Back again with a roundup of some of the weeks housing related news stories.
The Social Housing Green Paper
This is the big news item this week – a new Green Paper and consultation on social housing issues has been published.
However, as it does not seem to promise much funding for building new houses it has not gone down very well.
Our own Ben Reeve Lewis, writing about it on this blog has described it as a ‘headless chicken announcement and says
the depressing thing about this green paper is it reads like someone babbling away to themselves in the day room of a home for the terminally bewildered.
The Guardian in its editorial is a bit politer but also says that the proposals are focusing on the less important issues
To challenge negative stereotypes around social housing (presumably what is meant by “stigma”) is an important task, but not of equivalent urgency to building homes. Publishing league tables of landlords, so the rotten ones feel pressure to improve, while potentially worthwhile, does nothing for the 1.2 million people on council waiting lists.
It concludes by saying that people on average earnings who are not homeowners see no prospect of becoming one and spend a vast proportion of their income on rent
The unavoidable remedy is an increase in the supply of social housing. But to bolster public provision so it functions as a more robust safety net, let alone a high-volume alternative to the private sector, would require a massive investment in building. It would unlock new finance on a scale beyond anything implied in a green paper that pledges no new money. It would also involve a shift in priorities towards state underpinning of public investment for collective social goods. It would involve rewriting cherished Conservative doctrines regarding home ownership and market intervention.
None of the ministers responsible for housing over the past eight years has looked even close to making that journey. Instead, the government tiptoes around symptoms of market failure and tinkers at the margins of a vast social and economic crisis.
The general feeling is that the Government is not really interested right now in anything outside of Brexit. If Mr Putin really did intervene in the referendum as is claimed, he must be feeling quite pleased about it.
Pilot Scheme for Housing Association Right to Buy
Rather worryingly a new £200 million pilot scheme to allow housing association tenants in the Midlands to buy has been announced.
Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation David Orr said:
It will be a success for everyone involved only if every home that is sold is replaced with a new affordable home
But frankly, the record of house building after the sale of Council housing is so dismal that unless a miracle happens I can’t see it being any better here. Particularly as I doubt any extra funding will be coming from government to help pay for it.
So people who are lucky enough to have a housing association home will be given an extra bonus by being able to buy it while people who are not so lucky will find it harder and harder to get any social housing as the supply shrinks due to this policy.
The experience of the Council house sell-off is that at least 40% eventually goes over to private landlords to be rented out to benefit tenants at a higher rent than they would have paid if it were still in the social housing sector.
Is this a sensible policy? And is it right that housing policy should be so driven by the Tories obsession with home ownership?
John Healey, the shadow housing secretary, called it a “wasteful policy” that would now mean public money being spent selling off affordable homes at a discount when it should be used to build them instead.
“Right to buy has decimated our council housing stock in this country,” he said. “By expanding this policy, the Tories are only going to make the housing crisis worse.”
Sign of the times
I then spotted this article in the Guardian which tells of a new prestigious housing development in London which has no ‘affordable homes’ in it at all.
Admittedly this is in an exceptionally posh part of London. However presumably the posh people living there will want servants and services. Where are the people providing these services supposed to live?
The article reports that 3,950 households are currently on Westminster council’s affordable housing waiting list.
Is co-housing the answer?
An interesting article here about various co-housing initiatives particularly for older people, in the United States.
It is particularly helpful in combatting loneliness.
According to Stephanie Cacioppo, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Chicago, loneliness among retirees in the US is becoming an alarming public health issue. “The availability of community programmes, behavioural interventions and online resources is increasing to address the problem of loneliness. Co-housing is one of these programmes that gives us hope,” she says.
We do have quite a few co-housing projects in the UK and you can read about them here.
- TPO stand by their decision in the agents’ fee case even though it is totally different from the subsequent court decision
- The RLA warn the government not to announce longer tenancies before the consultation period is over.
- An article on the BBC site explores how housing has divided the young into the have’s and the have-nots