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Displaying ROOF Blog articles from March 2007

Lunchtime news March 29


Posted by:
Julian Birch

Housing associations that perform poorly on development could face tough sanctions from the Housing Corporation, reports Inside Housing.

The goverment is considering basing Communities England in the north of England, reports Inside Housing.

An overwhelming 86% of tenants in Mole Valley have backed a stock transfer with a turnout of 72%.

Papers including The Times report that Gordon Brown is refusing to increase spending on child poverty despite this week’s poor statistics that suggest it won’t succeed in abolishing halving it by 2010.

In the Financial Times Martin Wolf argues that lone parent benefits amount to a ‘war on the family’. ‘Trying to eliminate child poverty by subsidising the form of family that is most likely to suffer from it is like trying to bale out a boat with a sieve,’ he says.

But Polly Toynbee in The Guardian says Labour must stick with what she calls ‘the most extraordinarily ambitious social project, greater than anything any western government has ever attempted in such a timeframe’.

The Times reports on the peacetime house price boom in Northern Ireland, with bidding for a house in Belfast’s former ‘murder triangle’ reaching £800,000.

The Housing Corporation has published a study by the Chartered Institute of Housing into the rationalisation of housing association stock.

CIH Cymru has published a new report on housing and its benefits in Wales.

NHF chief executive David Orr told Euro MPs yesterday that household energy efficiency improvements should be zero rated for VAT and that the government’s plan for a 5% rate does not go far enough.

The DCLG has published a regulatory impact assessment of home information packs, launched a new website aimed at industry and published the results of consultation.

The DCLG has also posted advice to local authorities on working together to identify sub-regional housing markets and practice guidance on strategic housing market assessments.

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Lunchtime news March 27


Posted by:
Julian Birch

Several papers including the Financial Times report comments by Bank of England governor Mervyn King that the housing market is slowing down at last because of higher interest rates. King also told MPs there were no signs of the US sub-prime crisis spreading to the UK.

He was speaking after the latest stats on mortgage approvals showed a third successive monthly fall. They were 5% down on February 2006.

The Nationwide agreed as it published figures showing house price inflation slowing to an annual rate of 9.3% in March. Prices have risen 0.4% a month this year compared to 1.1% a month in the last three months of 2006.

The Land Registry said prices rose 1% in February, taking the annual rate to 8.5%.

A real debate about housing policy should follow the Hills review, not an attack on security of tenure, says Shelter’s Adam Sampson in Society Guardian.

Yesterday’s rise in child poverty features heavily in today’s papers. For The Guardian it’s a ‘blow for Brown’, while the Financial Times says it has ‘forced the government to abandon as futile its strategy of raising social security payments to ensure poor families’ incomes keep pace with the rest of society’.

The Department of Work and Pensions has published new research [downloads PDF] into the links between rents, housing benefit and work incentives.

The Housing Corporation has posted three new publications aimed at making regulation more transparent.

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Tags: news

Lunchtime news March 26


Posted by:
Julian Birch

Listen again to the end of this morning’s Today programme for a row between housing minsiter Yvette Cooper and her Conservative shadow Michael Gove over who are the biggest nimbies. Cooper’s boss Ruth Kelly or Tory councillors in the South East?

The interview was prompted by a story in The Times about new DCLG figures showing the number of owner-occupiers fell in 2006 for the first time in 50 years. Go here for the figures.

Construction firms Wimpey and Taylor Woodrow have agreed to merger that will create Britain’s biggest housebuilder.

Oxford economics professor John Muellbauer criticises the ‘fig leaf’ council tax reforms proposed in the Lyons review in the Financial Times. He also calls for radical action on planning, including a land-buying agency which would gradually buy up tracts of farm land for housing.

The government has abandoned plans for an extra levy on second homes, according to The Times.

Britain’s biggest sub-prime lender is selling chunks of loans to keep going, reported the Telegraph at the weekend, but there won’t be a US-style disaster in the sector.

Which is just as well if you read Larry Elliott’s column in today’s Guardian: he compares the US sub-prime crisis to the Enron scandal.

But not if you read the story in The Observer about lenders targetting council tenants with unaffordable loans.

The Observer reports that the public accounts committee will heavily criticise the government’s home ownership programmes in a report this week.

Former Conservative housing minister John Patten is pressing for the closure of soup kitchens for homeless people near his London flat, reports the Independent on Sunday.

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Lunchtime news March 23


Posted by:
Julian Birch

Thousands of military personnel will have to live in sub-standard accommodation for the next 20 years, according to a report today by the National Audit Office. A third of single bedspaces will still not meet the highest standard in five years time and a 19,000 sub-standard family homes are only being improved at a rate of 900 a year.

The National Housing Federation and Royal Bank of Scotland have announced a partnership to promote financial inclusion among housing association tenants.

The Housing Corporation has posted the official version of Jon Rouse’s decision to quit as chief executive for a new job at Croydon council.

But Inside Housing reports on the void it leaves at the top of Communities England, with English Partnerships chief executive John Callcutt leaving in January and its chair, Baroness Ford, saying she does not want to chair the new body.

55% of councils are looking to cut the number of supporting people providers they employ, according to Inside Housing.

Housing associations made £536m from asset sales in 2006, a rise of 16.5% on 2005, according to an Inside Housing report of the global accounts published by the Housing Corporation this week.

Evan Davis reveals why he thinks price falls would be good for home owners – and why property is still a good investment – in a Times interview following his Radio 4 series on the housing market.

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Tags: news

Budget 2007


Posted by:
Julian Birch

In Budget reaction, the NHF said Gordon Brown’s statement yesterday was a ‘missed opportunity to solve the housing crisis’. The CIH called for more R&D funding for new green housing technology.

Independent columnist Deborah Orr attacks Brown for doing nothing about housing.

The Housing Corporation has published advance details of the new open market homebuy competition to be launched in the summer. The government wants mortgage lenders and others to join the scheme, which will be targed at people only able to buy a 50-70% share of a home.

The Housing Corporation also launched a consultation on new proposals to give associations more flexibility in the way they spend money raised from sales of homes. Under the plan, the association’s recycled capital grant fund would be linked to the value of the properties sold rather than the initial grant. They would also be able to use it to fund land banking and spend it across regions on an exception basis.

Almost 33,000 council homes were demolished or sold under the right to buy in 2005/06, Yvette Cooper said in a written answer yesterday. She said annual provision of new social rent homes would be 30,000 in 2007/08.

The DCLG has published an interim evaluation of the coalfields regneration programme. Housing minister Yvette Cooper announced six new sites and £20m of funding at a conference in Rotherham.

MPs from all three main parties have signed an early day motion supporting a campaign by St Mungos against cuts in funding for education and training services for homeless people.

Tenants in Swansea have rejected stock transfer but tenants in Torfaen have voted yes – more details below.

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Lunchtime news March 21


Posted by:
Julian Birch

Jon Rouse will leave his job as chief executive of the Housing Corporation to become chief executive of Croydon council, according to Inside Housing. According to the Guardian, his departure follows DCLG rejection of a plea by the Corporation to increase his salary.

The government has dropped plans in the Welfare Reform Bill to introduce a national scheme to dock housing benefit from families evicted for anti-social behaviour following pressure from a coalition of welfare and housing organisations.

The government has also compromised on controversial plans to give bailiffs extra powers to enter debtors’ homes by force. The Department of Constitutional Affairs said the new powers would only apply to bailiffs who are non-Crown employees when they have a full licensing scheme in place.

Welsh first minister Rhodri Morgan has promised to spend £450m on affordable homes if Labour wins another term in the assembly elections, reports the Western Mail.

Tenants in Wansbeck have voted 85% in favour of a stock transfer to Wansbeck Homes on a 70% turnout, according to local press reports.

A 50% increase in micro-generation grants for homes plus a drive to persuade the European Union to reduce VAT on energy efficient products were early highlights of the Budget. More later.

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Lunchtime news March 20


Posted by:
Julian Birch

The Audit Commission has cleared Westminster Council of negligence in failing to recover more money from Shirley Porter over the homes for votes scandal. A report [downloads PDF] published by the district auditor published yesterday says:

‘I recognise that many will not be satisfied with the final outcome, as it would appear, given her recent visits back to the UK, that Dame Shirley Porter still has access to considerable funds. However, I have been considering the period of time leading up to the settlement in 2004. The Council must be judged on the reasonableness of its actions at that time and not with the benefit of hindsight. The question is, did it, in all the circumstances that prevailed at the time, make a reasonable recovery of the monies due to Westminster’s taxpayers? I am satisfied that it did. In my view, it is now time to bring this matter to a close and move on from the past.’

People over 60 are running up debt faster than any other age group, according to a Telegraph report of research by the Credit Consumer Counselling Group.

In The Guardian, Yvette Cooper responds to a story last week about building on the green belt.

But columnist George Monbiot attacks plans for the Olympics as a ‘stitch-up’ that will mean gentrification not affordable homes.

February mortgage lending was at an all-time high, according to the CML.

The DCLG has published an evaluation of the single regeneration budget that concludes it had a positive effect on neighbourhoods.

The DWP says £1.8bn of council tax benefit is going unclaimed and people could be owed as much as £600. Reports say the Lyons report will recommend tomorrow that the benefit should be paid automatically rather than leave it up to people to claim.

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Tags: news

Lunchtime news March 16


Posted by:
Julian Birch

The Environment Agency says flood defences, waste tips and sewerage plants for 1.5m new homes planned for the South East will cost £20bn, according to The Guardian.

Tax breaks for homes with solar panels and windmills will feature in tomorrow’s Budget, says The Guardian.

Older people have seen their wealth treble in the last ten years at the expense of the under-34s thanks to rising house prices, according to Daily Mail report of Bank of England research.

New regulation of equity release schemes by the Financial Services Authority from April 6 could help elderly home owners looking to release cash locked up in their homes, according to the Independent on Sunday.

Scottish Conservatives will announce plans for affordable homes trusts funded a third by the government and a third by the private sector to help people on to the housing ladder, according to BBC coverage of the assembly election campaign.

Choice-based lettings and family intervention projects get 10 Downing Street’s seal of approval in the government’s policy review of public services published this morning.

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Lunchtime news March 15


Posted by:
Julian Birch

The Telegraph looks at the prospects of the sub-prime lending crisis in the US spreading to the UK and concludes that “Britain’s sub-prime sector now outstrips its American counterpart in relative terms”.

A Stockport man whose mortgage arrears spiralled to £165,000 in 12 years is set to be given his home after the High Court ruled the Nat West left it too long to repossess him, reports the Telegraph.

The 4,000 staff of upmarket estate agent Savills are to share a £125m bonus, with some getting more than £1m each, reports the Mail.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has published new research by Duncan Maclennan calling for radical propsoals to improve housing for low-income households. He highlights in particular the growth of tenancies dependent on housing benefit in the private rented sector and the widening wealth gap between owners and renters.

The National Housing Federation has launched an outspoken attack on Npower for what it claims is hypocrisy. It says the gas and electricity supplier is supporting Comic Relief to seem like a caring company at the same time as it is “fleecing” its poorest customers with pre-payment meters.

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Lunchtime news March 14


Posted by:
Julian Birch

The solution to the housing crisis is to recycle existing cities, not to create urban sprawl by building on the green belt, argue Anne Power and John Houghton in a new book and article in Society Guardian today.

The Lyons review will recommend at least one extra council tax band for expensive homes when it is published next week, report several papers including The Guardian and The Telegraph, which says the tax on £1m homes could double under one option.

The Housing Corporation has launched a new guide aimed at ensuring associations are clear and transparent in the way they set service charges.

The Scottish Executive is expanding its Homestake shared equity scheme to six more areas with £10m of extra funding. Communities minister Rhona Brankin told the CIH Scotland conference that interest in the pilot area of Edinburgh and the Lothians had been double what it expected.

The five major Scottish housing organisations are presenting a joint message at the conference today.

A CML reponse [downloads PDF] to Housing Corporation consultation supports tenant involvement but says there should be limits to it. “Lenders do have reservations about enhanced tenant representation going significantly beyond the one-third/one-third/one-third model however, particularly when tenant majorities are contemplated.”

The National Federation of Almos is calling for more resident involvement in its submission to the Cave Review. It’s also published a summary [downloads PDF] of submissions to the review so far.

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Tags: news

Lunchtime news March 13


Posted by:
Julian Birch

Say goodbye to old-fashioned lightbulbs and standby buttons. Today the government unveiled legally binding targets for cutting carbon dioxide emissions. The draft Climate Change Bill includes goals for reducing emissions by 2020 and 2050, and outlines plans for five-year ‘carbon budgets’ capping CO2 levels. A new independent body will report to Parliament on progress. Yesterday, Gordon Brown targetted household emissions, and promised additional support for home insulation and an end to wasteful devices such as old-fashioned lightbulbs and standby functions on electrical goods. For more on housing and the environment, see ROOF’s special ‘green’ issue, published last month.

The number of new instructions received by estate agents has gone nine months without a rise – the longest stretch since late 1999, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. The figures contrasted with those released by the Communities and Local Government department yesterday, which showed a sudden rise in house prices in January, taking the annual inflation rate to 10.9%. If you want an accurate picture of the housing market, ROOF’s unique Affordability Index and Housing Market Healthcheck will be published on 16 April.

Homelessness charity Shelter welcomed the fall in the number of new homeless people in England (17,310 in the last quarter of 2006 compared with 35,770 in 2003). But chief executive Adam Sampson warned the government must also tackle the huge backlog of almost 90,000 households who are trapped in temporary accommodation, waiting for a permanent home. This is double the number when Labour came to power. ‘More than 122,000 homeless children in England alone are having their health, education and future chances ruined by the lack of a safe, permanent home. If the government is serious about offering these children the chance of a brighter future, it must commit to building 20,000 extra social rented homes in the next Comprehensive Spending Review.

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Tags: news

Lunchtime news March 6


Posted by:
Julian Birch

DCLG statistics show new cases of homelessness in the final quarter of 2006 were down 20% on the same period in 2005. Acceptances were half what they were three years ago. The number of families in temporary accomodation also fell below 90,000 for the first time since 2003.

Up to 10,000 acres of green belt land could be developed for housing, making billions of pounds for the Queen and some of Britain’s biggest companies, according to a joint investigation by The Guardian and the CPRE.

Up to 1.5m Americans could lose their homes in the housing market downturn, according to a report by financial news agency Bloomberg.

In contrast, the DCLG house price index showed UK prices rose 10.9% in the year to January – up from 9.9% in December.

And UK housebuilder Bovis announed a 13.7% increase in profits and forecast a strong market in 2007.

The Observer reported on continuing problems with open market homebuy.

Second home owners have formed a new organisation amid fears they face being scapegoated in a government clampdown, according to the Sunday Telegraph.

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Tags: news

Lunchtime news March 5


Posted by:
Julian Birch

More work to publicise housing benefit as an in-work benefit and more research into the reasons for high levels of unemployment in social housing are among the proposals in the Freud report [downloads PDF] on welfare to work published this morning.

Poor families are paying up to £1,000 extra for essential goods and services for essential goods and services because they cannot get the same deals as well-off families, says a report by the Family Welfare Association and Save The Children.

Vulnerable people are at risk from bailiffs abusing new powers going through parliament to break into homes and seize belongings for a wider range of debts, warns Citizens Advice.

Investment bank Schroders is calling on the government to encourage institutional investment in the private rented sector, reports the Financial Times. It dismissed some shared ownership schemes as ‘mad’ and buy to let as ‘not the answer’.

But buy to let will grow by 41% by 2016, according to a report for the Alliance & Leicester Bank.

Labour leadership candidate Michael Meacher gets a give-minute interview by readers of The Independent. ‘I own four flats. I have saved throughout my life, and put my savings into property. I don’t think [that] is contrary to socialism,’ he says.

One in five home buyers are paying more than the £250,000 threshold that triggers 3% stamp duty, says the Halifax bank.

Several Sunday papers, including The Observer, reported Liberal Democrat plans for a wealth tax on homes worth more than £1m.

The Housing Corporation launched a new version of its capacity model, which it uses to assess the financial capacity of housing providers, on Friday.

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Tags: news

Lunchtime news March 2


Posted by:
Julian Birch

The private sector will be given a bigger role in welfare to work in Monday’s launch of the Freud report, says the Financial Times.

Demand for private rented homes is rising at its fastest rate for nine years thanks to a buoyant economy and migration, according to the latest RICS lettings survey.

Arm’s length management organisations say government funding delays could lead to redundancies and falling inspection scores, reports Inside Housing.

Housing associations in London are struggling to spend their allocations from the Housing Corporation, raising fears the money could be diverted elsewhere, reports Inside Housing.

Places for People has set up a new joint venture with regeneration and development specialist Cofton that will invest £300m in land acquisition over the next two years. One of the first jobs for Making Places will be the £200m transformation of Smith’s Dock in Newcastle.

And finally….maybe communities are more mixed than we think. The Daily Mail has found a viscount living in a council house.

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Tags: news

Lunchtime news March 1


Posted by:
Julian Birch

The real cost of the council tax has doubled since 1997, reports the Daily Telegraph, with the average bill going up £480 a year.

Halifax Bank of Scotland lent £74bn in mortgages last year – one in five home loans made – reveals The Guardian.

Brighton’s move to a lottery for school admissions could have a big impact on house prices, says The Independent.

House prices are part of an inter-generational mugging of under-35s by baby boomers, says Faisal Islam in the New Statesman.

New research for the DCLG shows the nine housing market renewal pathfinder areas have made a strong start.

Four out of ten affordable homes are being built with modern methods of construction, according to a new report by the Housing Corporation and English Partnerships

…but a report in Inside Housing says unskilled contractors are causing a catalogue of problems.

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Housing Care and Support conference