Thursday, 16 November 2017

Landlord Defends Sending Eviction Letters Ahead Of Universal Credit Rollout

A Lincolnshire property company has defended threatening all of its tenants with eviction if they fail to pay their rent because of delays in receiving universal credit payments, after sending all tenants pre-emptive notices ahead of the rollout of the welfare reform. The letter from GAP Property in Grimsby was highlighted by Jeremy Corbyn during prime minister’s questions in the Commons on Wednesday. Corbyn said tenants of the property management company faced the prospect of being made homeless before Christmas. GAP Property said the introduction of universal credit would affect the vast majority of its tenants and it needed to take action to avoid a slew of rent arrears, which could put it out of business. Read more on the Guardian website.

Social Housing: Ministers Move Debt To Boost Building

Plans to encourage housing associations to borrow money to invest in new homes are being announced as part of a fresh government house-building drive. Housing associations will be reclassified as private bodies allowing their £70bn debt to be removed from the government's balance sheet. Housing providers said changing their financial status would help them secure the "long-term finance" needed. But Labour said there was no coherent plan to address the "housing crisis". Read more on the BBC website.

Council Relaunches ‘£1 Homes’ Scheme

The project, officially called Reviving Communities, aims to bring empty and dilapidated homes back into use. The authority is investing £1.5m to purchase and refurbish up to 25 privately owned vacant homes in the Hanley area of the city. Local residents will then be able to buy a home which has been renovated by the council for £1, paying for the cost of the works through a 10-year low-interest loan of £30,000. Under the first phase of the scheme launched in 2013, 33 of the council’s own properties were transformed and reoccupied – and it will reinvest loan repayments from buyers of those homes to help fund the second phase. Read more on Inside Housing.

Six-Week Wait For Universal Credit Set To Be Reduced

The government is preparing to confirm that it will cut the six-week waiting time for universal credit, caving in to Conservative backbench rebels. After being promised concessions by ministers, a group of Tory MPs concerned about the impact of the delay on their constituents were persuaded not to vote against the government in a Labour-led debate on universal credit last month. The six-week wait was the central concern of the group, which includes Heidi Allen and Johnny Mercer, and the government is expected to reduce it, most likely by eliminating the seven-day mandatory waiting time at the start of any new claim. Read more on the Guardian website.

Stamp Duty Having ‘Stifling’ Impact On Housing Market

The “stifling” effect of stamp duty on the housing market means an extra 146,000 property sales could have taken place over the last five years if home movers had not been faced with the tax, a report has estimated. Despite reforms to stamp duty in recent years, it remains “inefficient”, fuelling housing shortages, making homes less affordable and putting people off moving to more suitable properties – from those taking early steps on the housing ladder to older home owners. It also hampers social and economic flexibility by making it harder for families to live near their desired schools or places that could provide particular job opportunities. Read more on Yahoo.

Councils Urge Government To Act On Right To Buy Receipts

Calling on the government to change the rules on Right to Buy in this month’s Autumn Budget, the LGA warned that councils are currently able to replace only a third of homes sold under the Right to Buy. The scheme, it said, could “grind to a halt” if the government does not change rules preventing councils from keeping more than a third of the proceeds received from council tenants buying their homes. According to the LGA, 12,826 homes were sold off under the scheme in 2016/17, and councils only started 4,475 in replacement. Read more on the LGA website.

What The Future Holds For Older Renters

Most debates around housing focus on young adults, the drastic fall in their rate of home ownership and ways to boost the number of first time buyers. Far less attention, however, is given to the vast numbers of renters who are already too old to get a mortgage and face a lifetime of renting instead. As more of them reach retirement age, the state will start paying more of their rent, and faces enormous costs unless it makes some fundamental changes to the housing market. Using the English Housing Survey, we have projected that by 2035 nearly 1 million households of retirement age will be renting from a private landlord. Currently the figure is 370,000. Download Life in the Rental Market from the Generation Rent website.

First ‘Concrete Signs’ Of A Buy-To-Let Slowdown

The first evidence has emerged that buy-to-let landlords are increasingly selling properties or paying down their mortgage debt following a barrage of tax and regulatory changes. Data from UK Finance, the industry body, show that growth in outstanding buy-to-let mortgages is failing to keep pace with new mortgages being granted, in a reversal of the broad relationship between the two over the past decade. This strongly suggests some buy-to-let mortgages are being redeemed as investors sell rental properties. Read more on the Financial Times website.

Local Housing Allowance – Parliamentary Written Answer

Hywel Williams:To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what plans he has to review the local housing allowance rate to ensure it is accurately aligned with the rental market.

Caroline Dinenage: There are no plans to lift the four year freeze to Local Housing Allowance rates before April 2020. The Government recognises however, that the impact of this measure will vary, especially in areas of high rental growth and in view of this has made available 30 per cent of the savings to create Targeted Affordability Funding. This funding is used to increase Local Housing Allowance rates in areas where local rents have diverged the most.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

92% Of Councils Not Meeting Affordable Housing Needs

The study, by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), warned that 92% of councils are not meeting affordable housing need in their areas. It found that affordable housing represented the biggest delivery challenge – with two-thirds, or 67%, of authorities failing to meet overall housing demand in 2015/16. The report called on chancellor Philip Hammond to make further investment in affordable housing at the Budget, including through allowing councils to take on extra borrowing in order to build new homes. Researchers said that sub-market housing products such as affordable rent and shared ownership are becoming increasingly out of reach for low and middle-income earners in most areas. Download the report from the IPPR website.

Not Enough Being Done To Build Homes For Older People

Taxes on the development of new homes in the UK are scuppering retirement housing development, which has enormous social value and helps free up housing for young buyers and growing families, new research suggests. The analysis from think tank Demos says there is evidence of a looming crisis in the supply of housing for older people, as current policy favours developers building starter properties, rather than also supporting older people to downsize which would spark a positive chain reaction in the housing market. Demos found widespread support for policies to help them downsize, including stamp duty exemption, practical help with moving and opportunities to try before you buy. Read more on Property Wire.

Affordable Housing Completions Up 27%

Affordable housing completions rose 27% in England last year, with the increase driven by new homes for affordable rent and shared ownership. The numbers include all homes for social rent, affordable rent, intermediate rent, affordable homeownership and shared ownership. Last year’s figure of 32,630 represented a low point in recent years and despite this year’s rise it is still the second-lowest level of overall delivery since 2004/5. Social rent completions dropped 21%, down to 5,380 in 2016/17 from 6,800 the previous year. Numbers of affordable rent completions rose 47% from 16,550 up to 24,350, while shared ownership deliveries more than doubled from 4,080 up to 8,810. Download the figures from the CLG website.

Government Considers Separate Rates For Extra Care And Sheltered Housing

The government is considering separate rates for sheltered housing and extra care, sector sources have been told, as the new funding model for supported housing begins to take shape.  The government announced last week that it plans for long-term supported housing to be funded through the benefit system, with a ‘sheltered rent’ used to set rates. But representatives from the supported housing sector said civil servants have told them the government will consider changing the recently announced policy to include one band for sheltered housing and one for extra care. Read more on Inside Housing.

One In 25 People Homeless In England's Worst Hit Areas

As many as one in 25 people are classed as homeless in the worst-affected areas of England, a new study has shown. Homeless charity Shelter said more than 268,000 people across England are homeless, although the number is a "conservative estimate", with many more expected to be going unrecorded. It said the leading cause was the loss of a private tenancy, with three in 10 cases coming as a result. The government said it was "determined to tackle all forms of homelessness". Shelter has launched an urgent appeal to raise money for front-line services. Read more on the BBC website.

Plea For ‘Full Scale Rescue’ Of Universal Credit In Upcoming Budget

Universal Credit (UC) needs a “full scale rescue mission” from the upcoming budget before it plunges hundreds of thousands of claimants into poverty. The latest study into the ill-fated – even toxic – reform shows the potential for a “colossal failure” of public policy if UC rolls out little more than desperation and destitution, a new study says. Figures cited in the study by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) and the Institute for Public Policy Research show the ‘flagship’ reform is sinking as its system for benefiting families for taking on more work had effectively been broken by austerity. Download their report– Austerity Generation – from the CPAG website.

First Time Buyers Underestimate Cost Of Buying A Home

There is a real lack of understanding around the house buying process and the associated costs amongst those looking to buy their first home in the UK, according to new research. Nationally first time buyers underestimate the deposit they need by £15,388 or 31% but this rises to an underestimate of £75,000 for people buying their first home in London where prices are so much higher than other parts of the country. The first time buyer index report from Aldermore also shows that a deposit is the top obstacle for 34% of first time buyers while 40% overspend by £2,334 on other costs such as solicitors and home surveys. Read more on Property Wire.

Scrapping Mortgage Help Scheme Will Push Millions Closer To Homelessness

Plans to scrap a government mortgage help scheme - coupled with a hike in interest rates - could push millions of families closer to homelessness, according to Labour’s shadow housing minister. John Healey says the shock to household finances caused by the first rates rise in 10 years could cause problems for 3.5 million households with variable rate mortgages. The government’s decision to turn its Support For Mortgage Interest scheme, which previously helped those struggling with contributions towards mortgage interest payments, into a loan system will also add to financial problems for those struggling to keep up repayments, the Yorkshire MP says. Read more on the Huffington Post website.

Build More Bungalows To Tackle Housing Crisis

Stamp Duty must be overhauled in the Budget to help young people get on property ladder, the chairman of the influential Commons’ Treasury Select Committee has said. Nicky Morgan, a former Tory Cabinet minister, also called for new measures to encourage developers to build more bungalows for pensioners to move into and free up larger family homes. New research from the Taxpayers’ Alliance also warns that - without reform - the tax will be paid by nine of 10 home owners by the time of the next general election in May 2022. Read more on the Daily Telegraph website.

Freeze On LHA Rates Risks Increasing Homelessness

The Local Government Association (LGA) has published the results of a survey which showed 96% of councils are concerned homelessness will increase if benefit rates are not lifted. Private tenants are only allowed to claim the ‘Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate’ – which is supposed to reflect the lowest 30% of private sector rents in a specific area. But rates have been frozen since April 2016, and are not set to rise until 2020. Actual rents are expected to rise by around 5% over this time, with particularly sharp rises in areas of high demand – creating shortfalls between benefit entitlement and actual rents. The LGA’s survey showed almost unanimous concern about this policy from councils of all political colours, with 76 town halls responding. Read more on the LGA website.

Government Urged To Lift Housing Benefits Cap As 1 Million Families Face Homelessness

The Government must lift the cap on housing benefits or see a million households facing homelessness within the next two years, politicians and campaigners have warned. In a cross-sector letter, shared exclusively with The Independent, more than 30 homeless charities, faith leaders and MPs have issued a direct warning to the Chancellor. Abandoning the freeze on Local Housing Allowance (LHA) for private renters is “essential” in order for low-income families to avoid homelessness, they wrote. Read more on the Independent website.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Government Scraps Local Top Up For Supported Housing

Following the announcement that Government is dropping Local Housing Allowance rates from the funding mechanism for supported housing, the Committees have now received the full response from Government to their joint report. The response shows that the Government has also acted on the Committees' concerns that local authorities should not have to "top up" payment for supported housing, by introducing a new "sheltered rent" that means the cost of sheltered and extra care housing will be entirely covered by Housing Benefit or its replacement Universal Credit, in accordance with and actually going further than another of the committees' central recommendations. Read more on the Parliament website.

Letting Agent Fee Ban Bill Published

The draft bill creates a blanket ban on all fees charged by a landlord or agent for the grant, renewal, or continuation of an assured shorthold tenancy or a licence. Any tenancy that falls outside the Housing Act 1988 regime will not be covered. The draft bill also does not mention lease assignments. This means that ASTs and licences cannot have fees charged in respect of them but other tenancies such as company let agreements and the like can. There appears to be no particularly good reason for ignoring other types of tenancy although that has been the case before and the reality is probably that the government only had a weak understanding of such tenancies.  Read more on the RLA website.

Osborne's Tax Raid On Buy-To-Let Properties Nets £2.7bn

George Osborne’s stamp duty raid on buy-to-let properties has hauled in more than £2.7 billion to the government’s coffers. The tax raid is more than twice as much as officials were expecting to collect when the government slapped higher stamp duty rates on landlords and second home owners in April last year. The government had expected to raise £1.3 billion from the tax increase in the first two years. Read more on the Daily Mail website.

'Loophole' Developers Use To Avoid Building More Affordable Homes

House builders are using a “legal loophole” to wriggle out of developing thousands of affordable homes in order to maximise profits.  Shelter has released a dossier it claims shows the number of affordable homes in new-builds drops drastically after developers submit a “viability assessment” when applying for permission to build. These assessments allow developers to put in planning applications which do not hit council targets for affordable homes – claiming if they were to build those houses it would mean profits would be severely reduced. One council told HuffPost UK it feels it has no choice but to accept the lower affordable housing figure, or risk no development happening at all. Read more on the Huffington Post website.

More Than 120,000 Children Now In Temporary Accommodation

More than 120,000 children are now in temporary accommodation – a 66% rise since the government came to power.  Responding to questions on the figure, Marcus Jones MP, under-secretary of state for communities and local government, said the number of children in temporary accommodation is below its 2006 peak. “But we are certainly not complacent, that is why we have put £402 million into the flexible homelessness support grant over the next two years so that local areas can plan strategically to reduce the number of people in temporary accommodation,” Jones said. Jones also cited homelessness prevention as at the centre of the government’s approach to protecting the most vulnerable. Read more on 24housing.

Housing Benefit: Social Rented Housing – Parliamentary Written Answer

Alex Norris: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how many households with a disabled family member are subject to the removal of the spare room subsidy.
Caroline Dinenage: As of May 2017, there were 414 thousand households in Great Britain who had a deduction made from their Housing Benefit due to the removal of the spare room subsidy. Of these, there were 278 thousand where the claimant or partner was receiving Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP)or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Right To Buy: Flagship Government Housing Scheme In Trouble

A signature Government housing scheme is in trouble, as ministers are uncertain how they intend to pay for it despite the policy being announced nearly three years ago. In 2014, the Government announced a major new housing initiative - a big extension of Right to Buy. Three years on, Sky News has seen figures which show the scheme has barely got off the ground. Only 55 sales have been completed in a tiny number of pilot areas, with only a few hundred more in the pipeline. Consequently thousands of people are in limbo. Read more on the Sky News website.

Reverse Cuts Or Backing For Universal Credit May Collapse

Public confidence in universal credit will collapse without an urgent £3bn cash injection to reverse cuts that are set to leave millions of families worse off, an influential thinktank has warned.  The Resolution Foundation says a spree of Treasury-driven welfare cuts since 2015 has left universal credit unable to meet its original aims of strengthening work incentives and supporting the incomes of low-income families. It warns that the current fragile political consensus in support of universal credit risks breaking down unless ministers refinance the reform and fix multiple design and implementation problems. Download a copy of Universal Remedy: ensuring Universal Credit is fit for purpose from the Resolution Foundation website.

Government Seeks To Improve Social Housing Access For Domestic Abuse Victims

The government has launched a consultation on new guidance for councils on how to help victims of domestic abuse access social housing. Under the guidance, local authorities would be told to prioritise domestic abuse victims in refuges for social housing. It also stresses that victims who have fled to other parts of the country to escape abuse should not be disadvantaged by allocations systems, building on advice in the existing guidelines.  Download the consultation from the CLG website.

Hammond Rebuffed Over Budget Plan For Green Belt Housing

Theresa May is resisting calls from Philip Hammond to free green belt land for housing as he seeks radical cost-free measures for the budget. The chancellor wants to use next month’s statement to continue to tackle Britain’s poor productivity, and the lack of housing in high-demand areas is regarded as a key factor. Mr Hammond has been arguing within the cabinet for months that some of the protected countryside should be reclassified as part of a housing package that could allow extra borrowing to fund house building.  Read more on The Times website.

Regulator Publishes Fees Statement Setting Out Priorities

The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) introduced a fee system this month under which providers pay a one-off registration fee of £2,500 and, if they own more than 1,000 homes, an annual fee of £4.72 per home. Providers with fewer than 1,000 homes pay a flat fee of £300 a year. The statement sets out the HCA’s regulatory priorities and gives a breakdown of how the regulator’s £7.5m budget will be spent. The regulator intends to make more use of automated data analysis, invest in its staff through recruitment and training and prepare to become a standalone regulator once the legislation has been passed in parliament. Read more on the HCA website.

Mortgage Approvals Fall To Three-Month Low In September

The number of mortgage approvals being made to home buyers dropped to a three-month low in September, according to Bank of England figures. Some 66,232 loans for house purchase were given the green light in September, marking the lowest monthly figure since June 2017. It is the second month in a row that mortgage approvals have fallen and comes after a six-month high of 69,360 in July. However, the Bank’s Money and Credit report showed re-mortgage loans picked up in September to 47,598, rising from 46,270 the month before. Read more on the Belfast Telegraph website.

Conservatives 'Planning Budget U-Turn' Over Rollout Of Universal Credit Regime

Ministers are reportedly preparing for a major U-turn on the rollout of Universal Credit in the Budget by reducing the controversial six-week wait to four for the first payment to claimants. It comes after weeks of sustained pressure on Downing Street from Conservative backbenchers, the Labour party and charities warning the Government’s flagship welfare programme – due to be accelerated this month – is pushing recipients into poverty, arrears and a reliance on food banks. The main anxiety among MPs and charities focuses on the six-week wait claimants are forced to endure before receiving their first payment under the new regime after transferring from the legacy benefits system. Read more on the Independent website.

Housing Lawyers Draft Bill To Empower Tenants

Housing specialists have been working on a private members bill that empowers tenants to force their landlords to fix hazards that pose a serious threat to their health and safety. The homes (fitness for human habitation and liability for housing standards) bill 2017-19 will have its second reading in the House of Commons in January. The bill has been sponsored by Karen Buck, Labour MP for Westminster North and chair of the all-party parliamentary group on legal aid. Under the bill, tenants will be able to take action against their landlord to fix a 'category one' hazard in their building, not just in their flat. Read more on the Law Society Gazette website.

Surge Of Rent Increases Subsides

Demand for rental accommodation rose by 10% month on month in September, while supply remained the same, according to the latest ARLA Propertymark PRS report.  After several months of rising rent costs, the report reveals signs that the rental market is moving in the right direction, marking the first month-on-month decrease since May, when the figure also stood at 27%. Year on year however, the number of tenants experiencing rent hikes is up; in September 2016, only 24 % agents reported this. In September, there were 79 prospective tenants registered per member branch, up 10% from August when there was 72 per branch. The number of properties managed per member branch remained the same in September, at 189. Read more on the ARLA website.

Committee Publishes 'Damning' New Universal Credit Evidence

Commons Select Committee Chair Frank Field MP calls evidence submitted to the Committee by Halton Housing Trust the "most damning" he has ever read on what he describes as DWP "maladministration."  The Trust has accumulated over £400,000 of arrears as a direct result of the rollout of Full Service Universal Credit. This means that just 18% of its tenants owe 55% of all its arrears. Over the last 12 months the number of referrals the Trust has made to local food banks has more than doubled. Those claimants who were offered Advance Payments were offered a New Claims Advance that had to be paid back within 6 months: the submission details the even bigger financial problems this caused for families. Read more on the Parliament website.

Landlords And Tenants Split On New Tenancy Deposit Schemes

Both landlords and tenants are split on the effectiveness of new insurance-based tenancy deposit schemes. Research conducted by letting agent Upad.co.uk revealed concerns from both landlords and tenants regarding various aspects of these schemes. Specifically, landlords were concerned that the insurance would not cover them fully for repairing any damage at the end of the tenancy. Some tenants felt that despite sometimes having to borrow money to pay their deposit, at least in the majority of cases they would get their deposit back, whereas paying for the replacement insurance would see them making payments they’d never get returned. Read more on 24housing.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Government Drops LHA Cap Plans In Huge Climbdown

The government has dropped plans to cap housing benefit in the social housing sector at Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates in a huge climbdown following widespread criticism. The plans to introduce the LHA cap for both general needs social housing and supported housing will be dropped. The future funding model for supported housing will be revealed next Tuesday (31 October). The sector had been anxiously awaiting an update from government on their future plans for supported housing after a green paper was promised in the spring but had yet to materialise. The prime minister said: “We will not apply the Local Housing Allowance cap to supported housing – indeed we will not be implementing it in the wider social housing sector, and the full details will be made available when we publish our response to the consultation” Read more on Inside Housing.

DWP Guidance On Advance Payments

The DWP has issued revised guidance on advance payments to claimants of Universal Credit. Download it from the DWP website.

Sharma To Face Commons Committee Over Housing Need

The CLG Committee will examine proposed changes to the way the need for new homes is calculated for each council in a one-off evidence session with housing minister, Alok Sharma. Government’s ‘Planning for the right homes in the right places’ consultation is aimed at finding a new standardised methodology for assessing housing need on a council-by-council basis, replacing inconsistent methods used across different authorities at present. The committee will question Sharma on Nov 1 ahead of the consultation closure on Nov 9. Read more on the Parliament website.

Quarter Of Renters Spending Half Their Income On Housing

YouGov survey shows how wages are the biggest cost every month. The results showed that mortgaged homeowners are definitely in a stronger position than tenants when it comes to affordability, with 15% of mortgaged homeowners spending more than half their incomes on housing, compared to the 24% of private renters saying the same. Almost half of mortgaged homeowners (44%) are spending up to 30% of their monthly income on housing, which is perfectly within the affordable range. However, just one in five private renters (20%) can say the same – or less than half the proportion of mortgaged homeowners. Almost one in four private tenants (24% excluding “don’t know”s) admitted to spending over half their income on housing. Read more on 24housing.

Housing Association Rents Fall By 1.3% In 2016/17

Housing association rents in England have dropped by 1.3% on average in the first year of rent cutting, statistics from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) have revealed. The social housing regulator’s Statistical Data Return showed that the average housing association rent fell from £97.84 a week to £96.61. There were fairly wide regional variations, with falls of 1.8% in Yorkshire and the Humber contrasting with falls of just 0.9% in both the East and West Midlands. Read more on the HCA website.

U-Turn On Housing Benefit Cap For Mentally Ill And Elderly

Plans to cap housing benefit for thousands of mentally ill, elderly and other vulnerable people in supported housing are to be re-examined after protests by MPs and charities. The rethink also follows evidence from the NHF, which found that 85% of schemes to build new supported and sheltered homes for vulnerable people have been shelved by housing associations because of fears that the new funding system will make them unsustainable. More than 700,000 people in supported housing usually have the accommodation element of their costs met entirely through housing benefit. But under plans announced by the government in 2015, and due to be introduced from next year, these payments would be capped in the same way as for people renting in the private sector. Read more on the Observer website.

Government Appeals Against High Court Benefit Cap Ruling

The Government has launched an appeal against a ruling that its controversial benefits cap unlawfully discriminates against lone parents with children under two. The cap, which came into force last year, limits the total amount of benefits a household can receive to £23,000 a year in London and £20,000 elsewhere. But in June, a High Court Judge said the benefit cap was disproportionately affecting lone parents, and causing “real misery to no good purpose". Read more on the Independent website.

Budget Must Let Councils ‘Take Back Control’ Of Housing Assets And Revenue

Next month’s budget must let Councils ‘take back control’ of their housing assets and revenue by committing to the principles of HRA self-financing for council housing, a new paper says. The paper sets out key asks on allowing councils to lift the HRA debt caps for new build purposes and relying instead on prudential borrowing rules to enable investment in new homes – paid back from rental income. Where government can’t or won’t commit, the paper offers a get out option – approve a number of bespoke deals as quickly as possible to create a group of “market leaders” who could share experience and good practice with others. Read more on the ARCH website.

Universal Credit Behind Rising Rent Arrears And Food Bank Use

Universal Credit is pushing poor tenants deeper into rent arrears and sending food bank referrals soaring, according to a study by two councils that have been guinea pigs for the new regime. Southwark and Croydon councils in south London warned that without rapid changes the new system could have a devastating effect across the country as it is rolled out over the next few months, warning that arrears could reach “many hundreds of millions of pounds” and that tenants could face severe hardship. One food bank reported an increase in referrals of 97%. The report examined rent accounts for 775 social housing tenants in the two boroughs who had moved on to universal credit between August and October 2016, comparing them with 249 rent accounts held by tenants who moved on to the older housing benefit system during the same period. Download the report from the Smith Institute website.

Right to Buy Scheme – Parliamentary Written Answer

John Healey: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, whether he plans to proceed with the forced sale of council homes and other assets in order to fund the right to buy programme.

Alok Sharma: The Government is considering how the legislation on Higher Value Assets (HVA) could be implemented under the framework set out in the Housing and Planning Act 2016. Local authorities will not be expected to make an HVA payment in 2017/18.

ALMO’s Letting Agency Being Investigated By Its Own Council

A lettings and estate agency owned by a London ALMO is being investigated by its own council’s trading standards department. CityWest Residential is a subsidiary of CityWest Homes, which manages 21,000 units on behalf of Westminster City Council. The authority confirmed it was taking action against the company for breaches of the Consumer Rights Act, but said it could not comment further. CityWest Homes was the first ALMO to launch a lettings agency in 2009. CityWest Residential now handles lettings and sales for private landlords across the borough, including those previously owned by the council. A proportion of the agency’s profits are channelled back into Westminster City Council to help pay for more affordable housing. Read more on Inside Housing.

New Housebuying Rules Will Clamp Down On Gazumping

A clampdown on gazumping and other tactics that cause misery to housebuyers and sellers is being drawn up by the government as part of a renewed attempt to reduce the stress of buying a home. New rules to stop people from cutting their offer at an advanced point in a sale, and “time wasting” by bidders with no realistic hope of completing a purchase, will also be examined as part of a review of the rules.  Previous attempts by ministers to improve the process have come to little. However, Sajid Javid, the communities secretary, is now launching an eight-week call for evidence from estate agents, solicitors and mortgage lenders in an attempt to make house buying “cheaper, faster and less stressful”. Read more on the Observer website.

Two In Ten Landlords Willing To House Universal Credit Tenants

Just two in 10 landlords say they are willing to let to tenants in receipt of housing benefit or universal credit, according to latest research from the National Landlords Association (NLA). The findings show that the proportion of landlords who say they are willing to let their property to housing benefit claimants has fallen to just 20%, down from 34% at the start of 2013. The research, taken from the NLA’s Quarterly Landlord Panel, also shows that two in three landlords who let to housing benefit recipients say they have fallen behind on rental payments in the last 12 months. Read more on the NLA website.