[Ben Reeve Lewis writes from the eye of the storm …]
I’m writing this in a temporary, eye of the storm type lull in what is proving to be a very hectic time. Being a TRO is like that, you can go for a while where nothing very exciting happens and then it all kicks off.
In the past 2 working weeks my co-TRO and I have dealt with 13 illegal evictions, done 2 injunctions and started a prosecution against a landlord who has not only turfed a woman and her 3 kids out but has also destroyed all her possessions, including family photographs whilst claiming she knows nothing about it.
We have good evidence to the contrary so I’m going to take the starch out of her dress.
A new project
Weekends don’t much help either as Tessa and I beaver away at getting our new training company off the ground.
So while you lot were sunning yourselves last weekend I did a total of 26 hours in front of my computer up to my eyes in housing case law and wot not, getting the first tranche of courses together.
When I did snatch 10 minutes at the garden table under our new giant parasol a strong breeze caught it and it came crashing down on my head.
So I went back to the computer covered in lemonade and with a lump on me bonce. Its almost a relief to be back at work.
Emphasis on the word ‘ALMOST’.
Prisk in the news
There has been quite a flurry of activity on the articles front with Prisk taking over from Shapps, who some may have noticed had been busy deleting past school records from Wikipedia, and urging for a bit of action from the new housing minister, who in many circles seems to be being genuinely welcomed and with a fair amount of optimism.
The thing is, will he just take over where Shapps and his dubious O’ levels and various business aliases left off or does he have ideas of his own? And if he does have ideas of his own can he do anything with them while the government remains uncommitted to dealing with the housing crisis, other than to throw a few rough ideas out there, hoping one of them will stick?
That old chestnut …
Guardian Housing Network editor Hannah Fearn wrote a nice piece, suggesting that private renting is becoming a political battleground that politicians ignore at their peril. Hannah throws the gauntlet down to Prisk, the smelly, stained gauntlet that nobody wants to touch, challenging him to not only pick the hideous, greasy item up but to actually put it on, when she says:-
“Prisk must expect to have to do something about the poor quality, lack of security and rising cost of the private rented sector. Why not start by following in the footsteps of fellow Conservative Boris Johnson and propose accreditation for reputable landlords?”
Oh my days. Accreditation for landlords? That chestnut? Or is it a hot potato? Or maybe a banana skin. Something food related anyway.
It’s the thing that everyone who works in the frontline of housing keeps barking on about as absolutely essential to stop the kinds of behaviors I have been dealing with these past 2 weeks and yet it is the one thing the giovernment looks the other way on, whenever it is raised.
More of the same?
I wrote last week about Prisk’s hero, the economist Von Hayak whose commitment to the power of market forces was messianic so I don’t have the same hopes for Prisk that others seem to and just expect more of the same old, same old to be honest. Fingers crossed and lets hope the market sorts it out.
Government do accept that there is a housing shortage but instead of devising a joined up strategy they are hoping that relaxing planning laws temporarily will do it. Market forces again.
Alex Marsh on planning
Alex Marsh picks the holes in this strategy on his excellent Alex’s Archives blog, pointing out that relaxing planning permission on extensions is hardly going to solve a housing crisis. He argues that people who have had planning permission refused in the past will be the first to jump in and get it done.
“That will presumably set neighbours against each other. It will make work for lawyers as neighbours try to contest the projects or claim damages as some hideous jerry-built extension knocks a few thousand off local house prices. It will presumably lose some MPs some votes”.
Alex doesn’t ridicule the notion of shortcutting planning permission, I don’t think many people do but suggests that lack of confidence in the economy holds back building projects, despite reducing red tape:-
“The Government can hack away at planning all it likes. Its friends in the construction industry will no doubt be very grateful. But unless the mortgage market improves, consumers’ price expectations stabilise and their confidence in their own economic future increases there is no one with the wherewithal or the willingness to buy the properties. So they won’t get built”.
Housing voice inquiry published
24 Dash reported this week on the publication of results from a year long study by the Housing Voice Independent Inquiry, chaired by Lord Whitty.
The report came up with 10 emergency measures which it thinks the government should act on to halt the crisis.
They highlight the fact that with home ownership on the decline, with no signs of stopping, and further denuding the social housing stock through the right to buy more pressure is being brought to bear on the PRS, where property standards and lack of security are rife. The report recommends creating 24 month ASTs instead of 6 month ones.
I agree with the sentiment but they will have to get that message across to the lenders if they are going to pull that one off.
The funny bit at the end
Finally the funniest story of the week came from the evening Standard and picked up by me reading Ben Brandt on the excellent Rat & Mouse blog.
What do you do with noisy neighbours? Lose your temper? Call the police? Bang open their door? Or do you treat as a bizarre X Factor audition and give reviews of musical performance?
Oli Beale of Hackney stuck a poster up to embarrass his evidently pilled-up karaoke neighbours keeping him awake all night with communal singing, giving his verdict of the songs they struck up on the balcony opposite his home:-
“8.20am; Tiny (sic) Dancer. 7 out of 10, I’ve always said, if you are going to be woken up after 2 hours sleep it may as well be to a herd of morons singing Tiny Dancer.
9.10am Its Friday I’m in Love, the Cure: A return to poor form 2 out of 10. As the song ended one of you looked out over the courtyard and hugged the other one. You gestured to the beautiful sunny morning and gave a little smile that said to the world ‘Yep, we absolutely nailed that”
Not so sure I would have been that generous or light-hearted. Frazzy and I have our own noisy neighbours to deal with, the 3 petite girls in the flat upstairs who are very sweet but one of them walks on her heels and we think the ceiling is about to come in.
We refer to her as either ‘Sasquatch’ (big-foot) or Elmer. Short for Elmer Fudd (try saying thud in a cockney accent).
And so, back to the madness. See you all next week
Ben Reeve Lewis