Posts Tagged ‘Housing’

We need a Budget for jobs, housing and stability

22/11/2017, 07:00:00 AM

by Joe Anderson

This is the eighth winter of Tory austerity and it must be the last.

The legacy of a decade’s worth of Tory public service cuts and rampant economic inequality is right there on our high streets for all to see.

Food banks, credit unions and pawn shops.

The poor have been abandoned in the clamour to clear up the mess left behind by the bankers and George Osborne’s ideological obsession with cuts.

His successor, Philip Hammond, didn’t even know the unemployment figures when he was asked on television on Sunday morning.

All of us dealing with the fallout of his disastrous austerity policies know only too well that we have 1.4 million people unemployed and as many again working in the ‘gig economy’ of insecure, part-time and short-term work.

Against such a backdrop, it’s no wonder that young people cannot get a foothold on the housing ladder.

Councils like mine are doing everything possible as a council to work with housing associations and developers to build homes that are so desperately needed, but we are doing so in the face of sheer indifference from ministers about the scale of the crisis.

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Yes, there’s a housing crisis. Yes, more homes are needed. But what can be done right now?

24/06/2015, 09:31:08 PM

by Dan Cooke

It seems that no political candidate today, from Westminster to the humblest parish council, can venture a comment on the state of the nation without name-checking the “crisis” that is the shortage of housing, both for renters and buyers. The Labour leadership candidates are following this script, with Andy Burnham pledging record house-building to make Labour the “party of property ownership”, and Jeremy Corbyn instead threatening to make it the party of property expropriation with his provocative proposal of a right to buy from private landlords.

However, for many, it remains an unwritten rule of politics that you just don’t mess with the way we, as a country, do real estate.

Yvette Cooper once had a political near-death experience after trying to introduce home-information packs, making the mistake of thinking that the anachronistic conveyancing process  – which tortures legions every year –  might safely be improved.

Similarly, Labour’s modest proposal at the election to introduce longer standard tenancies with stable rents was widely, but absurdly, branded as “rent controls” and treated as something that would defy the laws of economics or even amount to “carpet bombing”. And the less said about the “mansion tax” the better.

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It’s time for a rational discussion on immigration

26/12/2013, 11:20:24 AM

by John Stephenson

The divisions within the coalition appear to have widened of recent, as Vince Cable broke rank yet again to denounce the Tory approach to immigration. In an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr last week, the business secretary dismissed the proposed 75,000 cap on EU migrants as “illegal”, making reference to Enoch Powell in his assessment of Cameron’s populist style of politics.

Such a move speaks volumes for the quandary and confusion the Conservatives are facing in the run up to 2015 and Labour can now seek to cash in on any discord among the Tory frontbench.

Labour is right to steer clear of the battleground that has seen UKIP dominate the thinking of Tory strategists. Recent victories for the far-right party have arguably led to the prime minister’s tough stance on immigration and it bears a striking similarity to the concern surrounding James Goldsmith’s Referendum party, which went on to have little, in any, impact on the 1997 general election.

Though the Tories are keen to stress the errors of their predecessors for the “mess” they’ve found themselves in, this is not to say that Labour have not acknowledged the error or their ways.

In a speech to the IPPR at the Local Government Association, Chris Bryant admitted that the measures taken by the party when in government had at times been mistaken. A lack of transitional controls on workers from the eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004 saw a disproportionately high volume of workers stream into the UK, while countries like Germany and France (which retained controls until the last possible moment in 2007) were spared such an influx.

Yes, the arrival of around 500,000 migrants between 2002 and 2010 created problems, but if the Conservatives are so willing to play the blame-game then it seems only fair that Labour return the favour. At the start of the Blair years, the government faced a mountain of around 71,000 asylum applications each years; dealt with by just 50 employees. The very position of Immigration Minister was created by the party to deal with the challenge.

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Towards a real housing revolution: reforming tenure in the private rented sector

17/08/2012, 06:08:47 PM

In May, Romin Sutherland was one of the winners in the” Top of the Policies” vote at Pragmatic Radicalism’s event on housing, with a proposal to reform assured shorthold tenancies

At a time of economic recession, when social house building is at an all-time low and cheap credit is no longer available for most first time buyers, those groups who in better days would have accessed social housing or benefited from more equitable house price to income ratios will increasingly find themselves locked into a cycle of private renting.  In order to ensure that the private rented sector (PRS) is up to the task of housing a growing and ageing population, I am advocating a reform of the current assured shorthold tenancy (AST), which would increase security of tenure beyond the present 6 month minimum, towards one where most private tenants who pay their rent on time and play by the rules are rewarded with long term sustainable tenancies.

If we were to ensure that the PRS was both an affordable and long term option, there would be fewer reasons for households to hold out for social housing.  This would lower waiting times and allow local authorities to focus their energies on the neediest without the resentment that often comes from those who feel excluded.

Anyone working within the advice or local government sectors will be aware of the dangers inherent within complaining about disrepair and maintenance issues.  Not only is this likely to receive little or no attention from the local environmental health authority, it is also likely to see an unscrupulous landlord claiming possession of the property; the so-called “retaliatory eviction”.

If tenants had increased security of tenure, they could enforce their rights without the fear of being evicted.  As time passed and the worst offenders would realise that they could no longer shirk their responsibilities; they may become more proactive about maintenance and emergency repairs, thus reducing the need for enforcement at all.

As tenants are provided with more of a stake in where they live, I would expect to see an increase in tenants’ rights groups acting as advocates and brokers, and taking the lead on community issues.  As tenant groups grow more powerful, this would increase their collective bargaining power and allow them an opportunity to inform decision making in a democratic way.

It would then be up to the tenants and landlords to decide amongst themselves what they most desired; new windows or cheaper rents.

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It doesn’t have to be this way on housing

22/06/2012, 12:36:15 PM

by Andy Hull

England is a rich country that is failing to properly house its people.

The root of the problem is that demand for housing massively outstrips supply: we are now building around 100,000 new homes a year – the lowest level for a century – when we need to be building at least twice that number. If we continue at this rate, by 2025 unmet housing demand will be greater than the housing capacity of Birmingham, Liverpool and Newcastle combined.

As a result, home ownership has become an unaffordable aspiration for too many, with house prices having tripled in a decade, while wages were left to stagnate. Unless first-time buyers have access to the ‘bank of mum and dad’, raising the deposit required to buy a home is now a real barrier, compounding inter-generational inequality. Meanwhile, social housing – a scarce resource rationed on the basis solely of need – is being residualised to the point that it houses only the poorest and most vulnerable. So, the ‘squeezed middle’, including a young ‘generation rent’, is being funnelled into a poorly regulated private rented sector that remains a tenure of resort rather than choice.

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Time for policy in the pub with Jack Dromey

23/05/2012, 03:06:07 PM

It’s that time of the month again. Pragmatic Radicalism is hosting a “Top of the Policies” session on housing, chaired by shadow housing minister Jack Dromey, tonight, in the pub. The fun and games will run from 18.30 to 20.30 upstairs at the Barley Mow pub, 104 Horseferry Road, SW1P  2EE.

The “Top of the Policies” debates are designed to make the floor accessible to as many Labour voices as possible: speakers have just 90 seconds to speak on a policy proposal of their choice, followed by three minutes of Q&A.

At the end of the session there is a vote for the top policy, prizes and the winner will go on to set out their idea in all it’s glory in an article right here, in the hallowed pixels of Labour Uncut.

Yes, wow indeed.

And failing all else, there are free refreshments. What more could you ask for?

See you in the pub.

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Tuesday News Review

30/08/2011, 06:56:01 AM

Housing crisis

The National Housing Federation said the number of property owners will drop to just 63.8% as house prices soar, compared to 72.5% in 2001. The study says rising prices, the need for huge deposits and a tightening of lending criteria will force ownership numbers down. It also predicts prices in the rental market will increase sharply as people struggle to own their own home. The group, which represents housing associations in England, says a shortage of homes in the UK is also to blame. Housing minister Grant Shapps said the government is aiming to deliver on its promise of 170,000 new homes in the next four years, coupled with encouragement of lenders to help first time buyers. However the NHF chief executive David Orr says the market is “dysfunctional” and warned: “Home ownership is increasingly becoming the preserve of the wealthy and, in parts of the country like London, the very wealthy.” – Sky News

The housing market is in crisis as house prices soar and ownership levels tumble, a forecast warned yesterday. Ownership in England will fall to 63% in the next decade from a 2001 peak of 72.5%, the National Housing Federation, which represents housing associations, said. It blames an under-supply of homes, big deposits and stricter lending rules. Oxford Economics, which was commissioned to produce the forecasts, expects a 20% rise in house prices, to £260,304, and private rents, to £582 a month, by 2016. About 4.5 million people are on waiting lists for social housing and only those in desperate need have a chance of being allocated a house. Federation chief executive David Orr demanded more Government investment to build affordable housing. – Daily Mirror

In England, 67.8 per cent of people currently own their home. London will see the biggest drop over the next ten years, from about 50 per cent to 44 per cent in 2021, while the North-East will be the only region to see an increase, rising from 66.2 per cent to 67.4 per cent. Today, the typical first-time buyer has to save £26,346 to get a mortgage – the equivalent of 20 per cent of the value of their home – according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders. Four years ago, they needed only a deposit of 10 per cent. However, Mr Orr blamed builders, not banks, for the housing crisis. ‘Despite the overwhelming need to increase supply, house building has slumped to a 90-year low, plunging the country even deeper into the mire,’ he said. House prices and rent are both predicted to rise by about 20 per cent over the next five years.  This would mean the average tenant paying £1,152 more per year. – Daily Mail

Crossrail delay to stop another Bombardier

Britain’s next train manufacturing contract could be awarded to a UK-based business after the £16bn Crossrail project delayed a competition to build new carriages. The move reduces the chances of a repeat of the Bombardier row, where the company’s Derby factory missed out to a German rival for a £1.4bn government contract. As a consequence of the delay, the Crossrail tender will include recommendations from a government review of public procurement that was announced in the wake of the Bombardier decision. Crossrail said the primary reason for pushing the award of the carriage contract from late 2013 to 2014 was to save costs, but said it would also allow “the conclusions of the government’s review of public procurement to be taken into account”. In a carefully worded statement, Crossrail indicated that a UK-based business will be in a stronger position for the new contract than it was in the Thameslink contest. – the Guardian

Cash for access returns

David Cameron has been accused of holding “cash for access” meetings with the head of a public affairs firm. As Tory leader he pledged to end the “far-too-cosy relationship between politics, government, business and money”. But since becoming Prime Minister he has twice held private talks with Conservative Intelligence boss Tim Montgomerie without any officials present, previously secret records show. The company charges clients up to £2,500 a year for advice that includes briefings on government policy and the “dos and don’ts” of tapping-up ministers. The talks came to light when Mr Cameron was forced to publish details of all his meetings at the height of the phone-hacking row. Labour MP John Mann said: “This revelation totally shatters his promise to clean up Westminster. It is old fashioned cash-for-access and lobbying dressed up in a new guise.” – Daily Mirror

Funding cap would ruin Labour

Labour could face financial ruin under plans being developed to cap the biggest donations to political parties, a Guardian analysis shows. The independent standards watchdog is said to have agreed to recommend a new limit on donations, introducing an annual cap with figures ranging from £50,000 to £10,000 being considered. Such a move, in an attempt to clean up political funding, would end the six- and seven-figure donations to the Labour party from its union sponsors, as well as the Tories’ reliance on the richest city financiers. An analysis of five and a half years’ worth of donations to the parties reveals the move would most dramatically affect Labour’s funding base. If the £50,000 limit had been in place over the period, Labour’s donations would have been reduced by 72%, the Conservatives‘ by 37% and theLiberal Democrats‘ by 25%. – the Guardian

Japan’s new PM

Japan’s parliament elected Yoshihiko Noda as the country’s new prime minister Tuesday, making him the country’s sixth new leader in five years. Noda won 308 out of 476 possible votes. The prime minister-elect will officially take over his new post after a ceremonial endorsement by Japan’s emperor, which is expected to happen Wednesday. Ahead of the vote, former Prime Minister Naoto Kan officially submitted his resignation, as did his Cabinet, clearing the way for Noda’s election. The Democratic Party of Japan, the country’s ruling party, picked Noda as its new leader on Monday. He served as finance minister in Kan’s cabinet. In his first speech as party leader, Noda called for party unity to tackle Japan’s massive problems. – CNN

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Tory council to make homelessness illegal

27/02/2011, 03:35:11 PM

The Tories have a new policy on homelessness: make it illegal. That is the extraordinary intention of a Conservative flagship council. Worse, they want to ban Salvation Army soup kitchens.

Westminster city council, the richest and most powerful council in the UK, is proposing a new bye-law to ban rough sleeping and “soup runs” in the Victoria area of London. The proposed new bye-law will make it an offence punishable by a fine to “sleep or lie down”, “deposit materials used as bedding” and to “give out, or permit another to give out, food for free”.

If these proposals are passed, they will also prohibit companies with a proud record of corporate social responsibility from doing good things. Companies like Pret a Manger, who have, very quietly, for many years, given away their unsold food to London’s homeless. If the Tories get their way, companies like Pret will be forced to throw the food in the bin.

What must housing minister, Grant Shapps, think of this? Back in Christmas 2007, Shapps, ostentatiously spent a night in a bag outside Victoria station.

Back then he told Andrew Porter of the Daily Telegraph:

“Our policy is we absolutely need more houses. The way to do it is to incentivise communities to want to build houses. It works by saying, ‘build these houses and you get a new town centre or other services like a hospital or school’. The existing community gets the gain, not just those people who move there”.

That was then and this is now. If the Tories on Westminster council get their way, Shapps would have been fined for sleeping in the street. Not, we suspect, that he would do it now. (more…)

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It’s time to offer real alternatives, says John Healey

01/09/2010, 04:10:43 PM

In its first few months the Tory-Lib Dem coalition has all but conquered the media with the message that tackling the deficit trumps everything. We have a government of deficit disciples who have narrowed the terms of political debate to create sufficient cover for an ideological drive to slash public spending and reduce the role of the state.

Labour is right to fight the government hard on this, pressing for impact from the savage spending cuts and regressive tax changes. But opposing the government is only one side to the task of leadership in opposition.

The least people will expect is for us to argue for alternatives and propose new Labour policies. There are economic alternatives to defying the deficit.

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Cuts in Housing Benefit will cause hardship and increase homelessness, says Karen Buck

22/07/2010, 12:53:48 PM

Beveridge, intellectual giant, architect of the post war welfare state, threw in the towel when it came to sorting out rent subsidy. The Beveridge report argued, not unreasonably, that any coherent national system of subsidising housing costs for those who could not afford them was not feasible while rents varied so greatly between different part of the United Kingdom.  The problem which confounded him has, if anything, intensified over the years. In the last three decades, to add to the intractable problem of regional variations in costs, governments of both colours pursued a deliberate policy of allowing Housing Benefit to ‘take the strain’ generated by decline in the provision of social rented housing.   Today, housing need is one of the great policy challenges of the century, with demand for affordable homes far outstripping supply and subsidy, in the form of Housing Benefit, going instead into the pockets of private landlords supplying the roof over the head of an ever increasing number of low income households.

Taken in isolation from wider housing policy, one can understand the concern at the rising bill, and recognise the sense of injustice amongst working families at the small number of very extreme cases of households claiming Housing Benefit in our most expensive neighbourhoods. Intuitively, it seems as though we have got it wrong and the system is ripe for reform.

Yet seeing where a policy is wrong does not necessarily help us get it right. The measures set out in the Coalition budget for cutting subsidy to low income households is draconian, runs counter to all attempts to create mixed communities and could easily create a crisis of homelessness.

To summarise the proposals, a cap on the highest  rents (mostly in  London) will be followed by a reduction in Local Housing Allowances everywhere in the country, with future up-rating limited too.  Working age households in private and social housing alike will see their benefit cut if they are deemed to have any spare bedrooms, and, in 2013 anyone on Jobseeker’s Allowance for a year loses 10% of their benefit.

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