complaints were closed without the need for formal investigation. Read more on the Housing Ombudsman website.

Local Government Thinktank Launches Homelessness Commission

A commission aimed at finding ways councils can reduce homelessness has been launched by the Local Government Information Unit (LGIU) thinktank and membership body. The Local Government Homelessness Commission (LGHC) will spend a year investigating how town halls can stop people becoming homeless. The commission intends to provide practical recommendations for ways councils can implement the new Homelessness Reduction Act, which came into force in April and places extra duties on local authorities to keep households in stable accommodation. Read more on the LGIU website.

London Rents Rise For First Time In Two Years As UK Growth Slows

Rent in London rose for the first time in nearly two years in June, increasing by 0.1 per cent to an average of £1,884 per month, according to the latest Landbay Rental Index. The figures show overall UK rental growth is continuing to slow down. Rents rose by 0.4 per cent in the first six months of the year, and went up by 0.54 per cent excluding the capital. Rental growth has been strongest in the East Midlands and the east of England so far this year, with increases of 0.95 per cent and 0.7 per cent respectively, while rents in the North East dragged the average down with a 0.08 per cent drop. Read more on the Independent website.

Councils ‘Challenging’ Ministers After Exclusion From £1bn HRA Headroom Deal

Councils which worked with government to develop new funding flexibility for new homes have hit out at ministers after being excluded from bidding. Two councils that worked with government officials for more than a year to develop plans to allow councils to increase their borrowing capacity have said they were “disappointed” to discover they would not be allowed to bid for the fund. The government revealed last week that only councils where private rents are £50 more than social rents would be allowed to bid. This saw Sheffield, Stoke-on-Trent, and Newark and Sherwood councils excluded. Read more on Inside Housing.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

RTB Sales Decrease But Replacements Fall Short Of 1 For 1 Target

The latest government figures  show that sales of council housing under the Right to Buy (RTB) fell in the quarter to 31 March 2018 by 18% over the previous quarter, but the government continues to fall short of the promised one for one replacement of homes sold under the reinvigorated RTB from 2012. In Quarter 4 (January to March 2018), councils sold an estimated 2,772 dwellings under the RTB scheme compared to the 3,313 sold in the same quarter of 2016-17 this is a decrease of 18%. The average capital receipt per dwelling sold in quarter 4 2017-18 was £83,000. Under the government's one for one commitment made under the Reinvigorated RTB introduced in 2012, local authorities have 3 years from the date of the sale of each additional home to provide a replacement home, but can only use RTB receipts to a maximum of 30% of the cost of providing a replacement. Read more on the ARCH website.

Special Administration Regime For English Housing Associations Comes Into Force

A new special administration regime which allows the Regulator for Social Housing (RSH) to deal with insolvent housing associations has come into force. The regime, which gives the regulator powers to appoint administrators, has received the necessary approvals from parliament to come into force. It sets up a bespoke system of administration – recommended in the aftermath of the Cosmopolitan saga – which will provide greater powers to protect tenants if an association goes bankrupt. Read more on Inside Housing.

Calls To End No-Fault Evictions

The London Assembly agreed a motion calling on the Mayor of London to back the campaign to abolish section 21 and to lobby the government for a change in the law. Sian Berry AM, who proposed the motion, said:  “The Assembly has firmly put its weight behind Generation Rent’s campaign to end section 21. London renters need to feel secure in their homes and know they can’t be thrown out on the streets for no reason. Having to move at short notice is one of the worst parts of being a private renter and ending section 21 would make a dramatic difference and solve this problem – it would also align our policies with other countries.” Read more on 24housing.

£400m ACM Cladding Remediation Fund Open For Bids

The government made an announcement on 16 May 2018 that it would fully fund the removal and replacement of unsafe aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding on residential buildings which are 18 metres or over, owned by councils and housing associations. The Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) on 3 July 2018 provided further details of the Social Sector ACM Cladding Remediation Fund with information on how councils and housing associations can apply for this funding, including the scope of the fund and more details on how it will operate and the information required when applying. A fund of £400million is being made available and grants will be provided to cover all reasonable capital costs for the remediation of ACM cladding systems, which have failed the large scale fire performance tests, commissioned by the government in 2017. Read more on the MHCLG website.

Social Rented Housing – Parliamentary Written Answer

Anneliese Dodds: To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, when he plans to publish regulations on local Tenancy Strategies in relation to the Housing and Planning Act 2016.
Dominic Raab: [Holding answer 25 June 2018]: The Housing and Planning Act 2016 introduced changes to local authority tenancies by making it mandatory for most new council tenancies to be for a fixed term. Regulations and statutory guidance are necessary to implement the fixed term tenancy provisions in the Housing and Planning Act and the next steps will be set out in due course.

Department Overly Reliant On Favourable Outcome From 2019 Spending Review

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (the Department) has not yet developed a plan to secure their long-term financial future. It is not transparent enough about its understanding of the pressures faced by local authorities, meaning Parliament and the taxpayer cannot be sure that it genuinely understands or is addressing the issue. The Department is overly reliant on a favourable outcome from the 2019 Spending Review to address authorities’ financial issues. This is particularly complacent given that the previous Spending Review settlement resulted in many local authorities having to rely on reserves to fill the gaps in funding. This is an unsustainable situation. Read more on the Parliament website.

Builders Of Rental Flats Welcome Move Towards Longer Tenancies

The bosses of some of London’s largest rental flats builders have shrugged off concerns that new longer tenancies could be bad for business. Communities secretary James Brokenshire has published proposals that could see landlords forced to give renters three-year contracts in a move to help them “put down roots”. Some small property owners warned the plan could make it harder to manage difficulties with problem tenants, while the National Landlords Association slammed a shift to “a more rigid system”. However, listed Telford Homes and developer Quintain, which are currently constructing 3700 rental homes in the capital, welcomed the update. Read more on the Evening Standard website.

Join Up Health And Housing Policy Or Risk Return To 'Pre-War Slum Housing'

Labour has warned there is a risk of the resurgence of post-war style slums that fuelled illness as it announced plans to join up health and housing policies. Hundreds of thousands of rented homes are unfit to live in, according to the party. It set out plans to create healthy homes zones that would target areas with the worst quality housing. Shadow housing secretary John Healey warned the country faced a return to the problems of the "evil" of squalor that William Beveridge warned of when he paved the way for the welfare state. Read more on the Independent website.

7,000 Estate Agents At Risk Of Going To The Wall

More than 150 estate agency firms went insolvent last year and as many as 7,000 are at risk as high street operators face the triple whammy of online competition, a sagging property market and cuts to letting fees. A study by accountants Moore Stephens found that 153 estate agency firms went insolvent in the year to May 2018, a small increase on the 148 the year before. But it found that more than 7,000 estate agents “currently show signs of financial distress”. Read more on the Guardian website.

Right to Buy Scheme: Housing Associations – Parliamentary Written Answer

Lord Kennedy of Southwark: To ask Her Majesty's Government what the funding arrangements are for the Right to Buy pilot for tenants of housing associations in the Midlands this summer; and how long the pilot will last.
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth: In the Autumn Budget 2017 the Chancellor announced funding of £200 million for the Voluntary Right to Buy Midlands pilot, which will be launched this summer. The Government will fund the cost of the discounts, and all sales under the pilot are expected to be completed by March 2020.

Families In Rural Areas Are Spending Nearly A Third Of Their Income On Rent

Families in rural areas are spending nearly a third of their income on rent, research by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) has revealed. In a report to mark Rural Housing Week the IPPR found there is an affordability “crisis” in rural areas where the average house price is £320,700, more than £87,000 higher than the urban average outside of London. The IPPR analysis also found the population in rural areas is set to age rapidly over the next two decades. Between 2014 and 2038, the working-age population in rural areas is projected to decline by 75,000 people while the population aged over 65 will grow by around 1.5 million. Read more on the IPPR website.

More Than One In Ten Privately-Rented Homes Are Unfit To Live In

More than one in ten privately-rented homes in the North East are unfit for people to live in. The properties have what is known as a “category one hazard”, which can include damp and mould growth, a faulty gas boiler, fire risks or excessive cold in winter. Figures emerged as both major parties set out plans to help tenants secure better housing. The statistics, published by Labour, are based on an analysis of the English Housing Survey, which is produced by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government. There are 22,452 “unfit” private-rented homes in the North East, 11% of all the private-rented housing stock. Read more on the Sunderland Chronicle website.

Action Needs To Combat 'Historic Low' Social Housing Numbers

The definition of “affordable housing” must include homes for social rent in forthcoming government changes to planning policy to tackle the historic low numbers of social rented homes across the country according to the Local Government Association. The LGA warns that homes specifically for social rent are at risk of being eliminated after a revision to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) dropped the reference to “social rent” homes from the Government’s definition of affordable homes, whilst including Starter Homes and other, less genuinely affordable, forms of housing. It comes amid an already “unprecedented shortage” in affordable housing with the supply of homes for social rent, which provides secure tenancies on low rents, at a historic low. Read more on the LGA website.

Brokenshire Goes Public With New Housing Proposals

The government is ready to release £450m to speed up delivery of homes on sites of surplus public sector land and encouraging pace and modern methods of construction as a part of the building process. But such funding will no longer be able to use the money for ‘unjustified’ new leasehold houses. Announced by communities secretary, James Brokenshire, other measures include the new proposals for three-year minimum tenancy term and the launch of a new £100m Community Housing Fund, to deliver affordable housing tailored to local needs, putting communities in the driving seat. Read the full statement on the Parliament website.

More Than 600 'Affordable Homes' Built In Merseyside Were NOT Affordable

More than 600 "affordable" homes built in Merseyside in the last three years weren't actually affordable. Data analysed by the Press Association's Radar service shows that Homes England, a government body responsible for building affordable housing, has built some homes which don't meet the guidelines needed to be classed as affordable. Liverpool had the highest number of homes which missed the guidelines of being 80% of market value for buyers, with 258 homes not meeting the criteria. Between 70% and 85% of the homes built in Merseyside by Homes England between April 2015 and March 2018 did meet the guidelines. Read more on the Liverpool Echo website.

MPs Back Plan For Ombudsman To Resolve New Homes Disputes

The government is under pressure to set up an independent ombudsman with the power to order housebuilders to pay out up to £50,000 or even reverse a sale, following reports of new-home buyers lumbered with defective properties. A group of MPs and peers has called on the government to make it mandatory for housebuilders to belong to the proposed scheme, which would be free for consumers and offer a quick resolution to disputes. The scheme would be funded by a levy on housebuilders, with larger ones such as Berkeley Group, Persimmon, Barratt, Galliford Try, Redrow and Bovis Homes, paying more than small and medium-sized firms. Read more on the Guardian website.

Housing Starts Down

Housing starts in England for the first quarter of 2018 were down 8% the same time last year and 3% on the previous three months. New housebuilding data from the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government show there were 39,350 starts in the three months to the end of March. There were 38,160 completions in the same period, down 4% on 2017 and 9% on the previous quarter. These statistics are based largely on data from warranty providers and are known to underestimate the true figure of housebuilding. Read more on the Gov UK website.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Sector ‘Particularly Vulnerable’ To Brexit Impact, Report Warns

The social housing construction and operation sector is “particularly vulnerable” to the impacts of Brexit, a new report has warned. Jonathan Linton, director of the Logistics and Supply Chain Management Research Centre at the University of Sheffield, said the industry was sensitive to economic volatility expected after the UK leaves the EU next year. In a report commissioned by social housing and procurement consortium Re:allies, Mr Linton said social housing firms were also at risk. “Uncertainty, volatility and unanticipated consequences will continue to impact social housing supply chains for many years,” he said. The professor called for a more streamlined supply chain. Download the report from the University of Sheffield website.

Temporary Accommodation Numbers Are Up

Latest homelessness stats show the total number of people currently living in temporary accommodation in England is 79,880 – up 3% from last year and 56% from 2010. Government figures for 2017-18 do confirm the number of those living in B&Bs as down 10% on the previous at 5,940 – but this is still an increase of 190% from 2010. The number of homeless children and older people in temporary accommodation has reached its highest level in nearly 10 years, with Labour saying Tory ministers should be “ashamed” of their record on homelessness. Read more on 24housing.

MPs Call For House-Builders’ Ombudsman

A cross-party group of MPs and peers is recommending the creation of a New Homes Ombudsman to help provide redress for disgruntled home buyers. A report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment calls on the government to make it compulsory for all house-builders to belong to an independent ombudsman scheme. The report, Better redress for homebuyers, says that a New Homes Ombudsman should be independent and free to consumers, providing a quick resolution to disputes.  The report also recommends that government, warranty providers, builders and consumer group’s work together to draw up a code of practice that would be used by the New Homes Ombudsman to adjudicate on disputes. Read more on the Construction Index website.

House Price Growth At Slowest Pace In Five Years

The latest data and analysis from Nationwide has shown that UK annual house price growth softened to 2% during June- down 0.4% against the previous month. Once again, the capital was the weakest performing region in Q2, with prices down 1.9% year-on-year. According to the figures, most regions saw a slowing in the annual rate of house price growth in the second quarter. The East Midlands was the region that saw the strongest pace of growth in Q2, with prices up 4.4% year-on-year, just nudging ahead of the West Midlands at 4.3%. Read more on the Property Reporter website.

Government To Use Grant Funding For 12,500 Socially Rented Homes

The government has revealed that £1.67bn of previously announced housing funding will be used to build 23,000 affordable homes, including 12,500 for social rent. The government has announced what it has termed a “£1.67bn social housing deal” for 23,000 new homes across England but outside London. It has also published the long-awaited bidding criteria for £1bn of additional borrowing headroom designed to help fund council house building projects. This £1.67bn comes from a total of £9.1bn set aside for affordable housing projects through to 2022. Read the Government statement on the Parliament website.

More Private High-Rises With Flammable Cladding Than Expected

The number of people living in privately owned high-rise flats with combustible cladding similar to that used on Grenfell Tower is much higher than previously believed. Ministers are planning to launch a taskforce to help councils identify the type of cladding in use on private tower blocks higher than 18 metres (60ft) amid growing concern that, more than a year since the Grenfell Tower disaster, officials still do not know. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) ordered councils to identify all private high-rise residential buildings with aluminium composite cladding by the end of May and the results are set to be announced. Sources familiar with the work said it is expected to show a significant increase on the current number of 138. Read more on the Guardian website.

High Court Overturns Housing Legal Aid Changes

The High Court has overturned controversial planned changes to legal aid for housing support. In a judgement published on Friday, the judge, Mrs Justice Andrews, found in favour of the challenge to the Ministry of Justice’s (MOJ) decision to make changes to the way housing advice is procured. These controversial changes would have consolidated and reduced housing legal aid schemes, and introduced price competition. The MOJ will now reconsider the remitted proposal. The proposed changes relate to the Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme (HPCDS), local schemes which provide immediate legal advice to people at risk of losing their home. Read more on Inside Housing.

Lib Dems Propose Land-Buying Agency To Boost House Building

Vince Cable has proposed a state-backed agency to compulsorily purchase land for building and call for measures to allow construction on some green belt sites.  In a speech at the Royal Institute of British Architects in London, the Liberal Democrat leader also proposed a big expansion in rent-to-own, where some people in new developments could pay a market rent in exchange for a gradual stake in the property, thereby subsidising social rents. The speech in response to the housing crisis comes as the government announced £1.67bn in funding for 23,000 affordable homes across England, including 15,000 for social rent. The funding is part of a previous commitment of up to £9bn for affordable housing. Read more on the Guardian website.

Sector Urged To ‘Own’ A Future Ranking Social Housing Alongside The NHS

Housing 2018 has heard a call to rank social housing alongside the NHS – with poll citing strong public support – as the sector is urged to ‘own’ its future. CIH wants Right to Buy suspended to stem the loss of social rented homes and investment shifted from private housing to affordable homes – citing its own analysis showing 79% of the government’s £53bn housing budget up to 2020/21 being pushed towards the private market and just 21% going to affordable. In stimulating wider national debate over the future role and purpose of social housing, the project took on new significance when it was revealed that the public inquiry into the Grenfell disaster would not consider wider issues regarding social housing. Download a copy of the report from the CIH website.

IFS: Rising Affordable Rents Have Driven Increase In Poverty

Rising affordable rents have been “a key driver” in a rise in relative poverty in the UK over recent years, a report from the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) has found. Average housing costs for low-income families with children, it found, have risen four times faster than for middle-income families. The report added that “a key driver” of this change has been the recent increases in what it called “social rents” but which the researchers clarified meant “rents paid by households that live in council housing or housing provided by a housing association”. Read more on the IFS website.

Raab: It’s Time To Break Big Business’s Grip On The Building Industry

The “vice-like grip” of huge companies on Britain’s building industry needs to be broken to increase the supply of affordable homes, the housing minister has said. Dominic Raab pledged action to boost competition in the construction industry because small building firms have been “eviscerated”, to tackle the practice of major developers refusing to built on plots until prices rise and to champion the development of factory-made houses. In an interview with i , he insisted the UK was beginning to see the “light at the end of the tunnel” in the housing crisis and vowed to tackle the “stigma” often faced by tenants in social housing. Read more on the I newspaper website.

Buy-To-Let Has Skewed Housing Market And Must Be Curbed

Private landlords have put home ownership beyond the reach of at least 2 million families, research shows, while Britain has built only half as many new homes as France over the same period. The radical report from the new Conservative thinktank Onward recommends ending or severely curtailing tax breaks for buy-to-let and private landlords, a stronger role for local councils and major reform of the planning system to allow communities rather than developers to lead the process. The report calls for government intervention in the housing market, including giving London councils the power to limit foreign ownership. Read more on the Guardian website.

Friday, 22 June 2018

Government’s Flagship New Homes Pledge Branded 'Meaningless'

According to the Housing Secretary, the latest draft of the National Planning Policy Framework – which sets out how the Government will deliver new homes across the country – does not feature the goal. In an answer to a parliamentary question, James Brokenshire said: “The draft revised National Planning Policy Framework does not set a national home building target. It proposes the introduction of a standard method for assessing housing need that would be used locally as the starting point for each area’s plan-making.” But Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey blasted the omission saying: “After eight years of failure, the Conservatives have no plan to fix the housing crisis. Ministers’ housebuilding targets are meaningless if they don’t even feature in the Government’s national housing plan." Read more on the Politics Home website.

Britain Spends Twice As Much On Homeless As Germany

Britain spends nearly twice as much on state-subsidised housing, housing benefits and helping the homeless as other wealthy EU countries, an official report said. UK taxpayers paid £100 in housing support for every £66 that went on state housing in the next most generous EU country, France. German taxpayers pay only £52 to help low-paid, unemployed or homeless people put a roof over their heads, according to Office for National Statistics estimates. Read more on the Daily Mail website.

‘Crisis’ Warning With Rent And Mortgage Payments Near Parity

The amount being paid by private renters in England is approaching parity with mortgage payments having jumped more than 160% in less than a decade. Now, campaigners warn of a coming ‘rent crisis’ as the number of renters rises. Ten years ago, the amount of rent being paid was only 30%of the total handed over by homeowners. New analysis for Shelter shows the current figure pushing past 75%. Overall, the Shelter figures – not adjusted for inflation – show the total amount spent on private rent jumped more than 160% in under a decade – from £15.9bn in 2006 to £41.3bn in 2015-16. The total spent by home owners almost flatlined – rising just 5% from £52.1bn to £54.9bn. Read more on 24housing.

Housing Association To Run Extra Care Right To Buy Sub-Pilot

A Midlands housing association will run a ‘sub-pilot’ to the regional trial of the Right to Buy extension among its extra care stock. Midland Heart, which owns around 33,000 homes, has agreed to give tenants in four of its extra care homes the opportunity to purchase their homes at a discount. The wider pilot, due to start in August, is only available for general needs tenants. Read more on Inside Housing.

Grenfell Tower Borough 'Behaved Like A Property Developer'

The chief executive of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea told survivors of the Grenfell Tower disaster that the council had been behaving like “a property developer masquerading as a local authority”, MPs have been told. Barry Quirk, who took over at the borough one week after the fire in June 2017, made the comment in a private meeting with Grenfell United, the survivors’ group, one of its leading members, Edward Daffarn, told the House of Commons housing select committee.“Think about that,” Daffarn told the MPs. “They were property developers masquerading as a local authority. They failed to keep us safe because they had higher priorities – getting their hands on the land, this massive goldmine they had.” Read more on the Guardian website.

Residents Should Design New Homes To Tackle Nimbyism

Residents should help design new houses being built in their neighbourhood, according to a report aimed at tackling ‘nimbyism’. An investigation into the housing crisis, co-written by a former Newham Mayor Sir Robin Wales, believes giving local people the power to dictate how developments look would help increase building rates – particularly in the south east. The report – produced by the influential Policy Exchange think-tank – calls for all councils to produce a “design and style” guide for new builds within 18 months, following consultations with residents and locally-based architects. Read more on the Huff Post website.

Tories Turn Fire On NAO Over Damning UC Report

Forced on the defensive by the damning NAO assessment of Universal Credit (UC) Tories turned their fire on – the NAO. With a little of the ‘the last Labour government’ thrown in. Architect of the ‘reform’ Iain Duncan Smith led the charge calling the NAO report  – which branded UC a major failure of public policy – as a “shoddy piece of work” that didn’t account for a series of issues. “Not least of which are that the Treasury signed off annual recurring savings of £8bn and, more importantly, that the changes last November and December have made a huge difference to people’s lives,” he said. Read more on 24housing.

Average Property Prices Up More Than 300% In Many Parts Of England Since 2000

Waltham Forest in London has seen prices rise the most in England since 2000 with Southend on Sea recording the highest growth outside of the capital city, new research shows. Prices have increased by 364.9% in the borough of Waltham Forest in London with eight borough seeing growth above 300% in the last 18 years, according to the analysis of land registry figures by online estate agents HouseSimple. Outside of London some 19 towns and cities have seen prices rise above 250%, led by Southend on Sea at 290.9% with average prices up from £71,879 to £280,948, followed by Bristol with a rise of 279.9% from £71,973 to £273,393 and Cambridge up 279.2% from £118,216 to £448,243. Read more on the Property Wire website.

Millennials In London Are 'Hiring Cleaners Instead Of Saving Up For A Deposit'

London millennials are spending money on cleaners instead of saving for a deposit for a new home, a new study suggests. Sixteen per cent of under 35s have a cleaner, compared to 9 per cent of older age groups, according to the study commissioned by app Airtasker. The study also found Londoners are the laziest people in the UK, and London itself is the most 'time-poor' part of the country. Many young Londoners admitted to not having enough time to clean, while some find housework simply too boring, the study found. Read more on the Evening Standard website.

Raft Of Safety Flaws Listed At Grenfell Tower Inquiry

A list of failed safety regulations has been presented to a public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower blaze. Dr Barbara Lane said lifts in the tower were sub-standard, fire doors had not been replaced and combustible material was fitted around windows. She said the "very basis" of the policy telling people to stay in their flats during a fire only worked alongside other protection measures. But the standards firefighters relied on "failed" at 01:26 GMT. A total of 72 people died as a result into the fire on 14 June 2017 in North Kensington, west London. Read more on the BBC website.

Housing Barriers Threaten Young Offender Rehabilitation

Young offenders leaving custody face a battle to access suitable housing, heightening the risk they will continue to be involved in crime, a report has warned. The report by Nacro and youth homelessness charity Centrepoint found that accessing safe and stable accommodation is vital to reducing reoffending when young people leave custody. But too often they face multiple barriers to finding somewhere suitable to stay. Researchers found poor-quality resettlement planning before young people leave custody to be an issue. They said that plans are often not carried out far enough in advance and fail to effectively take into account young people's needs. Read more on the Children & Young People Now website.

Government Urged To Cut Stamp Duty For Downsizers

The Treasury is being urged to extend its stamp duty cuts to those downsizing, in a bid to boost supply in the housing market. This call comes as the latest housing index shows demand from buyers has risen significantly over the past 12 months.  Haart’s housing market monitor found that the number of buyers registering with estate agents in May had risen by 44.3 per cent over the past year – and was at its highest level for two years. Over the past month the number of new buyers had risen by 3.1 per cent. Read more on the Mortgage Strategy website.

Just 44% Of Government-Funded Homes For Sub-Market Rent

Only 44% of homes delivered through central government funding programmes in England were for affordable or social rent last year, the lowest figure since current records began. Statistics released by Homes England show that in 2017/18, the government funded 17,159 affordable rent homes and 1,409 socially rented properties – a 19.5% decrease on the figure for the year before. This comprised 44% of the total of 42,652 homes given direct financial funding through Homes England programmes – the lowest percentage in the current run of statistics which date back to 2009/10. Read more on Inside Housing.

Friday, 15 June 2018

Universal Credit Has Not Delivered Value For Money

Universal Credit has not delivered value for money and it is uncertain if it ever will, the National Audit Office (NAO) has concluded. The DWP has estimated it can make an annual net saving of £8bn, but in a critical report published today the NAO said this “remains unproven”. The DWP has spent £1.9bn to date on the rollout of the new welfare system, which replaces six means-tested benefits. This £1.9bn spend is made up of £1.3bn of investment and £0.6bn on running costs, the NAO said. Download the report from the NAO website.

Universal Credit – Parliamentary Written Answer

David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how many claimants of universal credit have accepted an advance payment of that benefit.
Alok Sharma: Our latest national internal data for number of advances awarded indicates that, for eligible new claims to Universal Credit Full Service that were due a first payment in January 2018, 60% received either a ‘new claim’ or ‘benefit transfer’ advance.

Social Housing Regulator ‘Constrained’ By Government Before Grenfell

The social housing regulator was “constrained” in its ability to investigate residents’ fire safety concerns by the direction of travel imposed by government, its former chair has said. Julian Ashby, who stepped down as chair of the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) this year, said “with hindsight” the regulator could have been “more aggressive” over health and safety. But he said its actions were “constrained” by legislation which limited its power to intervene in consumer affairs, after the government scrapped its predecessor, the Tenant Services Authority (TSA), amid the ‘bonfire of the quangos’ in 2010. The HCA was only allowed to intervene in ‘consumer’ or tenant affairs when it was satisfied that the concerns passed the ‘serious detriment test’ of potential harm to residents. Read more on Inside Housing.

ALMOs Boss Wants New Regulator For Councils With Housing Stock

National Federation of ALMOs (NFA) managing director, Eamon McGoldrick, has confirmed talks over a new regulator or ombudsman to oversee councils with housing stock. McGoldrick says: “About 55-60% of the socially rented housing stock is managed by housing associations, but 100% of the failings on public record are through housing associations – that doesn’t seem right.” McGoldrick said he had been talking to civil servants about the possibility of creating a “light touch” regulator or ombudsman to oversee councils with homes in-house or managed by ALMOs. “If you are a housing association you will tell the regulator you have fallen behind with gas servicing, because if you don’t and the regulator finds out you will get downgraded… which in turn impacts on their ability to borrow,” he said. There is no similar impact on councils or ALMOs. Read more on 24housing.

Residential Sales Flat In May

The May RICS UK Residential Market Survey has shown a few signs of life as houses start to come back on to the market, but overall activity has remained flat and is looking unlikely to gain any impetus in the near term. Briefly;
§  The number of homes coming on to the housing market turns positive for the first time since 2016
§  Buyer demand continues to decline at a headline level but to a lesser extent than at the start of 2018
§  The regional picture remains mixed for prices, demand and sales
Read more on the RICS website.