Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Council To Set Up Housing Association For Right To Buy Funds

Enfield Council is set to establish a housing association to spend funds it receives from council tenants exercising their Right to Buy. The Council is expected to vote in favour of lending £250,000 to Red Lion Homes to cover start-up costs and transferring sites to the new association, which aims to provide 500 homes in six years. The council first approved the idea of setting up a housing association in November 2015, as a way of spending the £154m of Right to Buy receipts it has to spend between 2018/19 and 2022/23. Read more on Inside Housing.

Hundreds Of Thousands Put Up With Unsafe Homes For Fear Of Eviction

A quarter of a million people are living in shoddy and unsafe homes without complaint for fear of being evicted, a new study has revealed. Research by Citizens Advice shows more than one-in-four private tenants who have experienced problems in England had not told their landlord in case they were hit with higher rents or notice to move. Repairs and maintenance were the most commons issues reported, including mould, electrical faults and pest infestations. Read more on the Huffington Post website.

Government Urged To Postpone ‘Second Mortgage’ Scheme

The government has been urged to stall controversial benefit changes which came into effect in the new tax year, amid claims they unfairly penalise the most vulnerable in society. On 6 April, a “second mortgage” system replaced the Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI), which helped financially constrained homeowners with their mortgage payments. From this month, it will no longer be paid as a free benefit but, instead, the government is offering to loan people the money, which will have to be repaid later with interest. The move attracted anger from a number of recipients of the benefit who said they had not been properly informed of the move. Read more on the Observer website.

Number Of Shelter Beds For Homeless People Drops By A Fifth Under Conservatives

The number of beds in homeless shelters has plummeted since the Conservatives came to power, despite homelessness having soared in the same period. Bed space for single homeless people in England has dropped by almost a fifth since 2010 amid government funding cuts and local council belt-tightening. There are now significantly fewer places for single homeless people to go, despite the number needing somewhere to spend the night having rocketed. Since 2010, homelessness and rough sleeping have risen in every year. The number of people sleeping rough has risen by 169 per cent, while the figure for people being declared homeless by local councils is up 48 per cent. Read more on the Independent website.

House Price Growth Slows For Second Consecutive Month

The latest data and analysis on UK house prices by ONS has revealed a slowdown in house price growth for a second consecutive month. Compounded by supply issues, the annual growth rate has remained under 5% throughout 2017 and into 2018. According to ONS, the fall in house price growth across the UK is driven mainly by a fall in the capital. There, average house prices decreased by 1.0% in the year to February 2018 - down from a 1.3% increase in January 2018. The report also revealed that the average UK house price was £225,000 in February 2018. This is £9,000 higher than in February 2017 and broadly unchanged from last month. Read more on the Property Reporter website.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Universal Credit 'Flaws' Mean Thousands Will Be Worse Off

Thousands of self-employed, agency, and zero-hours contract workers will be potentially hundreds of pounds a year worse off under universal credit. Analysis by Citizens Advice claims that flaws in the new benefit mean self-employed workers whose earnings fluctuate monthly could receive far less over the course of a year than employees in “traditional” jobs who earn the same amount. Its analysis shows that a self-employed worker earning £9,750 a year would be £630 worse off under universal credit than an employee with an identical annual income but paid a regular monthly salary. Read more on the Guardian website.

Westminster Investigating ALMO For Ex-Council Buy-Back Practices

Westminster Council’s trading standards team is investigating its own ALMO for the second time in six months. The authority previously fined City West Homes £15,000 and listed it on the Greater London Authority’s database of rogue landlords and agents after another investigation last year. City West Residential, a letting and estate agent set up by the ALMO in 2009, was found to have breached consumer rights laws by failing to display its new tenancy fees accurately on its website. Westminster City Council would not confirm the nature of the second investigation, but Inside Housing understands it relates to the way City West Homes uses its estate agent to buy back ex-authority homes sold through Right to Buy. Read more on Inside Housing.

Youth Homelessness Rise Linked To Welfare Reforms

Government welfare reforms, including the introduction of Universal Credit and the capping of housing benefit, are contributing to a rise in youth homelessness, a report has concluded. The Young and Homeless 2018 report, includes a survey of nearly 200 providers and council representatives. Among homelessness providers, 55 per cent reported an increase in demand among young people for their services over the last year. More than a quarter of young people accessing services over the last 12 months are aged 16 or 17. Those responding to the survey said that a key factor in the rise is the challenges young people face around welfare reforms. Download the report from the Homeless Link website.

Retirement Housing Faces ‘Imminent Crisis’

Current stock levels of retirement housing and projected demographic changes highlight a critical undersupply of age-appropriate homes. In a new report, Knight Frank assesses the undersupply as an “imminent crisis”. There are currently 11.8 million people in the UK over the age of 65, which is forecast to rise by 20% over the next decade. This means that the time spent in ‘retirement’ will also lengthen, underpinning the crucial need for retirement housing. Knight Frank identifies the gap between the potential pool of demand and current supply as stark. Present stock – from age-restricted over-55s housing to housing with care – comprises 725,000 homes, which equates to just 2.6% of the total housing stock in the UK. Read more on 24housing.

How One Council Has Cut Its Housing Waiting List By 95%

If you found a way to cut the waiting list for your service by 95% while boosting customer satisfaction and shrinking costs, you might expect others to follow your lead. Those outcomes were achieved by a remarkable turnaround of the housing allocations system in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, where the local borough council has put a focus back on individual needs and has thrown out a standardised process described by one housing officer as having felt like being “on a treadmill never getting anywhere”. Great Yarmouth continues to use its revised approach, and professes great faith in it, but almost all other housing authorities persevere with versions of the “choice-based” lettings system it has abandoned. Read more on the Guardian website.

Councils Stretch Housing Budgets To Fund Fire Safety Work

The government has still given no financial help to local councils to carry out essential fire safety work, forcing councils to stretch already limited housing budgets to cover the cost. In a survey of 31 local councils whose tower blocks failed fire safety checks since the Grenfell Tower disaster, none said they had received financial assistance from central government to carry out work. That is despite top officials telling a committee of MPs that four councils would receive help “in the next few weeks” on 15 January, almost three months ago. Housing minister Dominic Raab said “there may be circumstances where government would consider the removal of financial restrictions to enable works to go ahead”. Read more on Inside Housing.

Majority Of Councils Struggling To Find Homeless Housing

The majority of councils in England are struggling to find permanent housing for homeless people, a new report from Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has revealed. Out of 186 councils surveyed 70% said they had difficulties finding social housing for homeless people last year, while 89% reported struggling to find private rented accommodation. The problem of rising homelessness is not limited to London, with only 40% of councils in London reporting the number of people seeking help had risen during the past year compared with 76% in the Midlands, 70% in the south and 62% in the north. Download the Homeless Monitor 20118 from the Crisis website.

Housing Minister Defends Claim Of Immigration Impact On House Prices

Dominic Raab, the housing minister who claimed in an interview that immigration had “put house prices up by something like 20%” over the past 25 years, has had to contextualise the figure. The UK Statistics Authority asked Raab, a leading Brexiter, to publish the evidence for his claim.  A document published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government shows that the finding was based on an out-of-date model that had never been intended for this kind of analysis. Raab defended his use of the model, which estimates the impact of population growth, inflation, interest rates, housing stock and wage growth on house prices. Read more on the Guardian website.

County Councils To Examine Ways To Get Involved In Housing Market

A project examining new ways in which county councils provide housing has been announced. County councils do not typically provide or build new housing, a function that is normally reserved for district level authorities. Nonetheless, in recent months some counties have begun taking up strategic development functions, with Surrey County Council establishing a joint venture with Places for People in December. The joint project between the County Councils Network (CCN) and the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) will explore what CCN member authorities are achieving with current powers. Read more on Inside Housing.

Buy-To-Let Mortgages Riskier Than Before Crisis

Buy-to-let mortgages in Britain, especially those issued recently, are more risky than loan deals signed before the 2008 financial crisis, according to a Moody’s report. The ratings agency said one factor was that a new cohort of lenders, in their quest for market share, tend to issue loans with higher average loan-to-value ratios, laxer credit history constraints and longer maximum maturities than established lenders, degrading the quality of recent buy-to-let loans. Pre-crisis loans have also benefited from rising house prices in a way newer ones will not, it continued. Loan-to-value ratios have fallen more on legacy loans thanks to this than they have on newer ones. Read more on the Reuters website.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Raab Immigration Calculations Sourced From Quango Abolished In 2010

Dominic Raab’s claim that immigration has pushed up house prices by 20% in 25 years relied on a model produced by a quango abolished in 2010, the government has said. The MHCLG, however, has refused to publish this model or the statistics produced from it. A spokesperson for the MHCLG said: “Basically, the figure was produced using an analytical model originally produced by the National Housing and Planning Advice Unit (NHPAU), which incorporates ONS [Office for National Statistics] housing supply statistics. “So it’s not something that can be found online – or in published stats. Our officials provided it to Mr Raab ahead of his interview.” Read more on Inside Housing.

UK House Prices Post Biggest Monthly Increase For Six Months

House prices strengthened in March to post their biggest monthly gain since August, according to surprise figures from the UK’s biggest mortgage lender. The average price of a UK home rose 1.5% to hit £227,871, Halifax said. Prices in the three months to March were 2.7% higher than a year earlier, up from the 1.8% annual growth recorded in February. The figures were an unexpected boost for the housing market after months of lacklustre growth and declines in December and January reported by Halifax. Read more on the Guardian website.

Number Of Buy-To-Let Landlords Reaches Record High Despite Tax Hike

The number of buy-to-let investors in the UK rose to a record high of 2.5 million in the latest tax year, new research shows. The increase of 5 per cent on the previous year comes despite the introduction of a host of extra taxes and regulations on the sector. In recent years, the government has brought in a 3 per cent Stamp Duty levy, new stress tests for home loans, and ended mortgage interest tax relief. The number of landlords has increased 27 per cent in the past five years, up from 1.97 million in 2011-12. Read more on the Independent website.

Landlords Remain Confident About BTL

Almost two-fifths of landlords are feeling positive about the future of the rental market, and are thinking about buying more properties to rent in the future. A study found that portfolio landlords are generally keenest to expand with 48% of landlords surveyed with three properties and 41% of landlords with four properties wanting to invest more in buy-to-let. Landlords in the North-East and North-West were more likely to affirm they were looking for more buy-to-let properties, with just over half - 51% - in the North-East and 44% in the North West. This compared with just 30% of South East landlords.  Read more on Landlord Today.

Government U-Turns On 18-21s Housing Benefit Cut

In a written statement to parliament Esther McVey, work and pensions secretary, announced the government would “amend regulations so that all 18 to 21-year-olds will be entitled to claim support for housing costs in Universal Credit”. She added: “Currently, 18 to 21-year-olds who make a new claim to Universal Credit in full-service areas need to meet certain requirements to receive housing support. The change I am announcing today means that young people on benefits will be assured that if they secure a tenancy, they will have support towards their housing costs in the normal way.” Read more on Inside Housing.

New Crackdown On Rogue Agents To Protect Renters And Leasehold Homeowners

Almost 9 million households in England’s private rented and leasehold sectors will benefit from stronger protections against rogue letting and managing agents thanks to new government proposals. With thousands of renters and leaseholders suffering at the hands of rogue agents every day from unexpected costs, deliberately vague bills or poor quality repairs, a new mandatory code of practice is proposed to stop managing and letting agents from flouting the law. To further professionalise both sectors, letting and managing agents will be required to obtain a nationally recognised qualification to practice, with at least 1 person in every organisation required to have a higher qualification. Read more on the GovUK website.

Tax Cuts On Empty Homes Costing Councils Millions

The owners of nearly 100,000 empty or second homes in England are paying reduced or no council tax on their properties despite the cash crisis facing local authorities. Almost 80,000 empty houses have been enjoying council tax deductions, according to official government figures, with nearly half of the properties having no council tax applied to them at all. Owners of more than 19,000 second homes were also given money off their council tax bills. Some of the councils awarding the highest discounts are now moving to end the giveaway. It comes after ministers announced new powers for local authorities to charge double the rate of council tax on homes left empty for two years. Read more on the Observer website.

Government Breaks Promise On Right To Buy Replacements

The government has said 15,981 homes had been acquired or started as replacements for those sold under the Right to Buy since 2012. This contrasts with a figure of 17,072 required to meet the promise to replace all ‘additional’ homes sold within three years. In total within this period, councils have sold 63,518 homes. Last year, former housing minister Gavin Barwell said Right to Buy was “only politically justifiable” if the government was meeting its housing pledge. Read more on Inside  Housing.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Changes To Draft Tenant Fees Bill Make PRS ‘More Affordable’

Banning fees imposed on tenants by landlords and lettings agents in the private rented sector has the potential to save renters hundreds of pounds – but the proposed legislation could be improved to make the market both fairer and more transparent, the HCLG Committee has concluded. A report on the Government’s draft Tenant Fees Bill welcomes the aims of the proposals but recommends the maximum amount that can be charged as a security deposit be lowered from the proposed six weeks’ worth of rent and calls for more funding for enforcement. But Residential Landlords Association (RLA) believes lowering the cap makes it easier for the minority of tenants who cheat landlords out of the rent they owe. Read more on 24housing.

Government To Allow Councils To Charge Double Council Tax On Empty Homes

Thousands of long-term empty properties across England could be brought back into use as the Government introduces new legislation allowing English councils to charge double the rate of council tax on homes left empty for years. The number of homes empty for six months or longer remains substantially lower than when records began in 2004, councils will be handed powers to levy additional charges on homes standing empty for two years or more. Councils will be able to use funds from the premium to keep council tax levels down. Read more on 24housing.

Homeless Households In Temporary Accommodation Continue To Rise

Latest Government figures show that the number of homeless households living in temporary accommodation continue to rise. On 31 December 2017 the number of households living in temporary accommodation was 78,930 - up 4% from 75,740 on 31 December 2016 and up by 64% on the low of 48,010 on 31 December 2010. However, the number of households accepted as being statutorily homeless in the quarter to 31 December 2017 was down 11% from 15,280 on the previous quarter and down 5% from 14,420 in the same quarter of 2016. See the full figures on the GovUK website.

Housebuilders Claim Industry Is 'Doing Duty' For Britain

Housebuilders are pressing the Government to give them more credit for meeting new home targets to counter fierce criticism that they are failing to deliver. The Housebuilders Federation says its members are well on the way to provide the million homes the Government has challenged the industry to build between 2015 and 2020 but complains ministers have been doing more to provide ammunition for critics. The Prime Minister has made recovery in house building a key policy objective and is pressing the industry to make the most of the incentives provided to ease a chronic shortage. Read more on the Daily Telegraph website.

Analysis Shows Foreign Buyers Do Push Up Prices

Foreign property investors have contributed to the increase in house prices in the UK over the last 15 years, sending values soaring by around 20%, according to a new piece of academic research. While foreign buyers have mostly affected price growth in London and the South East, other major cities such as Liverpool, Leeds and Manchester have also seen the effect, says the research from the School of Management and Business at King’s College London. Using figures recorded by the Land Registry, the analysis shows that the average price is around £215,000 but would have been about £174,000 without the investment from overseas. Read more on Property Wire.

Early Adopters Of Help To Buy, Get Ready To Tighten Those Belts

Thousands of first-timers who took advantage of the Government’s Help to Buy equity scheme – launched five years ago – are about to be reminded of the extra price to pay for the support received. The scheme allows borrowers to take out an interest-free loan of up to 20 per cent of the value of a new-build property worth up to £600,000 – so long as they can scrape together a five per cent deposit.  In return, the borrower must pay the Government back – plus a share of any increase in the property’s value when it is sold. But the five-year interest-free period is almost up for the early adopters. From next month they will have to start repaying 1.75 per cent interest on the Government loan (and the rate will rise annually by the Retail Price Index, currently 3.6 per cent, plus another 1 per cent). Someone who took a 20 per cent loan on a £600,000 property will be paying an extra £175 a month. Read more on the Daily Mail website.

Report Reveals Renters Lose £80m A Year To Deposit System

Private renters in England and Wales are missing out on £80m per year in interest on their tenancy deposits as landlords and letting agents are “help themselves”, new research reveals. Analysis by Generation Rent and a University College London (UCL) academic calls on the Government to reform the deposit protection system to:
·         Make the funds available to invest in building new homes
·         Give renters a return on their money while it is locked away
·         Enable renters to transfer part of their deposit between tenancies
Read more on 24housing.

Chief Inspector Of Borders & Immigration Slams Right To Rent

A scathing report by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, David Bolt, has found that:
“the Right to Rent (RtR) scheme had yet to demonstrate its worth as a tool to encourage immigration compliance, with the Home Office failing to coordinate, maximise or even measure effectively its use, while at the same time doing little to address the concerns of stakeholders”. The report highlights concerns and criticisms raised by the NLA and stakeholder groups publically and through the Landlords Consultative Panel chaired by the Immigration Minister. Read more on the NLA website.

Friday, 23 March 2018

Help to Buy Scheme – Parliamentary Written Answer

Lord Kennedy of Southwark To ask Her Majesty's Government how many homes have been bought with the support of the Help to Buy scheme since April 2013.
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth: Help to Buy: Equity Loan has helped 144,826 households buy a new-build home from its launch in April 2013 until September 2017.

Pressure On Social Landlords Set To Rise As Universal Credit Rolls Out

Housing officers will need to collect an additional £7.268bn each year because of welfare ‘reform’. New research by Mobysoft – a provider of rent collection software to the social housing sector – says rent being collected directly from tenants by housing officers will increase by 63.1%, on average. The study – which covered around one third of the UK’s social housing stock, – equates that percentage increase to an additional £7.268bn being collected nationally each year following the full roll-out of Universal Credit. Social landlords, already hit by a compulsory 1% rent cut until 2020, will be required to allocate additional resources to collection services and manage the cash flow implications of increased rent arrears. Read more on 24housing.

Barely Any “Affordable” Housing Being Built In The UK

Practically no affordable homes are being built in the UK, even according to the government’s own dubious definition of “affordability.” The vast majority of new apartments are built either for the well-off or as buy-to-lets at exorbitant rents. Responsibility for this crisis in housing lies not just with the Conservative government, but with Labour, the party that runs most borough councils in London, as well as the local authorities in every major city. Planning documents researched by the Guardian show that of 14,667 new homes built in Manchester in the last two years, none met even the government’s criteria of “affordability.” Read more on the World Socialist website.

Government Unveil £215m Housing Deal To Build 100,000 New Homes

Over a quarter of the new funding, £60m, will support affordable housing in the area to deliver more than 1,300 affordable homes – at least half of which will be for social rent – helping first time buyers and local people looking to get a foot on the housing ladder. There is also £150m for transport infrastructure – such as bridges, roundabouts and roads – across the region. The deal also includes £5m of funding to boost capacity within Oxfordshire’s six local authorities, such as additional resources to promote high quality design – helping Oxfordshire’s councils work in partnership to deliver the homes local people need. Read more on 24housing.

Buyer Demand Hits Pre-Brexit Levels

The latest data and analysis from estate agent, haart, has revealed that during February, house prices across England and Wales rose by 0.4% on the month and fell by 2% on the year. The average house price now sits at £228,395. New buyer demand for homes rose by 20% on the month and by 14% annually. The number of properties coming onto the market has risen by 15.3% on the month, however is down by 3% on the year. This month there are 15 buyers chasing every property across England and Wales. The market has become less efficient this month, as the number of transactions has decreased as the number of viewings has increased. Meaning that buyers are choosing to look at more properties before they buy. Read more on the Property Reporter website.

Council To Publish Files Used To Bypass Affordable Housing Quotas

Manchester city council has voted to make public the secret documents used by developers to bypass affordable housing quotas. Analysis by the Guardian earlier this month showed that developers behind almost 15,000 new homes given the green light by the council’s planning committee in the past two years all managed to avoid including any affordable housing in their developments. In many cases, developers submitted confidential viability assessments to successfully argue that their projects would not go ahead if they were to offer even one flat for affordable rent or sale. Just 65 of the 14,667 units analysed by the Guardian made any concessions to affordability, being pitched as shared ownership properties. Read more on the Guardian website.

Spending On New Homes Plummets While Housing Benefit Soars

Government investment in building new homes has plummeted while spending on housing benefit has soared. In 2015/16, just 4.3 per cent of the government housing subsidy went towards measures to boost new building – down from 82 per cent in 1975/76 – while 95.7 per cent went on housing benefit and support for mortgage interest (up from just 18 per cent 40 years earlier). The vast majority went to housing benefit, with support for mortgage interest accounting for around £200 million. The extent of the shift is revealed in the UK Housing Review 2018. The review shows that investment in social housing has dropped from £13.7 billion in 1979/80 to 5.1 billion in 2016/17, in today’s prices. Read more on the CIH website.

BtL Changes Make Mortgages Harder Say Landlords

Six months after the Bank of England’s (BoE) latest attempt to cool the buy to let market, almost two thirds of landlords (63%) who are aware of the changes say it is now harder to get a mortgage. The changes, which come from BoE’s Prudential Regulatory Authority (PRA), were introduced in two stages last year. A first stage in January 2017 required lenders to apply an interest cover ratio (ICR) of 5.5% to all products with terms of less than five years. The second stage, introduced in September 2017, requires portfolio landlords – like those with four or more buy to let mortgages – to undergo specialist underwriting processes when seeking new buy-to-let mortgages. Read more on the NLA website.

More Than Half Of Tenants In London Feel Less Able To Buy Than A Year Ago

Some 64% of tenants in London’s private rented sector want to own their own home but more than half feel less able to buy than a year ago, new research has found. Overall 71% of tenants are happy living in a rented home, but only 25% want to stay living in rented property long term, according to a study from Kinleigh Folkard and Hayward (KFH). Of those wanting to buy over half, 52%, feel the chances of doing so has decreased over the last 12 months and 48% of tenants expect rents to rise 1.1% over the next 12 months. On average, tenants expect to continue renting in London for a little over four years but the vast majority expect to pay more with just 2% thinking that rents will fall. Read more on the Property Wire website.

Councils Given New Powers To Fine HMO Rogue Landlords

Under measures laid before parliament, local authorities will be allowed to set new standards for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) and fine rogue landlords up to £30,000 if they fail to comply. Town halls will be able to set minimum bedroom size standards and impose limits on how many people can live in each bedroom of a licensed HMO. Landlords will also need to provide adequate waste storage facilities in line with council rules. The new measures will come into force from October and will apply to all landlords seeking new HMO licenses. Read more on Inside Housing.

100,000 Low-Cost Homes Have Had Rents Hiked Since 2012

Labour has unveiled plans to stem the loss of low-cost homes as new analysis reveals more than 100,000 social homes have been converted into a more expensive type of property in the last six years alone. The party said it would scrap a policy introduced by the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government in 2012 that forces housing associations and local councils to raise rents by an average of 40 per cent by converting social homes into “affordable homes”. The announcement is the second to come out of Labour’s review into the future of social housing, which is likely to report in the coming weeks. Read more on the Independent website.

Mortgages Are Now The Most Affordable Since The Mid-1990s

The proportion of homeowners’ income being swallowed up by mortgage payments is now one of the smallest since the mid-1990s, according to the Halifax. It said typical mortgage payments accounted for less than a third (29%) of homeowners’ disposable income in the last three months of 2017 – down from almost half (47%) during the same period in 2007. This figure is also “comfortably below” the long-term average of 35% for the period between 1983 and 2017. The bank said that in the second quarter of 2013 the figure went down to 26.3%, and ended that year close to 28%. Prior to that, you have to go back to the spring of 1996 for the lowest figure on record: 23.6%. Read more on the Guardian website.

Friday, 16 March 2018

Secure Tenancies Planned For Domestic Abuse Survivors

The Secure Tenancies (Victims of Domestic Abuse) Bill had its Third Reading in the House of Lords on March 13. This bill follows on from the Government’s draft Domestic Abuse Bill, which outlined a commitment to tackle domestic abuse in its many forms. The Bill will provide a basis for local authorities to give domestic abuse survivors the tools they need to rebuild their lives, preventing the lives of victims and their families from being shattered further. The bill will ensure that those with lifetime tenancies who flee an abusive or violent relationship will not lose their security of tenure if they are provided with a new tenancy by the local authority. Read more on 24housing.

Government ‘Should Drop Last Year Of Rent Cut’ To Fund Fire Safety Work

At the National Housing Federation finance conference in Liverpool Waqar Ahmed, group director of finance at L&Q, said the government could “by a switch of their pen” scrap the 1% rent cut in 2019/20 and this would generate £2bn for the sector to help pay for fire safety work. David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said the sector had “heard a lot of noise” from government but seen “very, very little concrete action”. He added: “It’s very difficult to point to something and say as a result of Grenfell the government has done this.” The government could decide not to charge VAT on fire safety work carried out by landlords, Mr Orr said. Read more on Inside Housing.

Crackdown On Private Landlords Renting Overcrowded And Dangerous Homes

Measures to improve overcrowded and dangerous living conditions of private tenants in shared homes were laid before Parliament. Councils are being given tough new powers to tackle the small minority of rogue landlords who rent out overcrowded properties and impose fines of up to £30,000 for those landlords who do not comply. From October councils will be able to set minimum bedroom size standards and also introduce limits on how many people can live in each bedroom of a licenced multiple occupancy home. Councils will be able to use national minimum standards or apply even tougher requirements in order to address specific local needs. Read more on GovUK.

Remortgages Reach Nine-Year High In January

The number of remortgages in January 2018 reached a nine-year high while the number of first-time buyers and home movers both increased compared to the same period in the previous year. In January 2018 there were;
·         49,800 new remortgages, some 19.1 per cent more than in the same month a year earlier.
·         24,500 new first-time buyer mortgages, some 7 per cent more than in the same month a year earlier.
·         25,000 new home mover mortgages, some 6.4 per cent more than in the same month a year earlier.
·         5,600 new buy-to-let house purchase mortgages, some 5.1 per cent fewer than in the same month a year earlier.
·         16,500 new buy-to-let remortgages, some 17.9 per cent more than in the same month a year earlier.
Read more on the UK Finance website.

£1bn In Help To Buy London Loans Handed To First-Time Buyers

A new breed of “five per centers” is taking over the new homes market in parts of London. Using the Government’s subsidised Help to Buy London scheme and a five per cent deposit to get on to the housing ladder, these buyers are now responsible for more than half of all sales of new homes in a “halo” of postcodes around the capital. Some 85 per cent of the new homes sold in West Wickham over the last two years were to buyers bolstered by a 40 per cent government equity loan. The average price of a new home in the BR4 postcode stands at just under £421,000, up 14 per cent in the past two years.  Read more on the Evening Standard website.

Regulator’s New Vfm Standard Praised By Housing Leaders

The Regulator of Social Housing’s use of comparative metrics in its new value for money (VfM) standard has been welcomed by housing leaders. The new standard and code of practice will come into effect from 1 April. The standard requires providers to publish performance evidence in their annual accounts against their own metrics and those defined by the regulator, and report how that performance compares to their peers. The regulator has also published seven value for money metrics that providers will be expected to report against. They include new supply delivered, reinvestment, gearing and headline social housing cost per unit. Read more on Inside Housing.

Private Rented Housing – Parliamentary Written Answer

Thangam Debbonaire: To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, what recent representations his Department has received on the advertising of private property lettings explicitly to exclude people in receipt of housing benefit.
Mrs Heather Wheeler: The Department has received correspondence on this issue. The Government appreciates the problems that some housing benefit claimants can face in finding accommodation in the private rented sector. We strongly encourage landlords and agents to look at all potential and existing tenants in receipt of housing benefit on an individual basis. We will shortly be publishing a new How to Let guide to help landlords better understand their responsibilities. Legislation exists to prohibit acts of discrimination against individuals in terms of age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership and pregnancy and maternity.

Raab: Councils Can’t ‘Abdicate Responsibility’ Over Affordable Homes

Housing minister Dominic Raab says the government can’t allow councils to “abdicate their responsibility” over affordable homes. But Raab offered councils little on lifting the debt cap telling the Commons Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, only that submissions to government will be considered. The issue, said Raab, said was of best leverage of a council’s position to get homes built. Government, he said, will prioritise priorities areas of “highest demand” with expensive prices. Challenged over the total amount invested on affordable housing being less than total increase on Help to Buy, Raab said: “We want to make for low and middle incomes that homes are being built.” Read more on 24housing.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Reverse Universal Credit Cuts, Iain Duncan Smith Tells Chancellor

The former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has warned the chancellor that he risks undermining the whole purpose of welfare reform if he fails to reverse cuts to universal credit (UC) in his spring statement. Philip Hammond is under mounting pressure from across the party to use better than expected tax revenues to reverse cuts made after the 2015 election. Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that 340,000 people could be taken out of poverty by reversing the cuts to work allowances. Read more on the Guardian website.

Lloyds Bank Launches New £500m Fund For Social Housing Sector

Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking has launched a £500m fund for housing associations as part of its wider commitment to the housing sector. The fund will provide financing to housing associations including longer-dated debt with terms of up to 10 years. It will be available to the bank’s existing group of almost 200 social housing clients in its Mid-Markets segment, each of which own and manage over 1,000 units. This commitment is in addition to Lloyds Bank’s £750m support for the UK’s social housing sector this year, part of a wider pledge to provide £2.25bn of funding between 2018 and 2020. Read more on 24housing.

Housing Minister Open To Considering Changes To Borrowing Cap Policy

The housing minister has said he is open to considering changes to the government’s policy of lifting the borrowing cap only for certain councils. When asked by Liz Twist, a Labour MP on the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee, whether the government has considered raising the cap for all councils, Dominic Raab said he does not have a “closed view” on the policy. In the Autumn Budget last November the government announced £1bn of extra borrowing capacity for those councils where housing demand is highest. But critics have said £1bn is not enough to build the number of council homes required. Read more on Inside Housing.

Astonished’ MPs Told £817m Has Gone Unspent In Housing Budget

MPs are demanding an urgent explanation from ministers after being told that £817m allocated for desperately needed affordable housing and other projects in cash-strapped local authorities has been returned to the Treasury unspent. The surrender of the unused cash has astonished members of the cross-party housing, communities and local government select committee at a time when Theresa May has insisted housebuilding is a top priority and when many local authorities are becoming mired in ever deeper financial crises. The committee, which discovered the underspend for 2017-18, will interrogate housing minister Dominic Raab and homelessness minister Heather Wheeler on the issue, before the spring statement by the chancellor, Philip Hammond. Read more on the Observer website.

Reform Help To Buy To Encourage More Homes Over Profit

Help to buy needs to be dramatically reformed in order to stop housebuilders from using it to boost their profits irrespective of how many homes they build, according Avant Homes. The scheme, which is intended to support would-be first time buyers in their efforts to get on the housing ladder, must be dramatically changed in order to encourage a “social conscience” among housebuilders, the housebuilder said. An average of 39pc of the new homes sold by top national housebuilders in 2016 were purchased with Help to Buy and yet the same housebuilders increased their volumes on average by only 6pc over the same period, Avant claimed. Read more on the Daily Telegraph website.

Places For People To Launch £550m Build-To-Rent Fund

The asset management arm of one of the UK’s largest housing associations is preparing to launch a £550m fund for investing in build-to-rent. PfP Capital, set up a year ago by 60,000-home association Places for People, will aim to forward-fund developments around the country to deliver 3,000 homes. It will be seeded with three residential schemes worth around £150m, which will be funded through a special purpose vehicle. Read more on the Places for People website.

‘Widespread Doubt’ Across Sector That Housing Targets Can Be Met

A new report recognises “widespread doubt” across the sector that government housing targets can be met – with a lack of suitable sites and continuing delays to the planning process hampering delivery. The 2018-2022 Social Housing Construction and Maintenance Market Report – published by AMA Research also references a “much-reduced role” for the social housing sector in newbuild housing. Funding for affordable housing has fallen in recent years and housing providers are now expected to build homes for sale and rent at full market prices, and using the profits to provide a smaller portfolio of social homes, the report says. Read more on 24housing.

London Property Prices Fall As Much As 15% As Brexit Effect Deepens

House prices in parts of London that were once at the epicentre of the UK property boom have fallen as much as 15% over the past year in fresh evidence of the impact of the EU referendum. Figures from Your Move, one of the UK’s biggest estate agency chains, reveal that the average home in Wandsworth – which includes much of Clapham, Balham and Putney – fell by more than £100,000 in value over the last 12 months. But property prices have surged in the north-west of England, with Blackburn recording the highest growth rates in the UK. Read more on the Guardian website.

May Fails To Guarantee Refuges Will Not Close Amid Funding Overhaul

Theresa May has failed to rule out the closure of some women’s refuges amid warnings from campaigners that a major funding shakeup could threaten the future of shelters for women fleeing violent partners. In an interview on International Women’s Day, the Prime Minister was repeatedly pressed to guarantee the future of refuges after Government plans for an overhaul of supported housing funding that includes vital shelters. Domestic violence campaigners claim around a third of refuges could close if the plans go ahead, which would take short term supported housing outside of the welfare system and hand funds to local councils. Read more on the Independent website.

Grenfell Builder Rydon's Profit Soars Despite Deadly Fire

Rydon Group, the company responsible for the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower in London where at least 71 people died in a fire last June, said its profits jumped 50 percent to 19 million pounds last year, helped by an increase in sales. The privately-owned company said in its accounts that it had considered its position in respect of the disaster and did not see a reason to make a financial provision for potential losses or expenses. Rydon was the main contractor responsible for a 2014-2016 refurbishment that included the application of cladding on the outside of the high rise building which government ministers said did not comply with regulations. Read more on the Reuters website.

Further Fall In Housing Stock As Demand Also Falls For The Eleventh Month

Continuing a prevalent trend; new buyer enquiries, new instructions and newly-agreed sales continued to drift lower in February. New buyer enquiries fell for an eleventh successive month with 16% more respondents seeing a fall rather than rise in enquiries. Meanwhile, the number of agreed sales also remains slightly negative (net balance -17%), similar to figures seen over the last six months. There continue to be significant regional variation in the results however, and new buyer enquiries continued to increase (taking a three-month average) in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Yorkshire and Humberside in February. Read more on the RICS website.

Countrywide's Shares Dive As Profits Fall

Shares in Countrywide, the UK's largest estate agent group, lost 20% after it warned of tough times in the market. Countrywide, whose brands include Bairstow Eves and Gascoigne Pees, made a £208.1m after-tax loss in 2017, versus a £17.5m profit in 2016. said about 150 head office jobs would go. The firm has been hit by a slowdown in the housing market as well as the rise of online agents such as Purplebricks. But by the close, the shares had pulled back to stand 1.6% down. The profit figures were also dragged lower by one-off costs as Countrywide continued to restructure the business. Read more on the BBC.

First-Time Buyers Are Seven Years Older And Pay 30 Times More For A House Deposit Than In 1960s

The average first-time buyer is now seven years older than in 1960 - and needs to save more than £20,000 extra to be able to buy a home, a study commissioned by Keepmoat Homes has found. Researchers who polled 2,000 adults found a huge difference in the profile of someone buying their first home through the generations. For example, today, first-time buyers will be in their thirties before they get onto the property ladder and pay £20,622 for a deposit. In comparison, in 1960, the average first-time buyer was just 23 years old paying a deposit of just £595 on their first home, 30 times less than the average deposit today. Read more on the Keepmoat website.