Thursday, 13 September 2018

Housing Minister: Market For ‘Private Social Rent’ Should Be Explored

The housing minister has suggested there is a need to explore the market for “private social rent” in response to a question about boosting social housing supply. Asked about whether he wanted to see levels of social housing return to 70,000 social homes being built a year, he said he would like to see an increase in supply. Mr Malthouse added: “It would be quite interesting to look at if there is a market – whether anybody can stimulate a market – for private social rent.” The minister did not expand on what he meant by this, but it comes amid a rise in the sector of for-profit providers of social housing. Read more on Inside Housing.

£1 Billion Housing Delivery Fund Launched

Housing Secretary James Brokenshire has announced a partnership with Barclays Bank to provide £1 billion of loan finance to help support small and medium sized developers, speeding up the delivery of thousands of new homes. Support, ranging between £5 million to £100 million, will be available to developers who are able to demonstrate experience and commitment to building excellent new homes, with a track record of delivering challenging projects on time and to target. The Housing Delivery Fund will support the delivery of new homes, including social housing, retirement living and apartments for rent, whilst also encouraging greater innovation on how housing is delivered such as brownfield land and urban regeneration projects. Read more on the Homes England website.

Vulnerable Tenants Stranded As Charity Landlord Evicts Them So It Can Build Homes

An education charity has left tenants in its housing stock stranded after handing them eviction notices so it can build more homes. The Dame Alice Owen’s Foundation is adding a fourth storey to two blocks. As a result, those living on the first and second floors have been told to pack their bags. Some who have been there for decades have assured tenancies, and are moving to empty ground floor flats while work is carried out above them. But others, who don’t have the protection of an assured tenancy, have been told to find somewhere else to live. Read more on the Islington Gazette website.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Council Trials Free Internet For Social Housing Tenants

Social housing tenants at two Leeds tower blocks have been connected to free broadband as part of efforts to combat digital exclusion. The initiative is part of the council’s 100% Digital Leeds programme aimed at improving digital inclusion and bringing positive outcomes including financial savings, reduced isolation, better employment prospects and improved health and wellbeing. The council estimates 25 per cent of its 57,000 social housing residences don’t have permanent access to the internet. With those wishing to claim Universal Credit unable to do so without being online, the council is making it a priority to help get its residents connected. Read more on the Yorkshire Evening Post website.

Landlords Told To Remove Grenfell-Style Cladding Or Face Action

Landlords must remove dangerous, Grenfell Tower-style cladding from their buildings or face enforcement action, the government has warned. The communities secretary, James Brokenshire, has written to about 60 building owners and developers, including some of the UK’s biggest property firms, explaining the actions they must take to avoid penalties. Firms could be fined or barred from accessing other government schemes if they do not obey. The intervention follows revelations that scores of homeowners were being asked to pay bills that could total thousands of pounds to remove unsafe cladding after building owners refused to fund the work. Read more on the Guardian website.

New Landmark Review Of PRS Slams Policies

A landmark review of the private rented sector in England by academics at the University of York has criticised successive governments for poor policy-making and a lack of strategy that is failing millions of tenants. The Evolving Private Rented Sector: its Contribution and Potential, funded by the Nationwide Foundation, is a detailed, independent analysis of who lives in private rented housing, how their needs are being met and the impact of policy interventions over the last ten years. It comes a decade after Dr Julie Rugg and David Rhodes published their original review of the private rented sector – the first to look in detail at how it functioned. Read more on the propertytribes website.

‘Property MOT’ Proposed To Test Poor Conditions In Over 1.3m PRS Homes

MOT style tests for PRS properties are pitched in a landmark report by academics at the University of York which criticises successive governments for poor policy-making and a lack of strategy that is failing millions of tenants. As envisaged in the review, this ‘MOT’ would operate in a similar way to that which exists for cars: all properties let for residential purposes would be required to undergo an annual standardised inspection. It would bring together current requirements such as electrical and gas safety certificates and energy efficiency reports, but also include a new assessment according to a basic minimum standard. The ‘test’ would be conducted by independent inspectors and would be a tax-deductible business cost for landlords. Read more on 24housing.

Slum Landlords Can Be Prosecuted From Next Month

Landlords who rent properties to multiple tenants face tough new licensing rules designed to protect tenants from next month.  HMO licensing already applies to landlords who rent their properties to five or more tenants from two or more different households where the property is three or more storeys. But from 1 October, any property let to five or more tenants from two or more households will be caught by the rules - regardless of the number of floors.  It means that 177,000 landlords across the UK will have to meet new minimum standards on room size and safety or face fines up to £30,000 and even criminal prosecution. Read more on the This is Money website.

House Owners Rue Leasehold Purchases

Almost half the people who bought a leasehold house in the past decade had no idea what they were getting into, according to a new study. Homebuyers faced high fees and charges, with many feeling they were mis-sold. The research follows controversy which led the government to crackdown on "unjustified" leasehold houses. The National Association of Estate Agents warned: "Most buyers have no idea about the trappings of a leasehold contract until it's too late." Read more on the BBC website.

Homelessness - Parliamentary Written Answer

Bridget Phillipson: To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, what assessment his Department has made of the reasons contributing to trends in the level of homelessness.
Nigel Adams: The evidence suggests the causation of homelessness and rough sleeping is complex and that there is no single trigger or event. A complex interaction of individual factors (eg relationship breakdown, drug and alcohol abuse), structural factors and protective factors are likely to influence whether a person becomes homeless during their lifetime, as well as affect their ability to find a home. To further our understanding on the causes of homelessness and rough sleeping we have committed to conduct a feasibility study - led by MHCLG, and co-funded by the Department for Work and Pensions. The long-term ambition for this research is to develop a quantitative, predictive model (or models) of homelessness and rough sleeping, which can be applied to various policy scenarios, to help assess the impacts of government intervention on levels of homelessness. This will be supported by an evidence review on the broad range of factors that might influence levels of homelessness, from the housing market to welfare systems, as well as individual factors.

Renters Ready To ‘Stand Together’ Against Exploitative Landlords

London Labour housing leads have demanded government ends to letting fees and “extortionate” deposits for private renters ahead of the Tenant Fees Bill. Their letter is backed by a warning of renters across the capital ready to ‘stand together’ against exploitative landlords and letting agents. The leads from 19 London Boroughs echo Sadiq Khan’s calls calls for the Government to strengthen the Bill and protect the capital’s 2.4m private renters. Read more on 24housing.

Buy To Let Britain: A Divided Nation Sell Or Stay?

Britain’s buy-to-let landlords are divided over their future, in light of tax and market changes. While 56% want to keep or buy more rental properties, 44% are looking to sell. The majority of UK landlords still view it as a money-making asset class but think it will be on the decline in the future. As the market consolidates, buy to let owners are polarized, with tough decisions to make on whether to stay or leave the sector. For those looking to exit the market, nearly a quarter blame falling yields (24%) and tax changes (23%), while a fifth blame cooling house prices (19%). 60% say that property management had become a burden and 61% undervalued the costs involved. Read more on the Property Reporter website.

Council Housing To Come Back Under Council Control

The council housing management services, previously provided by A1 Housing will be directly delivered by Bassetlaw District Council from Monday 1st October. Councillors at Bassetlaw District Council took the decision at an extra-ordinary meeting of Council on 2nd August 2018 following a consultation with tenants and leaseholders in which 60% of respondents supported the proposal to take A1 Housing back in house. The move is expected to generate savings of £335,000 a year, enabling more money to be invested in the services that matter to tenants like­­ repairs and estate improvements. A1 Housing staff and services, such as repairs, rent collection and estate maintenance, will be taken back in-house by Bassetlaw District Council. Read more on the A1 Housing website.

Chair Of English Regulator Hits Out At League Table Critics

The chair of the English social housing regulator has hit back at sector figures who have criticised the government’s plan for new league tables, saying they have no “compelling case for what to do instead”. Simon Dow, interim chair of the Regulator of Social Housing, warned that critics have “misread the public and political mood” if they think “increased public scrutiny” can be avoided. The proposal for league tables was pitched in the Social Housing Green Paper, published last month, and would involve social landlords being publicly ranked on key metrics for customer services. Sector leaders warned the idea could prove to be a “blunt instrument” with “counter-productive” results following the announcement. Read more on Inside Housing.

Government Announces Allocations Of Rough Sleeping Fund

Following on from the launch of its Rough Sleeping Strategy last month, the Government has today announced provisional allocations of a £34m fund to provide local support for those living on the streets. Councils across England with the highest numbers of rough sleepers will receive a share of the funding to back on-going initiatives in their area, such as dedicated support teams and securing additional bed spaces. It will be allocated for council spending over the next two years and is an extension of the £30m that we provided to councils in June through our Rough Sleeping Initiative Fund. Read more on 24housing.

Help to Buy Scheme – Parliamentary Written Answer

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, what steps his Department is taking to improve the accessibility of the Help to Buy scheme for lower-income citizens.
Kit Malthouse: Help to Buy: Equity Loan has helped almost 159,000 households buy a new-build home from its launch in spring 2013 until December 2017. The scheme enables prospective homeowners to buy a home with a deposit of 5 per cent. 81 per cent of sales have been to first-time buyers. The majority (59 per cent) of the households using the scheme have had household incomes of £50,000 or less. For people unable to afford to purchase a home fully, there is the option of shared ownership, by which they can purchase 25 per cent to 75 per cent of a home, with the option to buy further shares in their homes in minimum 10 per cent instalments, and in most circumstances, up to full ownership.

Help To Buy An ‘Unmitigated Success’

A report by the Home Builders Foundation, whose members include the UK’s biggest housebuilders, highlighted that 170,000 households have used the scheme since its launch in 2013 and of these 81% were first time buyers. “It is quite clear that the Help to Buy scheme has been an unmitigated success and has delivered handsomely on all its objectives,” said Stewart Baseley, chair of the HBF. The HBF said it is estimated the scheme has helped around 246,000 people get on the housing ladder and rejected the idea it is helped more people on higher incomes than intended. Last year the median household income for those using the scheme was £49,000. The UK’s overall median household in 2017 was £27,300. Read more on the HBF website.

Help To Buy May Be Ditched By Government

The government’s Help to Buy scheme could be ditched amid fears it is pushing up house prices and helping wealthy people upgrade their homes. Ministers are reportedly planning a “fundamental review” of the policy. It may be replaced by a scheme “more targeted on those it is meant to be helping”. It comes after research showed one in five households taking advantage of Help to Buy used the scheme to upgrade their existing home, rather than use the money to buy a first property.  Read more on the Independent website.

Social Housing Lettings Down Again

Latest figures from the MHCLG show that social housing lettings by local authorities decreased by 9% in 2016/17, a continuation of the long-term trend in the decline in the number of lettings. Lettings by private registered providers also decreased in the same period by 11%. Total new lettings by private registered providers and local authorities in 2016/17 was 334,602 - the lowest total in the last 10 years and down from a high of 394,484 in 2011/12. In the 2007/08 the number of lettings by local authorities was 145,403 compared to 103,122 in 2016/17. Download the figures from the MHCLG website.

Benefit Freeze Puts Private Renting Out Of Reach For Low-Income Tenants

Even the lowest private rents are now out of reach for people on low incomes – putting thousands at increased risk of homelessness. Research from the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) showed that more than 90 per cent of Local Housing Allowance rates across Great Britain now fail to cover the cheapest rents, as they were originally designed to do. LHA rates were frozen for four years in 2016 and CIH is warning that they have fallen so far behind even the cheapest rents that private renting has become unaffordable for most low income tenants – putting them at risk of homelessness as they are forced to choose between basic living expenses and paying the shortfall. The organisation is calling on the government to review the policy and to end the freeze immediately. Read more on the CIH website.

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Government Expects 3,000 Right To Buy Sales In Midlands Pilot

Ministers expect around 3,000 housing association homes to be sold through the Midlands Voluntary Right to Buy pilot. A regional trial of the policy to allow tenants to purchase their homes at a discount equivalent to that available to council tenants was launched earlier this month. The Treasury has provided £200m to cover the discounts, which will average £66,667 if 3,000 homes are sold. Right to Buy discounts are calculated based on how long the purchaser has been a tenant, the value of the home, whether it is a house or flat and how much the social landlord has spent on its upkeep. Read more on Inside Housing.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Homeless People Found Living In Caves In Nottingham

Two homeless people have been found living in caves near a city centre for at least two weeks. The pair set a tent up inside one of the caves and used the other for storage after somehow getting past an 8ft-high fence. Nottingham City Council said the homeless people left after two of their officers gave them some advice. However, a residents' association chairman is worried the pair may now be living in even worse conditions. Read more on the BBC website.

Green Paper Leaves Question Marks Over Council Housing Companies

Councils are seeking clarification over the government’s stance on town hall housing companies after the Social Housing Green Paper hinted at plans to curb the use of subsidiary landlords to dodge Right to Buy sales. A number of councils intend to press Whitehall officials to explain the government’s position on local authority-owned housing companies as they review how the green paper could affect enterprises they have set up. The document said “local authorities should deliver new affordable housing through their Housing Revenue Account (HRA)” unless they have transferred their stock or the HRA cannot sustain new development. It added that where housing companies are delivering and retaining affordable housing, ministers “would expect them to offer an opportunity for tenants to become homeowners”. Read more on Inside Housing.

Call To Stop UK Landowners Making Huge Profits From Speculation

Britain should limit the windfall gains of landowners by freezing the value of plots newly designated for housing, according to a thinktank urging sweeping reforms to tackle a national shortage of affordable homes. Calling on the government to pursue land market reforms similar to the German model, the Institute for Public Policy Research said planning authorities should be given new powers to zone land for development and freeze its price. It said speculation by landowners awaiting planning decisions that can trigger vast increases in the value of a plot, had the effect of exacerbating wealth inequality and was a “driving force behind the broken housing market” in Britain. Read more on the Guardian website.

Low-Income Tenants Face 'Heat, Eat Or Pay Rent' Choices

Low-income tenants in the private rented sector face a “heat, eat or pay rent” problem because housing benefit rates have failed to keep up with the soaring cost of accommodation, a study has found. The four-year freeze on local housing allowance levels, which has been in place since April 2016, means some families must meet a shortfall of hundreds of pounds a month on their rent support, according to the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH). It said the ongoing housing benefit freeze meant even the lowest private rents were out of reach for many low-income families in most areas – making it more likely that tenants would be forced to choose between living necessities or paying the rent. Read more on the CIH website.

Help To Buy Scheme Is Being Used For ‘Upsizing’

One in five households on the government’s Help to Buy scheme have used it to upgrade their property rather than get on the housing ladder, according to new analysis. More than 32,000 households are believed to have used the programme, which was designed to make buying a first property affordable, to trade up to a bigger home in the past five years. The analysis, by the estate agents Hamptons International, also showed that the rate of non-first-time buyers using the scheme is rising and that they are purchasing more expensive homes than first-time buyers.

Over 123,000 Children ‘Spent Their School Holidays Homeless’

More than 123,000 children and their families have spent their school holiday homeless, an increase of around 53,000 since the summer holidays of 2011. The Local Government Association (LGA) is warning the numbers of homeless children councils are housing in temporary accommodation has increased by 76% in the last seven years. Councils, who since 2011, have been housing an additional 650 homeless children every month – the equivalent of an additional primary school’s worth of children every fortnight – are calling on the Government to adapt welfare reforms and allow councils to borrow to build new homes, with the right infrastructure, to tackle the housing shortage. Read more on 24housing.

Rental Demand Hits 2018 High As Supply Dwindles

The number of tenants looking for new homes increased to the highest level seen since September 2017, according to the latest PRS report from ARLA Propertymark. The number of new prospective tenants registered per letting agent branch increased from 71 in June to 79 in July. Year on year, demand is up 13% while the supply of available properties moved in the opposite direction, falling from 191 in June to 184. In June, the number of tenants experiencing rent hikes increased to 35%, but this dropped slightly in July, to 31%. Read more on the Property Reporter website.

Decent Homes Standard Review 'Threatens Council Business Plans'

Local authority housing business plans could be rendered unsustainable if the government revises the Decent Homes Standard, it has been claimed. That warning has come from the Association of Retained Council Housing (ARCH) after the Social Housing Green Paper proposed revisiting the standard, which was set in 2006. The green paper said the standard “should be reviewed to consider whether it is demanding enough and delivers the right standards for social housing alongside other tenures”. Any review would also look at whether the energy performance of social homes should be upgraded to at least Energy Performance Certificate Band C by 2030, where practical and cost effective. Read more on Inside Housing.

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Nearly Half Of Tenants Who Make Complaint Face 'Revenge Eviction'

Nearly half of all tenants who make a formal complaint about their housing suffer a “revenge eviction” by private landlords, according to research by Citizens Advice. It estimated that 141,000 tenants have been subject to “complain and you’re out” evictions since 2015. The evictions are possible because section 21 notices under the 1988 Housing Act allow landlords to force out tenants on a no-fault basis. Citizens Advice found that tenants who had received a section 21 notice were twice as likely to have complained to their landlord – and eight times more likely to have complained to an official redress scheme. Read more on the Guardian website.

More Landlords Attack Housing Benefit Claims

More landlords have come out to attack the Shelter and National Housing Federation campaign urging private landlords to allow renters who receive benefits. The campaign says the practice is a form of prejudice. But ARLA Propertymark hit out at that, saying it was a “systematic problem caused by government and banks”. Now, the RLA have added to that, saying it was “not surprising” that landlords wanted to rent their house to someone who can pay. David Smith, RLA Policy Director said: “Our most recent member survey shows a huge increase in the number of landlords experiencing tenants on Universal Credit going into arrears, rising from 27% in 2016 to 61% now.” Read more on 24housing.

High-Rise Tenants Being Ignored Like We Were, Say Grenfell Survivors

Survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire have widened their campaign against the marginalisation of council tenants, raising concerns that others are being treated in the same way as they were before the disaster. Nicholas Burton, whose wife died as a result of the fire, and Edward Daffarn, who escaped, are helping residents at nine council-owned tower blocks in Salford that were refurbished using similar combustible cladding at the same time as Grenfell. They have heard claims from tenants that their concerns about safety were not being handled properly. After he visited the Pendleton estate and spoke to residents, Burton said: “It’s just like turning back the clock.” Read more on the Guardian website.

Undercover Check Finds Discrimination Against Tenants On Benefits

An undercover investigation by housing charity Shelter has found routine discrimination by letting agents against tenants on housing benefit, with national chain Haart named as the “worst offender”. Working with the National Housing Federation, Shelter researchers called 149 letting branches around the UK, and found that one in 10 had a blanket ban rejecting any applicants on housing benefit. While “no DSS” bans – a reference to the now defunct government department responsible for benefits – are not illegal, Shelter is planning a court challenge arguing they breach the 2010 Equality Act, as they disproportionately affect women and disabled people who are more likely to need a housing benefit top-up. Read more on the Guardian website.

Shelter Report Misses Target And Offers No Solutions

The report from Shelter and the National Housing Federation, pointing the finger at agents and private landlords for discriminating against tenants claiming benefits has infuriated many working in the sector.  Just like statistics that claim the ending of private tenancies, not the rent arrears that led to serving notice, are the leading cause of homelessness, rather examining the underlying causes, we get a sensational headline that fails to scratch the surface of the issues. Worst still, it offers no solutions, other than seeking to prosecute agents and landlords and have the practice outlawed as indirect discrimination.  So, what is the reality of the situation? In truth, there a host of reasons landlords and agents are reluctant to take on tenants claiming benefits. Read more on the RLA website.

Council Accused Of "Social Cleansing" After Moving Homeless Out Of The Area

A Thurrock councillor has accused the council of “social cleansing” after new figures revealed that a growing number of vulnerable families are being moved to neighbouring boroughs. The Thurrock Independent Party claims that more than 100 families could be permanently housed outside of the borough by the end of the year. The leader of the party, Luke Spillman, said the council is “active participants in social cleansing” and he estimates as many as 118 families could be permanently rehoused out of the borough by the end of the year. Last year there was just 15. Read more on the Echo website.

Buy-To-Let Lender Warns On Brexit Impact After Strong First-Half

OneSavings Bank Plc (OSBO.L) has warned of the potential impact of a hard Brexit on the UK housing market over the next year, overshadowing largely upbeat results and sending its shares lower. First half results showed its net loan book grew 11 percent to 8.1 billion pounds and the company said it now expected growth in the “high-teens” percent versus a previous forecast in the “mid-teens”. However, OneSavings’ shares fell almost 3 percent with markets focusing on the company’s warning about the potential effect of Britain’s exit from the European Union. Chief Executive Andy Golding told Reuters “If you look at the overall buy-to-let market, it is definitely shrinking.” Read more on the Reuters website.

Research Finds 6,000 Homes Allowed After Planning Appeals

Planning permissions for more than 6,000 homes have been granted after inspectors upheld appeals where councillors had rejected applications against officers’ advice. Research by planning consultancy Lichfields found challenges to claims that an area had the required five-year supply of land for housebuilding were the most common grounds raised. Lichfields looked at 78 appeals in Great Britain in 2017 where applications for developments of at least 50 homes – and totalling 10,000 homes in all – were rejected contrary to officers’ recommendations. It said 65% of appeals were allowed, equivalent to some 6,000 homes. By contrast, only 40% of appeals were allowed where officers had recommended refusal. Read more on Inside Housing.

Teachers And Other Key Workers Priced Out Of York

Teachers, young families and key workers are being prevented from coming to work and live in York because senior councillors are “failing” to deliver affordable homes, according to the Labour group. A spokesman for the Labour group said just 130 affordable homes have been built each year in recent years, when the city needs 573 built every year. They added that the council agreed plans for a development company in December but no progress had been made since. Labour Cllr Michael Pavlovic called in the decision on the development company at a scrutiny committee meeting. Read more on the York Press website.

BTL Market Will Stabilise By 2021

A report by Shawbrook Bank and the Centre for Economics and Business Research predicts that activity in the BTL market will continue to fall until 2021, at which point the market will stabilise. The report uses a scenario analysis approach to chart the effect on the market of various government interventions over the years, such as changes to mortgage interest tax relief and the stamp duty surcharge, and projects this to 2023. It compares this with as picture of how the market would likely look if these had not occurred. Read more on the Mortgage Strategy website.

No-Fault Evictions Making Hundreds Of Families Homeless Each Week

Analysis of quarterly eviction and homelessness data by the pressure group Generation Rent suggests that 216 households evicted every week in England under section 21 of the 1988 Housing Act are becoming homeless. These are known as no-fault evictions because landlords do not need a reason such as rent arrears or property damage to kick tenants out. The end of a private tenancy is now the single biggest cause of homelessness in England, with the number of cases more than trebling from 4,580 to 16,320 between 2009 and 2017. The analysis reveals for the first time that 94% of this rise can be blamed on no-fault evictions, which have more than doubled since 2009. Read more on the Observer website.

Government £200m Brownfields Building Fund Falls Flat, As Number Of New Homes Declines

A £200million Government fund to pay for more homes on industrial land has resulted in the opposite effect, with fewer homes built on brownfield areas than before it was set up. Official Government’s land use change statistics show that the proportion of new homes registered on previously developed land has fallen by 4 percentage points since 2014, when the fund was set up. Yet over the same period the number of new residential addresses on supposedly heavily protected Green Belt land has increased by the same proportion - 4 per cent. Read more on the Daily Telegraph website.

Critics Say Help To Buy Helping Those Who Don’t Need Help

Nearly 7,000 households with incomes over £100,000 have bought homes through Help to Buy. Now, critics have turned the government’s own figures on the scheme, accusing wealthier families of taking advantage. Those figures show nearly one in 20 households with Help to Buy support have six-figure incomes-  that’s more than more than 6,700. And families with incomes of £50,000 or more have now received 40% of loans, according to an MHCLG report. Read more on 24housing.

Council Has Millions To Spend On Affordable Housing

Trafford Council has millions of unallocated cash to build affordable homes – and to make improvements to education facilities, highways, parks and green spaces. Since 2012, developers have handed over more than £25million of section 106 money that should be spent on upgrading the area. And while the authority has spent more than £19million – there are a number of outstanding financial agreements worth £17.6million where trigger points have not yet been met. Read more on the Messenger website.

Government Confirms NO Announcement Due On Long Term Tenancies

The MHCLG has confirmed there is NO announcement due on long term tenancies and reassured landlords all responses will be taken into account before a decision is made. An unnamed source said Housing Secretary James Brokenshire is backing calls for mandatory three-year tenancies, with a ‘formal decision’ due to be announced by the Government. In an official response to an enquiry made by the RLA, his department confirmed:
·         The consultation ends next week and Ministers will consider responses ahead of announcing next steps.
·         No date has been set for an announcement.
The RLA had expressed concerns about the news report, with the consultation into the Government’s proposals not due to be completed until August 26th. Read more on the RLA website.

More Than 420,000 People Get On The Housing Ladder With Help To Buy

More than 420,000 people have now used the government’s Help to Buy schemes, new figures show. First-time buyers continue to open new Help to Buy: ISA accounts, with more than 1.2 million accounts now opened, offering government bonuses of up to £3,000 on top of their savings. Quarterly Help to Buy statistics show that:
·         more than 420,000 completions have taken place using one or more of the Help to Buy schemes
·         more than 365,400 first-time buyer households are now on the housing ladder thanks to Help to Buy
·         the North West is the region with the highest number of Help to Buy completions (more than 20,000 in the last quarter)
Read more on the Gov UK website.

Housing Association Tenants In Midlands To Be Given Right To Buy

The government has announced a £200m pilot scheme to extend right to buy to housing association tenants, with a pledge to replace each property sold with a new affordable home. The announcement came days after the government scrapped a plan from 2015 to force the sale of council homes in areas with high-value properties. That proposal had been intended to fund the national rollout of the right-to-buy policy for housing associations tenants. It is now unclear how the nationwide scheme will be paid for. The pilot will be funded by £200m from funding already earmarked in the 2017 budget, with places on the scheme allocated via a ballot. Tenants have one month from the scheme’s launch to make their application. Read more on the Guardian website.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Key Proposals In The Social Housing Green Paper

·         New 'league tables' of housing providers based on key performance indicators, surrounding services such as repairs and neighbourhood management. This could be linked to housing grant.
·         Consideration to scrapping of the current 'serious detriment' test, to allow 'Ofsted-style' tougher consumer regulation
·         New home ownership options such as allowing tenants to buy as little as 1% of their property each year through shared ownership. This would only apply to new shared ownership purchases.
·         Ditching of plans to force social landlords to offer fixed term tenancies rather than lifetime tenancies in social housing
·         Ditching of plans to force councils to sell off their most valuable social housing when it becomes vacant
·         The potential introduction a new stock transfer programme from councils to 'community-led' housing associations
·         The return of guaranteed debt funding to help the development of affordable homes, and longer term 'strategic partnerships' for developing housing associations
Download the Green Paper from the GovUK website.

What The Green Paper Means For Social Housing

The Social Housing Green Paper may well mark a seminal moment in the English housing sector. However, this may perhaps be more for what it ushered out than what it ushered in. A number of notable policies introduced during the Cameron-Osborne years have been unceremoniously dumped or reversed:
– The High-value Assets Levy that was to be paid by councils to cover the cost of replacing homes sold by housing associations under the voluntary Right to Buy – gone
– The Housing and Planning Act 2016 contained powers to require councils to implement fixed-terms to new tenancies – this policy has been scrapped
– Consumer regulation was pared back in 2010 with the Tenant Services Authority infamously being made into ‘toast’ by then housing minister Grant Shapps. The Green Paper explores a number of options to beef up consumer regulation so it is on a par with economic regulation
– Performance league tables are being considered to allow meaningful comparison between social landlords. This was last possible when the Audit Commission and its KLOEs (key lines of enquiry) was in its pre-coalition government pomp, before being abolished.
Read more on the See Media website.

The Tories Are Offering A 'New Deal' On Housing... Without A Deal

In the last 24 hours, housing professionals and charities like Shelter and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation have joined Labour in responding to the Government’s Green Paper on social housing by asking ‘where exactly is the social housing?’. After months of consultation and preparation, the best this Government can offer is that those already in social housing can compare their landlord to other landlords. While important, it doesn’t even scratch the surface of doing what needs to be done to start resolving the crisis for the 1.2million people parked on council waiting lists and 1.7million in unaffordable private rental properties – which is to build more council and social homes. Read more on the Huff Post website.

Councils Hopeful Of Right To Buy Reform As Consultation Launches

Councils have welcomed a consultation on Right to Buy in the hope that the reforms will allow them to build more homes under the policy. The consultation will be published alongside the Social Housing Green Paper on possible reforms to the rules governing the use of Right to Buy receipts, “to make it easier for councils to replace properties sold”. Read more on Inside Housing.

Government Proposes Dropping One-For-One Right To Buy Replacement Commitment

The government has proposed scrapping its commitment to replace homes sold through the Right to Buy on a like-for-like basis and instead using a new measurement that would include those built by housing associations. In 2012 the government pledged to replace homes sold as a result of the additional discounts on a one-for-one basis, but it began missing the commitment earlier this year. More than 66,000 council homes have been sold under the Right to Buy since 2012, while just 17,911 replacements have been started or acquired. Ministers have now published a consultation on the use of receipts from Right to Buy sales. Download the consultation from the Gov UK website.

UK House-Building 'Below Pre-Crash Levels'

House-building across half of England is slower than it was before the financial crash, analysis suggests. Almost a decade on from the 2008 crisis, some 52% of councils saw fewer homes built last year than in the year leading up to the crisis. The Federation of Master Builders said the planning system was too "complex, difficult and costly to navigate". The government said last year saw the largest percentage increase in new homes in nine years. Overall, some 217,000 new homes were built in 2016-17, two-thirds of the government target of 300,000. These include conversions of existing buildings, as well as new homes. Read more on the BBC website.

Crackdown On Bad Landlords Promised In 'New Deal' For Social Housing Tenants

Tackling bad landlords and boosting shared ownership schemes are among the measures set out in the Government’s new social housing plan.  Housing secretary James Brokenshire said landlord league tables and plans to empower residents amount to “major reform” of the sector as the minister set out the social housing green paper. But his offer was savaged by opponents and the housing charity Shelter, who said it fails to outline “a single extra penny” to build more council-run homes, with ministers simply agreeing to a consultation on how cash from the the Right to Buy policy could be spent. Read more on the Huff Post website.

House Purchase Activity Slows In June But Remortgaging Activity Remains High

Key data highlights:
  • There were 34,900 new first-time buyer mortgages completed in the month, 3.6 per cent fewer than in the same month a year earlier.
  • There were 33,700 new homemover mortgages completed in the month, 7.9 per cent fewer than in the same month a year earlier.
  • There were 37,400 new homeowner remortgages completed in the month, 8.4 per cent more than in the same month a year earlier.
  • There were 5,400 new buy-to-let (BTL) home purchase mortgages completed in the month, 19.4 per cent fewer than in the same month a year earlier.
  • There were 12,600 new BTL remortgages completed in the month of June, the same as June 2017.

Read more on the UK Finance website.

Government Announces £100 Million Plan To End Rough Sleeping By 2027

Thousands of rough sleepers will be offered rapid specialist assessments and support, as part of a package of new measures announced in the government’s rough sleeping strategy. The strategy will be backed by an additional £100 million and developed across government in conjunction with charities and experts. It lays out a 3-pronged approach to tackling rough sleeping, including:
·         preventing rough sleeping by providing timely support to those at risk
·         intervening to help people already on the streets get swift, targeted support
·         helping people recover, find a new home quickly and rebuild their lives
Read more on the Gov UK website.

May Urged To Go Further In Plan To End Rough Sleeping By 2027

A £50m fund to provide homes for people ready to leave homeless hostels or domestic abuse refuges in England has been announced by ministers. The government had initially said it was spending £100m on the wider strategy, although the communities secretary, James Brokenshire, admitted in a radio interview that some of the cash was “reprioritised” from existing budgets. When pressed about the £100m claim, Brokenshire said: “Half of that has already been committed to homelessness and rough sleeping. The other remaining half of this is money that is new to rough sleeping and homelessness, reflecting and recognising the priorities and importance of taxes.” Read more on the Guardian website.

Private Tenants See Rents Surge By Almost £10 Billion Since 2010

Private tenants are paying an average of £166 a month more in than in 2010, analysis by the Labour Party has claimed. Rents in England and Wales are up nearly £2,000 a year since 2010 according to the party’s research. Shadow housing secretary John Healey said the figures were evidence of the Conservative Party’s “failure on housing”. Read more on the Belfast Telegraph website.

UK House Prices Are On The Longest Losing Streak Since Crisis

UK house prices fell for a fifth month in a row in July, the longest stretch of declines since the financial crisis. Values fell 0.2 per cent from June, bringing the average price for a home to £302,251. London remains a "mixed picture," with the number of sales in the second quarter falling by 7 per cent from a year earlier and prices declining in almost two-thirds of the capital's boroughs. The housing market is weakening after a three-decade boom amid slower economic growth, uncertainty created by Brexit and inflation outpacing wage growth over much of the past year. Read more on the Business Times website.

ALMO Did Not Carry Out Inspections After 2014 Report Into Broadwater Farm Defects

Homes for Haringey did not carry out an intrusive inspection on a high-rise tower, despite a report in 2014 warning doing so could uncover safety issues. Residents will be evacuated from Tangmere House on the Broadwater Farm estate in Tottenham due to longstanding issues with the safety of the block’s structure. But Inside Housing has obtained a document which shows a structural assessment of this block carried out in 2014 reported cracks in walls throughout the building. The report added: “Latent defects may exist in the structure which can only be discovered by a further more detailed investigation.” Read more on Inside Housing.

New HMO Rules Come Into Effect In England On 1 October 2018

New regulations to bring mandatory licensing to all multi-occupied properties where there are five or more people, forming two or more separate households. The main change is:
·         Altered definition of an HMO under the Housing Act 2004: for licensing purposes, from 1/10, an HMO will be any property occupied by five or more people, forming two or more separate households.
This contrasts with the existing HMO definition which is a property occupied by 5 or more people, forming two or more separate households and comprising three or more storeys.
Read more on the RICS website.

Rents In UK Will Rise For Next Five Years

UK rents are expected to climb by 15% over the next five years, as the supply of rental accommodation dwindles while demand from tenants continues to go up. Rents are expected to increase by nearly 2% across the UK over the next 12 months, according to the latest survey from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics). Small landlords are selling up following tax changes that have made buy-to-let properties less lucrative. Rics said they are being hit by the withdrawal of tax breaks and the extra 3% on stamp duty on second homes. Read more on the Guardian website.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Report Calls For New Approach To Customer Satisfaction In Social Housing

Rather than collect data to demonstrate how good they are, social housing providers should collect data to improve how good they are. That is the suggestion from HACT, in their new report, ‘Rethinking Customer Insight: Moving beyond the numbers’. The report urges housing providers to be “more targeted, more intelligent and more responsive” in their communication to customers. The report concludes that there is no one-size-fits-all model for customer satisfaction. Download the report from the HACT website.

Housing Benefit Retained For All In Supported Housing

The government has confirmed that housing benefit will be kept in place “for all those living in supported housing”. Dropping proposals to give councils control of funding short-term accommodation, such as women’s refuges and homelessness shelters, will come as a relief to many in the sector. This plan had run into opposition from charities and housing providers, who feared the ringfence on the grants would be eroded and the cash diverted to fund other council services. Plans for a “sheltered rent”- which would have acted as a limit on the amount providers can charge for sheltered and extra care accommodation- will also not now go ahead. The decisions follow a public consultation. Read more on Inside Housing.

Supply Shortage Could Push Rents Up 15%

Rents could rise 15% by 2023 as the supply of new rental properties dries up, according to a survey by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). It said small scale landlords are pulling out of the market. It blamed tax changes brought in last year which have made Buy-To-Let investments less profitable. RICS said it was time that the government looked again at the way the private rented sector was regulated. It said its members have seen the supply of new rental property falling consistently for two years. Meanwhile, the majority of its members are seeing steady increases in the number of people looking to rent, although the numbers are levelling off. Read more on the BBC website.

Jobcentre Staff Told By DWP Not To Record Number Of People They Send To Foodbanks

A directive, issued by the DWP, tells staff they must not use the term “referral” or “voucher”, and should not keep any record of the number of people they “signpost” to foodbanks.  Critics have urged the Government to halt the practice as ministers have used the lack of records to dodge questions about the impact of welfare reforms. The revelation also indicates how charities are being relied upon to support the benefits system, but not to what extent. One major food bank charity says it hands out nearly 60,000 food parcels every year as a result of “signposting”. Read more on the Huff Post website.

Bank Of England Interest Rate Hike Could Lead To Rent Rises

Last week’s interest rate growth to 0.75 per cent is likely to leave many landlords with no choice but to pass on costs through higher rents. Despite the recent stamp duty increase on second properties and the capping of mortgage interest tax relief at 20 per cent for all rental income, the majority of landlords have avoided shouldering tenants with the bill. However, landlords currently on tracker mortgages could see their bills rapidly increase. A tracker mortgage matches any rise in the base rate, and will find that an extra 0.25 per cent will add £12 per month to a £100,000 remortgage payment. It will also add £25 to a £200,000 loan. Read more on the RLA website.

Government Urged To Change ‘Unfair’ PRS Deposit System

A new report calling on the government to change the way to the deposit system is run in the private rented sector has found that the average renter loses over £300 per tenancy. As part of the report, polling by YouGov has shown that 43% of renters would support a system of deposit replacement insurance with a small cost rather than the current system of tenants paying large upfront deposits. Forcing tenants to pay large up-front deposits mean many people struggle to move between properties. They also lose out on accruing interest on their money which instead is retained by their landlord or letting agency, and often face a real struggle to receive their money back. Read more on 24housing.

Home Equity Release May Cost Pension Firms Billions

UK pension companies may be harbouring billions of pounds of losses from home equity release loans. Under equity release, homeowners borrow money against their house's value and don't repay anything until it's sold. That's fine for the borrower, but there are fears lenders have underestimated how much these loans could cost them. At least one firm assumes house prices will rise 4.25% a year. If they don't, firms face losses - or even bailouts. Pensioners whose firms invest in the loans would be protected through the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) which is funded through a levy on the industry meaning losses would be ultimately borne by all pension holders. Read more on the BBC website.

Universal Credit Flaws Leaving Families In Debt

Low-income working families are losing hundreds of pounds each year – and being wrongly denied free healthcare entitlements – because of flaws in the way universal credit is designed, campaigners say. The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG ) said arbitrary rules built in to the way universal credit is calculated leave some families unable to predict how much they will be paid each month, leaving households in debt and unable to budget. It can lead to claimants being wrongly benefit-capped – a penalty designed to “incentivise” jobless or low-earning households by severely limiting their benefits – because the system fails to spot they are working and earning enough. Read more on the Guardian website.

Hammond Urged Not To Launch "Tax Attack" On Second Home Owners

Philip Hammond has been warned against hiking levies on buy-to-let properties over fears the move would result in lower revenues for the Treasury. Two former Conservative cabinet ministers criticised reported plans for an increase in the government levy charged on buy-to-let purchases, which are said to be under consideration for the autumn Budget. John Redwood, the former trade secretary said: “There is no need to increase taxes and if you carry on increasing them you'll collect less money from people, which is the opposite of what we want to achieve.” “The answer for the Treasury is cut stamp duty and you’ll raise more money.” Read more on the Daily Telegraph website.

Mayor Brands Tenant Fees Bill 'A Missed Opportunity'

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has declared that the Government’s proposed Tenant Fees Bill is a "missed opportunity" to protect the 2.4 million private renters in the capital, and criticised Ministers for breaking their promises to publish key plans for social housing and rough sleeping before the summer. Extortionate fees and deposits mean London’s renters need to find nearly £3,700 each time they move home, compared with the nationwide average of £2,000*. In a joint letter to the Prime Minister, Sadiq, along with Crisis, Generation Rent and Citizens UK set out how a reform of private renting is desperately overdue. Read more on the Mayor of London’s website.

CPRE Warning As 460,000 Homes To Be Built On Green Belt Land

The green belt remains under severe pressure, despite government commitments to its protection, according to a new report from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE). The report highlights that there are currently 460,000 homes being planned to be built on land that will soon be released from the green belt. CPRE add that of these 460,000 homes, the percentage of affordable homes will be just 22%. Last year 72% of homes built on greenfield land within the green belt were unaffordable by the government’s definition. CPRE add that there is currently enough brownfield land to build a million homes and are calling on the government to pursue a “brownfield first” approach to development. Download the report from the CPRE website.

Private Rents Have Risen Faster Than Pay Since 2011

Rising rents have outpaced wages across England since 2011, according to analysis from housing charity Shelter, which claims the crisis is spilling out of cities into “Middle England” towns such as Tunbridge Wells. The figures show that private rents have risen by 16% since 2011, outpacing average wages which have only risen by 10% over that period. Shelter analysed official data from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings and the Index of Private Housing Rental Prices. Read more on the Guardian website.

‘Keyworkers’ Could Pay Discount Rent

Discount rent for public sector workers, carers and victims of domestic abuse is being mooted by Southwark Council in an effort to tackle the on-going housing crisis. As part of its commitment towards 35 per cent affordable housing, the council is suggesting a possible ‘intermediate’ and ‘keyworker’ housing scheme. Intermediate rent is discounted at around half  private market rent for people on incomes below £60,000, while people earning between £60,000 and £90,000 are eligible for a discount of at least 20 per cent. It says developers who build for private rent are allowed to meet this figure using discount market rent. Read more on the Southwark News website.

Southern Councils Selling Off Homes Through Right To Buy

Social housing in the south of England is being sold off four times as fast as it is being replaced, a BBC investigation has found. Southampton City Council is losing homes at the fastest rate, despite generating £24m through the Right to Buy Scheme since 2015. Homes in Reading are being sold twice as quickly as they are built, with the council making £7m. Leaders said the government was making it difficult to reinvest in new homes. Read more on the BBC website.

Government Did Not Act After Warning About Grenfell-Style Cladding In 2014

Minutes of a July 2014 meeting held by the Centre for Window and Cladding Technology, show officials were warned guidance was “not clear” regarding the use of deadly aluminium and polyethylene cladding. The minutes show the Building Research Establishment agreed to draft a clarification to clearly outlaw the material – compared to solid petrol by experts – but this was not done. The aluminium composite material (ACM) polyethylene cladding was fitted onto the outside of Grenfell Tower in a refurbishment which was completed in 2016. The minutes say: “There have been major fires in buildings in various parts of the world where ACM materials have been used for the cladding, with the ACM responsible for the external fire spread.” Read more on Inside Housing.