[Ben Reeve Lewis is concerned about the governments plans and the oppositions lack of them …]
Ben does the ironing
I have had to do my own laundry this week. Now that isn’t as chauvinistic as it sounds. We have a clear demarcation of jobs in the household, I do all the shopping, cooking and cleaning of the kitchen, Frazzy does laundry, hoovering and cleaning the bathroom. As the man I obviously don’t clean the toilet. My modernism only goes so far.
Frazzy, who works in travel has been on a freebie jolly in California since last Thursday, speed-boating around San Francisco harbour, kayaking on Lake Tahoe and riding in cable cars at Yosemite, while I try to make sense of those little ironing symbols on the dial.
In fact trying to make sense of things also sums up my week’s surfing for housing news in a bits-and-pieces week, news-wise, where there have been some strange pronouncements and even deliberate non-pronouncements – more on this later.
Our erstwhile housing minister monsieur Shapps wrote an article in the Guardian in which he lauded the concept of garden cities, based on models for Welwyn (his locality – nice bit of cross politicking there Grant) and Letchworth.
What worried me about it were the final 6 paragraphs in which he seems to be suggesting that people living in villages where several major developers hold strategic land banks hovering on the edges should be viewing developments, for which planning permission is going to be ‘Presumed’, as ‘Garden Cities’, not simply losing green belt land.
He says at one point “We need to encourage and develop partnerships bringing together the most imaginative developers and community groups who are willing to take on a visionary task of this kind”.
A visionary task? Hmmmm.
And with this in mind I want to alert people to a blog I have discovered this week by planning consultant Andrew Lainton who is closely monitoring the way planning is going through at the moment. I confess I don’t understand a lot of the technical arguments but it is good to know someone is tracking the ethics and scams of it all. Give him your encouragement.
My interest was also piqued this week by reports of a reverse psychology game being played out between Shapps and shadow housing bod Alison Seabeck, also reported in the Guardian. Normally ministers and shadow ministers will engage in trying to out-do each other with strategies, plans, ideas and manifesto’s. Alison Seabeck is taking Shapps on by not having any strategies, ideas or manifestos.
What is going on there then? What cunning plan is afoot?
Ms Seabeck appeared at the National Housing Federation conference and when asked about Labour’s plans to deal with the housing crisis she replied enigmatically . “Do you know what the economy is going to be like in six months’ time. Well neither do I, and I’m not going to make a [policy] statement that I may have to withdraw if the economic circumstances change.”
She is either being very politically savvy or I am in the early stages of Alzheimer’s because I don’t understand how a politician should avoid making statements because something could happen that might make them look daft.
I hope this doesn’t become a new phenomenon, you could imagine Newsnight in 2015, Nick Clegg, Nana Mouskouri’s missing half brother, interviews the prospective prime minister:- “And so, Minister, what does your party stand for?” ….”Well who can tell Nick, it’s a strange world”.
Nearly legal writes in the Guardian
Regular landlord law blog friend Nearly Legal, now outed as lawyer Giles Peaker [of course, I knew years ago (activate smug mode) .. Ed] had an informative article, in the Guardian again His article concerns the Government’s uber-knee jerk reaction to the rioting by being seen to tackle said recent social problem by making changes to the law on evictions and press-ganging housing authorities into taking on a different role.
What he has highlighted here is a subtle piece of social engineering, whereby housing associations and councils are to shift roles from being housing providers to becoming Con-Dem policy enforcers.
He excellently and astutely points to the position councils and housing associations are being placed in when he says “The question for social housing providers may well turn out to be how far they are willing to be hired muscle, the enforcers of the government’s social contract, and risk the potential financial consequences if they decide against taking on that role”. Accurately put.
Returning briefly to Shapps’s own article in the guardian and with the above in mind, where he said that government’s aim was “not to impose their ideas but to work with communities to realise their own vision for the future”.
Modern words. So how does that apply to the kind of heavy handedness being displayed by this attack on what are commonly perceived to be the underclass? The chavs? Or as Hitler called them , the Unter-mensch? Always a convenient scapegoat.
The gold rush mentality
Regular readers will know I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet about the gold rush mentality of many private landlords in relation to rents. Whilst landlords ride the wave of increased income, tenants are languishing in the pit, struggling to hang on to their homes.
I freely admit my opinions are partly (but only partly) influenced by being a tenant myself. Not only a tenant, but a London one, and also one who lives in a trendy bit with a cheese shop, so rents are understandably higher. But I have been in this game long enough to be able to separate my own circumstances from the picture as a whole.
Bear in mind that I spend the vast majority of my day working with tenants and landlords, which gives me an overall picture of the current climate and I see things creaking under the strain.
Even UK Landlord News, hardly a tenant friendly e-zine even noted this week that although wages have risen 2.4% lately rents have increased 12% in the same period. Now I am absolutely rubbish at maths, my last exam result before I left school was 9% but even I can understand those statistics.
Problems they are a coming
Homelet director John Boyle, whose research figures the article was based on, cited rising rents and fuel bills as the reason that people were moving on and tenancy periods were getting shorter, people simply not being able to meet the higher rents.He said
“This isn’t a good sign for some tenants who may struggle as winter approaches and the cost of running a home increases even more”.
So far so good, but he ends his statement by saying
“And we can expect tenancy lengths to decrease in 2012, as the level of high value short term rentals increases in 2012 during the Olympic Games, which is positive news for letting agents,”
Well, way-to-go John. As long as landlords and agents are having a great time who gives a toss about struggling tenants eh? Has it not occurred to you that if tenants cant afford these rents then landlords will suffer too? The Olympics may offer a short term bun-fest but what will happen when these short term tenants return to their native countries and new, stable tenants have to be found once the party is over?
Also, what will happen to homelessness figures during the feeding frenzy when ordinary London tenants cant find anywhere to rent because properties are being hawked out to the Bulgarian Kayaking team for 6 grand a month?
Who can tell, it’s a strange world!
Ben Reeve Lewis
Ben has started Home Saving Expert, to share his secrets to defending people’s homes from mortgage repossession Visit his blog and get some help and advice on mortgage difficulties and catch up with him on Twitter and check out his free report “An Encouraging note on Dealing with your Mortgage Lender” and have it sent right to your inbox.