[Ben Reeve Lewis has had a bout of man flu …]
My week has been dominated not by housing stories but by a particularly nasty strain of cold (which Frazzy insists on calling ‘Man-flu’).
Not that I’ve been able to snuggle under a duvet and call for cups of tea. We are in Xmas last-lap hell, trying to tie up all loose ends so we can sit for 3 days and do nothing. With a raging temperature I have even had to truck down to Maidstone on Tuesday and train the good people of ex-offenders housing charity ‘Hope’, in between cramming in more illegal evictions than I can shake a stick at and trying to fit in Xmas shopping and various Xmas parties.
If you are in Croydon tonight avoid ‘Cosmo’s’ where 30 of Lewisham council’s finest homelessness posse, people who argue for a living, will be getting drunk and forgetting all notion of political correctness and slagging off all and sundry. Its our annual time off from being sympathetic to people’s troubles and I can assure you we have the blackest of black humour once we are let off the leash.
So what news have I been missing out on in my fevered state?
24 Dash ran an article on the 35% increase in homelessness applications from people whose Assured Shorthold Tenancy has expired. Which is an interesting development.
ASTs expire all the time so why should this cause a dramatic homelessness spike? Could it be a combination of rent levels that continue to rise so that landlords simply look to the next tenant who can afford the hike and the inability of the outgoing tenant to find the money to rent the next property whose landlord has done the same thing?
The article said:-
“Critics have warned the private sector must offer greater security before it can be truly be viewed as a long-term form of tenure”
Landlords want short term tenancies because they offer an element of protection against the possibility of nightmare tenants. Having seen in my day job, thousands of nightmare tenants harassing thousands of decent landlords I can understand that concern, but the knock on effect of that is this limited security which keeps people on the move, destroys communities and pushes up the homelessness bill.
People regularly cite Germany as a renting wonderland, or Wunderland to be more precise, where rents are low and fixed terms are long enough for tenants to feel like they actually have a home (imagine that). Property journalist Madalena Penny replied on a blog post on Property 118 about the ethics of social media mounting a campaign against a letting agent:-
“I once followed a thread in Germany about an article I wrote in the press. Basically, the British were viewed as the laughing stock of Europe. There are many people on the Continent who think we are slaves to the wage, holding property as our God and our little Country is the ideal place to invest in property, because we are stupid enough to pay high rents”
But maybe our attitudes are changing. Property Newshound this week wrote an article about spotting different mindsets in the UK towards owing your own home his argument being that normal surveys aren’t that reliable, the true predictors being changes in the market.
He suggests that attitudes may alter when there are more renters in London than owners, which is an interesting point. It takes more than newspaper articles and Landlords from Hell programmes to actually change things, although he concedes that another possible indicator could be when property pages of newspapers start running articles on renting as opposed to be constantly about home owning.
His most interesting point I think was in identifying the effects of the perceived problems with mortgages being a possibly growing change in the thoughts amongst younger people when he says:-
“Young generations may now be deciding to rent not because it’s cheaper at one point in time but because renting does not saddle them with a mortgage, maintenance and ownership of an asset which no longer looks like it will make money in the long-term future”.
And I would add another angle to that. A book that has been around for ages now is Robert Kiyosaki’s “Rich dad, Poor dad”. It’s been on the best seller list for ages but in the last couple of years has gone stratospheric, becoming an entire financial movement in it’s own right. There was even a series of TV documentaries on it last week.
One of his major tenets is to rubbish the traditionally held belief that buying your own home is the wisest choice you can make. He says a mortgaged property is not an asset but a financial liability and therefore to be avoided in favour of using your money to make you even more money in a better way.
When you look at the growing success and influence of Kiyosaki’s ideas coupled with the bad press around mortgages and the housing crisis in the UK at the moment and the fact that an entire generation of young people know they are never going to own their own home, and as reported in This is Money this week it now takes 30 years for the average person to save a deposit to buy their first home, Property Newshound’s ideas may seem to be very pertinent, as people adjust their thinking to deal with the reality in front of them.
The government’s obsession with home ownership just might be shooting itself in the foot by adding more fuel to the fire being fanned by people like Robert Kiyosaki and the growing band of property journalists starting to write about the same thing.
And in the tradition of the light hearted “And finally” section of News at 10 I give you….the discovery of a witch’s cottage in Yorkshire reported on the BBC. Apparently Pendle Hill was a known haunt of witches several hundred years ago. Builders uncovered a complete cottage previously unknown. It had a mummified cat bricked up in the wall, apparently a sure sign of witch occupation.
In the light of this amazing new discovery I hear that Grant Shapps is about to make a new announcement, following on from the houseboats suggestion and clear the bureaucracy that currently stands in the way of homelessness units being able to use abandoned witch’s cottages to take the pressure off of the housing shortage.
Witching not being what it was, and as many people leave the religion in droves literally thousands of homes could become available. All you need is rent in advance, a decent deposit and a cauldron. What’s not to like?
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.
Houses on scales picture from Images of Money