[Ben Reeve Lewis is listening to music this week...]
I found out an interesting medical fact this week. Did you know that there are only a set number of times that a person can listen to The Green, Green Grass of Home before picking up the phone and calling the Samaritans?
Yes, Frazzy is continuing her piano lessons and has graduated from The Skye Boat Song to the Tom Jones classic.
Sitting in the corner of the living room with her keyboard, trying to get her chord changes smooth. I go to sleep with it stuck in my head.
I crept up behind her at the weekend with my iPhone playing a YouTube clip of Les Dawson doing The Entertainer on piano….she chased me around the room.
Mind you her favourite Erik Satie piece, Trois Gymnpedies is coming on nicely bless her and a lot easier on the ear. [Have you suggested headphones? ... Ed]
Land of my Fathers
Spent Tuesday in Merthyr Tydfil training some housing association staff for Easy Law training Ltd.
A lot going on in housing over in the land of my fathers. Scotland too as the devolved countries try out new systems for coping with their corner of the housing crisis.
Letting’s Focus’s David Lawrenson wrote a very interesting piece this week about Scotland’s landlord registration scheme and arguing that it hasn’t been a resounding success so far.
He points out that although Scotland’s landlords have paid over £11 million in registration fees, only 11 people have been reported to the Procurator Fiscal in 2 years.
I grant you it seems like a high figure for little result but it also points out that the registration fee for landlords is only £55 every 3 years and £11 per property. Hardly bank-breaking amounts on an individual level.
Tell me Why?
But what is going on with the scheme?
Regular readers will know I champion regulation but this is a disturbing development. Regulation doesn’t appear to be resulting in any more action against criminals than in England. The article doesn’t analyse possible reasons however.
David points out that councils already have the necessary legal machinery in place and tells it like it is, when he says that councils don’t have the staff or resources to make use of it. Agreed, but employing enough staff and creating efficient systems in councils will cost a damned sight more than £11.2 million.
That the Scottish scheme doesn’t seem to be working very well isn’t in doubt, but I want to know why.
I’m not presuming that registration is by definition unworkable. Shortly after tweeting the article out I got a tweet back from a Scottish housing solicitor saying she put it down to lack of staff and resources, exactly like England.
Des Res underground
I watched a nice news clip on the BBC website about London’s cash strapped would-be homeowners moving into converted underground toilets – you know those big old white tiled, copper-piped Victorian affairs? Who said this country is going down the pan?
(Insert your own toilet based joke here…………..)
I can’t quite decide whether this is a fantastically creative use of space or just a sign of how desperate people are getting.
Especially after reading in the Evening Standard an article on a report published by independent analysts Oxford Economics that predicts that deposits for London’s first time buyers come 2020 will be £100,000.
Now who is going to be able to save up that sort of deposit while all those wanna be homeowners are renting and paying 60% – 70% of their net income on rent? Paris Hilton? Yeah probably but she don’t live down my manor. [It depends what inflation has done to the value of money though ... Ed]
Who’s who in the PRS?
Writing on the Guardian Housing Network, the ever, on the ball, Prof; Alex Marsh looks at the way the PRS conducts itself as a whole, arguing that the rental market is a fluid, dynamic working system, not merely a fixed, unchanging financial or legal model.
The needs of all involved in it, landlords, tenants, councils, investment, allied services is comprised of many variables that aren’t addressed by the in-line thought processes that get thrown in it’s general direction when trying to bring some sense of order and create a system that meets the needs of everybody. Alex suggests:
“The great unanswered question is whether households can be given more security and greater affordability without undermining the economics of renting from the landlords’ perspective or further inflating the housing benefit bill.”
A very pertinent question that is at the heart of the debate.
He also talks about the changing face of the PRS in terms of tenant need, in a climate where more families are renting privately and so need more long term security so their kids can maintain continuity of schooling and benefit from a stable home life.
As you know many landlords are happy to have long term decent tenants but their mortgage lending covenants often deny them this.
Mortgage lenders go to the heart of the problem …
I have long argued that the Council for Mortgage Lenders needs bringing into this debate to deal with that problem, but this week they stepped in uninvited as reported in an annoying and faintly disturbing article on the ARLA website.
They have responded to Labour’s call for more security of PRS tenants. They acknowledge the general problem by saying:
“We accept that the implications of longer-term tenancies need to be explored,”
But then go on to add in a haughty and entirely self-pitying tone:
“Were longer-term tenancies to lead to the build-up of higher mortgage arrears over time, they would become more difficult to manage, not least because a lender’s ability to obtain vacant possession would be impeded”.
So forget community sustainment, family security, financial stability for the landlord – the argument rests solely on how difficult longer tenancies might make a finance house’s lot much less of a happy one. My heart fairly bleeds.
Prof Marsh and the CML both agree, as do I, that a system needs creating that meets the needs of all but the CML’s vision of the future derives from a non-negotiable position that longer tenancies are simply bad for their business.
That old chestnut …
Finally, what makes me want to grab someone from the CML….anyone will do, and give them a slap, is the tired, hoary, reactive old statement:
“For many groups of private tenants, the shorter and more flexible terms associated with existing six- and 12-month tenancies are likely to remain the preferred option.”
Now I’ve worked in housing almost my entire working life. I have met thousand upon thousand of tenants and I have maybe encountered a tiny handful, usually working away from home for short periods, whose preferred option is a short let, but trust me, the same tenancies, with an automatic right of eviction at the end is not the preferred option for most tenants.
In fact, forget the slapping and let me tell you about my ‘preferred option’; to pin whoever made those trite, self-interested statements to the floor, bind their arms, stick headphones on them and let Frazzy practice away at the Green, green grass of home for 5 hours, using the ‘Pop organ’ setting on her keyboard, the one that sounds like cross between a Theremin and a bumble bee.
I’ll soon having them begging for “A guard and a sad old padre” and let them all “Walk arm in arm at daybreak”.
Ben Reeve Lewis