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ROOF Blog archive

Displaying ROOF Blog articles from May 2007

Lunchtime news May 31


Posted by:
Julian Birch

The Home Office has confirmed plans to include closure orders in the upcoming Criminal Justice Bill. The new powers will enable local authorities and the police to temporarily close and seal the homes of anti-social home owners and tenants.

The Rural Housing Advisory Group has held its first meeting chaired by Housing Corporation board member Candy Atherton and pledged not to be just a talking shop.

Confusion reigns over house prices. The Express interprets new figures released by the Land Registry as proof that prices are ‘continuing to soar.’ Meanwhile the Mail translates the same data as evidence that the house price boom is over.

The Telegraph chooses the middle ground reporting that prices in London are on the up, whilst the rest of the country is experiencing a dip. Good news, reports the Times, if you live in London, as this price hike is pushing drug dealers out into the suburbs.

Matthew Parris leaps to the defence of Ruth Kelly, praising her stalwart defence of HIPS in the face of universal criticism.

Figures from the Registry Trust show that the number of people who had a county court judgment served on them for non payment of debts approached a 10-year high in the first three months of this year.

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Tags: news

Lunchtime news May 29


Posted by:
Julian Birch

House prices in England and Wales rose 9.1% in the year to April – the fastest rate for two years – according to Land Registry figures released this morning. The rate in April 2006 was just 4.1%. London and Brighton led the way with rises of 15.6%.

Gross mortgage lending rose 12% in the year to April, according to the British Bankers Association yesterday.

The net result? Massive mortgages are turning first-time buyers into the equivalent of bonded labourers, according to the Mail, reporting new research from the universities of Aberdeen and Loughborough. They say the housing crisis is leading to a return to the gross inequality seen at the end of the 19th century.

Landlords are starting to bail out of the buy-to-let market because of rising interest rates, according to the Financial Times, reporting the latest RICS lettings survey. But the Telegraph highlights the fact that rents are soaring as a result.

The Telegraph continues its campaign against flats in an article accusing planners of stacking them on every brownfield site they can find.

The Department of Health has announced a £67m refurbishment fund for care homes.

And finally…as Harrogate draws near, stay calm: a cautionary tale from the Scotsman about what can happen at housing conferences.

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Lunchtime news May 25


Posted by:
Julian Birch

On Question Time [go here to watch and here for the story] last night, Labour deputy leadership candidate Alan Johnson accused Margaret Hodge of ‘using the language of the BNP’ when she argued for a a Brits-first housing policy. A poll for BBC’s Daily Politics says 69% of the public think she’s right but Inside Housing reports a hostile reception from the housing profession.

Housing associations are under pressure on development funding after almos and private companies bid for a larger share, reports Inside Housing.

The Audit Commission has launched consultation on the pilot programme for its short-notice inspections of housing associations.

The Housing Corporation has announced the winners of its 2007 Gold Awards.

UK house prices are 65% over-valued according to the international economics agency OECD, reports the Mail. The estimate is based on a comparison between average prices and average rental returns, which is 65% above the average since 1970.

Illegal immigration cost the taxpayer £1bn last year, including £700m in housing costs, reports the Mail.

Camden to is to sell empty properties to the highest bidder and sell estates to housing associations as a way out of the problems caused by tenant rejection of transfer and almo, according to the Camden New Journal.

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Lunchtime news May 24


Posted by:
Julian Birch

Should affordable housing be Gordon Brown’s first priority? Yes, say four of the six Labour deputy leader candidates in the Mirror. Yes, along with other things, say the other two.

The politics of housing is complicated but the solution is simple – build more homes – says Steve Richards in the Independent.

Housing organisations are keeping up the lobbying pressure. London needs a 50% increase in funding for affordable homes, says London Councils. More funding is needed for shared ownership as it moves from being a niche product to the norm, says the National Housing Federation. And the next four years are ‘make or break’ in Scotland, says Shelter Scotland, after new figures showing a 10% rise in the number of people on waiting and transfer lists.

Communities secretary Ruth Kelly will be sacked over the HIPs fiasco when Gordon Brown becomes prime minister, says The Sun, but moved to another department, according to The Times.

Estate agents say homeowners will evade plans to keep HIPs for four-bed homes by marketing them as three bedrooms with a study, reports the Telegraph.

The papers make better reading for Harry Hallowes: The Irish tramp has been awarded squatters’ rights to land worth millions in Highgate, north London, after living in a shack for 20 years.

But members of a village bowls team are trying the same thing to stop new homes being built on their bowling green in Norfolk, reports The Times.

Speculation is mounting about a housing market crash in Ireland, reports The Business, with new figures showing that 40% of homes built in the last four years are empty.

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Lunchtime news May 23


Posted by:
Julian Birch

The rate of housebuilding in the Thames Gateway needs to double if the government is to meet its target of 160,000 homes by 2016, according to a critical report by the National Audit Office. The NAO says building rates are rising more slowly than in the rest of the South East and that ministers have not yet produced a coherent, full-costed plan.

Home information packs could be doomed, says The Times, with Ruth Kelly’s climbdown yesterday leading to them being quietly dropped. The Mail calls it a ‘humiliation’ while the Guardian says the communities secretary is under attack from both estate agents and environmentalists. Go here for Kelly’s statement and here for the press release.

Homeless young people won’t benefit from government plans to offer free tuition up to A level because of housing benefit regulations, says the Foyer Federation.

New research from the Council of Mortgage Lenders [downloads PDF] says 38% of first-time buyers under 30 got help with their deposit from their parents and others.

Most of today’s papers cover new statistics showing a million migrants have gained British citizenship since 1997.

Margaret Hodge continues to generate the column inches. The Independent accusing her of playing into the hands of the BNP and its columnist Deborah Orr calls her ‘simple-minded’ while also exploring the issue of need.

The minister has also achieved the rare feat of turning a housing issue into a hot topic on the blogosphere – more than 2,000 blog entries so far and counting. Go here and here for opposing views.

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Lunchtime news May 22


Posted by:
Julian Birch

Yesterday’s planning white paper rejected changes in policy on the green belt – one of the key concerns raised by Kate Barker in her independent review of land use planning just six months ago. Barker argued that the green belt now accounts for 13% of land in England and that policy had to be reviewed, with particular encouragement for proposals that include measures to enhance the surrounding area, such as open-access woodland. However, the white paper commits the govenment to existing policy on the green belt and no fundamental change to planning policy.

The Church of England has thrown its weight behind the Still Human Still Here campaign to highlight the plight of refused asylum seekers.

Polly Toynbee lays into the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in her Guardian column for playing politics with climate change by opposing home information packs in the Lords.

Margaret Hodge’s call for British people to get priority for council housing continues to generate controversy and coverage. Guardian reporters gauge reaction in Barking while a leader says she is misguided. But Patrick O’Flynn in the Express says ‘at last, someone gets it’.

Labour deputy leadership candidate Jon Cruddas tells the Guardian why housing is at the heart of his campaign. ‘When we started talking about housing a year ago, no one was talking about it – now everyone is,’ he says.

The DCLG says it will consider reforming or scrapping a range of performance indicators on housing and homelessness. The detail of its response to the Lifting the Burdens Task Force Report on housing and planning, says it will consider a proposal to drop the ‘meaningless’ indicator on the number of rough sleepers.

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Lunchtime news May 21


Posted by:
Julian Birch

Government housing policy is still failing on sustainability, according to a major report from the Sustainable Development Commission this morning. The report says it has made progress with its pledge on zero carbon homes but criticises development in areas of water stress, demolition of homes in the North and Midlands and divisions between private and affordable homes. ‘Few communities built so far are living up to the promise of being environmentally sensitive, well-connected, thriving and inclusive,’ it says.

The planning white paper due to be published later today looks set to recommend scrapping planning inquiries for major projects and scrapping planning permission for minor household alterations. But the advance coverage is much less certain what it will say about the green belt.

Mortgage lending in April was up 18% on last year, according to CML figures this morning, but it said lending was now ‘stabilising’ following the major growth seen in 2006. The British Bankers Association said mortgage lending was up by £5bn but that the market was slowing down because of high house prices and rising interest rates.

Industry minister and Barking MP Margaret Hodge called for people born in Britain to get priority for housing in an Observer article on Sunday that gets extensive coverage and criticism this morning.

Nicola Sturgeon will have cabinet-level responsibility for housing in the new SNP minority administration in Scotland. She was named cabinet secretary for health and well-being, a portfolio that includes housing and regneration, on Thursday.

House prices in Scotland fell 2.2% in the first quarter of the year, according to Registers of Scotland, but prices were still up 12.3% over the last year.

Tenants in Lambeth will get a vote on the council’s plan for an almo, according to the South London Press. The council had previously said it would carry out a ‘test of opinion’ rather than a ballot.

The DCLG has published a guide to student accommodation aimed at landlords and students.

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Lunchtime news May 18


Posted by:
Julian Birch

Almost a million children are trapped in overcrowded housing, according to a new campaign launched by Shelter today. The total has risen 50,000 to 955,000 in the last three years. The campaign includes a new video and a call to email communities secretary Ruth Kelly to update the current overcrowding standard.

Sarah Webb will be the new chief executive of the CIH. Previously deputy chief executive of the CIH and head of the ODPM’s community housing task force, she will take over from David Butler. She was quickly into action yesterday in support of home information packs - because they benefit first-time buyers.

Gordon Brown and his ally Yvette Cooper are planning to make support for house building a significant dividing line between Labour and the Conservatives, reports Inside Housing.

A vote in the European Parliament could clear the way for releasing billions of pounds worth of structural funds for housing, reports Inside Housing.

The minimum wage and tax credits have failed to cut the income inequality Labour inherited from the Conservatives, according to new statistics reported in the Guardian.

The Financial Services Authority has issued a warning about the buy to let market, with borrowers losing money and lenders not knowing the true quality of their loan books, reports the Financial Times.

Housing starts in England fell 6% in 2006/07 to 173,400 after rising for the previous five years, according to the DCLG. Completions rose 3%.

Inner city regneration won’t be enough to solve the housing crisis, says NHF chief executive David Orr in a Guardian response to Simon Jenkins earlier this week.

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Late-lunchtime news 17 May


Posted by:
Bill Rashl

England is one of the worst countries in the developed world in which to be a child, according to Sir Albert Aynsley-Green, the Children’s Commissioner.

There are rumblings that the Bank of England is primed to raise interest rates again to 5.75 per cent – as soon as next month. The bank admits that consumers have become more sensitive to changes in interest rates because of the high levels of personal debt.

Almost 2,000 people have registered an interest in buying one of Britain’s first BoKloks, flat pack housing pioneered by Ikea, before work begins in Gateshead.

The government’s fabled 60,000 homes will actually be sold for about £200,000 at a development in Milton Keynes.

Nationwide’s chief executive defends the building society’s reputation for responsible lending on the Today Programme following a report that lending was up 78 per cent this year from the previous year.

New police powers to ’shut and seal’ premises – including flats – that generate anti-social behaviour have been attacked by Shelter for failing to tackle the root of the problem.

Speaking at the CBI Gordon Brown has confirmed that the planning white paper will be unveiled on Monday 21 May.

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Tags: news

Lunchtime news 15 May


Posted by:
Bill Rashl

Yvette Cooper’s speech at the Fabian Society named climate change and political opposition to new building as the government’s two main housing challenges.

Shelter Cymru’s 2007 Annual Conference, ‘People and Homes’ will take place between June 28th and 29th

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) is seeking a judicial review in a last-ditch legal attempt to block the introduction of home information packs.

For anyone still unsure what all the fuss is about, the Independent has produced a bluffers guide to HIPs.

Gordon Brown comes in for stick from Simon Jenkins, who writes in the Guardian that the push for new homes is more about pleasing developers than the people who need the homes.

Residents of the Ocean estate in Stepney, where only about 40% of men are in paid employment, are being given first refusal of all non-medical jobs at Tower Hamlets primary care trust as part of a new scheme to boost employment in the area.

How can we ensure that future social housing is of top quality? The Housing Corporation publishes the report of an independent commission outlining how this might be achieved.

It now costs an average of £16,000 to move home according to a survey conducted by the Abbey. Last year Britons spent £28billion on moving.

A Mirror investigation has revealed how the top 10 mortgage lenders have taken advantage of interest rate changes in the past six years to boost their annual profits by £660million.

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Tags: news

Lunchtime news 14 May


Posted by:
Bill Rashl

Speaking on theToday programme, Gordon Brown announced a pledge to bring one million children out of bad housing by 2016. The Sun labels Brown ‘Bob the builder’ reporting that two million children will be helped into better housing by a new building programme.

The BBC has obtained a letter to the Treasury from local authority leaders which claims the number of migrants entering the Uk has been seriously underestimated.

The Financial Times, Guardian and Independent all report that Gordon Brown has underlined his determination to win over middle England with a pledge to create a ’home-owning democracy.’

Meanwhile Brown’s leadership rivals received more robust treatment from the Chancellor during a debate over housing.

’If our planning system is so slow and dreadful why has the UK economy outperformed almost all its competitors since the mid-1990s’ asks Brian Ross in a letter to the Guardian?

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Weekend news round-up 13 May


Posted by:
Bill Rashl

Gordon Brown’s first 10,000 home town will be built on the abandoned Oakington Barracks in Cambridgeshire reports the Express. The town will be one of five new eco-towns which will provide 100,000 new homes, reports the Observer.

Only 27 per cent of people surveyed by the website know what a home information pack is, three weeks before they become compulsory for properties being sold reports the Sunday Times in a stats filled report on the housing market. The paper advises borrowers hit by the latest rate rise to remortgage without delay.

A draft order approving the Home Information Packs will be laid before the House of Lords on Thursday. The Sunday Telegraph reports that politicians are being urged by opponents of HIPs to block the packs through the upper house.

Slough is struggling to support over 90 Roma children, some as young as 10, who have arrived unaccompanied in the town from Eastern Europe.

The Observer meets a Hackney homeowner who won his house in a GLC lottery in 1977 and is surprised to hear it’s now worth nearer £800,000.

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Tags: news

Weekend news round-up 12 May


Posted by:
Bill Rashl

House prices have almost trebled during the Blair decade, according to the FT house price index. The paper also predicts another interest rate rise this year.

The Independent reports that more than one in seven people will now struggle to pay their mortgage following last week’s hike in interest rates.

According to The Times, the rise in rates will to accentuate the divide between house prices outside the capital and those in the plusher parts of London.

Has the buy-to-let market reached saturation point, asks the Telegraph?

Gordon Brown receives a vocal welcome in Brighton from the internet-based pressure group Priced Out. The campaigners plan to picket the chancellor when he speaks at Brighton’s Dome to highlight the problem of escalating house prices.

’What about the immense tolerance shown by British families in overcrowded homes who see new social housing given to asylum seekers?’ rails the Express in yet another comment on Blair’s legacy.

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Lunchtime news May 11


Posted by:
Bill Rashl

The Financial Times house price index for April shows stable house price inflation across the country (see interactive map).

Legacy fever continues with the Times commenting that one of the intractable endowment’s of the Blair decade has been ‘the distortion of any normal or sustainable relation between house prices and people’s incomes.’

In a Bricks and Mortar special on first time buyers, Michael Gove calls for more homes to be built, there’s a guide to the government’s low cost home ownership schemes; plus a selection of options for first time buyers.

The supplement also reports on a new readiness to consider the situation of the 3.1 million people over 30 who ‘expected to retire in their own homes but will actually live out their golden years in rented accommodation

The Independent, the Sun and the Mirror all report that yesterday’s rate rises represent another nail in the coffin of struggling homeowners.

Complaints against estate agents are running at an all time high reports The Express. The paper reveals that the ombudsman for estate agents received 8,000 enquiries from angry customers in 2006.

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Tags: news

Lunchtime news May 9


Posted by:
Emma Hawke

Commenting in the Evening Standard, Shelter chief executive Adam Sampson warns that homes in London costing less than £100,000 could soon be a thing of the past.

An increasingly detached underclass are the real victims of our dysfunctional housing market argues the author Mark Braund in today’s Guardian.

Making affordable housing a central part of Gordon Brown’s new agenda offers Labour a great opportunity to reconnect with the rural vote writes Dr Stuart Burgess, in the letters section of the Guardian.

Why are parts of London the most expensive residential areas in the world? Because some of the money swishing round Russia, the Middle East and East Asia has to find a home somewhere, says the Independent.

Most papers cover the news that the Bank of England increased interest rates by 0.25 per cent to 5.5 per cent at noon today. The Times says the move may create more losers in the short term than winners – particularly homeowners with variable-rate mortgages.

In a thundering leader article on rates, the Independent says that ‘housing is a huge problem in much of the country, not just for those trying to buy their first home, but for families needing more room and those whose circumstances change.’

Writing in the Standard Nick Cohen investigates how people are forced to spend a huge percentage of their money on housing costs.

The Daily Mail’s campaign against Eastern European immigrants continues with a report that the number of visitors from Eastern Europe has risen by a quarter since Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU. The paper at least admits that the figures released by the Office for National Statistics quantify visitors from around the world who said their stay in Britain would be temporary.

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Lunchtime news May 4


Posted by:
Bill Rashl

The Today programme on Radio 4 and Radio 5 Live both follow up ROOF’s revelations that sub-prime lenders are behind a surge in repossession actions in the courts. The research at Kingston-upon-Thames county court found that repossession actions at the court nearly doubled between 2003 and 2006 . More than half of the people facing repossession had mortgage contracts with sub-prime lenders. For the full story, see Howard Springett’s article in this issue of ROOF.

Writing in the Mirror, Paul Routledge calls on Gordon Brown to build more social housing when he finally his hands on the keys for number 10

The Times traces the Blair’s housing history from a scruffy terrace in Dalston, East London to a £3.65 million mansion in Connaught Square. The paper also reports that, with three successive interest rate rises, house prices should now be on the slide

Thermal images of homes have been taken by a light aircraft fitted with army spy technology to record the heat escaping from people’s houses reports the Times

The Lib Dems have uncovered statistics that reveal there have been nearly 200,000 complaints from service personnel over the past year about the dire state of army accommodation

The Express predicts ’housing misery’ for homeowners if interest rates increase again, plus the usual daily rant about HIPs

Insolvency Service reports there were 30,075 individual insolvencies in England and Wales in the first quarter of 2007 on a seasonally adjusted basis. This was an increase of 23.9 per cent on the same period a year ago

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Tags: news

Lunchtime news May 3


Posted by:
Bill Rashl

The first 15 Wimpey homes designed by star architect Richard Rogers have been unveiled in Milton Keynes. The development includes two, three, four and five-bedroom homes in ten different designs. Prices range from £199,500 to £450,000. Built with sustainable materials and fitted with energy-saving gadgets, they are reported to be among the most eco-friendly mass-market properties

Figures from the Bank of England show mortgage approvals fell to 113,000 in March from 118,000 in February, the lowest figure since April last year

Following three interest rate rises since last August, Mervyn King, governor of the bank of England, tells the Financial Times that the Bank will give financial markets a better idea of the circumstances likely to trigger interest rate changes. Speaking to the paper, King also defends the banks decade of independence

The daily tirade against HIPs continues with a long-winded attack from a Times Columnist describing them as a ‘disaster’

The Nationwide’s 25-year fixed rate mortgage will be scrapped today, just five weeks after its launch reports the Daily Mail

The Daily Mail claims to have obtained secret government figures, which show that immigrants from Eastern Europe have swollen the population of British towns by up to ten per cent

A survey has found that the most expensive house name is Courtney House, while England’s most popular house name is The Cottage

With voters going to the polls tomorrow, desperate Conservative councillors in the South East have been warning that a vote for the the BNP could knock thousands of pounds off the value of their homes.

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Lunchtime news May 2


Posted by:
Bill Rashl

With Tony Blair’s departure from number 10 imminent, the Mirror reports that Gordon Brown will launch a new era of council house building when he takes over as prime minister.

HIPS come in for flak from a number of papers, including the Guardian, which all cover a critical House of Lords committee report claiming that the packs have been stripped of their original purpose and were opposed by the property industry.

Guardian Society profiles Shaun Bailey, former youth worker and Conservatives’ prospective parliamentary candidate for Hammersmith. ‘I’d love to be able to tell you about an offshore account, a mistress in the Bahamas, a powerboat and dodgy dealings. But I’m sorry, I haven’t done any of that. I’ve been living on an estate,’ he tells the paper.

Bill Bryson, the bestselling American author, is to become the new president of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), replacing Sir Max Hastings.

The chief executive of Sunderland Arc, Tom Macartney, tells the Think conference, which ends today, that buy-to-let is jeopardising Britain’s city centres.

Latest data on the housing market from the Land Registry showed house prices rose by 1 per cent in March to stand 8.3 per cent higher than a year earlier, one of the highest annual rises in almost two years. The average price of a home in England and Wales is now £178,423.

Debbie Crew’s award winning campaign against abuses by private landlords continues to gather speed. More signatures are now being sought for an electronic petition to the prime minister to stop a Section 21 Notice being used by landlords to shirk their legal responsibilities.

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Housing Care and Support conference