Thursday, 14 December 2017

Government’s Own Figures Add Up To Councils Keeping RTB Receipts

CIH is citing the government’s own figures add up to councils keeping all right to buy receipts to build affordable homes – rather than being forced to hand over a proportion to the Treasury. Figures newly released by the CLG show 2,558 homes were sold by councils through the right to buy scheme in England in July to September 2017, while only 744 were started or acquired to replace them using the receipts. Since right to buy discounts were increased in April 2012, 60,423 homes have been sold, while only 14,736 have been started or acquired to replace them. Read more on the CIH website.

Activity Remains Subdued In UK Housing Market

The UK housing market remains flat at a headline level in the run up to Christmas, according to the November 2017 RICS UK Residential Market Survey. Main points from the survey are;
·         Demand in the UK housing market stabilises
·         Price balance negative in London, South East and East Anglia – offsetting gains elsewhere
·         Forward looking indicators point to little immediate change in the new year

Read more on the RICS website.

Rough Sleeping – Parliamentary Written Answer

Alex Norris: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, when providers will be able to bid for capital funding for move-on accommodation to tackle rough sleeping outside London.

Mr Marcus Jones: The London based portion of the fund has been launched and is being administered by the Greater London Authority. A programme for the rest of England is currently being developed. Further detail will be announced in due course.

Social Housing Sector Delivers ‘Another Strong Year Of Investment’

The social housing sector has delivered ‘another strong year of investment’ in new and existing properties according to the 2017 global accounts. The main findings for 2017 are:
·         The sector invested £10bn in new housing supply and £1.6bn in existing stock. Total investment of £11.6bn represents a 15% increase on 2016
·         Of this, investment in new and existing social housing stock was £7.9bn
·         Turnover was unchanged at £20bn
·         Operating margins have increased by 2% to 30%
·         Total debt held by the sector increased by £2.9bn to £69.6bn
·         The underlying net surplus was £3.5bn – a 7% increase on 2016

Read more on 24housing.

Rent Cut Pushes Associations To Slash Repairs

The largest reduction in costs for housing associations over the year was in major repairs, on which providers spent £2.1bn in the financial year – 14% less than in 2016, when they spent £2.4bn. Management costs, meanwhile, fell from £2.8bn to £2.6bn. This is twice as big as the decrease in major repairs spending that Inside Housing found at the start of the year in an exclusive survey. The HCA’s Global Accounts report said this was “to compensate for the rent reduction”, though it also forecasted that major repairs spend would increase again over the next few years. Download the report from the HCA website.

House Prices Rise Fastest In East Midlands

House prices in the East Midlands rose at more than three times the pace of London in the past year. Property prices in the region rose by 7% in the year to October - the fastest in the UK, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said. The slowest house price growth over the same period was a 2.1% rise in London. However, average prices in the capital remain the highest at £481,000, compared with a UK average of £224,000, the ONS figures show. The typical UK house price rose by £10,000 compared with a year earlier, but was £1,000 lower than in September. Read more on the BBC website.

Affordable Housing Disputes Are ‘Costing London Homes’

A new report on home building in London says the number of housing starts has “gone backwards” under Sadiq Khan – citing evidence that an increasing proportion of those homes that are being built end up in the hands of foreign buyers.  The report also features new research setting out the historic under-supply of homes in the UK across regions, and makes the economic and social case for home ownership. With the average first time buyer having to save for 10 years to put together a deposit and home ownership rates falling among the young, the report – Homes for Everyone –  sets out detailed proposals for how to push housebuilding up towards the Government’s target of 300,000 a year. Download the report from the Centre for Policy Studies website.

New Mortgage Lending In UK Reaches Highest Level Since 2008

British households are taking on the highest levels of fresh mortgage debt since the beginning of 2008, spurred by low interest rates from the Bank of England.  Banks extended new mortgage commitments to borrowers worth £69.6bn in the three months to the end of September, an increase of 14% on the same period in 2016 and the highest amount recorded over a three-month period since the start of 2008, official figures show. The figures come after John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, warned that banks are becoming increasingly engaged in a “race to the bottom” on mortgages, credit cards and other consumer loans that has worrying parallels to years before the financial crisis. Read more on the Guardian website.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Report Reinforces ‘Significant Impact’ Of Universal Credit On Landlords

A new report reinforces the difficulties social landlords are still facing from the roll-out of Universal Credit (UC). The Northern Housing Consortium (NHC) report Impact of Universal Credit – The Frontline Perspective summarises a year-long study of UC, highlighting the experiences of 85 of its member organisations and their tenants across the North. Key concerns that have emerged include the following:
·         95% of participants reported that their tenants were having difficulty in meeting housing costs.
·         There is a significant impact on landlords, with 92% reporting staff were spending more time supporting people through the UC process than the Housing Benefit process.
·         Communication problems between participants (and their tenants) and the DWP

Download the report from the NHC website.

Local Housing Allowance – Parliamentary Written Answer

Steve McCabe: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, if he will review the Local Housing Allowance and the effect it has on tenants living in the private rented sector.

Caroline Dinenage: The Government currently has no plans to review the Local Housing Allowance. The freeze to Local Housing Allowance rates was introduced from April 2016 and will apply until March 2020.

90% Of MPs Back Converting Empty Spaces Above Shops Into Housing

Research by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) entitled ‘Homes on our high streets’, shows MPs believe converting empty spaces above shops could have a number of positive consequences. The findings show 94% of MPs believe this could reverse the housing shortage in their constituency, an issue that was felt on the doorstep in the election back in June. 89% of MPs say it could boost local growth in their area and 86% of MPs think it could have a positive impact on the vibrancy of their town centres. Read more on 24housing.

Return Of The Accidental Landlord

Tens of thousands of homeowners have become accidental landlords in the last year, as homes in the notoriously expensive South East and London struggle to sell. Around 80,000 homes formerly for sale in the previous six months have come up in the rental market this year, research from estate agent Countrywide reveals. The decision by owners to keep hold of properties and let them, in order to move home, has come despite a tax crackdown on buy-to-let - and Countrywide said one in 12 homes available in the rental market has previously been up for sale. Read more on the Daily Mail website.

Local Authority Pension Funds Back Rental Homes Investment Scheme

In the face of rising rents and the nationwide housing crisis, Hearthstone Investment Management has put together a £100 million fund to buy clusters of houses and low-rise blocks in areas where there is sold rental demand. The Hearthstone Residential Fund 1 has five local authority pension funds as cornerstone investors, including the West Midlands Pension Fund and Staffordshire Pension Fund. The other three backers are the local authority funds in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Teeside. The fund will invest in UK regions, buying newly-built clusters of houses and low-rise blocks in areas of solid rental demand that appeal to families and young professionals. Read more on the Express & Star website.

Rightmove Predicts 1% Rise In UK House Prices In 2018

Rightmove is predicting that house prices across England and Wales will rise by 1% in 2018, but there will be a further decline in London. In its annual report on the market, the property website predicts that 2% price falls in the capital will be more than offset by an increase in the value of small and medium-priced homes around the country. Rightmove said the average asking price for an English or Welsh home stands at £302,865 – a 2.6% fall on November, but 1.2% higher than a year ago. A 1% average increase would represent the lowest annual increase since the 0.8% rise recorded in 2011, it said. Read more on the Rightmove website.

7% Rise In Former Right To Buy Homes Now Rented Privately

Freedom of Information Act request responses from 111 councils – two-thirds of all stock-holding town halls in England – show 40.2% of former Right to Buy flats are now being sublet. This is a 7% rise from the 37.6% recorded in 2015 – a rate of growth which would see more than half of all former Right to Buy homes rented privately by 2026. The councils have sold a total of 180,260 leasehold properties under the Right to Buy since its introduction in 1980, with 72,454 now registered with an ‘away address’, indicating subletting. Read more on the Inside Housing website.

44% Of Councils Have Housing Company

Nearly half of councils have set up a housing company in a bid to help deliver new homes, according to a new report. The study, carried out by academics from University College London (UCL) on behalf of the National Planning Forum and the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), has estimated that 44% of the 353 local authorities in England have set up their own companies. It found that two-thirds of councils, or 65%, are directly involved in housing delivery, with a further 22% considering moving into active provision. Download the report form the RTPI website.

UK’s Biggest Shipping Container Village Opens Up For Homeless People

The UK’s largest temporary housing development for homeless people will open up in west London. Made up of refurbished shipping containers, the bold scheme will give 290 people registered as homeless with Ealing Council a roof over the heads just in time for Christmas. Set up on derelict land next to an estate in Acton, the container village is the most ambitious effort yet to utilize the oblong, mobile units to help address the housing crisis. Some communal spaces, laundry facilities and refuse storage space will sit alongside the fully furnished the mobile apartments. Read more on the Big Issue website.

Right to Buy Scheme – Parliamentary Written Answer

John Healey: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, how much funding has been allocated to the pilot on right-to-buy for housing associations to date; and how much has been committed in funding for that right-to-buy for each year from 2018-19 to 2022-23 inclusive.
Alok Sharma: In the Autumn Budget the Government announced a £200 million voluntary Right to Buy regional pilot in the Midlands, allocating £50 million of funding for 2018/19 and a further £150 million for 2019/20. This will give thousands more housing association tenants the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of home ownership.

New Home Building Has ‘Fallen Significantly’ Since EU Referendum

Construction of new homes has fallen significantly since the EU referendum.House builders are also sceptical that the government’s target of building one million new homes by 2020 will be met. A poll of more than 400 housebuilding companies in England was carried out and is published shortly after the Chancellor confirmed ambitious housebuilding targets in the Budget. The survey shows just 38% of respondents had increased their rate of house building over the last year.  This compares to 50% of house builders when asked the same question in a previous survey in May 2016 before the EU referendum. Read more on 24housing.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

ALMO Under Threat As Council Reviews Housing Options

Conservative-run Borough of Poole has conducted an independent review of its housing services as it mulls over whether to dissolve Poole Housing Partnership (PHP), which manages the authority’s 5,000 homes. The council’s People Overview and Scrutiny Committee has considered the review document at a meeting. A petition signed by 350 Poole residents calling for the council to reject any recommendations “which could result in the closure of, or reduction in” PHP services has been submitted to the council. Read more on Inside Housing.

Universal Credit Changes Welcomed, But More Is Needed To Restore Confidence

Changes to Universal Credit have made landlords more willing to rent homes to claimants but the Government needs to do more to address their concerns. Research has found that 36 per cent of private landlords have more confidence to rent to tenants on Universal Credit as a result of changes announced in the Budget. However, the same survey found that 73 per cent of landlords still lack confidence that they can recover arrears that can occur when tenants move across to universal credit. Read more on the RLA website.

Housebuilders Issue Brexit Plea As Poll Shows UK Reliance On EU Workers

More than one in six people working on housebuilding sites across Britain come from other EU countries, rising to half of site workers in London, according to a new report. A survey of 37,000 housebuilding workers across Britain shows 17.7% are from the EU. More than half of those come from Romania, with 12% from Poland and almost 10% from Ireland. Nationwide, 15% of bricklayers , 25% of general labourers and almost 18% of finishing trades, which include plasterers, painters and decorators, come from the EU. Read more on the HBF website.

Council’s Selective Licensing Renewal Approved

Newham Council’s application to renew its borough-wide selective licensing scheme has been approved by the Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid MP. The Council has confirmed the approval in its publication of the Designation of an area for Selective Licensing. Any privately rented property within the designated area, that is not already covered by mandatory HMO licensing or the additional HMO licensing scheme, will need to be licensed. Earlier this year Newham Council consulted on plans to renew their borough-wide selective licensing scheme, and subsequently agreed to go ahead with the renewal in June. You can read the NLA's response to that consultation here. Read more on the NLA website.

Remortgage Approvals Hit Record High

The number of remortgage approvals being made jumped to a nine-year high just before the Bank of England base rate was hiked in November, figures show. Some 51,593 remortgage approvals were recorded by the Bank of England in October - the highest figure since October 2008. On November 2, in a move that was widely anticipated, the Bank of England base rate was raised from 0.25% to 0.5%, meaning some variable rate mortgage holders faced the prospect of higher costs. Many homeowners may have been looking to remortgage to a cheaper deal in the weeks leading up to the base rate hike. Read more n the Belfast Telegraph website.

It's Now Free To Call Universal Credit Lines

All calls to universal credit helplines are now free, the government has confirmed. There had been a row over the use of 0345 numbers which, while included in many free call packages, could cost up to 55p a minute. Under pressure from opposition parties, Tory MPs and charities, ministers announced on 18 October charges would be dropped "over the next month". The Department for Work on Pensions has confirmed all calls are now free. Read more on the BBC website.

Councils In Universal Credit Areas Dig Deeper Into DHP Funds

Councils are having to dig deeper into their Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) funds to help residents affected by welfare reforms and homelessness. Inside Housing contacted councils in areas where the Universal Credit full service has been rolled out to ascertain how the major welfare reform alongside the lower benefit cap is impacting councils’ DHP budgets. Twenty councils responded, with 19 reporting they had spent more at this point in the year compared with the same timeframe in 2016/17. The DWP made £16.5m extra DHP funding available this year to cover the increased cost of helping people hit by the lower benefit cap.  Read more on Inside Housing.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Labour Demolishes HCA Affordable Homes Stats

Report shows 13,549 housing starts on site and 11,867 housing completions delivered through HCA  programmes in England from April to September this year. Now Labour has demolished latest HCA stats showing a ‘rise’ in the number of affordable homes being built. Shadow secretary of state for housing, John Healey, says the stats in fact show a 98% fall in new social rented homes. Healey said: “These shocking new figures show that in the six months before the chancellor’s so-called ‘housing Budget’, the number of new government-funded homes for social rent fell by 98% compared to Labour’s last year in office.” Read more on 24housing.

Housing Estates: Regeneration – Parliamentary Written Answer

Mr David Lammy:To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, what funds his Department has provided to local authorities and housing associations to support estate regeneration since June 2017.
Alok Sharma: The Estate Regeneration Programme is currently supporting and working with over 100 estates across the country. The programme has been allocated £722 million of loans and grants to accelerate schemes at the early stages of regeneration, build access to commercial skills and provide long term finance for estate regeneration.

Extra £2billion For Affordable Homes Funded By Cuts To Other Housing Schemes

Theresa May’s conference pledge to invest an additional £2billion is coming from a cut in spending on other house building programmes, it has been revealed. The Prime Minister used her speech in Manchester in October to announce extra money would be pumped in to the affordable housing budget, as part of her drive to get “government back into the business of building houses.”But it is not new money, and is instead being raised “by reducing spending on ‘accelerated construction’ and ‘starter homes’ across the four years from 2017-18 to 2020-21.” Read more on the Huffington Post website.

Lowest Number Of Grant-Funded Social Rented Homes Built On Record

Fewer homes for social rent were completed between April and September this year with grant funding than in any comparable period on record, according to statistics from the CLG. Figures on affordable housing funded by the Homes and Communities Agency and the Greater London Authority show that 199 homes were built for social rent in the period, slightly down from 241 in the same period last year.  The number of affordable housing completions funded by both bodies over the period in total increased slightly to 10,704, compared to 9,079 in the same period last year. This was driven by an increase in affordable rented housing and a significant increase in affordable home ownership. Download the figures from the HCA website.

Property Unaffordable For 100,000 Households A Year In England

Almost 100,000 households in England are being priced out of the property market each year because of a shortage of affordable homes to rent or buy, according to a report. Research by the estate agent Savills, shared with the Guardian, found the number of priced-out households had risen from its previous projection in 2015 of 70,000 a year. This was in part because of a change in how housing need is assessed, but also due to rising prices and stagnant wage growth. Read more on the Guardian website.

Local Authorities Still Waiting For Rogue Landlord Database

A database of rogue landlords and letting agents has yet to be set up, two years after it was announced by the government, it has emerged.  Local authorities were promised the ability to check electronically with a central Whitehall list of disreputable landlords and agents, to enable them to be brought to justice. The database would not be made available to the public. Read more on the UKAuthority website.

Housing Benefit: Social Rented Housing – Parliamentary Written Answer

Hywel Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, whether he plans to review the implementation of the removal of the spare room subsidy.
Caroline Dinenage: We need to keep the system simple for both claimants and landlords. The Government therefore has no plans to review the removal of the spare room subsidy so that local authorities are required to measure bedrooms.


Association Right To Buy Sales Up 18%

Figures released by the CLG revealed that in a year which included a minor pilot of the Voluntary Right to Buy, 4,694 social homes were sold under Right to Buy, up from 3,977 in the previous year, an 18% increase. Previously, housing associations were only subject to Right to Buy on some stock transferred from local authorities, but a pilot this year of a landmark government proposal to extend the Right to Buy to association tenants, which saw 972 tenants purchase homes. Overall, 23,186 social homes were sold in 2016/17, which contributed in part towards explaining why the net figure for new social housing was so low last year. Read more on Inside Housing.

‘Thousands’ Of Universal Credit Claimants At Risk Of Rental Market Rejection

Thousands of Universal Credit claimants could be at risk of homelessness, as landlords refuse to consider their rental application, research has revealed. The report, by tenant referencing and insurance agency Landlord Secure, found that 16% of landlords would refuse to progress an application from any prospective renter who was in receipt of Universal Credit payments. This is despite estimates suggesting that 37% of Universal Credit claimants are in employment. Read more on 24housing.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Delayed Right To Buy Pilot For Housing Association Tenants To Go Ahead

A question mark has hung over the pilot that was first announced at the Autumn Statement last year after it was not introduced as expected in April. However, Autumn Budget documents reveal that funding has been set aside for the pilot - with £85m of additional spend planned in 2019/20. The total cost will be £200m. The Budget states: “The Budget confirms that government will proceed with a £200m large-scale regional pilot of the Right to Buy for housing association tenants in the Midlands”. There was no further mention of the sale of high-value council homes in the Budget documents, which is supposed to fund the wider roll out of the scheme. Read more on Inside Housing.

Stamp Duty Cut Could Cost First-Time Buyers Twice As Much As They Save

The stamp duty cut for first-time buyers could cost those purchasing a home more than twice as much as it saves them, a think tank has claimed.  The Resolution Foundation said the policy will inflate house prices by more than the saving it will deliver for many buyers. It added that the change will only marginally reduce the time it takes an average first-time buyer to save up to buy a property – from 19 years to 18.5 years. It also said the rise in house prices that the policy is likely to cause equates to a £3,200 increase in the cost of an average-price home – more than double the average £1,600 saving it will deliver. Read more on the Independent website.

‘Small Print’ Reveals Reality Behind UC Budget Offer

Small print shows the budget’s Universal Credit concession of a two-week extension of housing benefit to reduce rent arrears won’t happen till April. And the seven-day waiting period for an advance payment isn’t going to start until February. In the Commons, work and pensions secretary, David Gauke, did little to ease fears of a Christmas crisis for new UC claimants. Amid continued attacks on critics of UC, Gauke confirmed what had been outlined for UC in the budget – then drew attention to timings. Read more on 24housing.

Social Housing Sales Up For Councils And Associations

Over 23,000 social housing units were sold in 2016-17, latest government figures show. Released by the CLG the stats show 23,186 sales of social housing homes overall – 13,652 by local authorities and 9,534 by housing associations. The sales amount to 0.6% of the total stock of 4 million social houses. Between 2015-16 and 2016-17, local authority sales increased by 9% and association sales were up 1%. The association increase was due primarily to increased preserved Right to Buy sales. Download the figures from the CLG website.

Right to Buy Scheme – Parliamentary Written Answer

Lord Beecham: To ask Her Majesty's Government how much they estimate has been realised since 2010 through the sale of council housing under right to buy; and what was the  total of the discounts accorded to purchasers exercising that right. 

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth: Nearly £4.8 billion has been generated from Right to Buy sales receipts since 2010. Table 682 - Social Housing Sales: Annual Financial Data on Right to Buy sales for England. (https:/www.gov.uk/government/statistical-datasets/live-tables-on-social-housing-sales) contains the average discounts that tenants received when purchasing their home under the Right to Buy.

Housing Plan Fails To Deliver A Single Home In Three Years

A flagship government programme to deliver 200,000 discounted new homes to first-time buyers is yet to see a single one built. The 2014 Starter Home initiative was touted as part of “a major push” to help people on the housing ladder, but officials admit delivering any properties under the scheme remains an “ambition”. It promised to achieve its target by pushing councils and developers to bring forward unused land and build on old industrial sites. The initiative’s lack of progress also comes as Labour claimed Conservative spending plans since 2010 have stripped £20bn out of UK housebuilding projects, robbing the country of an extra 280,000 homes. Read more on the Independent website.

Housing: Construction – Parliamentary Written Answer

Chris Green: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, what steps the Government is taking to prevent land banking in local communities.
Alok Sharma: It is important to recognise that after planning permission for new homes is granted, a variety of factors can slow down delivery. Rather than focusing on a single issue, the Housing White Paper acknowledged that all parties in the development process need to play their part in speeding up the delivery of much-needed new homes. That is why the Housing White Paper set out a wide ranging approach to driving up build out of planning permissions. We have already taken important steps to help unblock sites, such as the introduction of the Housing Infrastructure Fund and we are considering how to take forward other elements of the Housing White Paper. In addition, we have recently consulted on what further action could be taken to increase build rates as part of our consultation on calculating local housing need. This consultation closed on 9 November and analysis of the responses is now underway.


Only One In 10 Rent To Buy Tenants Purchases Home

Responding to an Inside Housing survey, nine large housing associations revealed they have completed a total of 1,594 Rent to Buy homes over the past decade but have sold just 180 to the original tenants.  Rent to Buy offers a fixed-term tenancy of usually five years at a discounted rate, with the tenant supposed to buy the home or a share in it at the end of this period. But the survey results reveal just 11.3% of tenants were able to do so, with the remainder either continuing to rent or moving out at the end of this period. Read more on Inside Housing.

Letting Fee Bans To Be Scrutinised

The draft Tenant Fees Bill and aims to deliver ‘a fairer, more competitive, and more affordable lettings market where tenants have greater clarity and control over what they will pay and where the landlord is the primary customer of the letting agent’.  The bill would prohibit all payments to lettings agents and landlords (aside from rent, security deposits, holding deposits and tenant default fees), cap deposits and introduce new civil and criminal offences for breaching the ban. The CLG Committee plans to hold a series of oral evidence sessions in the New Year with experts, tenant, letting agent and landlord associations, and trading standards authorities.  Read more on 24housing.

Housing Associations Reclassified As Private Organisations By The ONS

The Secretary of State has confirmed that the Office of National Statistics (ONS) is formally reclassifying housing associations as private organisations. The change follows deregulatory measures in the Housing and Planning Act that aimed to address ONS concerns about the level of government involvement in the housing association sector. This is a welcome recognition of housing associations as independent social businesses with a shared purpose of building quality homes that everyone can afford. It reinforces the independence of boards and will allow us to secure the long-term finance needed to build more homes, delivering our ambition to drive up supply. Read more on the NHF website.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Autumn Budget Update - Housing

·         100% council tax premium on empty properties.
·         Stamp duty abolished for first-time buyers for homes worth up to £300,000
·         £28m in three new housing pilot schemes – in the West Midlands, Manchester and Liverpool – to halve rough-sleeping by 2022 and eliminate it by 2027.
·         £44bn of capital funding to help build 300,000 homes annually by mid-2020s.
·         New money for home builders fund.
·         £630m ‘small sites fund’.
·         £8bn of financial guarantees to support private housebuilding.
·         £2.7bn housing infrastructure fund.
·         £1.1bn for new urban regeneration.
·         £34m to train construction workers.
·         A review to be chaired by Oliver Letwin to look at ways to speed up planning permission.
·         Five new garden towns.
·         One million new homes on the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford corridor by 2050.

Read more on the Guardian website.

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.