Friday, 18 May 2018

Report Reveals Need For New Homes In England Significantly Higher Than Current Estimate

The need for new homes in England is significantly higher than current estimates, with a need to build 340,000 a year until 2031 to cover the backlog and provide for future demand, according to new NHF/Crisis research. This research – conducted by Heriot-Watt University – shows England’s total housing backlog tops four million, with only a new housing settlement able to address the shortage. The report says the number of homes needed is now ‘significantly higher’ than current estimates – including the government’s target of 300,000 homes annually – which have never before taken into account the true scale of housing need created by both homelessness and high house prices. Read more on 24housing.

MP Urges Help For Tower Block Leaseholders Facing Cladding Bill

Ministers have been urged to help residents of a Liverpool tower block who may be facing bills of £18,000 to replace unsafe cladding. Labour MP Louise Ellman said Heysmoor Heights' leaseholders must not be "abandoned" over fire safety work. There was legal uncertainty over who should fund the work, she said. Management company RMG said the block's freeholder had paid for the work in advance and it was hoped costs would be covered by building warranty insurance. Ms Ellman's statement follows Prime Minister Theresa May's pledge to fund the removal of dangerous cladding from tower blocks owned by councils and housing associations. Read more on the BBC website.

New Homelessness Law Could Make “People Unintentionally Homeless”, Warns Councillor

The Homelessness Reduction Act requires councils to provide homelessness assistance to any UK citizen or person with the right to reside in the UK. This imposes new legal obligations on local authorities to actively prevent and relieve homelessness. With the dramatic rise of homelessness over the past eight years (rough sleeping is up 169 per cent since 2010), it’s a crucial piece of legislation. But councils are struggling to keep up with their new obligations –  and could be putting the very people who rely on their housing services at risk of homelessness. This is due to a lack of resources from central government to enact the new Act. Read more on the New Statesman website.

Concern Over Plan To Drop Social Rent From Official Definition Of Affordable Housing

The proposed revision National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) drops reference to ‘social rent’ from its glossary definition of affordable housing – but adds the mention of Starter Homes and build-to-rent. In its response to a consultation on the draft document, the National Housing Federation (NHF) said: “The removal of the term ‘social rent’ is worrying. “While the revised definition can be interpreted to include social rent, we believe the term should be explicitly retained.” It added that Starter Homes should not be included in the definition and branded mention of build-to-rent as “confusing”. Read more on Inside Housing.

HCLG Committee Calls For Immediate Ban On Combustible Materials

The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee has written to the Housing Secretary over banning combustible materials. Clive Betts, chair of the committee, welcomed the announcement of a consultation on banning the use of combustible materials in the cladding on high rise buildings but called on the Government to go further by implementing an immediate ban. The Government announced the consultation today after the publication of the final report of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety. Read more on 24housing.

Former Housing Minister Finds Current Planning System Not Fit For Purpose

Existing planning rules in England should be scrapped as it is no longer able to produce the kind of homes that people need in terms of affordability, health and well-being, according to a new hard hitting report. Former housing minister Nick Raynsford, who chaired the review into planning by the Town and Country Planning Association, says that decades of tinkering to try to make the system more viable and effective have not worked. Launching the report in London, Raynsford described the current system as being ‘built on the back of assertion rather than evidence’ and the result is poor outcomes. He called for a radical, root and branch reform of planning at a national level. Read more on the Property Wire website.

Workplace Stress In The Housing Sector Is A Major Issue

In 2016/17 12.5 million working days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety and 526,000 workers were suffering from work-related mental health issues. With 9.7 million workers saying that in 2016/17 their productivity is damaged by stress and anxiety caused by the workplace. Across the country workloads are reported to be growing and this is a particular issue in the social housing sector as it seeks to respond to the UK’s housing crisis and unsettled political and economic landscape. More than ever before, the success of social housing sector depends upon the commitment and dedication of the people who work in the sector. Therefore, reducing stress at work and improving the wellbeing of colleagues has never been more important for the continued delivery of core housing services. Read more on the CIH website.

2,000 Birmingham Households Moved To B&Bs Up To 100 Miles Away

Almost 2,000 Birmingham households have been moved by the council up to 100 miles away in the last five years as a result of the chronic shortage of social housing. Birmingham City Council says vulnerable families and individuals made homeless in the city are having to live in temporary accommodation - almost always in ‘bed and breakfasts’ - in cities as far away as Manchester, Nottingham and Leicester. The data underlines how councils are struggling to cope with long waiting lists for social housing, and that the practice of placing people in temporary accommodation outside of their home area has now stretched beyond London. Read more on the Huffington Post website.

Dying Homeless

At least 78 homeless people died last winter, an average of at least two a week. Those deaths include a quantum physicist, a former soldier and a grieving 31-year-old who had lost both his mother and brother. Some died in doorways, some in tents pitched in the snow, some died in shelters and others passed away in hospital after a life on the streets. Many were rough sleepers, others were statutory homeless and staying in temporary accommodation. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has surveyed dozens of homeless charities, trawled local press reports and pieced together figures to create a database of those deaths. Read more on the Homeless Link website.

Councils Call On Government To Go Further With HRA Funding Freedoms

Councils are calling on the government to go further after a senior official revealed a long-awaited £1bn fund can be combined with Right to Buy receipts and grant. Rebecca Shrubsole, a senior official in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, said the new Housing Revenue Account (HRA) borrowing programme announced in the Autumn Budget will be free of the “restrictions” of the last HRA programme in 2012, which was quietly wound down after £220m was allocated to build just 3,000 of the 10,000-home target. Read more on Inside Housing.

Housing Benefit Bill Set To Double As More OAPs Rent Through Retirement

Taxpayers face a multi-billion pound bill as they try to keep a roof over the heads of more middle-aged and older renters priced out of the property market. Soaring house prices have left many middle-aged renters without a chance of getting on the property ladder. The proportion of people in the 35-44 age group privately renting has doubled from 13 per cent in 2007 to 26 per cent last year, the Office for National Statistics said. The percentage of 45 to 54-year-olds renting rose from 8 per cent to 14 per cent over the same period. Failure to tackle the housing crisis will push the housing benefit bill up to £16bn by 2060. Read more on the Politics Home website.

Top Government Housing Official Links Welfare Reform As ‘Relevant’ To Rising Homelessness

Whitehall’s most senior housing chief links welfare reform as ‘relevant’ to rising homelessness. Melanie Dawes, permanent secretary at the MHCLG, told the Commons Public Accounts Committee her officials were looking out for links between the numbers presenting as homeless and the present application of the benefits system. But homelessness minister Heather Wheeler has stated her surety that government cuts and welfare reform are not causes, saying she didn’t know why homelessness was rising. Read more on 24housing.

Housing Group Facing Discrimination Legal Challenge

A leading Jewish housing association is being taken to court over its policy of providing homes only for Orthodox Jews, with its chief executive vowing to fight the case “tooth and nail”. The judicial review case, which will be heard by the High Court, has been brought by two non-Jewish families against the Agudas Israel Housing Association (AIHA) and Hackney Council. The case challenges the council’s decision not to allocate housing in AIHA properties to the claimants, and alleges Hackney’s arrangements are discriminatory in allowing AIHA only to allocate housing to members of the Orthodox Jewish community. Read more on the Jewish Chronicle website.

Minimum Room Size Plans ‘Fundamentally Flawed’

The Government’s impact assessment into plans to introduce minimum room sizes are ‘fundamentally flawed’, with the RLA warning that unless the shortcomings are addressed the regulations are open to challenge by judicial review. As of October this year, a national minimum bedroom size will be introduced for all licensed HMOs, in a bit to tackle overcrowding, with councils required to stipulate how many people can sleep in each room. However, the RLA believes decisions have been made based on inaccurate information – and that little consideration has been given to the negative impact the changes will have on tenants, landlords and the sector as a whole. Read more on the RLA website.

MPs Calling For An End To Untested Cladding

The number of MPs calling for a ban on a controversial method of signing off untested cladding has risen to 73. Now, 44 MPs have written to housing secretary James Brokenshire with a list of demands over fire safety in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire. These included asking him to end the practice of ‘desktop studies’, which allow combustible materials to be used in cladding without testing. They also urged him to install sprinklers in all social housing tower blocks, to “reconsider” the use of combustible cladding, and to ensure that dangerous cladding is removed and replaced. Read more on Inside Housing.

Friday, 11 May 2018

MPs Urge Government To Release Cash For Removal Of Grenfell-Style Cladding

MPs have called on the government to urgently release cash to accelerate the removal of combustible Grenfell-style cladding which remains fully in place on 54 social housing blocks and dozens more private apartment towers across England. Legal disputes over who should pay to refit buildings which failed fire tests in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire are holding up works and 44 MPs have now told the housing secretary, James Brokenshire: “Our constituents … need you to act now.” Read more on the Guardian website.

Planning Deregulation Reduces The Ability Of Councils To Secure Affordable Homes

A lack of investment in genuine affordable housing alongside deregulation of planning is reducing the ability of councils to secure homes, a report released by the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) says. The research undertaken by the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) reveals 98% of councils now identify their need for affordable housing as either severe or moderate. Setting out 10 recommendations, the report, ‘Delivering affordable homes in a changing world: Ensuring councils can meet local housing need’, has been released to coincide with the closing date of the government’s consultation on the draft revised National Planning Policy Framework. Read more on 24housing.

Research Reveals Huge Rise In Number Of Empty Homes In England

The number of empty homes in England has increased for the first time in a decade with the city of York recording the biggest rise as the number of long term vacant properties rose 322% in a year. Overall one in 10 vacant properties are in London where there is some £9.6 billion of long term empty housing stock, according to a new analysis from online estate agents HouseSimple. The figures are published at a time when there are concerns about the number of homes lying empty when the country is facing a housing shortage in both the sales and the lettings markets. Read more on the Property Wire website.

Disabled People In Housing Crisis

Disabled people have been left frustrated and trapped by a chronic shortage of suitable housing, as unnecessary bureaucracy and insufficient support leave them trapped in unsuitable homes, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has warned. The results of an eighteen month formal legal inquiry call for governments to take urgent action to make all new houses adaptable and accessible, as 365,000 disabled people say their home is not suitable for their needs. ‘Housing and disabled people: Britain’s hidden crisis’ calls on governments to produce a national strategy to ensure there is an adequate supply of houses built to inclusive design standards and for a review of the way that building standards are enforced. Read more on the EHRC website.

Number Of Middle-Aged Renters Doubles In A Decade

Forty-somethings are now almost twice as likely to be renting their home from a private landlord than 10 years ago. Rising UK house prices have left many middle-age workers unable to afford a first home, or as "accidental renters" after a relationship break-up. Analysts say a focus on young first-time buyers means older tenants, often with children, risk being ignored. Concerns have been raised about the economic and social impact of these tenants in years to come. Read more on the BBC website.

Third Of British Homeowners Priced Out Of Their Own Property

More than one in three UK homeowners wouldn’t be able to afford their home if it were listed on the property market at today’s value. The Halifax House Price Index has released figures showing prices in the last three months were 2.2 per cent higher than in the same period last year, with the average property now coming in at £220,962. The figures support separate findings that suggest that a significant proportion of those who have owned their own home even for a few years would already be priced out of the market if they were to attempt the purchase again, despite historically low mortgage interest rates. Read more on the Independent website.

Raab Asked Not To ‘Hold Back’ On Green Homes

A group representing ambitious cities and local authorities has sent an open letter to Dominic Raab, demanding support for their efforts to cut carbon emissions from new homes through the planning system. The letter proposes new wording of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), as well as a new Ministerial Statement to provide clarity. A changing national policy context for housing in recent years has led to confusion and uncertainty about what can and cannot be done at the local level to raise the sustainability of new build homes – particularly on energy and carbon. The proposed measures would make clear that local authorities have the freedom to set higher sustainability standards in new homes. Read more on the UKGBC website.

Brokenshire Awards Funding To Reduce Rough Sleeping

Three areas in England are set to launch new pilot projects to support rough sleepers with complex needs get off the streets into stable and affordable accommodation, Housing Secretary Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP has announced. The projects in Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region and the West Midlands Combined Authority will offer individuals intensive support to recover from complex health issues, for example substance abuse and mental health difficulties and sustain their tenancies. The pilot projects will be based on Housing First, an internationally-proven approach to supporting rough sleepers into long-term accommodation. Funding for the government’s Housing First Pilots was announced at Autumn Budget. Read more on the Gov UK website.

Secure Tenancies Bill Passes Third Reading Amid Concerns Over Universal Credit

The Secure Tenancies (Victims of Domestic Violence) has passed its third Commons in Parliament with social housing providers still concerned about the impact of Universal Credit (UC) on victims. These concerns were raised during that reading, once opposition amendments aiming to ease financial pressure on women fleeing violent partners had been voted down. One of those amendments was intended to ensure that victims living in housing association properties had the same rights to secure tenancies as those in council housing – with government benches challenged over a “seeming lack of appreciation” of the variety of council housing available. Read more on 24housing.

House Prices Slip

As sales and new buyer interest appeared to hold steady after seeing declines in previous months, the national RICS Price balance slipped to -8% in April, having been flat in both February and March.  Although this figure signals only a slight decline at this stage, it is still the most negative figure since November 2012. The regional price picture is still mixed, and the national reading is being heavily weighed down by the feedback from London, where 65% more respondents saw prices fall over the month rather than rise (which is the weakest reading since February 2009). Falling prices were also still being reported in the South East, and also in the South West for the first time since May 2013. By way of contrast, house prices continue to rise in Northern Ireland and Scotland. Read more on the RICS website.

Common Misconception Over Durability Of Modern Modular Homes

Research by YouGov on behalf of Home Group found that over half of those surveyed say they would not want to live in a modular home, yet nearly 90% failed to identify a modern modular product. Just under half (41%) believe that modern modular builds are not as durable as traditionally-built homes. Using a selection of images from which respondents could identify modular homes, many identified the two container home images as modular (75% and 78% respectively), whereas only 11% identified today’s product as a modular home. Read more on the Home Group website.

Will The Tories' Starter Homes Initiative Ever Get Off The Ground?

Is anything ever likely to come of the starter homes initiative? It was launched by George Osborne towards the end of 2014 but there has been little news since, beyond a few stories regarding funding concerns. Meanwhile, the starter homes newsletter, which was getting increasingly infrequent and was only ever a series of adverts for developments (none of which contained starter homes) seems to have dried up, and the dedicated starter homes website simply links back to a generic new homes website, as it did when it was launched. Given the dearth of news about the starter homes scheme, it’s tempting to think that it has been quietly shelved. Read more on the Guardian website.

More Action Needed To Protect Renters Against Unfair Evictions

Many renters in the private rented sector put up with unacceptable conditions in their homes because they are too afraid of being evicted to speak out. That’s according to the HCLG Select Committee. In a recent report, the Committee called on the government to address a ‘clear power imbalance’ in parts of the sector. A standout recommendation is a call on the government to strengthen the Deregulation Act. It focuses on protecting tenants from a no-fault section 21 eviction for longer than the current six months, which kicks in only after the local council has served an improvement notice on the landlord. The committee also calls for protections to be extended to prevent retaliatory rent increases, and ensure that these protections kick in as soon as renters make a complain to their landlord, letting agent or local council. Read more on the Shelter blog.

Frontline DWP Staff Want Universal Credit Roll-Out Paused

Two in three frontline DWP staff say the roll-out of Universal Credit should be paused, findings from Channel 4’s Dispatches. The programme also reported a ‘whistleblower’ as saying staff shortages saw claims piling up and not given appropriate assessment. Some 550 Public and Commercial Services Union members who work on Universal Credit for the The investigation uncovered cases of a disabled mother waiting five months to receive her full benefit entitlement, as well as a self-employed claimant being advised to give up work to receive more money. Read more on 24housing.

Regulator Was Warned About ‘Sham Transactions’ In 2015

The Regulator of Social Housing was warned about a housing association accused of using “sham transactions” to violate agreements to provide affordable housing in 2015. London District Housing Association (LDHA) was accused by Southwark Council in two court cases of “conspiring” to sell homes meant to be used as Section 106 affordable housing on the open market. The association signed Section 106 agreements agreeing to provide homes as shared ownership but then sold them as market sale while pretending they had been ‘staircased’ to 100% ownership on day one, the council alleged. Southwark Council took LDHA and several other organisations to the High Court in 2015 and 2016. Read more on Inside Housing.

Help For 'Mortgage Prisoners' Sought By FCA

Thousands of "mortgage prisoners" who are paying high borrowing rates but are unable to switch to better deals should be given more help, the UK's financial regulator has said. These homeowners took out mortgages before new, stricter rules on affordability were brought in. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) also said about 30% of borrowers failed to find the cheapest mortgage deal. However, it said competition in the market worked well for many people. The FCA's comments came in an interim report into the mortgage market. Read more on the BBC website.

Friday, 4 May 2018

HBF Reports Big Rise In Social Housing Units Approved

The fourth quarter of 2017 saw 27% rise in social housing units approved according to the latest HBF Housing Pipeline report. Overall, the report shows the number of units approved during the quarter was 1% up on the third quarter of 2017 and 9% higher than during the same period of 2016. This year-on-year rise was driven by a 7% increase in the number of private housing units approved together – with that a 27% rise in social housing units. Read more on 24housing.

Not Enough Homes Being Built For Older People

The number of people aged 85 and over will more than double in the UK over the next 25 years. With an ageing population will come additional pressures on services and resources – and one area of specific concern is housing. Inappropriately designed and located housing can cause discomfort and suffering for older people, increasing the chance of accidents and falls in the home, fuel poverty and exposure to the cold – as well as increased isolation and loneliness. Recent research suggests the cost to the NHS from older people being poorly housed is over £600m a year. While some of the issues may be remedied with home improvements and adaptations, there is a need for more specialist accommodation for older people. Read more on The Conversation website.

86,000 Young People In The UK Homeless Or At Risk

At least 86,000 young people across the UK are estimated to have sought help from local authorities in 2016-2017 because they were homeless or at risk of homelessness, according to new research released by Centrepoint. The LGA says the findings further reinforce its ‘crucial’ case for councils being able to borrow to build new homes and adapt welfare reforms to prevent homelessness from happening in the first place. Centrepoint bases its figures on 217 Freedom of Information responses from local authorities in England, a robust estimate for the 109 that did not provide this data, and data from the devolved nations. Read more on 24housing.

£250m Spent But No Starter Homes Yet Built Under Flagship Fund

The government has spent £250m to boost starter home construction without a single property being built so far, it has emerged. Dominic Raab, the housing minister, made the admission in response to a question from John Healey, the shadow housing secretary, who described the situation as “a betrayal of young Brits looking for help to buy a first home”. In March 2016 the government announced a £1.2bn fund to help deliver “200,000 quality starter homes by 2020 exclusively for first-time buyers at a 20% discount on market value”. The promise was originally made in the Conservatives’ 2015 election manifesto. Read more on the Guardian website.

Number Of Leasehold New-Build Houses Soars Ahead Of Government Ban

The number of houses sold under leasehold agreements soared last year ahead of a Government crackdown on unfair ground rent increases. An analysis of Land Registry data by the Office for National Statistics has shown that 15.6pc of new build houses, which excludes flats and maisonettes, were sold as leaseholds in 2017. This is a significantly higher number compared with five years ago when 9.4pc of new build houses - excluding those sold under discount schemes such as Right to Buy - were sold as leaseholds. Read more on the Daily Telegraph website.

Social Rented Housing: Construction – Parliamentary Written Answer

Mr Stephen Hepburn: To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, what steps his department is taking to build new social housing.
Mrs Heather Wheeler: Since 2010 we have delivered over 357,000 new affordable homes, including over 257,000 affordable homes for rent. We are providing over £9 billion funding for the Affordable Homes Programme 2016- 21, this includes an additional £2 billion which will be available for social rent. We have confirmed long-term rent certainty for social landlords in England and announced that we will be providing councils with £1 billion of additional borrowing to deliver homes where demand is greatest. These measures will support housing associations and local authorities build more genuinely affordable homes where they are needed most.

‘Non-Committal Committal’ Over Release Of Social Housing Green Paper

The social housing Green Paper will be out “in the next few months” the Commons has been told. Shadow housing secretary John Healey secured the non-committal committal from MHCLG minister Heather Wheeler who said some 7,000 people had shared their views across a wide range of concerns during the consultation period. Tpas is one body to air concerns over the Green Paper folding on un-recorded findings from the Post Grenfell tenant roadshows hosted by former housing minister Alok Sharma. Read more on 24housing.

First Tenants Moving Into Flat-Pack Homes

The first tenants have moved into flat-pack homes in Wolverhampton which have been built more than 200 miles away. The four homes were made in Dublin before being flown to the city and lifted into position on Cannock Road in Fallings Park. They were craned into place at the end of January to have brick 'skins' added and be connected to utilities. Council bosses said the homes are the first of their kind delivered by the authority alongside Wolverhampton Homes. Enabling works on the £600,000 pilot scheme, which is part of the council’s newbuild council housing programme on small sites, started in November. Read more on the Express and Star website.

Brokenshire Criticised For Policy That Turned Landlords Into 'Border Guards'

Theresa May’s new housing minister introduced a controversial policy widely criticised for pushing landlords to rent to “white tenants with British-sounding names”.  James Brokenshire, who was May’s trusted ally as immigration minister under her leadership of the Home Office, introduced “right to rent” checks, which forced landlords to investigate their tenants’ immigration status.  Brokenshire was announced as the new Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, after the previous office-holder, Sajid Javid, was made Home Secretary in the wake of Amber Rudd’s resignation over the Windrush debacle.  Read more on the Huffington Post website.

Housebuilding Changes Could Mean Fewer, Not More, Affordable Homes

In March this year Prime Minister Theresa May delivered a major housing speech as the government published its draft proposals on changing the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) – the set of rules which guide how homes are built. A Shelter analysis concludes that, despite the government’s intentions, parts of the proposals risk resulting in fewer affordable homes being built. This is because an affordable housing loophole, known as a ‘viability assessment‘, could become both more common and more powerful in reducing affordable housing. The definition of affordable housing could also be watered down significantly meaning that what official ‘affordable’ homes do get delivered will likely be less affordable. Read more on the Shelter blog.

High Court Backs Islington In A Landmark Planning Case On Affordable Homes

A High Court judge has backed Islington Council in a long-standing battle between the council and developer Parkhurst Road Limited, who refused to provide affordable homes on a site in line with the council’s planning rules. The developer bought the site in 2013 and has attempted to secure planning permission for a residential development with little or no affordable housing, ignoring the long-standing planning requirements on the provision of affordable homes set by the council. An initial planning application was submitted in 2013. The council refused planning permission for this development twice on the grounds of not providing enough affordable housing, as well as other matters. Read more on the Islington Council website.

Friday, 27 April 2018

Councils Spend Millions Using Right To Buy Flats As Temporary Accommodation

Town halls are spending millions of pounds a year renting ex-council flats from private landlords to provide accommodation for homeless households. Freedom of Information Act requests to more than 100 stock-retaining local authorities in England identified 23 that have been forced to spend millions leasing back homes sold under the Right to Buy policy for use as temporary accommodation. Together, they are paying buy-to-let landlords around £8.4m a year to rent 725 flats – all of which the councils built – for this purpose. Much of the bill will be footed by the national taxpayer in the form of housing benefit. Almost all the councils in question were in London and the South East. Read more on Inside Housing.

New Right To Rent Guidance For Commonwealth Citizens Is Inadequate

Updated guidance that has been published by the Government on Right to Rent checks for those who are Commonwealth citizens does not provide clarity for landlords. The updated guidance has been published to benefit landlords who wish to rent private residential property out in England to Commonwealth citizens (known as Windrush cases) who are long-term residents of the UK but do not have documents to demonstrate their status. It explains their position and gives details of a helpline for landlords to call if they are concerned about a prospective tenants’ ability to evident their right to rent. Read more on the RLA website.

Tory Axe Of Mortgage Interest Benefit Has Put Thousands At Risk Of Homelessness

Ministers have been accused of putting thousands of home-owners at risk of homelessness after new figures suggested cuts to mortgage interest help were hitting the working poor and pensioners. Amid fears of an interest rate hike this year, Labour hit out as official Government statistics showed a very low take-up of a new loan system that replaces benefits. Fewer than 10% of those who used to get so-called Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) payments have taken up the new loan offered in its place, the figures reveal. Support with mortgage interest has been in place for home-owners since 1948. Read more on the Huffington Post website.

Build-To-Rent Units On The Increase

The number of build-to-rent homes that are either complete, under construction or in planning in the UK has increased by 30 per cent over the past year, according to the British Property Federation (BPF). The BPF commissioned Savills to conduct and publish the research on a quarterly basis, and this set of data is the first this year. It suggests that there are 117,893 build-to-rent homes in the UK, up from 90,761 compared with the first quarter of 2017. This figure comprises homes across all stages of the development cycle. When broken down, the number of completed build-to-rent homes stands at 20,863, up 45 per cent from the 14,371 built in the same period last year. Read more on the Planning Portal.

Rented Housing: Older People – Parliamentary Written Answer

Lord Kennedy of Southwark: To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to ensure that there is a sufficient supply of housing for older people in the private rented, social and council housing sectors.
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth: In our Housing White Paper, the Government set out proposals to do more to provide the homes we need for all in our society, including older people. We are strengthening the National Planning Policy Framework, so that local planning authorities are expected to have clear policies for addressing the housing needs of older people. Planning authorities should also include a plan policy setting out their approach to promoting Build to Rent. We will be publishing further guidance on housing for older people this summer.

2% House Price Rise Predicted By Vast Majority Of Brokers

New research has revealed that 8 out of 10 brokers believe that an average house price rise of 2%+ is on the cards for this year. According to the survey, 12% believe that the average house price will fall this year and 6% said that there will be no change. The most recent Nationwide house price index shows that prices fell by 0.2% in March taking account of seasonal factors making the average UK house price £211,625. Annual house price growth remained steady at 2.1% but the average London house price fell by 1% year on year. Read more on the Property Reporter website.

Social Housing Is Unaffordable Now In Parts Of England

The government’s squeeze on poorer households means that social housing is unaffordable for some households on benefits. The annual Homelessness Monitor report, published by Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, finds that councils across the country support the aims of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, but face mounting pressures as they grapple with their new duties. For the first time, single homeless people have clear entitlement to help from local authorities to prevent and relieve their homelessness. Growing pressure on temporary accommodation, and a sharp rise in B&B placements reflect a dramatic shrinkage in the settled housing options available to local councils. Read more on the Guardian website.

Demand For Specialised Supported Housing Forecast To Increase By 36%

Specialised supported housing for people with learning disabilities is predicted to increase by 36% as the population grows and more people are moved out of hospital settings, a Mencap report has found. Demand for specialised supported housing is forecast to increase from 38,500 units in 2015 to 59,800 in 2030, partly because of a government target to move people with learning disabilities from hospital into the community. Mencap is calling for the government to guarantee that the move from housing benefit to Universal Credit will continue to fully meet the housing costs of specialised supported housing. Read more on Inside Housing.

Councils Have Failed To Spend £375m Earmarked To Ease The Housing Crisis

Councils across the UK are hoarding hundreds of millions of pounds set aside for affordable homes. More than £375million is sitting in councils’ bank accounts instead of being used to tackle the housing crisis. Two-thirds of that cash - £235million - is being held by just 14 councils. Labour-run Southwark has £52.6million in the bank, while Camden – also controlled by Labour – has £37.6million. Tory-run Kensington and Chelsea, which has yet to find new homes for two-thirds of those families affected by the Grenfell Tower tragedy, has £21million for affordable housing sitting unspent. Read more on the Huffington Post website.

Council Looks To Increase Number Of HMOs

Current HMO planning laws allow properties to be converted to house from three to six unrelated people. Planning policies introduced to manage the growth in HMOs have been associated with issues such as parking and noise control. Northampton Borough Council are looking to update this policy to allow more HMOs in the area, to provide accommodation for key workers and students, and has appointed Loughborough University to carry out a study across the borough. Read more on 24housing.

Leaseholders Of Flats Face £40,000 Bills Over Grenfell Type Cladding

Residents of 80 flats whose freeholds are managed by a company owned by David Cameron’s half brother-in-law are each facing bills of up to £40,000 because the building is clad with flammable panels similar to those used on Grenfell Tower, in London. Leaseholders of the Sesame apartments in Battersea, south London, fear they are trapped in unsellable homes and William Astor’s company claims it is not responsible for the costs. A spokesman said the firm’s duty was to the unnamed pension fund which owned the freehold and on whose behalf the firm managed the building. Read more on the Guardian website.

'Hidden Homelessness' Problem Could Be Ten Times Worse Than The Government Says

The problem of families put in precarious, temporary accommodation when they are at risk of sleeping rough could be nearly ten times worse than the Government says, a new report has revealed. The charity JustLife Foundation has warned of a trend of “hidden homelessness” as it estimates around 51,500 households were living in B&Bs  in England in 2015/16. The Government says the total was just 5,870. JustLife said the Government’s figures only recorded people living in “official” homeless accommodation. Read more on the Huffington Post website.

A Third Of Landlords With Just One Buy-To-Let Are Considering Selling Up

Two years on from sweeping tax reforms to buy-to-let, the Government's aim of limiting small-scale amateur landlords appears to be closer to fruition. Research conducted by Simple Landlords Insurance has found that a third of landlords with just one buy-to-let property are planning to sell and give up on buy-to-let. Meanwhile, 38 per cent of landlords who own two or more properties say they are planning to buy at least one more in the coming year. Read more on the This is Money website.

Enfield Housing Association Approved

A housing provider that could save Enfield Council almost £2 million a year and boost the supply of affordable homes is to receive start-up funding. The council’s cabinet committee has approved a cash injection of £250,000 to get Red Lion Homes (RLH) – a company set up to invest its right-to-buy receipts into housebuilding – underway. As well as increasing the supply of social housing, the company will save the council £1.8 million a year that is currently spent on renting back former council homes to the homeless. The Right to Buy policy has resulted in councils paying private landlords in order to provide accommodation for the homeless. Read more on the Enfield Independent website.

Labour Proposes Scrapping Affordable Rent In Social Housing Review

Labour has proposed scrapping the affordable rent tenure in its social housing review. The paper suggests replacing the rent product – which was introduced by the coalition government and can be up to 80% of market rates – with a new income-linked definition of affordable housing. Before the last general election, Labour pledged to fund ‘Living Rent’ homes capped at a third of local incomes. It also now calls for a new “Decent Homes 2” target for social landlords to improve fire safety in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster. Download the review from the Labour Party website.

Rogue Landlords Should Have Properties Confiscated

Rogue landlords should have their properties confiscated by local councils, according to a cross-party report from MPs into Britain’s private rented sector. Current financial penalties are “meaningless” in deterring the worst, criminal offenders among landlords, according to the housing, communities and local government committee. The committee also called for greater protection for tenants from evictions, rent increases and harassment, noting that 800,000 private rented homes suffer from excess cold, mould or faulty wiring. However, it made no recommendations for rent controls. MPs on the committee called on the government “to give local authorities the power to confiscate properties from those committing the most egregious offences and whose business model relies on the exploitation of vulnerable tenants”. Read more on the Guardian website.

Residents Consider Class Action Over Grenfell-Style Cladding

Residents of privately-owned London buildings that have been fitted with Grenfell-style cladding are considering legal action against the developers. Leaseholders say they live in "constant anxiety" over their safety at New Capital Quay, Greenwich, London, since the disaster in which 71 people died. Fire wardens are on watch 24 hours a day after similar cladding was found. Developers Galliard Homes say the cladding was certified as compliant with building regulations at the time. Read more on the BBC website.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Council To Set Up Housing Association For Right To Buy Funds

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

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

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

Government Urged To Postpone ‘Second Mortgage’ Scheme

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

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

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

House Price Growth Slows For Second Consecutive Month

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

Monday, 16 April 2018

Universal Credit 'Flaws' Mean Thousands Will Be Worse Off

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

Westminster Investigating ALMO For Ex-Council Buy-Back Practices

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

Youth Homelessness Rise Linked To Welfare Reforms

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

Retirement Housing Faces ‘Imminent Crisis’

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

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

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

Councils Stretch Housing Budgets To Fund Fire Safety Work

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

Majority Of Councils Struggling To Find Homeless Housing

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

Housing Minister Defends Claim Of Immigration Impact On House Prices

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

County Councils To Examine Ways To Get Involved In Housing Market

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

Buy-To-Let Mortgages Riskier Than Before Crisis

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

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Raab Immigration Calculations Sourced From Quango Abolished In 2010

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

UK House Prices Post Biggest Monthly Increase For Six Months

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

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

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

Landlords Remain Confident About BTL

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

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

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

New Crackdown On Rogue Agents To Protect Renters And Leasehold Homeowners

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

Tax Cuts On Empty Homes Costing Councils Millions

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

Government Breaks Promise On Right To Buy Replacements

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