It’s my turn for the Newsround again so here goes.
Developers dodging through a legal loophole
An interesting article in the Independent looks at a freedom of Information request from Shelter which has shown that developers in Kensington & Chelsea have been using a legal loophole to avoid building affordable housing.
This is how it goes:
- The builders get planning permission – subject to building affordable housing
- They then get a ‘viability assessment’ done which shows that (shock horror) including said affordable housing in the development would reduce their profit
- They go back to the Council saying that building the affordable housing will reduce their profit margin
- The Council say ‘Oh all right then, you don’t have to build it’
- The development is then built without most of its affordable element
According to the report, this has resulted in the council’s policy target of 50% affordable housing being reduced to 15% with the loss of some 831 affordable homes – 706 of which would have been social homes.
More than enough to have housed all the Grenfell Tower residents.
At the moment only 52 families have accepted permanent housing offers with just 20 families in their new homes. This leaves around 200 households still needing to be re-settled. Despite all those promises that they would be housed within weeks.
The way that developers are avoiding their obligations and building only for the rich is causing mounting anger
Wera Hobhouse MP, Liberal Democrat housing spokesperson, told The Independent:
“It is scandalous that developers are using this loophole to avoid their obligations, but even more scandalous that the Government is allowing them to do so.
I suppose we can’t blame developers for trying it on – they are, after all, businesses and in it for the money. It just reinforces the conclusion of the House of Lords Select Committee report I discussed here which concluded that government should not rely on the private sector to solve our housing crisis.
Come a Labour Government
However, it looks as if Jeremy Corbyn (Oh, Jeremy Corbyn!) has called time on this, along with ‘gentrificiton’ schemes against the wishes of local residents, as discussed by Aditya Chakrabortty in the Guardian here.
I tend to agree with a lot of what he says – but not rent controls. Which worries me for the reasons set out in this excellent article from David Lawrenson. The real problem is a lack of supply.
The forgotten ones
Going back to Grenfell for a moment, there is a great interview in the Independent with Kensington and Chelsea MP Emma Dent Coad who says that the second disaster for the unfortunate Grenfell residents is the appalling disjoined service (if it can be called that) given to survivors. Saying:
“I spoke to somebody who had 26 different carers since the fire – a disabled person who had 26 different people coming to look after them. They have been moved six times. Every day they have to explain their needs to someone new, get used to being with a new person,”
Which is truly shocking.
Still, I expect they will be slightly cheered by the news that the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation is going to have its contract terminated by the Council.
Lettings fees ban
The ban, which it seems is likely to come into force next year, will, according to estate agent recruitment consultancy Property Personnel, result in job losses and loss of morale
“ negotiators in-branch, … will suddenly find themselves doing an admin job, rather than the sales job they were hired for. The knock-on effect may be that the role becomes a lot less satisfying, agents decide to leave, and it becomes harder to recruit new talent into the industry as a result.”
I have to say that I don’t (sorry letting agents) feel that this justifies charging fees which I have always considered to be mostly unjustified.
I suspect also that there will be few tears shed by tenants about this …
Another report indicates that large firms such as Countrywide, LSL and Foxtons and are facing a £26 million profit cut due to the ban.
I doubt whether many tenants will by crying about that either. Unless they happen to be a shareholder of course.
One day crackdown
Tenants may, however, smile at the news that there was a major one-day crack down on letting agents organised by trading standards offices across London on 26 September.
This though inevitably begs the question – why only one day? Rogue letting agents cause huge problems for both landlords and tenants and give the many good agents a bad name. Surely Trading Standards can spare more than one day a year to deal with them?
Tip – if you know of any rogue agents there is reporting hotline on 03454 040506
Doing due diligence on agents
Mind you, landlords finding themselves with a rubbish agent only have themselves to blame as it looks as if many do not do any proper research before instructing them.
There are some fantastic agents out there (yes there are) but you do have to do a few checks as there are also many bad agents and not a few criminal ones. So be careful.
What made me smile this week
Jeremy Corbyn’s speech to the Labour Party Conference.
I don’t agree with everything he says of course, but there are many good ideas there. They seem to be taking housing seriously anyway, which has got to be good.
Next week its Ben again.