Friday, 16 March 2018

Secure Tenancies Planned For Domestic Abuse Survivors

The Secure Tenancies (Victims of Domestic Abuse) Bill had its Third Reading in the House of Lords on March 13. This bill follows on from the Government’s draft Domestic Abuse Bill, which outlined a commitment to tackle domestic abuse in its many forms. The Bill will provide a basis for local authorities to give domestic abuse survivors the tools they need to rebuild their lives, preventing the lives of victims and their families from being shattered further. The bill will ensure that those with lifetime tenancies who flee an abusive or violent relationship will not lose their security of tenure if they are provided with a new tenancy by the local authority. Read more on 24housing.

Government ‘Should Drop Last Year Of Rent Cut’ To Fund Fire Safety Work

At the National Housing Federation finance conference in Liverpool Waqar Ahmed, group director of finance at L&Q, said the government could “by a switch of their pen” scrap the 1% rent cut in 2019/20 and this would generate £2bn for the sector to help pay for fire safety work. David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said the sector had “heard a lot of noise” from government but seen “very, very little concrete action”. He added: “It’s very difficult to point to something and say as a result of Grenfell the government has done this.” The government could decide not to charge VAT on fire safety work carried out by landlords, Mr Orr said. Read more on Inside Housing.

Crackdown On Private Landlords Renting Overcrowded And Dangerous Homes

Measures to improve overcrowded and dangerous living conditions of private tenants in shared homes were laid before Parliament. Councils are being given tough new powers to tackle the small minority of rogue landlords who rent out overcrowded properties and impose fines of up to £30,000 for those landlords who do not comply. From October councils will be able to set minimum bedroom size standards and also introduce limits on how many people can live in each bedroom of a licenced multiple occupancy home. Councils will be able to use national minimum standards or apply even tougher requirements in order to address specific local needs. Read more on GovUK.

Remortgages Reach Nine-Year High In January

The number of remortgages in January 2018 reached a nine-year high while the number of first-time buyers and home movers both increased compared to the same period in the previous year. In January 2018 there were;
·         49,800 new remortgages, some 19.1 per cent more than in the same month a year earlier.
·         24,500 new first-time buyer mortgages, some 7 per cent more than in the same month a year earlier.
·         25,000 new home mover mortgages, some 6.4 per cent more than in the same month a year earlier.
·         5,600 new buy-to-let house purchase mortgages, some 5.1 per cent fewer than in the same month a year earlier.
·         16,500 new buy-to-let remortgages, some 17.9 per cent more than in the same month a year earlier.
Read more on the UK Finance website.

£1bn In Help To Buy London Loans Handed To First-Time Buyers

A new breed of “five per centers” is taking over the new homes market in parts of London. Using the Government’s subsidised Help to Buy London scheme and a five per cent deposit to get on to the housing ladder, these buyers are now responsible for more than half of all sales of new homes in a “halo” of postcodes around the capital. Some 85 per cent of the new homes sold in West Wickham over the last two years were to buyers bolstered by a 40 per cent government equity loan. The average price of a new home in the BR4 postcode stands at just under £421,000, up 14 per cent in the past two years.  Read more on the Evening Standard website.

Regulator’s New Vfm Standard Praised By Housing Leaders

The Regulator of Social Housing’s use of comparative metrics in its new value for money (VfM) standard has been welcomed by housing leaders. The new standard and code of practice will come into effect from 1 April. The standard requires providers to publish performance evidence in their annual accounts against their own metrics and those defined by the regulator, and report how that performance compares to their peers. The regulator has also published seven value for money metrics that providers will be expected to report against. They include new supply delivered, reinvestment, gearing and headline social housing cost per unit. Read more on Inside Housing.

Private Rented Housing – Parliamentary Written Answer

Thangam Debbonaire: To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, what recent representations his Department has received on the advertising of private property lettings explicitly to exclude people in receipt of housing benefit.
Mrs Heather Wheeler: The Department has received correspondence on this issue. The Government appreciates the problems that some housing benefit claimants can face in finding accommodation in the private rented sector. We strongly encourage landlords and agents to look at all potential and existing tenants in receipt of housing benefit on an individual basis. We will shortly be publishing a new How to Let guide to help landlords better understand their responsibilities. Legislation exists to prohibit acts of discrimination against individuals in terms of age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership and pregnancy and maternity.

Raab: Councils Can’t ‘Abdicate Responsibility’ Over Affordable Homes

Housing minister Dominic Raab says the government can’t allow councils to “abdicate their responsibility” over affordable homes. But Raab offered councils little on lifting the debt cap telling the Commons Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, only that submissions to government will be considered. The issue, said Raab, said was of best leverage of a council’s position to get homes built. Government, he said, will prioritise priorities areas of “highest demand” with expensive prices. Challenged over the total amount invested on affordable housing being less than total increase on Help to Buy, Raab said: “We want to make for low and middle incomes that homes are being built.” Read more on 24housing.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Reverse Universal Credit Cuts, Iain Duncan Smith Tells Chancellor

The former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has warned the chancellor that he risks undermining the whole purpose of welfare reform if he fails to reverse cuts to universal credit (UC) in his spring statement. Philip Hammond is under mounting pressure from across the party to use better than expected tax revenues to reverse cuts made after the 2015 election. Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that 340,000 people could be taken out of poverty by reversing the cuts to work allowances. Read more on the Guardian website.

Lloyds Bank Launches New £500m Fund For Social Housing Sector

Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking has launched a £500m fund for housing associations as part of its wider commitment to the housing sector. The fund will provide financing to housing associations including longer-dated debt with terms of up to 10 years. It will be available to the bank’s existing group of almost 200 social housing clients in its Mid-Markets segment, each of which own and manage over 1,000 units. This commitment is in addition to Lloyds Bank’s £750m support for the UK’s social housing sector this year, part of a wider pledge to provide £2.25bn of funding between 2018 and 2020. Read more on 24housing.

Housing Minister Open To Considering Changes To Borrowing Cap Policy

The housing minister has said he is open to considering changes to the government’s policy of lifting the borrowing cap only for certain councils. When asked by Liz Twist, a Labour MP on the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee, whether the government has considered raising the cap for all councils, Dominic Raab said he does not have a “closed view” on the policy. In the Autumn Budget last November the government announced £1bn of extra borrowing capacity for those councils where housing demand is highest. But critics have said £1bn is not enough to build the number of council homes required. Read more on Inside Housing.

Astonished’ MPs Told £817m Has Gone Unspent In Housing Budget

MPs are demanding an urgent explanation from ministers after being told that £817m allocated for desperately needed affordable housing and other projects in cash-strapped local authorities has been returned to the Treasury unspent. The surrender of the unused cash has astonished members of the cross-party housing, communities and local government select committee at a time when Theresa May has insisted housebuilding is a top priority and when many local authorities are becoming mired in ever deeper financial crises. The committee, which discovered the underspend for 2017-18, will interrogate housing minister Dominic Raab and homelessness minister Heather Wheeler on the issue, before the spring statement by the chancellor, Philip Hammond. Read more on the Observer website.

Reform Help To Buy To Encourage More Homes Over Profit

Help to buy needs to be dramatically reformed in order to stop housebuilders from using it to boost their profits irrespective of how many homes they build, according Avant Homes. The scheme, which is intended to support would-be first time buyers in their efforts to get on the housing ladder, must be dramatically changed in order to encourage a “social conscience” among housebuilders, the housebuilder said. An average of 39pc of the new homes sold by top national housebuilders in 2016 were purchased with Help to Buy and yet the same housebuilders increased their volumes on average by only 6pc over the same period, Avant claimed. Read more on the Daily Telegraph website.

Places For People To Launch £550m Build-To-Rent Fund

The asset management arm of one of the UK’s largest housing associations is preparing to launch a £550m fund for investing in build-to-rent. PfP Capital, set up a year ago by 60,000-home association Places for People, will aim to forward-fund developments around the country to deliver 3,000 homes. It will be seeded with three residential schemes worth around £150m, which will be funded through a special purpose vehicle. Read more on the Places for People website.

‘Widespread Doubt’ Across Sector That Housing Targets Can Be Met

A new report recognises “widespread doubt” across the sector that government housing targets can be met – with a lack of suitable sites and continuing delays to the planning process hampering delivery. The 2018-2022 Social Housing Construction and Maintenance Market Report – published by AMA Research also references a “much-reduced role” for the social housing sector in newbuild housing. Funding for affordable housing has fallen in recent years and housing providers are now expected to build homes for sale and rent at full market prices, and using the profits to provide a smaller portfolio of social homes, the report says. Read more on 24housing.

London Property Prices Fall As Much As 15% As Brexit Effect Deepens

House prices in parts of London that were once at the epicentre of the UK property boom have fallen as much as 15% over the past year in fresh evidence of the impact of the EU referendum. Figures from Your Move, one of the UK’s biggest estate agency chains, reveal that the average home in Wandsworth – which includes much of Clapham, Balham and Putney – fell by more than £100,000 in value over the last 12 months. But property prices have surged in the north-west of England, with Blackburn recording the highest growth rates in the UK. Read more on the Guardian website.

May Fails To Guarantee Refuges Will Not Close Amid Funding Overhaul

Theresa May has failed to rule out the closure of some women’s refuges amid warnings from campaigners that a major funding shakeup could threaten the future of shelters for women fleeing violent partners. In an interview on International Women’s Day, the Prime Minister was repeatedly pressed to guarantee the future of refuges after Government plans for an overhaul of supported housing funding that includes vital shelters. Domestic violence campaigners claim around a third of refuges could close if the plans go ahead, which would take short term supported housing outside of the welfare system and hand funds to local councils. Read more on the Independent website.

Grenfell Builder Rydon's Profit Soars Despite Deadly Fire

Rydon Group, the company responsible for the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower in London where at least 71 people died in a fire last June, said its profits jumped 50 percent to 19 million pounds last year, helped by an increase in sales. The privately-owned company said in its accounts that it had considered its position in respect of the disaster and did not see a reason to make a financial provision for potential losses or expenses. Rydon was the main contractor responsible for a 2014-2016 refurbishment that included the application of cladding on the outside of the high rise building which government ministers said did not comply with regulations. Read more on the Reuters website.

Further Fall In Housing Stock As Demand Also Falls For The Eleventh Month

Continuing a prevalent trend; new buyer enquiries, new instructions and newly-agreed sales continued to drift lower in February. New buyer enquiries fell for an eleventh successive month with 16% more respondents seeing a fall rather than rise in enquiries. Meanwhile, the number of agreed sales also remains slightly negative (net balance -17%), similar to figures seen over the last six months. There continue to be significant regional variation in the results however, and new buyer enquiries continued to increase (taking a three-month average) in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Yorkshire and Humberside in February. Read more on the RICS website.

Countrywide's Shares Dive As Profits Fall

Shares in Countrywide, the UK's largest estate agent group, lost 20% after it warned of tough times in the market. Countrywide, whose brands include Bairstow Eves and Gascoigne Pees, made a £208.1m after-tax loss in 2017, versus a £17.5m profit in 2016. said about 150 head office jobs would go. The firm has been hit by a slowdown in the housing market as well as the rise of online agents such as Purplebricks. But by the close, the shares had pulled back to stand 1.6% down. The profit figures were also dragged lower by one-off costs as Countrywide continued to restructure the business. Read more on the BBC.

First-Time Buyers Are Seven Years Older And Pay 30 Times More For A House Deposit Than In 1960s

The average first-time buyer is now seven years older than in 1960 - and needs to save more than £20,000 extra to be able to buy a home, a study commissioned by Keepmoat Homes has found. Researchers who polled 2,000 adults found a huge difference in the profile of someone buying their first home through the generations. For example, today, first-time buyers will be in their thirties before they get onto the property ladder and pay £20,622 for a deposit. In comparison, in 1960, the average first-time buyer was just 23 years old paying a deposit of just £595 on their first home, 30 times less than the average deposit today. Read more on the Keepmoat website.

Friday, 9 March 2018

A1 Housing Could Be Brought Back Under Council Control

The organisation which has run council housing in Retford and Bassetlaw for 13 years could be brought back under local authority control. Bassetlaw District Council is consulting with its tenants and leaseholders over proposals to bring the management of its housing stock back to the authority - a move that could generate savings of £335,000 each year, it claims. Council housing in Bassetlaw has been managed by the Arms-Length Management Organisation (ALMO) A1 Housing since 2004. It was created by the council to deliver the Government funded Decent Homes programme, which ended in 2012. Read more on the Lincolnshire Live website.

Disused Shops Could Be Used To Tackle Housing Crisis, Says May

Former shops could be turned into homes as online shopping reshapes high streets, Theresa May has said, as she called for a “great national effort” by the government, developers and councils to tackle the housing crisis. Answering questions after a speech, the prime minister said fresh approaches were needed, including using disused buildings of various types to create new homes. Asked whether this should include retail spaces, May said it was important to prevent high streets from being hollowed out. “Often there’s a very good argument for having homes being built in the centre of town, accessible to shops, accessible to transport infrastructure as well.” Read more on the Guardian website.

Help To Buy Mortgage Borrowers Face £1,050 A Year Hike In Fees

Thousands of homeowners who have bought properties using the Help to Buy scheme will see their loan repayments skyrocket from next month. Under Help to Buy, borrowers are given a loan of up to 20 per cent of the value of a newly built home by the Government. The loans are interest free for five years.  After this interest is charged at a rate of 1.75 per cent of the loan.  The first swathe of buyers who took out Help to Buy loans five years ago will be hit with the extra charges from April. Someone with a £300,000 property who took the 20 per cent loan would have to pay an extra £1,050 in the first year. Read more on the Daily Mail website.

Social Rented Housing: Standards – Parliamentary Written Answer

John Healey: To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, whether he has set a target date for all council and housing association homes to meet the Decent Homes standard.
Mrs Heather Wheeler: Local authorities and housing associations are expected to ensure that no more than 10 per cent of their homes is below the Decent Homes standard at any one time.

Number Of Long-Term Empty Homes On The Rise

The latest government data analysed by Empty Homes shows that English local authorities recorded over 205,000 homes long-term (more than six months) empty in their latest reports to government – over 5,000 more than a year earlier. This 2.6% rise is the first increase since 2008, though the proportion of England’s homes long-term empty is broadly stable at around 0.85%. 70% or 37 out of 53 of the areas with the highest proportion of homes long-term empty are in the North of England. The largest numbers are in the lowest value council tax band. Read more on 24housing.

Vulnerable Children Forced Into Homelessness As Local Authorities Ignore Child Protection Laws

Vulnerable children are being forced into homelessness because local authorities are routinely flouting child protection laws, lawyers and charities have warned. Families with young children have been denied emergency accommodation by their local council and subsequently forced out onto the streets, spending nights in A&E waiting rooms, night buses and police stations. Under the laws set out in the Children’s Act, local authorities are legally obliged to provide accommodation for minors, to prevent vulnerable children ending up on the streets. Read more on the Independent website.

Homeless Charity Helped Target Rough Sleepers To Deport

A leading homelessness charity has worked with Home Office patrols as they go out on the streets in search of rough sleepers deemed to be in the UK illegally to arrest and deport. St Mungo’s is one of the largest providers of homelessness outreach services in the UK. Its website says it is “here for every step of the journey away from homelessness” and its outreach teams work to “gradually build up trusting relationships” with people who are sleeping rough. But St Mungo’s has admitted to the Guardian that it has cooperated with Home Office immigration, compliance and enforcement (Ice) teams when they go looking for rough sleepers who are in the UK illegally. Read more on the Guardian website.

Half Of Affordable Homes In Rural Areas Lost To Viability Assessments

A study carried out by housing charity Shelter and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) found that developers wriggled out of providing 938 affordable homes in eight rural councils in 2015/16 using viability testing. Researchers sifted through planning documents from 154 applications where 1,966 homes were initially supposed to be affordable. Viability assessments allow developers to limit their contributions to infrastructure and affordable housing by demonstrating that to do so would not guarantee them “competitive returns”. They are generally not disclosed to the public, though a number of councils have started forcing developers to publish the documents.  Read more on the CPRE website.

Government Floats ‘National, Non-Negotiable’ Affordable Housing Threshold

The government may move to nationally set “non-negotiable” requirements for affordable housing contribution. The policy is mooted in a consultation document on reforms to the developer contribution system as part of the National Planning Policy Framework shake-up. It states: “These changes will provide continuity and certainty for developers in the short term. In the longer term, the government will continue to explore options for going further. “One option could be for contributions to affordable housing and infrastructure to be set nationally, and to be non-negotiable. Download the consultation from the Gov UK website.

Universal Credit Leaves Thousands Of Londoners In Rent Arrears

More than 70% of council tenants in London on Universal Credit are in rent arrears, the BBC has found. Universal Credit, the government's flagship new benefit scheme, has been rolled out in eight London boroughs. As of January nearly 10,000 council tenants claiming Universal Credit owed money for rent. A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) spokesman said: "The majority of claimants are comfortable managing their money." Read more on the BBC website.

'Nimby' Councils Failing To Build Enough Homes Will Lose Planning Powers, Says Javid

“Nimby” councils that don’t build enough homes will be stripped of the right to decide where new houses are placed in their area. Housing secretary Sajid Javid warned local authorities he would be “breathing down your neck every day and night” to ensure home-building targets were met. An overhaul of planning laws will give councils targets for how many homes they should build each year, taking into account local house prices, wages and the number of key workers such as nurses, teachers and police officers in the area. Higher targets will be set for areas with higher “unaffordability ratios”. If councils fail to deliver on the target they will be stripped of planning powers, and independent inspectors will take over. Read more on the Guardian website.

Whitehall Must Reform ‘Viability Tests’, Campaigners Say

The Government must amend the definition of ‘affordable housing’ and change its approach to viability testing in its updated planning framework, campaigners say. Two organisations have called on Whitehall to ‘clarify and strengthen’ its commitment to delivering affordable housing by amending the definition and reforming the viability test. The Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) and the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) have made the call ahead of the publication next week of the updated National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). New research from the TCPA and APSE found 60% of councils said the viability test had ‘hindered’ their ability to secure affordable housing in their local areas. Read more on the Local Gov website.

House Buyer Demand Rises By 37%

Demand from prospective buyers looking for a new home jumped by over 37 per cent last month, new figures show.  In the usual New Year spike in property market activity, the number of would-be buyers rose from 268 per estate agent branch in December to 367 last month, NAEA Propertymark said. Meanwhile, average house prices dipped by 1.12 per cent last month to £245,742, but year-on-year grew by 0.8 per cent, separate findings from the Mortgage Advice Bureau reveal. Read more on the Daily Mail website.

Cap Rent-To-Own Lending Like Payday Loans, MPs Told

Charities have called for rent-to-own lending and other forms of high interest credit to have their charges capped.  The demand came as lenders and debt management charities were quizzed by MPs on the Treasury select committee as part of an investigation into household finances. Rent-to-own forms of borrowing, where a consumer might pay a weekly amount over time, in order to pay for a product were a serious problem for “very vulnerable” people, the charities warned. These forms of lending are used by half a million consumers each year. Rent-to-own often led the poorest customers to pay a much high premium for items, such as washing machines.  Read more on the Daily Telegraph website.

Charities Respond To Record Number Of Alerts Over Rough Sleeping

Homelessness outreach teams have helped more than 1,000 people facing nights sleeping outside in subzero temperatures in England and Wales, after alerts from the public. Charities said record numbers of referrals had been received over the past three days via the StreetLink phone app – which enables the public to help street sleepers – reflecting heightened concern as temperatures have dropped. Hundreds of drivers stranded on M80 as icy spell continues – as it happened. With much of the UK blanketed in snow, many local authorities kept emergency night shelters open, while homeless charities reported a surge in public donations of food, clothes and sleeping bags. Read more on the Guardian website.

UK Mortgage Approvals See Biggest Surge In Nearly Three Years

Britain’s economy grew more slowly on an annual basis than all other Group of Seven countries in the final three months of last year, after consumers were hurt by higher inflation caused by the pound’s fall after the Brexit vote in June 2016. The housing market has also been sluggish - especially in London and surrounding areas - and major mortgage lender Nationwide said earlier on Thursday that prices in January rose at their weakest annual rate since August, up 2.2 percent on a year earlier. But the BoE said the number of mortgages approved for house purchase rose to 67,478 in January from a one-year low of 61,692 in December.  Read more on the Reuters website.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Record Number Of Rough Sleeper Alerts Sent In 24-Hour Period

StreetLink typically sees its use peak during periods of extreme weather, but this recent 24-hour period recorded the highest number of rough sleeper alerts since the launch of StreetLink in December 2012. Members of the public sent over 3,600 alerts to StreetLink – a website, mobile app and phone line that connects people sleeping rough in England and Wales to local services – over the 24-hour period from the morning of Monday 26 to Tuesday 27 February, as the country continues to experience snow and sub-zero temperatures. Read more on the Homeless Link website.

Housing Secretary Fails To Spend £72m Affordable Homes Cash

Housing Secretary Sajid Javid was forced to “surrender” £72m in affordable homes cash as it was deemed “no longer required” this year.  Javid has admitted a total of £817m of the MHCLG budget is being sent back to the Treasury as his department had failed to spend the cash. In an “explanatory memo”, Javid, who had housing added to his communities and local government brief in January, said the huge sum was no longer needed in 2017/18. The unspent cash includes:
  • £65m for London, where housing pressures are most acute
  • £329m for the Government’s flagship ‘starter homes’ programme for first-time buyers

Read more on the Huffington Post website.

31% Increase In Market Sale By Housing Associations

Housing associations sold 31% more homes on the open market in the last quarter than the previous one, the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) has said. The RSH’s quarterly survey revealed that 1,171 market sale units were sold in the period from October to December 2017, up from 897 in the quarter before. It was also a 7% increase on the same period in 2016, when 1,094 units were sold. Revenue from these sales was lower than forecast, however, standing at £700m, compared to the forecast of £834m. According to the regulator, the difference between forecast and current asset housing sales “is concentrated in a small number of providers”. Read more on Inside Housing.

Universal Credit And Rent Arrears

The DWP has recently introduced changes to Universal Credit entitlements to help with housing costs, which may reduce rent arrears. The key changes are:
·         Any claim from 14 February 2018 will not serve waiting days so tenants should all receive money after five rather than six weeks.
·         Housing Benefit run-on is to start from 11 April – anyone already receiving Housing Benefit who transfers onto Universal Credit will receive an extra two weeks' pay to help with rent over the first Universal Credit assessment period.
Read more on the NHF website.

Mandatory HMO Licensing Extension To Commence In October

Regulations laid in Parliament confirm that the long-awaited extension of Mandatory HMO Licensing will come into force from 1st October 2018. The regulations replace the previous prescribed description of HMO, removing the three-storey rule and bringing purpose built flats where there are up to two flats in the block into scope of mandatory licensing. From 1st October, properties that meet all of the following criteria will be subject to mandatory licensing:
·         is occupied by five or more persons;
·         is occupied by persons living in two or more separate households; and
·         the standard test under section 254(2) of the Act;
·         the self-contained flat test under section 254(3) of the Act
·         the converted building test under section 254(4) of the Act.
Read more on the NLA website.

Government Launches English Private Landlord Survey 2018

The newly created Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has launched a survey asking PRS landlords about the homes they provide, their tenants and their experiences. It will be talking to more than 100,000 landlords and agents, so it is likely a number of you will be contacted. The invitation-only survey is the first time the Government has approached landlords directly and asked them to share their experiences in almost 10 years – so if you get an invitation to participate  we would urge you to accept it. Read more on the RLA website.

Landlords Who Say 'No DSS' Breaking Equality Laws

The thousands of lettings agents and landlords around the country who reject housing benefit claimants could be flouting equality laws, due to a recent legal case. The widespread practice has led to "no-go zones" for those on lower incomes - especially in desirable residential areas. But a single mother won compensation for sex discrimination from a lettings agency that refused to consider her as a tenant because she was on state benefit. The woman successfully argued that blanket bans on benefit claimants indirectly discriminated against women, especially single women. This is because they are proportionately more likely to be claiming housing benefit than single men, according to official figures. Read more on the BBC website.

Government Lifts LHA Cap For PRS But Benefit Rates Remain Frozen

Ministers will raise the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) cap for private sector renters for the first time since 2015 – although benefit rates will remain frozen. n April, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will raise the cap on how much housing-related benefit tenants can claim by 3% for 2018/19. That means areas where LHA rates are currently up against the cap will be able to receive Targeted Affordability Funding (TAF) for the first time. The move could take pressure off Discretionary Housing Payment funding in these areas – top-up funds administered by councils to help people whose housing-related benefit falls short of their rent. Read more on Inside Housing.

‘Renters In For A Rough Ride’ In 2018

Rising rents and an increasing number of households renting meant that 2017 was a record year for rent, with the total rent bill rising to £1.8 billion, according to the latest figures from Countrywide. Meanwhile, ARLA Propertymark’s latest survey of its letting agents reveals that almost one in five (19%) tenants saw rents go up in January 2018 – as compared to 16% in December. The number of properties its letting agents managed dropped by 8% in January, with 185 properties per branch, compared with 200 in December 2017. Read more on the Moneywise website.

MHCLG Announces Planning Delivery Fund Allocations

Ministers have announced the allocations for the £15.8m first wave of a fund aimed at speeding up planning decisions. The Planning Delivery Fund money has been awarded to 68 successful bids from local authorities across England. It is intended to help the councils process more applications, train new planners and implement reforms to their planning policies. Funding has been allocated to those working on ambitious planning projects and strategies, often in combination with other local authorities. Read more on the GovUK website.

Leaseholders Urged To Claim Share Of £500m 'Unfair Ground Rent'

Solicitors and developers caught up in the leasehold ground rent scandal may be forced to pay out as much as half a billion pounds, it is claimed. In recent years some of Britain’s largest housebuilders sold leasehold homes, where owners were locked into contracts which obliged them to pay rapidly increasing ground rents to freeholders. Investors – including pension funds or other specialist firms – purchased the freehold on the houses, attracted by this guaranteed rising income. Read more on the Daily Telegraph website.

Councils ‘Help Transform’ The Future For Private Rented Sector

A new report on investment in the Private Rented Sector (PRS) opens channels for councils, developers and investors to work alongside each other on a new generation of private rented housing. The report highlights the need for dedicated vehicles to now accelerate the delivery of private rented family housing.  The report; ‘How local authorities can foster investment by corporate landlords in new private rental housing’, prepared by university professors, Tony Crook and Peter A. Kemp, states that councils are ideally placed to create a modern, private rental offering by working closely with investors and developers. Read more on 24housing.

Housing First Is Only Part Of The Solution To Ending Homelessness

“Housing First is highly effective in ending homelessness among people with high and complex needs, but it does not constitute a solution to single homelessness, or rough sleeping, in itself” according to a new report by the University of York, commissioned by St Mungo’s. The report, ‘Using Housing First in Integrated Homelessness Strategies: a review of the evidence’ is by Professor Nicholas Pleace, of the Centre for Housing Policy at the University of York. He finds that “international evidence shows that Housing First services need to be a part of an integrated homelessness strategy to be truly effective.” Read more on the St Mungos website.

Rents Rise Gently - But Tenants May Be Persuaded To Pay More

The latest figures from LSL Property Services suggest that rents have increased across the UK by an average 2.5 per cent in the past year with yields stabilising in most areas. The average UK rent is now £829 per month and over the past 12 months only two regions - London and the North East - have seen falls. While the strongest growth has been seen in southern areas in recent years, rents in the North West and East Midlands grew faster than anywhere else in the year to the start of February with the typical monthly rent in these regions 2.9 per cent higher than 12 months ago. Read more on the Letting Agent Today website.

Social Rented Housing: Tenants' Rights – Parliamentary Written Answer

Rushanara Ali: To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, what recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of statutory rights of occupiers of social housing to succeed to a tenancy on the death of the previous sole or joint tenant.
Mrs Heather Wheeler: The Housing and Planning Act 2016 includes changes to the rules on succession that deliver a consistent approach across all local authority tenancies and ensure that common law partners are put on an equal footing with married couples and civil partners. When in force, all spouses and partners will have a statutory right to succeed to a lifetime tenancy. Local authorities will be able to grant additional succession rights, and where they do so the tenant will receive a five year fixed term tenancy.

Friday, 23 February 2018

Councils And ALMOs Call For Flexibility In £1bn Borrowing Cap

Council housing representative bodies are urging the government to set out flexible bidding criteria for the £1bn of additional borrowing headroom announced in the Autumn Statement. The Association of Retained Council Housing (ARCH), the National Federation of ALMOs (NFA) and the Local Government Association (LGA) are also calling on their members to prepare to bid for the debt. There are fears that too much red tape could cause the programme to be undersubscribed – as happened when the Treasury announced a similar policy in 2014 – damaging future opportunities of funding for council housebuilding. Read more on Inside Housing.

Poll Urges Government Against ‘Dogged Focus’ On Homeownership

Affordable housing is now considered one of the most important measures to improve public life in the UK, the latest Kantar Public Opinion Monitor reveals.  Almost a third (31%) of the British public now rank affordable housing as one of their top three priorities – only investing in health care scores higher. Affordable housing was placed ahead of other issues such as crime (27%), social care (26%) and generating economic growth (25%) on the Kantar Public Policy Index. The poll also reveals a deep dissatisfaction with private renting. Many respondents felt ‘stuck’ in PRS and unable to ever afford a home of their own. Read more on 24housing.

New Controls On Rented Homes Through Licensing Schemes Are ‘Illegal’

The Court of Appeal has ruled that councils cannot use selective licensing conditions to impose new standards on private rented homes. Paul Brown, a landlord in Accrington, and the RLA argued that rather than relying on licensing schemes which only cover certain properties, electrical and gas safety issues are best addressed by councils using the extensive powers they already have under the Housing, Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). This is the risk-based evaluation tool to help local authorities identify and protect against potential risks and hazards to health and safety from any deficiencies identified in dwellings. It applies to all private rented homes, whether they require a licence or not. Read more on 24housing.

Property Sales Unchanged Year On Year

Residential property sales in the UK increased by 1.3% between December 2017 and January 2018 and were 0.1% lower compared with the same month last year, the latest official figures show. There were 102,610 residential sales and 10,780 non-residential transactions, according to the data published by HMRC, unchanged from a year ago and rising only marginally on a monthly basis. Overall sales have been stagnant and experts believe it is a sign that there is just not enough properties and the limited housing supply is acting as a roadblock. Read more on the Property Wire website.

Candid Commons Committee Clash Over Landlord Licensing Schemes

A London Mayor has been blunt about what bad landlords should face in his borough – lose your business; lose the house. But Sir Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham, had his borough’s record on bad landlords equally bluntly thrown back at him by David Cox, chief executive of ARLA Propertymark, during a Communities and Local Government Committee evidence session on the Private Rented Sector. Newham pioneered borough-wide landlord licensing. Cox told the committee landlord licensing “has never worked and never will work”. Read more on 24housing.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Anti-Homelessness Taskforce Has Not Held A Single Meeting

A government taskforce set up last year to tackle soaring levels of homelessness has not held a single meeting, it has emerged. The Rough Sleeping and Homelessness Reduction Taskforce was announced by Philip Hammond in his Autumn Budget last November, following a spike in the number of people who are sleeping rough. The Chancellor said the Government was committed to halving rough sleeping by 2022 and eliminating it by 2027, and that the taskforce of government ministers “will develop a cross-government strategy to work towards this commitment”. The group is being supported by an advisory panel that brings together homelessness charity leaders and local government representatives. Read more on the Independent website.

Javid Consults On Single Housing Ombudsman To Replace ‘Broken’ System

A new Housing Ombudsman for private and social sector housing could be launched under government proposals out for consultation. Javid has previously expressed his frustration with the fragmented system, which currently includes four different complaints bodies. The proposals will be subject to an eight-week consultation, with the government seeking views from tenants, landlords, homeowners and existing ombudsmen. Download the consultation from the GovUK website.

Choking Off PRS Investment Is ‘Folly’

The RLA says choking off PRS investment is “folly” in the face of falling rates of homeownership among young people. A report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) shows that just 27% of 25-34 year olds with incomes in their middle 20% for their age are homeowners compared with 65% in 1995/96. David Smith, RLA policy director, said such a huge increase means not only more young people renting – but for longer periods. This shows the folly of government policy imposing higher taxes to deter investment in new homes to rent.” Read more on 24housing.

Housing Demand Fuels January Price Rise

The latest figures from Rightmove have pointed to a cautiously optimistic market as average asking prices rose by 0.8% in January. According to the portal, the number of monthly visits to the site hit its highest ever level in January, at over 141 million. Rightmove revealed that all regions bar one have seen the price of newly-marketed property increase this month, with the South West being a very marginal exception with a fall of £131. However, the annual rate of increase remains subdued at just 1.5%, dragged down to a degree by London’s year-on-year fall of 1.0%. Download the Index from the Rightmove website.

Council Lists Own ALMO On Rogue Landlord Database

Westminster City Council has fined its ALMO £15,000 and listed it on Sadiq Khan’s Rogue Landlord and Agents Checker for consumer rights breaches. It comes after the council’s trading standards department investigated City West Residential, a letting agent subsidiary of City West Homes, which manages the borough’s 21,000-unit housing stock. The company was found to have breached Section 83 of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 for failing to display its letting fees accurately on its website. Read more on Inside Housing.

Buy-To-Let Mortgage Rates Slashed

Nationwide's buy-to-let arm, The Mortgage Works, has slashed mortgage rates and launched the first ever five-year fixed rate for landlords below 2 per cent. The deal is priced at 1.99 per cent for five years and requires a 50 per cent deposit or equity in the property. It comes with a hefty £1,995 fee. Rates for the zero fee version of the deal start at 2.39 per cent. The lender - one of the UK's biggest buy-to-let mortgage providers - has also cut rates across its buy-to-let range by 0.15 percentage points and launched a fee-free two-year fixed rate at 2.14 per cent. Read more on the Daily Mail website.

Rental Repossession Numbers Set To Jump

The number of rental properties claimed back by landlords after tenants fail to pay their rent is expected to rise this year, official figures suggest.  The latest data from the Ministry of Justice shows that the number of properties taken back by banks, building societies and other home loan providers after owner occupiers fail to pay their mortgages has stabilised at low levels in the last few years. However, an increase in the number of repossession claims and a sudden significant spike in the number of warrants for future repossessions by landlords suggests the instances of tenant eviction could rise by almost 10 percentage points in the coming months. Read more on the Independent website.

First Time Buyers £ 27,000 Better Off Than Renters

First-time buyers are saving an average of £27,000 buying a property over those renting – almost as much as the average deposit (£31,751), new research from Halifax has revealed. The latest Halifax Buying vs Renting Review found that the average cost including mortgage payments of buying a three-bed home in the UK was £679 a month in December 2017, compared to the average monthly rent of £754 for the same property type. The gap between the cost of buying and renting is now at its highest in four years, up 44% from last year’s £623 saving to £900 a year. Read more on the Halifax website.

Private Rented Housing: Tenants – Parliamentary Written Answer

Peter Kyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, what steps his Department is taking to ensure that private tenants are aware of their rights.
Mrs Heather Wheeler: The Government already produces a range information and advice for prospective and existing tenants. To improve the information available, we have created and updated a series of consumer-focused online ‘how to’ guides. These guides will help educate and empower potential or existing renters, landlords and property agents so they are confident in making informed decisions and know where to go for support. They will help tenants, landlords and property agents to understand their rights and responsibilities by providing a single source of information for rules, regulations and advice. We plan to publish the new and updated guides on shortly.

Councils Set Up 58 Housing Companies Since 2012

Almost a quarter of councils in England have invested £130m in setting up 58 new housebuilding companies since 2012. However, many of these companies are yet to deliver new homes at scale, while only one has paid any dividend back to its council so far. Responses from more than 200 English councils to a Freedom of Information Act request showed 49 had set up a combined total of 58 companies, subsidiaries and joint ventures since April 2012. Another five councils said they were in the process of setting up companies. Read more on Inside Housing.

Friday, 16 February 2018

More Than 423,000 Homes With Planning Permission Waiting To Be Built

More than 423,000 homes have been given planning permission but are still waiting to be built, according to new research released by the Local Government Association. The study, commissioned by the LGA and carried out by industry experts Glenigan, shows the backlog has grown by almost 16% in the last year. To the LGA, the research reinforces the need for new powers allowing councils to act on uncompleted schemes. Over 2015/16 the total number of unimplemented planning permissions in England and Wales was 365,146 – rising to 423,544 in 2016/17. The figures also show that developers are taking longer to build new homes. Read more on 24housing.

MHCLG Announces Allocations For £45m Land Release Fund

Ministers have announced the allocations for its £45m Land Release Fund, aimed at building infrastructure and roads to unlock local authority-owned sites for development. The money has been awarded to successful bids for 79 schemes from 41 councils across England. The government estimates the funding could release land for up to 7,280 new homes. It will be spent on a range of remediation measures, including asbestos removal, road alterations and “bat alleviation”, according to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). Read more on Inside Housing.

The Decline Of Homeownership Among Young Adults

The decline in the homeownership rate of young adults in Great Britain is an issue that has risen to the top of the political agenda. In a briefing note, the Institute for Fiscal Studies finds;
·         young adults are significantly less likely to own a home at a given age than those born five or ten years earlier
·         falls in homeownership have been sharpest for young adults with middle incomes.
·         key reason for the decline is the sharp rise in house prices relative to incomes
·         Young adults from more disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to own their home
Download the briefing note from the IFS website.

Windsor Council Drops Plans To Fine Rough Sleepers After Outcry

Windsor council has withdrawn plans to fine rough sleepers £100 as part of a new “homelessness support strategy” after a public outcry against the measures. The council’s leader, Simon Dudley, has requested that the proposals be withdrawn after feedback from the public and councillors. Dudley’s assertion that rough sleepers should be cleared from the town centre for the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle sparked the controversy last month. The borough also said future strategies on homelessness would not try to address rough sleeping and anti-social behaviour at the same time, describing them as separate objectives. Read more on the Guardian website.

Most Empty Homes Are In The North

We are used to seeing stories about empty homes in London, particularly empty homes bought by wealthy investors who leave them unoccupied. But these sorts of empty properties are not the biggest issue. Research by the Empty Homes campaigning charity shows that London actually has the lowest proportion of in England with 0.56% of homes in the capital officially described as empty. That’s not to say there isn’t a problem with empty homes in the capital, but we need to be careful not to allow a London lens to distort the bigger picture. Download a copy of the research from the Empty Homes website.

Vulnerable People 'Trapped In Homelessness' Due To Law

Vulnerable people are unable to access social housing, potentially trapping them "in a cycle of homelessness", due to a change in the law. Under the Localism Act 2011 councils were granted greater powers to restrict access to social housing. Since then 700,000 households have disappeared from waiting lists across England. The HCLG said: "Social housing is a priority for us." Until the act became law in 2012, councils were required to consider all housing applications, with few powers to remove households from the list. Now a local connection - often more than five years in a borough - is required by 35% of councils to access the social housing register. Read more on the BBC website.

Rent Controls Would Leave Tenants ‘Worse Off’

The ONS’ rent index shows private sector rents across Britain increased by 1.1% in the year to January 2018. In London they grew by just 0.2%. This is against a current inflation figures of 2.7% (CPI) and 4% (RPI). The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) argues the figures show that calls by many in the Labour Party and elsewhere for rents to be linked to inflation would leave many tenants worse off. The figures further highlight that social sector rent increases, currently based on CPI plus 1%, are growing proportionally more than those in the private sector. Download the index from the ONS website.

What Is The English Housing Survey Telling Us?

Read a very useful analysis of the English Housing Survey from @katefaulkner showing interesting changes in tenure trends

One In Seven Homeless In Kensington & Chelsea

The borough of Kensington & Chelsea is home to 10,705 families – 1,441 of which are homeless – one in seven of the population. Next door at Westminster, the figure is one in eight. In Haringey it is one in 12. Taking London as a whole, one in 24 families are classed as homeless – an increase of 46% compared to five years ago. Polly Neate, CEO at Shelter, said: “It’s shocking that one in every 24 families in London is homeless. Every day we help parents desperate to escape the cramped accommodation they’re forced to raise their children in.” Read more on 24housing.

Government Backs One Of UK's Largest Selective Licensing Schemes

The government has given the go ahead to what will be one of the UK’s largest selective licensing scheme outside of London. Letting Agent Today has previously reported that Nottingham was getting tough with unauthorised To Let boards; now it seems the council also has the powers to introduce mandatory licenses for landlords of around 31,000 private rental units within its boundaries.  This constitutes around 90 per cent of all privately rented homes within the city. Money raised through the scheme will help to cover the cost and the council says it hopes to be able to introduce the scheme from summer this year. Read more on Letting Agent Today.