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Ben Reeve Lewis Friday Newsround #142

Ben on a chair[Ben Reeve Lewis peers out of his world ]

Funny how you can get stuck in your own world isn’t it?

The other day I was talking to some friends who have no connection to anything housing related apart from the fact they live in one.

A comment was passed about the flooding on the Somerset levels following a news item they had read criticising the proposed building of thousands of homes on the flooded areas.

“How ridiculous. As if we need more houses for chris-sakes”, was the remark.

I had to explain the current housing crisis, which took them completely by surprise

Housing on the brain

Housing issues occupy most of my waking hours, either working for the council or at weekends and evenings working on training courses at home for housing workers. Not to mention keeping a daily eye on developing news in order to write articles.

The crisis on all levels is the most important factor affecting our domestic lives right now….or so I thought. It is actually possible for people to not even be aware there is a problem.

If your home is secure and the homes of your friends and family are secure then I suppose the subject goes straight over your head and you skip those articles when reading the paper, focussing more on business growth or who won X Factor, depending on your leanings.

When you are based in the homelessness unit, as I am and you see the queues outside the door a full hour before you open you tend to have a different perspective

Politicians baffled (so whats new)

My mate Hannah Fearn wrote a great piece for the Guardian  on how the complexity of housing issues also baffle politicians, because, as she says:-

“Housing is complicated. Few politicians have been able to grasp how policies on seemingly disparate issues such as homelessness, low-paid work and expensive holiday homes all fit together.”

Exactly. It isn’t just about keys, loan to value ratios, rent control etc. so many seemingly unrelated things impinge upon it.

Kicking Cameron

Cameron is getting roundly criticised for being a limp rag over the flooding, quite rightly so but why is nobody kicking him in the nuts over his record on housing?

Writing in Monday’s Daily Mirror  the excellent Kevin Maguire rounded on Cameron’s rubbish response to the floods using terms that could just as easily be applied to his approach to the housing situation:-

“The Prime Bumbler’s panic after complacency gives him the air of a man drowning not waving, stranded all at sea when tested.”

“Voters forgive much but the impression of incompetence is fatal”,

“Sloshing about Britain in his Hunters won’t hide how he is wrong. And utterly incompetent, unable to run a bath let alone a country”.

And my particular favourite and sincerest wish:-

“The floods may sweep Cameron out of Downing Street.”

We can but hope.

Mark Carney on the case

If Cameron doesn’t understand the housing crisis then at Least Bank of England Governor Mark Carney does.

As reported by Neil Patterson on Property 118 of an interview on last Sunday’s Andrew Marr show Carney said:-

“The top end of London is driven by cash buyers. It’s driven in many cases by foreign buyers. We as the central bank can’t influence that. We change underwriting standards it doesn’t matter, there’s not a mortgage. We change interest rates it doesn’t matter, there’s not a mortgage, etc. But we watch the knock-on effect.”

And yet still Boris launches property investment sales in Singapore.

Of the situation outside of the capital Carney noted:-

“The housing market has still not yet fully recovered from the Credit Crunch post 2008″ and he went on to say

“What we’ve seen in the housing market is an adjustment from very low levels. So if you look at the level of transactions how many houses are purchased, how many mortgages are struck they dropped by more than 50 per cent from the average before the crisis.

They’ve now bounced back, but they’re still more than 25 per cent below historic averages”.

Bashing Boris, again

Speaking of the tousle-haired idiot, Inside Housing this week reported on the London Assembly’s response to Boris’s draft London housing strategy saying it was “Woefully lacking” and “Not ambitious enough”, going on to say:-

“‘It is very worrying, therefore, that the mayor’s top line house building target should fall so short of the capital’s assessed need,’ it said. ‘The committee urges the mayor to explain in the final version of his strategy why this is the case and what he proposes to do about it.”

If government fail to understand the complex web of housing, as Hannah Fearn claims then at least it seems fair to look at what they are doing about the bit they do understand……social housing tenants and their infamous tendency to riot (Sarcasm here….please don’t accuse me of being Nigel Farrage)

New possession ground criticised

Andrew Arden QC flags up the government’s response to 2012s social unrest  and points us at the new ground for possession which is to be worded:-

“The tenant or an adult residing in the dwelling-house has been convicted of an indictable offence which took place during, and at the scene of, a riot in the United Kingdom.”

Note that this doesn’t include the actions of visitors to the property as is the case with conventional ground 14 wording. Mr Arden points out, as he has in previous articles on this approach that this amounts to:-

“The use of social housing as a tool for social control rather than the use of grounds for possession as a tool for the management of social housing.”

Perhaps instead of dicking about in outrage at fairly rare flare-ups of social tension and trying to appease the press with headline grabbing solutions government would best be served by actually trying to get to grips with the true complexity of housing.

rasta wear 150Rasta wear

And finally, completely non housing related, I was shocked to see a sign of the times today when passing the shop in Lewisham High Street where I used to get my school uniforms as a kid, and where coincidentally Frazzy worked on a Saturday as a 16 year old.

Now, as can be seen from the attached picture they stock ‘School uniforms’ and bizarrely, ‘Rasta wear’.

Quite what connects the two is a mystery to me and my CO TRO Steve, who is himself a Rasta but looks ridiculous in a school uniform.

See ya next week.

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5 Responses to Ben Reeve Lewis Friday Newsround #142

  1. Taken from the linked LAG article.

    “In criminal law, one person of full age and capacity cannot usually be held to be responsible for the acts of another… Why does that apply with less force to social housing?”

    Or even to private rented housing?

    I trust LAG are equally outraged at the use of private rented housing being used as a tool for social control in selective licensing areas?

    We have set up a private rented property licensing scheme to stamp out crime and anti-social behaviour

  2. Well HBW it is important to understand that Newham aint the only model.

    The link you supplied says:-

    “We work with the Metropolitan Police and other agencies across Newham, to identify unlicensed properties and carry out legal action.”

    My crew, Lewisham council, also pair up with the Met to identify properties but we dont charge decent landlords a premium to do so. we just target the villains and use already existing council teams to take them out.

    Newham initially employed 120 enforcement officers, recently trimmed to slightly over 80.

    That isnt the only way to skin a cat. Numbers arent as important as making best use of what you have.

    As to the point about housing as social control, this is a tired old trumpet of government, accusing the left solely of being guilty of social engineering. What is abrogation of ethics to market forces if not social engineering? It is government’s job to ‘Socially engineer’. It just depends which side of the fence you fall.

  3. In this case Ben, it is LAG tooting the trumpet about the Government using housing as a tool for social control.

    Which sounds a bit out of tune when they advocate landlord licensing -which is also using housing as a tool for social control.

  4. “Newham initially employed 120 enforcement officers, recently trimmed to slightly over 80.”

    This is a money making scheme by Newham Council just like parking tickets. They patrol the streets to monitor environmental issues such as waste in front gardens and hand out fines.



About the post author:

Ben Reeve-Lewis

Ben is an enforcement officer for a London Local Authority, a housing law trainer, an author on housing law who writes for the Guardian & occasionally pops up wittering away on TV. He also runs Easy Law Training with Tessa & Graeme. Occasionally he sleeps. Find him on Google, and Journalisted. Any opinions expressed are Ben's personal views & don't reflect those of any organisations he may refer to.

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