[He’s back! Now in the guise of the Landlord Law intrepid investigator, reporting from the front line … – I’ll try to add a note of sanity from time to time … Ed]
Welcome to the new column!
Each week I will be scouring the news pages for stories relevant to the private rental sector for landlords and tenants., Like the previous series, TRO Confidential, the aim is to entertain and inform.
When Tessa and I first cooked this up it seemed like a good way to keep readers abreast of what is going on out there. A rabble rousing call to arms, but with my provisional forays into my web based research though I feel like I have died and woken up in some sort of Kafka-world, where scripts from ‘Yes Minister’ and ‘The thick of it’ get played out as reality.
My challenge is to look for the positive amongst the laughable. So here we go…..what’s out there this week?
There is life in Byker Grove
Byker Grove Housing Estate has hit the headlines and set a model for the renting future. The residents have established a trust to manage the grade II listed estate at the same time as creating training and employment opportunities.
In response Mr Shapps writes off £42 million in debts and pronounces Byker Grove Estate’s residents “The embodiment of the Big Society”. Ant and Dec will be pleased……Now if only we actually knew what the Big Society was…..or for that matter, which one is Ant and which one is Dec.
Professor Peter Roberts, Chair of the Byker Grove Taskforce and a member of the Homes and Communities Agency’s Board, takes us somewhere towards understanding this social phenomenon when he says:-
It (Byker Grove) brings together local people with the Council, the Homes and Communities Agency and central Government in a productive and positive partnership. It also builds on the deep-rooted tradition of community ownership of ‘their’ place: Byker people delivering a future for Byker.
Ooooohhhhhhh right…..….errrr…..No sorry…….I am still no further forward with this Big Society thing. [Its about Society Ben, and its real big. OK, I don’t know what it is either … Ed]
Maybe we can get an answer from the Association of Residential Letting Agents who last week pronounced that demand for rental properties will outstrip supply in 2011 which will continue into 2012
Ed Milliband apparently cited some research that shows that in 1988, 14% of low to middle earners were renting privately but now the figure is 41%. A good investment opportunity you may think, so where are the landlords? Anecdotally, friends I have in the lettings biz tell me that they are struggling to survive because tenants looking for properties outweigh landlords offering properties by 5 : 1.
Ian Potter, Operations Manager for ARLA [and a former LL Blog NPP – Ed] said
“with more consumers depending on rental properties and new landlords coming to market, the Government must act now to address the quality of the PRS housing stock. This means incentivising renovation, improving options for sustainable refurbishment, and introducing regulation to stamp out bad practice”.
Ah yes Ian, but the government are happy with putting “The community in the driving seat”, so how is that going to happen?
Am I being stupid here or is the Big Society, just another way of saying “You figure it out, coz we haven’t got a clue?”.
And on Ian’s last point about stamping out bad practices Mr Shapps announced proudly last year that “The Government has no plans to create any burdensome red tape and bureaucracy” So that aint gonna happen any time soon mate!
Holding the same thought, the government’s plans to reduce housing benefit in an attempt to drive down private rents……that isn’t community led. That’s social engineering, which the government said they were against…..where’s Leon Trotsky when you need him?
Housing benefit changes and other lunacy:
It is pretty obvious all round, to anyone in housing that the proposed government changes to housing benefit are akin to that scene in the James Bond film where Bond himself, leaps from a plane without a parachute and tries to wrestle with Jaws to steal one off of him at 24,000 feet.
In other words, a reckless leap into nowhere with fingers and toes, doubly crossed. There can be no greater metaphor for the proposed housing benefit changes than that.
But wait……I’m mistaken…..there is a safety net after all…….. Welfare reform minister Lord Freud announced recently, “”We are looking to private landlords to respond to the need for lower rents and in return we are prepared to permit direct payments from the state.
“This incentive will bring an overall downward pressure on rents in the private sector. As these rents come down, more properties will become available to claimants and landlords will have certainty that their income will be protected.”
Fantastic! So the safety net is, you landlords have to drop your rents. Isn’t it great that things have been so well thought out? [Hark! Do I hear from afar the stampede of landlords rushing to lower their rents and take on more benefit tenants??? No, wait a minute, they seem to be rushing in another direction … Ed]
Buying abroad, here we go again:
Well we have spent the last year or so watching floods of Brits returning form their Spanish idylls, that everybody flocked to, inspired by TV Visions of sunny, sangria fed Utopias unable to find work or anyone to buy their homes off of them, and falling foul of Spanish planning laws.
Now we have The Spanish Housing Secretary, Beatriz Corridor (Great name for a housing minister) promising to change Spanish planning laws to encourage Brit homebuyers to invest in Spain again. “Come here calmly, and trust in the system that we have and the transparency we provide,” she said [yes, we can all see through that one … Ed].
Apparently Spain has a dearth of new built properties that nobody is buying and so they want us to help out. So dig out your Union Jack shorts [and the odd frock … Ed], and your sombrero that you bought 5 years ago that sits in the back of your wardrobe, in hope that we might actually have a decent summer this year (of more than 2 weeks, unlike 2010) and get on down.
Let’s face it, it’s not worth doing buy to let in the UK if Lord Freud’s enthusiasm sways things. A two bed flat for £40 a week to fit in with housing benefit?……Next!!!
[What do you think of these news items? Do you have any of your own to add? Place your comments below … Ed]