Friday, 19 January 2018

Government Commits To Publish Social Housing Green Paper By Spring

The green paper – announced by housing secretary Sajid Javid in September – is supposed to be the start of a “fundamental rethink of social housing in this country”. Former housing minister Alok Sharma had been travelling the country meeting tenants at ‘roadshows’ to gather evidence for the policy document. In the course of these meetings he had promised tenants he would publish the paper by spring this year. The HCLG confirmed that Mr Raab will attend that event in Basingstoke, and the government will honour Mr Sharma’s pledge on the timing. Read more on Inside Housing.

Stamp Duty Change To Have Limited Impact As New Buyer Interest Drops Further

The UK housing market continued to display a lack of momentum in December, with buyer interest edging lower. Changes to Stamp Duty for first time buyers are having little immediate effect, according to the December 2017 RICS UK Residential Market Survey. Briefly;
§  86% of respondents report no response yet from first time buyers following changes to Stamp Duty
§  Buyer interest edges lower as sales and new instructions continue to decline
§  However, the twelve-month outlook for prices and sales is more upbeat
Read more on the RICS website.

One In Ten New Homes Was A Former Office

Analysis by the Local Government Association reveals nearly one in 10 new homes over the last two years was converted from an office and included no affordable housing or supporting investment in infrastructure such as roads, schools and health services. The LGA says permitted development rights rules allowing offices to be converted into housing without planning permission are “detrimental” to local communities and should be scrapped. It warns they have led to the potential loss of more than 7,500 desperately-needed affordable homes. Since 2015, a total of 30,575 housing units in England have been converted from offices to flats without having to go through the planning system. Read more on the LGA website.

May To Set Timetable To Reveal Foreign Owners Of UK Property

Theresa May will set out a timetable to break the secrecy surrounding the foreign ownership of British property worth billions after facing a House of Lords defeat at the hands of two Conservative peers. Lord Faulks, a former Tory justice minister, and Lord Hodgson have been calling on the government to establish a register exposing the beneficial owners of overseas companies and legal entities, and want it done within 12 months. The peers put forward an amendment to the sanctions and anti-money-laundering bill, which would have been likely to inflict a government defeat. Read more on the Guardian website.

Progress On Council Housing But ‘More To Be Done’

The government is standing by statistics that pitch progress on council housing – but maintains there’s more to be done. On paper, the stats show more people have got onto the housing ladder, waiting lists for councils houses have reduced and the amount of council housing not meeting minimum standards has decreased. The stats show;
·         A decrease of 0.7% on local authority housing in 2016/17 with 13,416 people having bought homes as a result of Right to Buy.
·         20,000 fewer people are now on Local Authority waiting lists, a decrease of 2% since 1 April 2016.
·         Over 95% of all Local Authority stock meets the decent homes standard. This is up from 84% in 2010.

Read more on 24housing.

KCTMO Left Thousands Of Repairs Undone

Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) – which manages Kensington and Chelsea Council’s housing stock, including the Lancaster West Estate where Grenfell Tower is located – is due to hand back its responsibilities by the end of January. An officer’s report shows KCTMO has built up a huge number of uncompleted repairs. The papers also reveal Kensington and Chelsea Council is beginning a programme of fire risk assessments of other towers, seven months on from the devastating blaze, which killed 71. It is aware of less serious fire safety issues in other blocks. Download the paper from the Kensington & Chelsea website.

Wealthy Homeowners Received Millions In Public Money

Hundreds of millions of pounds of public money has been given to thousands of wealthy homeowners under a flagship Government scheme designed to help first-time buyers, new analysis has revealed. More than 5,500 homeowners earning above £100,000 a year have benefitted from taxpayer-funded Help to Buy loans that are aimed at helping people get on the housing ladder. Since the scheme was introduced in 2013, 5,545 households with an income of more than £100,000 received Help to Buy loans, including 1,287 households that already owned a property. Read more on the Independent website.

Government Supports New Measures To Improve The Safety Of Tenants

Secretary of State for Housing Sajid Javid has confirmed government support for new legislation that will help ensure rented homes are safe and give tenants the right to take legal action when landlords fail in their duties.  The government has already introduced a range of powers for local authorities enabling them to crack down on the minority of landlords who rent out unsafe or substandard accommodation. From April this year councils will also be able to issue banning orders to kick the worst offenders out of the business. Government will support further measures proposed by Karen Buck MP in a Private Member’s Bill to protect tenants in both the social and private rented sectors. Read more on the Gov UK website.

Councillor Renting Out 10 Ex-Authority Homes In ‘Right To Buy To Let’ Capital

The council with the highest level of stock sold under the Right to Buy now in the private rented sector is Milton Keynes, with 70.9% of 1,609 flats sold under the policy in the hands of private landlords. Inside Housing has learned that John Bint, who has been a councillor since 2007, is likely to be receiving thousands of pounds a month in rent payments through buying the properties. A register of interests document for Mr Bint from June 2017 shows he owns 14 homes in Milton Keynes. Information obtained from the Land Registry indicates that 10 of these were owned by the council before being sold. Read more on Inside Housing.

Rogue Landlords Making Millions Out Of Housing Benefits

Highly organised gangs of rogue landlords are making millions every year out of the housing benefit system by enticing desperate local authorities to place single homeless people in micro-flats in shoddily converted and dangerous former family homes. Three-bed houses, where the maximum weekly housing benefit for flat-sharers is under £100 a person, are being converted into as many as six tiny self-contained studios – as little as 10 sq m in size. Each then qualifies for housing benefit of £181 a week, enabling a landlord to squeeze £56,000 a year in rent from a property on London’s fringes, all paid from public funds. The £56,000 compares with the typical £6,200 annual rent on a three-bed council house. Read more on the Guardian website.

Labour Wants Stamp Duty Cut To Include Shared Ownership

Labour wants to extend a tax cut designed to help people buy their first home to those getting shared ownership properties. The government abolished stamp duty for thousands of households in its last budget. But it potentially excludes shared ownership buyers. Labour's shadow housing minister John Healey said: "It's not fair. These are the people that this stamp duty relief should be there for and it isn't. Read more on the BBC.

Council Jobs Set To Be Moved To New Housing Company

An extra 260 council staff are set to see their jobs transferred to a new housing services company. Stoke-on-Trent City Council has founded Unitas which is due to take over responsibility for housing repairs and maintenance from Kier Stoke on February 4. But now council leaders want to expand Unitas' remit to include other housing services, such as allocations, homelessness, housing management and private-sector housing, from mid-2018. That would see 260 council staff move to Unitas this year - in addition to the 500 Kier Stoke maintenance workers already due to be transferred. Read more on the Stoke Sentinel website.

Single Council Snapshot Shows 28 Bids For Every ‘Affordable’ Home

Demand for affordable housing is so high in Salford that 28 people are bidding for every property that becomes available. And that’s despite another new 461 affordable properties having been made available in the last year. The figures are from the latest update from Salford City Council’s affordable housing programme which aims to deliver a mixture of social rented, affordable rented and shared ownership homes. This report says that although 17% of new homes provided in Salford last year by developers, landlords and housing associations were affordable the city still needs 760 new affordable homes each year to meet need. Read more on 24housing.

Friday, 12 January 2018

New Housing Agency To Boost Housebuilding

A new national housing agency – Homes England – has been launched by Housing Secretary Sajid Javid as one of the key steps towards delivering the homes the country needs. As the successor to the Homes and Communities Agency, Homes England will drive forward change, as set out in the government’s housing white paper. Homes England will play a major role in fixing the housing market by helping to deliver an average of 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s. Read more on the Gov UK website.

Sector Watchdog Changes Name To 'Regulator Of Social Housing'

The regulation arm of the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) has relaunched as the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH). It follows the Homes and Communities Agency’s investment functions being rebranded and relaunched as Homes England. In a letter to housing providers, Fiona MacGregor, executive director of regulation at the RSH, said a previous review of the HCA “concluded that the HCA’s function as the regulator of social housing should be separated from its investment functions, and established as a standalone body to reaffirm the government’s commitment to a strong, independent regulator with credibility within the sector”. Read the letter on the HCA website.

Pace Of Annual Rent Rises Now Lowest Since 2014

The average asking rent across the UK - excluding London - rose by just 0.7 per cent in 2017 according to figures released this morning by Rightmove. This is a much more muted increase than the annual rises recorded in 2015 when rents rose 3.7 per cent, and in 2016 when they increased by 3.0 per cent. Over the last three years tenants have therefore seen landlords increase asking rents by 7.6 per cent - around £50 per month on the typical rent. The asking rents of new rental properties coming to market in London are rising again, leading to the first increase in the annual rate of growth since the start of 2016. Read more on the Letting Agent Today website.

The Cost Of Renting A Property Will Fall – But Not Until 2019

Everyone knows that saving for a deposit to get onto the property ladder is an insurmountable challenge for many, but private renters are also stung by having to fork out huge amounts of cash at the outset.  Would-be renters have a number of costs to take into account before they can think about getting the keys, including up to two months’ rent as a deposit, the first month’s rent in advance, as well as letting fees imposed by the agent. With UK rents now averaging around £1,196, according to research from Landbay, this means that some tenants could be forced to stump up as much as £3,588 in advance to secure the property, plus letting agency fees of an average £200-300 per tenant. Read more on the buyassociation website.

‘It’s Obscene’ - £80m Revamp Set To Include Just Four Affordable Homes

New homes, a hotel and offices are to be created in Norwich after an £80m revamp of the area around a former shoe factory was given the go-ahead. But opponents to the proposals said it was “obscene” that only four affordable homes are planned. There was criticism that a viability assessment written for the developers had argued a provision of 50 affordable homes - which would have hit a 33pc target for affordable housing - would prevent the scheme being cost-effective. Instead they had argued only four affordable homes, or a commuted sum of £353,234, would be acceptable to allow work to begin at the site. Read more on the Norwich Evening News website.

Housing Developer Wants To Drop Affordable Homes From Scheme

A housing developer says it can't fund the rest of the affordable houses it's due to build on the site of a former school. Kells Development Group was granted planning permission in 2010 to build 74 houses with 22 of these being affordable. To date, 57 of the homes have been built – the majority self-build plots. Sixteen of the houses have been sold to housing association Two Castles but the remaining eight, which were intended to be sold or rented out at an intermediate discounted rate, have not been built. The developer has now asked for a relaxation in its legal requirements to provide the affordable homes saying it wants to sell the eight plots to foot the bill to complete the roads. Read more on the News & Star website.

Housing Association Merger Will Lead To Social Cleansing, Warn Tenants

Tenants in west London have warned that a plan to create one of the UK’s biggest housing associations will lead to the social cleansing of poorer families from wealthy areas. The proposed merger between London-based housing associations Notting Hill Housing (NHH) and Genesis, would create a mega landlord with a combined annual turnover of £676m and 65,000 homes in management, many in sight of Grenfell Tower, which was destroyed by fire in June. But the associations have between them sold off 800 street properties in the last five years and used the proceeds to build more homes in cheaper areas, leading to fears that further sell-offs are planned. Read more on the Guardian website.

Homebuilding Plans Under Threat From ‘No Deal’ Brexit

The potential impact of a no-deal Brexit on homebuilding with a warning of up up to 43,000 fewer construction jobs in the UK, according to new research commissioned by the Mayor of London. In London alone there could be 5,000 fewer jobs in the construction sector under a no deal Brexit, with the capital’s construction sector output potentially falling by £1.2bn up to 2030 when Britain leaves the European Union in April next year. The findings are contained within analysis of the potential impact of five different Brexit scenarios on London and the whole of the UK commissioned by the Mayor last year from leading economic analysts, Cambridge Econometrics. Download the report from the Cambridge Econometrics website.

Help To Buy Prices Hit Record High

The average price of first-time buyer properties bought with Help to Buy equity loans in England has hit record levels growing at a rate that outstrips wages, official figures show. The mean purchase price for first-time buyer properties bought under the scheme between July and September last year was up 12% to £278,189 from £249,234 in the same period in 2016. In the same timeframe, the average total applicant household income under the Help to Buy equity loan scheme was up to £54,019, increasing from £50,302 in 2016. Download the figures from the Treasury website.

Does The UK Need Rent Controls?

The majority of financial professionals believe that the UK needs to enforce rent controls, according to a recent survey.  In the poll conducted by Bridging & Commercial, 71% of respondents were in favour of enforcing rent controls on the UK, while 29% believed that such enforcement wasn’t needed. However, specialist finance lenders have argued that rent controls could result in a drop in supply and quality of accommodation. Read more on the Bridging & Commercial website.

20% Of Landlords Plan On Selling Up

The National Landlords Association’s (NLA) latest research shows that 20% of its members plan to reduce the number of properties in their portfolio in the next year – the highest level of intended property sales in 10 years. The NLA believes this is due to recent tax changes, and has created a series of videos to assess and explain the impact of these changes on landlords and tenants. The four videos contain research, conducted by Capital Economics for the NLA, which shows that landlords and tenants will pay more than their fair share in tax as a result of changes made by the Government to curb buy-to-let activity in the private rented sector. Read more on the NLA website.

ALMO Survives Review

Borough of Poole’s Conservative cabinet has voted unanimously to keep Poole Housing Partnership (PHP), which manages its 5,000 council homes. It approved a recommendation from the People Overview and Scrutiny Committee that the authority “resets its relationship” with the ALMO, rather than dissolves it. A petition to protect PHP was signed by 350 residents last year after it emerged that Borough of Poole had commissioned housing consultancy Campbell Tickell to carry out a review of its housing services. PHP will be asked to work more closely with the council’s “strategic priorities”, including through making cost savings. It will also undergo a governance review. Read more on Inside Housing.

Javid: ‘No Changes To New Homes Bonus’

Councils won’t see changes to the New Homes Bonus (NHB) this year. At the LGA local government finance conference, Sajid Javid acknowledged that “the appetite for change wasn’t there.” Javid stood by the near £7bn in NHB payments he said had “rewarded” the building of 1.4 million homes – confirming over £946m in NHB payments will be allocated in 2018-2019. Javid said: “The sector wanted continuity and certainty and that’s what it’s getting, no changes to the NHB this year and a baseline maintained at 0.4%.” Read more on 24housing.

Labour MP Suggests Doubling Tax For Top Value Homes

A senior Labour MP has suggested doubling council tax bills on the highest-value homes in England to ease the budget pressures facing local authorities. Chris Williamson, an ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, said increases could be staggered from 20% for a Band D home up to 100% for the top Band, H. He said his idea was not Labour policy. But he said it had a lot of support among Labour activists. The proposal was attacked by the Conservatives' newly-appointed housing minister, Dominic Raab. Read more on the BBC website.

78% Believe They’ll Never Be Homeowners.

A survey of Brits aged 18 to 30 years old has revealed that 78% of this age group do not believe they will ever be in a position to own their own home. The main stumbling blocks are the deposit, earnings and credit history. British adults have an average of £6,700 saved up for their deposit. Considering the average house price stood at £225,021 in December this average savings amount is less than 5% – the minimum deposit percentage for most first-time buyer mortgages – of what could be required. It's therefore understandable that 78% of those who don't believe they'll ever own their own home said it was because they could never save enough for a deposit. Read more on the moneyfacts website.

Universal Credit Goes Back To Its Future

Universal Credit is going back to its future – making what used to happen under Housing Benefit (HB) happen again. The DWP has scrapped the tenant consent clause so landlords who can prove arrears of two months or more can claim direct payments –  as used to happen under HB.  The DWP has confirmed to the RLA that landlords will no longer need tenants’ consent when applying for Alternative Payment Arrangements (APAs) – which allow the housing element of Universal Credit to be paid directly to the landlord. Until now a landlord would need the ‘explicit consent’ of the tenant to do this.  Read more on the RLA website.

Tenants In Scotland And London Most Concerned About Rent Rises In 2018

Tenants in parts of the UK are concerned about their rents rising in 2018 with those living in London and Scotland most worried about, new research shows. Some 52% of those living in London and 55% of those in Scotland expect their rents to increase and more than a third in all other English regions are also expecting rents to rise. In London 9% expect rents to go up a lot. Overall, 42% of tenants in all regions said they would not be able to afford any increase in monthly rental repayments, compared to just 11% of mortgage holders. Read more on the Property Wire website.

Persimmon Sales Soar As Boss Takes Home £100m Payout

Persimmon hoped to put controversy over its executive pay scheme behind it by reporting that full-year profits will beat market expectations after revenues soared last year on the back of “healthy” demand. The FTSE 100 housebuilder sold 16,000 homes in 2017, 6pc more than the year before, helping push revenues up 9pc to £3.4bn. Its average selling price climbed 3pc to £213,300. Persimmon said it "continued to experience healthy customer demand for new homes through the autumn sales season", adding that forward sales at the end of the year were 10pc higher than in 2016 at £1.4bn. Read more on the Daily Telegraph website.

Government Renews Focus On Housing

Following the appointment of Rt Hon. Sajid Javid MP as the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, the department will be renamed as the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). Housing Secretary Sajid Javid said: Building the homes our country needs is an absolute priority for this government and so I’m delighted the Prime Minister has asked me to serve in this role. The name change for the department reflects this government’s renewed focus to deliver more homes and build strong communities across England. Read more on the MHCLG website.

Housebuyers Benefit From Profits Squeeze On Mortgage Lenders

Mortgage borrowers are benefiting from intense competition on the high street following the biggest squeeze on profit margins for two years. The Bank of England reported that in the final three months of 2017, the difference between the central bank’s base interest rate and the average mortgage rates charged to borrowers “narrowed significantly”. The last time Threadneedle Street officials reported a sharp decline in the cost of borrowing was around Christmas 2015, before the Brexit vote, as the UK enjoyed its highest sustained rate of GDP growth since the 2008 crash and demand for homes rocketed. Read more on the Guardian website.

UK Affordable Housing Backed By World’s Largest Property Investor

New-York based private equity fund Blackstone is investing in Sage Housing Association to help the firm buy affordable housing allocations from developers. The funds will be used to allow Sage to buy private developers’ Section 106 allocations, affordable housing that developers can be required to deliver – on a large scale around the country. All properties will be for rent at Local Housing Allowance rates or lower, with Blackstone planning to give local authorities nomination rights. Sage was bought by residential investors Regis Group in 2017 and started buying Section 106 allocations of between five and 10 homes. They have won a third of their bids since then, according to the source. Read more on the buyassociation website.

‘True Impact’ Of Universal Credit On The Rental Market

Research finds 73% of landlords still lack confidence in renting to tenants on the benefit due to uncertainty that they will be able to recover rent arrears. Brandon Taylor from Lowestoft provides homes to rent to around 130 Universal Credit claimants, of which 70% are struggling to pay their rent in full and on time. In one extreme case, a tenant who was on Universal Credit accrued £2,848 in rent arrears. When he has applied for Alternative Payment Arrangements, Taylor has found requests to the DWP have been ignored. Taylor warns that landlord confidence in UC has been damaged and that it will take years to regain that confidence back. Read more on 24housing.

Restore Lifetime Tenancies To Vulnerable Tenants, Say Peers

Ministers are being urged to give councils and housing associations back the right to offer lifetime tenancies to those they consider vulnerable. Peers are debating the issue of lifetime tenancies for those in social housing, which started to be phased out by David Cameron's Tory government. They will consider proposals to restore lifetime housing rights to those who have suffered domestic abuse. Council bosses want this to go further and cover other vulnerable tenants. These may be people with mental illness or disabilities. Read more on the BBC website.

Cabinet Reshuffle: What Does It Mean For Housing?

Sajid Javid has kept his job and is now Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government (HCLG). Housing already fell under the department’s remit, but reshuffle rumours predicted the position of housing minister would be promoted to a full cabinet post. CLG has seen its social care remit shifted to the Department of Health. David Gauke has been moved from the DWP to the Ministry of Justice with Esther McVey becoming Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. Dominic Raab is the new housing minister, moving over from the Ministry of Justice where he had been a junior minister since 2015. Alok Sharma will now take up a minister for employment role in the DWP. Read more on the RLA website.

Friday, 5 January 2018

The Government Has Launched A National Survey To Gain Tenants Views On Social Housing

The Social Tenant Engagement Questionnaire aims to highlight any issues or concerns following the Grenfell tragedy, and the results used to share good practice and inform the government’s future policy. The online questionnaire covers the following issues:
•        managing complaints and redress routes
•        social tenants’ voices being heard
•        ensuring good and consistent quality services from landlords
•        safety of tenants

All the responses will be read by the Government and feed into their new social housing policy paper, to be published by the end of Spring 2018. Read more on South Essex Homes website.

Mortgage Approvals Little Changed as Interest Rates Rise

U.K. mortgage approvals were little changed in November and net lending was below its recent average, according to the Bank of England. Approvals were at 65,139 compared with 64,887 in October, the BOE has said. The figure was higher than economists had forecast. Net mortgage lending amounted to 3.5 billion pounds, versus the 3.7 billion-pound six-month average. The data cover the same month the central bank raised interest rates for the first time in a decade, creating further headwinds for a housing market that has been losing momentum since the Brexit vote in 2016. Read more on the Bloomberg website.

Mortgage Possession Orders On The Rise

The number of mortgage possession claims and orders made in county courts has increased in the last six months. Sellhousefast.uk – which assists homeowners with the prospect of repossession – has analysed data to determine which local authorities in England and Wales are most at risk. That data, from the Ministry of Justice, showed the City of London had the highest rate of mortgage possession claims at 59%. However, this corresponded to just three properties due to a smaller population. Read more on 24housing.

Government Confirms Extension Of Mandatory HMO Licensing

The Government has announced that it will be seeking Parliament’s approval on regulations to
extend the scope of mandatory HMO licensing:
·         It will apply where certain HMOs are occupied by five persons or more in two or more households
·         This includes any HMO where such householders lack or share basic amenities such as a toilet, personal washing or cooking facilities.
·         It also applies to purpose built flats where there are up to two flats in the block and one or both are occupied as an HMO.
·         The new rules will be introduced in two phases. Most likely, the regulations will come into force in April 2018.

Read more on the NLA website.

Government Has No Plans For Stamp Duty Holiday To Encourage Downsizing

Before the Autumn Budget there were calls for older people in Britain wanting to downsize to be given a stamp duty holiday to encourage them to do so and free up houses for families. But the Government has now made it clear that it does not back such a move and has no intention of introducing any such tax break. In written evidence to Parliament’s communities and local government committee on the subject of housing for older people, the Treasury says that providing a tax break for those looking to downsize benefits an already wealthy group of people. Read more on Property Wire.

Housing Costs In Universal Credit

This Commons Library briefing paper explains the key differences between assistance with housing costs under the Housing Benefit regime and under Universal Credit. The paper considers evidence of the impact of claiming housing costs under UC to date and the Government response. Download the briefing note from the Parliament website.

Corbyn Pledges To Scrap 'No Fault' Evictions

Labour’s next manifesto will include a pledge to reduce eviction powers for landlords and tip housing rules back in favour of renters, Jeremy Corbyn has announced. The Labour leader said at the next election his party would overhaul housing legislation by scrapping laws which allow landlords to kick out tenants under so-called “no fault” evictions.  It is claimed that the contentious practice – allowing landlords to evict renters on a whim and without reason – has contributed to the alarming rise in homelessness since the creation of the coalition government in 2010. Read more on the Independent website.

Rogue Landlords Targeted By Government

Rogue landlords are the target of new measures being considered by both the government and Labour. The government says landlords in England who want to rent a property to five or more people, from at least two different families, should be licensed. Under the plan, the maximum number of people who can occupy a room would be specified in the property's licence. There are about 4.3 million households in the private rented sector in England. About 500,000 are houses in multiple occupation. Read more on the BBC website.

Councils Set Aside Millions Of Pounds To Support Struggling UC Claimants

A single council has set aside £5m to support struggling Universal Credit claimants over three years. Confirmation of the sum comes in figures released over the Christmas period outlining the extent of set aside support for vulnerable households. A second set of figures exposed a doubling of attempted suicides among disability benefit claimants since the introduction of fit-to-work assessments in 2008. The UC figures – made public by Labour and sourced through FoI – show many councils allocating significant funds to support tenants with rent arrears and provide advice to help them navigate the new system. Read more on 24housing.

UK House Price Growth To Slow Dramatically In 2018

House price growth looks set to judder to a halt in 2018 or at best manage a small below-inflation rise, as the twin spectres of Brexit and rising interest rates put the brakes on the property market. Homeowners and those looking to sell in the coming months have been told to expect an underwhelming and subdued 2018, with a number of leading commentators predicting UK house prices will either stay flat next year or perhaps rise by 1% or so. However, the prognosis for London is more downbeat, with many economists forecasting that prices in the capital will once again slide into negative territory. Read more on the Guardian website.

Landlords ‘Unwilling’ To Rent To Universal Credit Recipients

Universal credit will lead to a “steady decrease” in the number of landlords willing to rent out properties to benefit claimants because it encourages tenants to fall into arrears, the National Landlords Association (NLA) has warned. Only 18-20% of private landlords accept tenants who pay their rent with local housing allowance (LHA), the housing benefit that will eventually be replaced by universal credit – down from 46% in 2010/-11. The latest survey of NLA members showed that 68% of landlords with LHA tenants and 63% with other benefit recipients experienced rent arrears in the last 12 months. LHA tenants owed an average of £2,263, compared with £1,774 by all tenant types. Read more on the Observer website.

Tories Drop Two Flagship Housing Policies From Key Strategy Document

Two of the Conservatives’ flagship housing policies have been dropped from a key government document, raising questions about the future of the plans. The new “single departmental plan” published by the CLG does not include a single reference to Starter Homes, which form a central plank of the Government’s commitment to increase home ownership, or of the planned extension of Right to Buy. The document, which forms part of the guidance for civil servants working on housing, is in stark contrast to the previous plan published last year, in which the two policies featured prominently and were mentioned several times as part of the Conservatives’ housing strategy. Read more on the Independent website.

Homelessness In England Rises By 75% Among Vulnerable Groups

Homelessness among people with mental and physical health problems has increased by around 75% since the Conservatives came to power in 2010, and there has been a similar rise in the number of families with dependent children who are classed as homeless. According to official figures collated by the CLG, the number of homeless households in England identified by councils as priority cases because they contain someone who is classed as vulnerable because of their mental illness, has risen from 3,200 in 2010 to 5,470 this year. Over the same period, the number of families with dependent children – another priority homeless group identified by councils – has increased from 22,950 to 40,130. Download the figures from the CLG website.

Grenfell Firm To Pass Responsibility For Homes To Council

The firm that managed Grenfell Tower says it will hand over responsibility for thousands of properties to the local council. Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (TMO) said it would "temporarily" give control to Kensington and Chelsea Council. The council voted in September to end the contract, a month after the TMO was stripped of responsibility for managing homes in the estate around the tower. The TMO managed almost 10,000 homes. It was heavily criticised after the 14 June fire, in which 71 people died. Read more on the BBC website.

No Higher-Value Asset Payments In 2018/19

Under the Housing and Planning Act 2016 local authorities are expected to pay a levy to government which they make up through selling their most valuable homes when they become vacant. The policy was intended to fund an extension of the Right to Buy to housing association tenants.  However, there have been few recent announcements on the levy, leading councils to warn that the resulting uncertainty is making it difficult to form Housing Revenue Account (HRA) business plans. Mr Javid has now revealed that “local authorities will not be expected to make a payment in 2017/18 or in 2018/19”. Read more on Inside Housing.

Ending Rough Sleeping: What Works?

Through analysis of over 500 published studies and interviews with eleven homelessness experts around the world, this Crisis review found that current approaches to address rough sleeping are not as effective as they might (and need) to be. The development of an improved approach to ending homelessness must of course incorporate the views of rough sleepers and those who work with them, and take into account homelessness prevention, but the learning from this evidence review can play a key role in shaping a new approach. Download the review from the Crisis website.

Letting Fee Ban ‘Will Not Cut The Cost Of Renting’

Government plans to ban letting agent fees paid by tenants are unlikely to make renting cheaper, as new research reveals the prospect of a ban is already being felt by the market. Among letting agents that responded to a survey by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA), over half, 57%, planned to cope with the proposed tenant fee ban by increasing the fees landlords pay. This raises the prospect of the extra costs being passed on to tenants in higher rents over the long-term. Read more on 24housing.

ALMO Could Axe 80 Jobs In Restructure

Your Homes Newcastle (YHN), which manages 26,700 homes on behalf of Newcastle City Council, hopes to save £2.3m through cuts to staff and changes to services. The proposed restructure will mean residents access more of the landlord’s services online. Staff and managers at YHN in its finance and commercial, customer services and assets and development departments are being consulted on the changes. It is the first major review of the ALMO since it was formed in 2004. A new executive team has joined the organisation in the past year. YHN also underwent a board restructure during the summer to eliminate places reserved for tenants. Read more on Inside Housing.

Committee Recommends Council Keeps Under-Threat ALMO

Plans to dissolve Poole Housing Partnership (PHP) have been ruled out following fears of a social housing shake-up. Hundreds of tenants had signed a petition against the proposals, which were considered at a meeting of Borough of Poole’s overview and scrutiny committee. However, after debating the findings of a strategic review of housing management, carried out by consultant firm Campbell Tickell, members voted unanimously that PHP retains the management of the council’s housing stock. Cabinet members will now consider the report and the committee’s recommendation at a meeting on January 9, 2018. Read more on the Bournemouth Echo website.

London Assembly Votes For Tenant Ballots On Estate Regeneration

The motion urges mayor of London Sadiq Khan to recommend that ballots are used on all schemes where demolition is an option in the final version of his ‘Good Practice Guide to Regeneration’. The vote does not mean that this recommendation will be included in Mr Khan’s regeneration guide as the mayor will still have the final say. However, the support of Labour and the unanimous vote places pressure on the mayor to follow the opinion of the assembly. Read more on the London Assembly website.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Government ‘Unacceptably Complacent’ In Tackling Homelessness

The cross-party committee of MPs said the CLG’s “limited action” has “lacked the urgency that is so badly needed and its ‘light touch’ approach to working with the local authorities has clearly failed”. The PAC said the CLG is placing “great reliance” on the Homelessness Reduction Act, which comes into force in April next year, to provide the solution to homelessness and while this legislation “will no doubt help”, it cannot be successful unless the government also increases housing supply and makes homes more affordable. The latest government statistics showed there are 79,190 households in temporary accommodation, a 65% jump since 2010. Read more on Inside Housing.

Desperate UK Homeowners Are Cutting Prices

Price cutting by homeowners desperate to shift their property in a slowing market has reached the highest levels in six years, according to an analysis by website Zoopla. Just over 35% of the homes marketed on the site have marked down their price in the hope of achieving a sale, with the biggest discounts in the London property market. The 35% figure compares with 29% just before the EU referendum in 2016, although it is below the levels recorded in the aftermath of the financial crisis. The average asking price reduction across the country currently stands at £25,562, according to Zoopla. Read more on the Guardian website.

Mayor Launches Database to ‘Name and Shame’ Rogue Landlords

Sadiq Khan, has launched his Rogue Landlord & Agent Checker – London’s first online ‘name and shame’ database to help crack down on unscrupulous landlords and agents in the Capital. The database, published here on the City Hall website, is aimed at giving Londoners greater confidence in renting a home by allowing them to check a prospective landlord or letting agent, as well as acting as a clear deterrent to the small minority of landlords and letting agents who behave dishonestly. Read more on the NLA website.

UK Rents Shrink Towards The End Of 2017

Rents across the UK began to shrink for the first time in over half a decade toward the end of 2017, falling by -0.01% in November, as a two-speed market emerged between London and much of the rest of the UK. The average rent paid for a UK property grew by 0.53% in 2017 (year to date), with falling rents in London (-0.83%) weighing down otherwise resilient rental growth elsewhere (1.27%). These are the findings from the second edition of the National Rent Review from buy-to-let lender Landbay which also reveals how much millennials can expect to spend on rent in their lifetime. Read more on the Property Reporter website.

Council Tax Rise Targets Second Homes

Owners of second homes in the Yorkshire Dales could see council tax on their properties rise by five times the current level. A proposal approved by the National Park Authority is designed "to help attract and retain families to live and work in the area". Their figures show there are 1,500 second homes there - more than 10% of the housing stock. Any increase in council taxes above 100% would require government approval. Read more on the BBC website.

Javid Announces New Homes Bonus Backtrack

Unveiling the provisional local government finance settlement, Javid has said there will be no changes made to the existing New Homes Bonus model. Changes were due, as announced year earlier this year, would see a reduction in the amount of New Homes Bonus payments that would be made. But after hearing “concerns about proposed changes”, Javid said he had been “persuaded of the importance of continuity and certainty in this area”. He added: “..no new changes will be made to the way New Homes Bonus works and that the baseline will be maintained at 0.4%.” Read more on 24housing.