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Displaying ROOF Blog articles from September 2008

Lunchtime news Monday 29 September 2023


Posted by:
AJ Williamson

From today, all landlords must now give new tenants a certificate showing the rented property’s energy efficiency. The energy performance certificate, providing information similar to the ratings system on home appliances, is intended to allow tenants to check the energy efficiency of a property’s insulation, double glazing, boiler and appliances.

This comes as a new report show that 79 per cent of renters are worried about the cost of their household bills, while 77 per cent don’t believe that their landlords care enough about energy efficiency. After location, household bills are now the most important factor in choosing a property to rent.

New rules have also come into force today allowing homes to be extended without planning permission. As many as 80,000 households will no longer have to seek planning permission for improvements such as loft extensions under 50 cubic metres or putting in permeable driveways. ‘Large or intrusive’ improvements will still require planning permits, however.

Meanwhile home information packs are being investigated by the Trading Standards office in Birmingham, which has found that housebuyers are being misled because information supposed to be found in them is inaccurate, incomplete or missing. Officers went to 15 estate agents and asked to see the Hips for a selection of properties and found the majority were unsatisfactory.

A new report out from the National Housing Federation shows that waiting lists for social housing in the North West have increased 75 per cent in the past five years, more than any other region. Despite falls in house prices, affordability remains a major problem, and nearly half a million people – more than 212,000 households – are now on the region’s waiting list. The document also contains the latest forecast from Oxford Economics anticipating a rise in property prices from 2010, which is likely to worsen the situation even further.

The Crosby report - looking at ways to kickstart the mortgage market – has been delayed by two weeks to take into account the market turbulence of the past month. An interim report in July has been widely criticised, and the full report is expected to address whether the government should extend the special liquidity loans to banks past January 2009, or guarantee high-quality mortgage-backed securities.

But the report can’t come fast enough for some, as hundreds of mortgage deals vanished yesterday after the report’s delay was announced, and lenders were uncertain about access to sources of finance. In the past few weeks interbank lending has practically dried up and the cost of wholesale borrowing has risen dramatically as a result. Accordingly around 10 per cent of deals were dropped yesterday, adding to the withdrawal in the past year of 85 per cent of buy-to-let mortgages and 60 per cent of residential mortgages.

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Lunchtime news Friday 26 September 2023


Posted by:
AJ Williamson

The fall in house prices is accelerating in England and Wales according to the Land Registry. Prices fell 1.9 per cent in August, taking the annual rate of price falls to 4.6 per cent. Prices in London fell by 3.2 per cent in August – the first monthly drop since 2000.

Rents have also fallen. Savills, the estate agents, says average rents are 1.8 per cent lower than they were three months ago. The worst effected area is south west London where prices are down 16.5 per cent on last year, and towards the east of the city where prices have declined 4.6 per cent. Many homeowners who have been unable or unwilling to sell their homes have become landlords recently.

Advisers for the government’s eco-towns have called for ministers to toughen up environmental standards for the developments by monitoring residents’ travel habits, home insulation and wasted food to ensure they are living a ‘green lifestyle’. Supporters of the move want the towns to have a carbon footprint three times smaller than the British average. Opponents to the eco-towns have said that the proposals would create a ‘Big Brother’ environment.

Meanwhile Rushcliffe Borough Council has supported a motion demanding that the government abandon its eco-town proposals in Rushcliffe saying that its eco-town would fail the sustainability test. The council also has received confirmation from the housing and transport ministers that the existing infrastructure and facilities are completely inadequate to support a town, but there would be no extra funding available for major infrastructure or transport improvement.

Housing minister Caroline Flint has published a report setting out for changes to planning laws that would end the concentration of student populations in university towns. The report will suggest ways of reducing the clustering of student houses in one area. The government is proposing to make planning laws stricter, allowing councils to define houses of multiple occupation as ‘any dwelling of three or more people from two or more households’.

Hopes for an interest rate cut were boosted when business leaders and trade unions appealed for the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee, who meet next week, to make a cut. They argue that inflation is reaching its peak in the next two or three months, and in order to counter the ‘severe threat of recession’, the committee should consider a rate cut to 4.75 per cent, down from five per cent currently. However, Kate Barker one of the committee members warned that while inflation expectations and perceptions have clearly moved higher, the credit crunch had proved to be more serious than initially expected and the economic outlook for the country had recently worsened.

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Tags: news

Lunchtime news Thursday 25 September 2023


Posted by:
AJ Williamson

A report from Citizens Advice detailing the financial, emotional and physical impact of poverty for children has said that Britain’s poorest families are ‘cold and hungry’ and often living in inadequate housing. One in three children live in poverty in the UK and this figure is rising again. Citizens Advice has called for the government to make dramatic improvements to benefits and the tax credit system to increase the take up of benefits, and wants the government to provide more support and better financial incentives to ensure that families who move off benefits and into work are genuinely better off.

The Office of Fair Trading blames the planning regime for failing to develop vacant land and fuelling accusations of anti-competitiveness in the sector. After a year long study, the OFT dismissed complaints that house builders were accumulating land and not developing it in the hope it will increase in value in the meantime – so-called landbanking, and said the sector was ‘broadly competitive’. The report says that arcane planning regulations meant that house builders needed to keep a stock of land to cope with the fluctuations in the housing market and to reduce exposure to risk should planning be denied. However, the report also demanded that a code of conduct and a redress scheme needs to be set up to give consumers better protection.

A social landlord in the North West of England is launching a low-cost loan service to counteract the effects of extortionate interest rates charged by doorstep lenders. The Riverside Group has received funding from the Department for Works and Pensions to offer affordable loans to people who need them, and will be working to help people manage their finances better in the future. Research has shown that 13 per cent of its tenants do not have access to a bank account. If the scheme is successful it may be rolled out across the region.

Banks and building societies have blamed the global financial crisis for a rise in the interbank lending rate causing a further increase in mortgage rates. Abbey, the UK’s second largest mortgage lender is expected to withdraw some of its most competitive deals today; yesterday Yorkshire Building Society raised rates; and it is expected that Lloyds, Northern Rock and Woolwich will also raise the cost of borrowing in the next few days.

Meanwhile house prices are falling globally, with signs that it will get worse before the situation improves. The cost of property fell during the past year in 21 of the 33 countries looked at by a global property guide, with the Baltic states, America, and the UK and Ireland leading the decline. Quarterly data suggests that the worst is yet to come as all but nine of the 33 countries tracked faced house price falls.

The way local authorities identify and assess land for future redevelopment could be transformed due to advances in technology and changing information needs, according to a study into the 10-year-old national land use database of previously developed land. Recommendations of the review into the database include replacing the current system with one that would be more accurate and easier for local authorities to maintain, and suggests providing 60 per cent of all new homes on brownfield land by 2020.

In Scotland, MSPs have been given a dire warning about the state of the housing industry by Homes for Scotland. It says that 30,000 jobs could go, house building will fall by half this year and the economic downturn will see significant cuts in estate agents and surveyor jobs.

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Lunchtime news Wednesday 24 September 2023


Posted by:
AJ Williamson

Speaking at the Labour party conference yesterday housing minister Caroline Flint admitted that the government’s target of building three million new homes may never be reached, but said government would encourage the development of the private rented sector as part of a range of measures to kickstart the housing market. She said that the professional rented sector could help provide a better quality of home and more choice for people, adding that the government was exploring other options such as how financial products were marketed, extending the shared equity schemes and ensuring people on low incomes have secure housing.

Meanwhile, Hazel Blears launched an attack on Boris Johnson at a fringe event at Labour party conference, saying that affordable housing in London under the mayor was under threat and was creating ‘ghetto cities’. Ms Blears said that Mr Johnson was moving away from the former mayor’s affordable housing percentage, which aimed at a level of 50 per cent of affordable homes. She said it was important that developers and local authorities are not allowed to spend money for affordable homes elsewhere, or provide affordable homes ‘off-site’. She added that the government is considering changes to its policy of charging business rates to owners of empty commercial properties.

The Council of Mortgage Lenders has confirmed what we all already know – trying to predict short term house price movements is ‘futile’ at the moment. Having admitted its earlier prediction of a 7 per cent fall in prices this year had rapidly become outdated, they go on to say the property market is unlikely to recover from its current slump before 2010.

New figures out from HM Revenue and Customs show that the number of houses sold dropped to its lowest level since records began in 1959, and less than half the figure a year ago. Just 62,000 houses were sold in August, which combined with yesterday British Bankers’ Association figures of just 700 mortgage a day being taken out, indicate that the housing market has ground to a halt.

To make matters worse, recent advice published by Revenue and Customs has also indicated that house builders will face extra tax bills if they rent out the homes they have been unable to sell. Developers may be forced to repay the VAT they have already claimed back, because of the different tax treatment between selling and letting properties

The head of the Housing Finance Corporation has warned that two more housing associations are likely to go bust in the coming 12 months, in a repeat of the Ujima crisis. Speaking at the National Housing Federation conference the chief executive said that probably a lot of failing housing associations will be swept into larger groups, but two are likely to fold entirely.

In America, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has begun an investigation into the four major US financial institutions recently caught up in the financial crisis. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, along with Lehman Brothers and AIG are being looked into after allegations that fraud may have caused the troubles at the companies and whether executives deliberately misled the stock market about the health of their businesses.

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Lunchtime news Tuesday 23 September 2023


Posted by:
AJ Williamson

The number of repossessed properties coming to auction has more than doubled during the past year. However, auction houses are reporting their lowest levels in sales on record, with almost half of all properties failing to sell. At the same time last year 71 per cent of properties were selling at auction. Auctioneers are now making around 10 per cent of their sales after the auction is over.

Mortgage approvals for August dropped to a record low – falling 64 per cent from a year ago, while the value of gross lending was down 27 per cent on a year earlier. The figures from the British Bankers’ Association indicate that the state of the housing market, with falling property prices, was continuing to have an impact.

According to research from the Co-Operative Bank first-time buyers are delaying getting married or having a family as they save money for a deposit on a property, and they are lowering their expectations of what they can afford as the credit crunch bites. First-time buyers believe they must now save nearly £20,000 to get on the property ladder and they think it will take around two years to raise the money. Half of those questioned said they were prepared to forgo eating out and taking holidays to save the cash, double the figure a year earlier.

Grainger, the UK’s largest residential landlord, has called for reforms to be made to the private rented sector. It warns the government that the sector is more important than ever and will play an increasingly vital role in housing supply as difficulties in obtaining mortgages continues. Grainger is asking for an industry-led licensing process with codes of conduct in place; more secure tenancy deals for tenants; offering financial incentives for residents to invest in homeownership; and a change in planning policies to encourage new housing schemes to let.

Meanwhile rental demand has risen 65 per cent during the past year, and is its strongest ‘for decades’. Web-based estate agents Your Move said the growth in demand went beyond normal seasonal fluctuations and was due to the rise in people delaying buying a home and the ongoing mortgage drought, which left many struggling to get a mortgage. Strong demand for rented accommodation has not translated into an increase in rents as more sellers are putting up their homes for rent rather than sell in the current economic climate.

And finally, an obscure wartime law has been used to force a south west London council into buying a park for £1.6 million when its true worth has been valued at just £15,000. The gardens once housed properties which were bombed during the second world war, but a law is still in force that requires homes damaged during this period be automatically rebuilt. The park’s owner won a battle at the Court of Appeal to have the land valued as if it had homes on it. The council is thinking of appealing to the House of Lords.

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Lunchtime news Monday 22 September 2023


Posted by:
AJ Williamson

Just a few days after the National Housing Federation warned the government will miss its house building target by up to nine years, the Town and Country Planning Association has also said that three million new homes will not be enough to meet the expected growth in the number of elderly people and young families. The report claims that at least a further half a million homes are needed in England alone in the next twelve years – with growing demand in the North East and Midlands, as people move from the South East. The changes are a result of people living longer, women having children later and long-term migrants starting families.

The National Housing Building Council has reported that applications to build new homes reached an all-time low in the UK during August – registering a 76 per cent fall in the year. However, applications to build social housing is rising, with an eight per cent increase in applications in the three months to August, taking the year on year figure to a six per fall overall.

As house prices fall the number of properties up for sale is expected to decrease. The financial turmoil on the money markets of the recent weeks is taking its toll as homeowners fear further price falls. According to Rightmove, the asking price for a home in England and Wales dropped by one per cent during the five weeks to September 13, but this was less than the decrease recorded during each of the previous three months. The annual rate of decline eased slightly to 3.3 per cent, compared with 4.8 per cent last month. This is the first index to include the effect of the government’s stamp duty initiative, which appears to have had little impact in stimulating demand.

Meanwhile homeowners have been told to expect a sharp increase in fixed rate mortgage rates next week. The three month Libor rate is at its highest since April this year, up to six per cent. Analysts are saying that this could lead to a quarter point increase in mortgage deals.

Pensioners have been warned not to unlock equity in their homes unless it is a last report. Consumer group Which? said that equity release schemes are expensive, inflexible and leave people with little equity, which may affect the level of means-tested benefits they are entitled to. The organisation is urging people to consider other options before turning to equity release, such as downsizing to a cheaper property, using their existing savings, or even borrowing money from family that could be paid back when a home is eventually sold.

Millions of families will not qualify for free insulation under the £1 billion energy efficiency scheme introduced by the government last week. The government launched the scheme after facing criticism that as many as five million households in the UK face fuel poverty this winter, and said that up to 11 million low-income households would qualify. But critics say the figures are misleading, arguing that those with some insulation already would not be eligible; homes built before the 1930s are unsuitable for cavity wall insulation; while most council-owned and housing association properties have already been insulated. The government had argued that two million households could benefit this winter, but an industry spokesperson said that he doubted there was enough capacity to insulate more than 500,000 homes in a year let along a winter.

Labour is again coming under fire from unions at its annual conference regarding the introduction of a windfall tax and price cap on ‘greedy’ oil and energy firms. Joint general secreatary of Unite said that even a ‘modest’ levy on firms would help almost six million households and added tjat if the companies were not prepared to do the socially acceptabe thing, then the utility companies should be brought ‘back into public ownership’.

And in another move that could trigger a backlash against Gordon Brown, the government plans to cut the time pensioners can claim backdated pension tax credits from 12 months to three months. In a move expected to save the government hundreds of millions of pounds, as many as 110,000 pensioners may be affected.

More children aged between 10 and 14 are being locked up in England and Wales than in any other western European country. Only Russia and the Ukraine put more children in prison. A fivefold rise has been reported in child and youth custody sentences during the past decade despite there being no significant increase in serious crime over the same period, while the annual cost of keeping a young person in a secure children’s home is believed to be £185,000.

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Lunchtime news Friday 19 September 2023


Posted by:
AJ Williamson

The government will miss its 2020 house building target by up to nine years unless ministers intervene further in the property market the National Housing Federation (NHF) has warned. The NHF said that only 1.6 million new homes would be built by 2020, well short of the three million promised in last July’s Green Paper. And as the credit crunch takes its toll, the private sector – which traditionally builds around 75 per cent of new homes – is being hit with some estimates suggesting that the number of new properties being built this year could be as low as 100,000, and could hover around this figure for some time. The NHF urged the government to increase the grants available for housing associations and bring forward the entire social house building budget until 2010/11 to use now.

A house builder is set to walk away from traditional house building to focus on building for the social sector, becoming the first group to leave the private market. Kier Group, the 15th largest builder in the UK which puts up around 2,000 homes a year, has seen its building activity slump by 76 per cent in the past few months. It now plans to focus on ‘partnership housing’ – acting as a contractor for public agencies looking to build social units.

Communities and Local Government has provided a snapshot of housing in England during 2006/07. The Housing in England report shows that owner occupation covers 70 per cent or 14.7 million households. Social renters make up 18 per cent and private renters 13 per cent of the households questioned. Renting is more prevalent in London that any other region where 24 per cent of households are social renters and 20 per cent private renters; and nearly half of recent first-time buyers in England had previously been renting privately.

In America the US Treasury met yesterday to discuss the creation of a US government-backed ’bad bank’ to take on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of failing mortgages held by high street banks, in an attempt the end the credit crisis. By taking on these ‘toxic assets’ the bad bank would allow its high street counterparts to free up more money on their balance sheets.

However, Standard & Poor’s has warned that banks in Europe and the US face a second wave of losses from the credit crunch during the next few months. It has revised its estimate from earlier this year that total credit crunch losses would be more than $250 billion, to $378 billion, and believes they could double to nearer $500 billion as house prices in the US continue to fall.

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Tags: news

Lunchtime news Thursday 18 September 2023


Posted by:
AJ Williamson

Latest mortgage lending figures from the Council of Mortgage Lenders show the total value of new lending in August was down £21.8 billion – a 12 per cent drop from July – and 36 per cent lower than in August last year. It is the lowest monthly figure since April 2005, and the lowest August figure since 2002. CML blamed the fall on the ‘exceptionally low housing market turnover’, which reflected consumer uncertainty.

Anthony Mayer, chair of the Tenant Services Authority, has told housing associations that the social housing sector has ‘fallen off the pace’. In his first speech as chair of the new social housing regulator, Mayer said that the gap between the best and worst performing associations was yawning, and that associations needed to use a variety of approaches to protect some of the 10 million tenants across England.

Building for life guidance has been released today. Developed by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) it sets out the national standards required for building affordable new homes built with investment from the Housing Corporation. A spokesperson for the corporation said that reaching high quality design standards is a central requirement of the Housing Corporation’s investment programme and a core objective of the new Homes and Communities Agency.

Lloyds TSB has unveiled details of its £12 billion takeover of HBOS, which will create a £1 trillion ‘superbank’. The merger came as HBOS faced a massive fall in share value, due to a combination of investors short selling shares prior to the announcement, and the housing crisis. HBOS is the largest mortgage lender in the country, with more than half of its funding mortgage related. The government said it would allow the deal ‘as financial stability must trump competition fears’. The takeover means the group will hold a third of all mortgages in the UK market. Lloyds confirmed that there would be job loses but played down reports that up to 40,000 staff could face the axe.

Central banks around the world have been pumping billions of extra dollars into the money markets in a coordinated attempt to lift the amount of available credit . After the recent days of turmoil in the global financial markets the issuing of funds is hoped to ease liquidity problems. The US Federal Reserve has released $180 billion, the European Central Bank has provided $55 billion and the Bank of England (BoE) is making $40 billion available. The BoE also extended its special liquidity scheme by a further three months yesterday.

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Tags: news

Lunchtime news Wednesady 17 September


Posted by:
AJ Williamson

Oxfordshire County Council has dismissed plans for the proposed eco-town at Weston Oxmoor as ‘deeply flawed’ and ‘unbelievable’. The council cabinet were presented with a report listing concerns in areas including transport, housing, deliverability, the eco-credentials of the plan and the lack of planned social and cultural services. The leader of the council said that the plans showed that no thought had been given to the people who might want to live there and what they may want to do.

Meanwhile the Advertising Standards Authority has backed campaign groups and Lichfield District Council over claims that an advert by Communities and Local Government (CLG) misled the public over the location of a proposed eco-town. The advert suggested that the town would be built on brownfield land on a former airfield. However opponents said most of the land was greenfield, as the majority of the airfield was already covered by a business park. CLG accepted that the advert was unintentionally inaccurate, but said there was no delieberate attempt to mislead the public.

Up to one in 10 of the country’s population directly benefs from housing association services, according to a survey by the National Housing Federation (NHF). The NHF found that 5.5 million people in England had accessed the services and facilities of housing associations in 2006/7, which delivered more than 6,500 neighbourhood services between them. These ranged from new business start ups and energy efficiency programmes to savings schemes. The survey also showed that housing associations invested almost £435 million in these services.

According to a survey by Payplan a debt management company, 50 per cent of their people who contacted the service for advice have resorted to using a credit card to pay their mortgage or a utility bill. Despite an average household income of £2,200 per month, homeowners who used the service were left with an average disposable income of £270 a month after paying their housing costs.

A prison is hosting a jobs fair in a bid to encourage resettlement and reduce reoffending rates. Based on a scheme piloted earlier in the year where 15 inmates went straight into work after their release, more than 24 employers are expected to attend the fair at the Leeds prison today.

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Tags: news

Lunchtime news Tuesday 16 September 2023


Posted by:
AJ Williamson

Pensioners are the hardest hit by the rising costs of bills. Those living on state benefits saw their living and housing expenses increase by 5.1 per cent in the year to April, a bigger jump than other households. And as the consumer price index today shows, the inflation rate has climbed to 4.7 per cent, the highest figure in 16 years, with little relief in sight. The rate increase for July on the back of rising utility bills and food prices, has damaged hopes of a rate cut by the Bank of England next month. And the collapse of Lehman Brothers will add to the uncertainty in the financial markets, as banks remain reluctant to loan to each other, resulting in a lack of fund available for people to get mortgages, keeping house prices down.

The department for Communities and Local Government released its house price index for July. Its figures show a 0.3 per cent drop in prices from a year earlier, with a monthly drop between June and July of 0.5 per cent. Scotland bucked the trend again, showing a year on year increase of 3.6 per cent.

Housing charity Housing Justice has questioned the government’s progress in reducing the number of rough sleepers, after it counted twice as many homeless people on the streets of Westminster as the official figures recorded. Last week its volunteers counted 206 rough sleepers, well above the 111 recorded by the council three months earlier. The Department for Communities and Local Government concedes that single night rough sleeping counts ‘may not capture the number of people who may have experience of sleeping rough over the course of a year’ but estimates that the figure for England is less than 500.

The Liberal Democrat party is using its autumn conference to call for councils to be given powers to buy up unsold or repossessed properties and to allow local authorities and other social landlords to borrow against their assets to enable this to happen. Treasury spokesman Vince Cable is to propose a housing motion today that is expected to blame irresponsible levels of lending for contributing to the growing number of home repossessions, while reiterating his call for a statutory code of practice for mortgage lenders, and for borrowers to be offered free financial advice.

Meanwhile, the Lib-Dems yesterday reaffirmed its opposition to the government’s eco-towns. Delegates voted overwhelmingly condemned the plan to create stand alone settlements, opposed new settlements in the green belt, while demanding that new developments be subject to local planning controls, not those imposed by central government.

The government has announced a £56.5 million package to prevent youth crime in communities across Britain. Allocated over three years the money will support all local authority areas, but particularly 20 family intervention projects that work with families facing eviction due to their children’s anti-social behaviour.

And finally, despite there being national legislation for the past 160 years, Exeter council has revealed it has no official guidelines for the naming of streets and the numbering of houses.

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Lunchtime news Monday 15 September 2023


Posted by:
AJ Williamson

The main political parties need to unite around policies to ‘avert social collapse’ caused by rising violent crime and disorder according to two MPs. Their report, due out tomorrow, calls for more support for early intervention schemes in communities to bolster the life chances of children living in deprivation. The report is expected to argue that unless action is taken Britain will be ‘saddled with a new generation of disturbed and aggressive young people doomed to repeat and amplify the social breakdown disfiguring their lives and other around them’.

A new report from the Thames Gateway London Partnership says that while the primary purpose of housing associations should remain the provision of quality affordable housing, they can deliver more by working in partnership with third sector organisations. The report says that partnership would allow associations to deliver more benefits to communities and neighbourhoods, such as neighbourhood management services, advisory services and employment and training.

A ‘green worksheet’ has been developed by the Town and Country Planning Association (TPCA) and department for Communities and Local Government, providing guidance in best practice for everything from allotments and community gardens to flood storage areas and sustainable urban drainage. It is the fourth eco-town worksheet, following on from transport, community development and water cycle management. The TPCA want the issues covered in the worksheets to be taken as the master plan for the development and planning of eco-towns.

House prices in rural Wales have risen to 6.5 times the value of average incomes. Figures from the Halifax show average house prices in rural Wales are 22 per cent higher than the average for urban parts of the country. First-time buyers in rural areas have fallen to just 28 per cent of all buyers, compared with 40 per cent in urban areas.

Meanwhile, in Scotland the average house price in rural areas is 13 per cent higher than urban averages, according to the Bank of Scotland. First-time buyers accounted for just 20 per cent of all rural buyers compared with 31 per cent in urban areas. Average property prices were 5.9 times the average annual earnings in rural areas, higher than the 5.2 times ratio for homes in urban areas.

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Tags: news

Lunchtime news Friday 12 September 2023


Posted by:
AJ Williamson

Bank of England governor Mervyn King ruled out an extension to the special liquidity scheme and warned the government not to try to offset the mortgage lending drought by bankrolling the market. He said any public sector funding would ‘severely undermine’ attempts by banks to balance their books. Speaking at a Treasury select committee he added that the UK faced a ‘difficult, but temporary period’ where inflation will remain high and growth weak.

Caroline Flint has announced a £200,000 initiative to encourage homeless charities to employ former rough sleepers. The government hopes to encourage around 800 people to find work in the sector during the coming two years. Focusing on the 46 largest homeless organisations initially before moving to smaller charities, the money will be used to set up training course in areas such as IT, finance and client counselling.

The latest figures for statutory homelessness came out yesterday. In the second quarter of 2008 a total of 22,170 households were found to be homeless, of which 15,690 households were accepted as homeless and in priority need in the second quarter of 2008. This is 1.6 per cent higher than the previous quarter, but 1.8 per cent lower than in the same period the previous year. Overall the number of households accepted as homeless by local authorities in England has been decreasing since the fourth quarter of 2004.

Houses in the UK are the most cramped in Europe. The curator of the British pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale who made the claims added the cause for why the quality was falling is that England and Wales are the only parts of Europe where house building is unregulated by a minimum space standard. Floor space is on average almost a quarter smaller than in Denmark which has the most spacious living accommodation. London mayor Boris Johnson is introducing a minimum standard on all publicly funded housing in London in November. However, house builders have warned that introducing standards would increase costs and slow down house building.

The future of eco-towns is in jeopardy after a judge ruled the programme should be brought before the High Court. The judgment follows an application by the lobby group BARD (better accessible responsible development). It claims the eco-town programme is unlawful because the public was not consulted properly about the ‘location and principle’ of eco-towns. If the claim is successful the Government may have to start again with proper consultation.

Home information packs are back in the news as the government changes the length of validity of a key part of the package – the energy performance certificate. Originally planned to be valid for one year, the government announced that it would now be valid for three years. It is believed the government is worried that as the housing market slows down to a near standstill homeowners may need to outlay for two or three certificates if the house remains stuck on the market.

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Lunchtime news Thursday 11 September 2023


Posted by:
AJ Williamson

Gordon Brown has announced a £1 billion package to help households cut their energy bills. Up to 11 million households will be offered free loft and cavity wall insulation while other households will receive a 50 per cent grant to cover the cost. Six hundred thousand of the poorest families will have lower ‘social tariffs’ by the end of the year, and households with pre-payment metres will be offered fairer rates. Meanwhile the country’s 10 million pensioners and benefit claimants will receive a tripling in severe weather payments, although only if the temperature dips to 0C for seven days in a row.

All councils in England should be able to keep income from council house rents to better plan for quality housing in the long term and improve services to tenants, says the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH). CIH submitted its comments to the government review of the housing revenue account, calling for an end to the process of redistributing revenue between councils. It beleives councils should be able to keep any surplus income at local level and wants them to have the power, together with tenants, to set their own rent levels within guidelines.

Caroline Flint has announced changes in the planning laws to make it easier for households to extend into their loft or build an extension. The changes will mean that as many as 80,000 houses will no longer need to apply for planning permission. However, there will be new restrictions on homeowners who want to pave over their front gardens. The government said the changes will save the taxpayer up to £50 million when they come in on 1 October. The move has been welcomed by the Local Government Association as a boost to the construction industry.

The Conservatives are urging the government to suspend home information packs to give an immediate boost to the housing market. The packs are deterring speculative sellers, reducing sales, and stopping people from switching agents, said Conservative housing spokesperson Grant Shapps. Mr Shapps said he would use a little-known provision in the legislation to scrap them immediately the Tories came to government.

Meanwhile Mr Shapps has accused the NHS of failing homeless people by not offering them the support they need when released from hospital. Figures obtained show the number of homeless people treated in hospital has risen by 28 per cent in four years and the underlying cause for the rise was the NHS not liaising with local services so the patients ended back in hospital: ‘The NHS is under such pressure to get people out quickly that it does not have the time to offer the support to homeless people that they need.’

The housing shortage is worse in the North East than anywhere else in the country, according to a report by the National Housing Federation. One in eight – or 270,000 households in Yorkshire and Humberside – are on the social housing waiting list, compared with one in 13 nationally. The area has seen its stock of social housing fall by more than any other region, while it has one of the highest proportions of homeless people in the UK.

A council has applied to the Scottish government to stop the right to buy of council houses due to a lack of affordable housing in the area. If approved, tenants who moved into their homes after 30 September 2023 would not be able to buy their property for five years.

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Tags: news

Lunchtime news Wednesday 10 September 2023


Posted by:
AJ Williamson

The government’s package to help people with their energy bills will be revealed tomorrow, but is unlikely to include a windfall tax on energy companies. Instead, 11 million homes will be given help to reduce bills, funded by an extra £1 billion invested by the utility companies in the carbon emission reduction programme. Four million of the poorest households – people receiving benefit and those over 70 – will be eligible for free loft and cavity insulation, while more affluent households will be able to claim discounts on household improvements to reduce energy consumption.

The National Housing Federation has lobbied successfully for a major tax concession on behalf of housing associations that employ wardens for sheltered accommodation. Associations were facing massive tax bills because of the government’s interpretation of the EU working directive which would have classified wardens’ accommodation as a taxable benefit. This tax was to apply retrospectively to 2000, which would have left the sector facing a bill of more than £9 million a year.

A new housing rights website, the first to be specifically aimed at answering housing entitlement queries of new migrants has been launched. The joint initiative between the Housing Associations’ Charitable Trust and the Chartered Institute of Housing allows advisers or new arrivals to receive advice and guidance on housing rights, including the law on the eligibility for social housing and related welfare benefits.

Barratt Developments, the second biggest house builder in the country, is desperately attempting to entice buyers back to the market. It announced that it would pay up to £15,000 in stamp duty, offer a part-exchange plan as well as a three-year guarantee ‘price promise’ that aims to provide some protection for buyers from a fall in house value. This comes as its annual profit slumped by 67 per cent and the value of the land it owns and plans to build on, plummeted by £208 million.

Meanwhile Redrow has written down its land values by 42 per cent, or £259 million, the biggest write down the house building industry has seen. It is calling the housing slump the worst it has ever seen, while a financial analyst believes land value will fall by at least 75 per cent.

The average price of a house sold at auction has plunged nearly 25 per cent in the year to August according to the Liberal Democrats. Commentating on these figures a spokesperson said that this shows just how fast house prices are falling at the sharp end. The Lib Dems called for the government to do more to empower housing associations and councils to buy unsold homes and land, and to ensure that banks only use repossession as a last resort.

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Lunchtime news Monday 8 September 2023


Posted by:
AJ Williamson

Figures published by the department for Communities and Local Government show there is enough brownfield land in England to accommodate more than one million homes. Of the land suitable for housing, just over half was currently in use, while the rest is vacant or derelict. The report added that although the amount of brownfield land suitable for housing had decreased by seven per cent since 2002, the ‘estimated housing capacity’ of brownfield land had increased by 19 per cent.

Homeless people are not receiving adequate healthcare because services do not cater to their needs, St Mungo’s have said. It found that 32 per cent of people it works with have alcohol dependency and 63 per cent have drug problems, almost half have a mental illness and 43 per cent a physical illness. Overall, 83 per cent of the homeless people St Mungo’s works with have at least one condition but a third are receiving no medical care at all.

During the past three months the private rented sector has seen an increase of almost 20 per cent in new tenancies, according to a quarterly survey by the Association of Residential Letting Agents. The rise in demand has lead to an increase in rental return, from 4.8 per cent to 4.9 per cent for both houses and flats across the UK. Outside of London, 64 per cent of agents report that tenant demand exceeds the supply of property, while in London this reduces to 41 per cent. The average time a rental property remains empty is for four weeks or less, with the average length of a tenancy at 16.7 months.

Estate agents are selling one property a week, the lowest level since the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) survey started, 30 years ago. RICS blamed the lack of activity on the mortgage drought which was ‘stifling’ buyers and subsequent speculation over a stamp duty holiday. New buyer enquiries fell slightly, as 28 per cent more surveyors saw a fall than a rise in the number of enquiries, and there has been very little improvement in the house price balance, with 81 per cent of surveyors reported a fall than a rise in house prices.

Meanwhile tighter lending criteria and uncertainty in the market saw loans to first-time buyers continue to decline. During July, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders, loans were down five per cent from June, and a whopping 48 per cent year on year. The average first-time buyer also needed a larger deposit – 15 per cent in July, up from 13 per cent in June.

Chancellor Alistair Darling who welcomed the nationalisation of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae in America, is waiting on a report from Sir James Crosby, former chairman of HBOS, before intervening in the housing finance market said a senior government official. He is considering proposals to renew or extend the special liquidity scheme which allowed banks to swap mortgage-backed bonds with Treasury bills that can then be used to raise funds in the markets. Last week the Council of Mortgage Lenders called for an early decision to restore market uncertainty, and yesterday Nationwide repeated the ask. The chancellor is likely to present his decision in the pre-budget report late next month.

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Lunchtime news Friday 5 September 2023


Posted by:
AJ Williamson

Just a day after the government backtracked over its pledge to give households a cash handout to help with fuel bills, a council has come up with a plan to bulk-buy fuel on the futures market. Kent County Council has written to public sector bodies – including other councils, hospitals and emergency services – asking if they would be willing to club together to coordinate fuel purchases to save on costs. Local authorities currently spend more than £2 billion a year on fuel.

Arrears and repossessions among prime mortgage borrowers jumped in the second quarter of the year. The number of borrowers in serious arrears – more than 90 days – rose to 0.90 per cent of all mortgage loans, up from 0.60 per cent a year earlier. The number of homes being repossessed has more than doubled to 0.082 per cent of all home loans. The worst performances came from the Bank of Scotland and Northern Rock. Moody’s, who reported the findings, said that they expect arrears to keep rising for some time as borrowers come off cheaper, fixed rate deals.

An interim report from the Commission on English Prisons has called for prisons to be run by local authorities as an alternative to the government’s plans to build new ‘titan’ prisons. The paper said the Ministry of Justice should retain reponsibility for overall policy issues and high security prisons, but all others should be locally controlled.

Meanwhile, just 12 months after the Legal Services Commission introduced new contracts changing the funding for not-for-profit law centres that provide specialist housing advice, many are closing with financial problems. The problems have been exacerbated by the creation of Community Legal Advice Centres, many of which have been placed in the same areas as law centres, with both having to bid to provide services. Three law centres have closed, three are winding up and a further dozen have serious financial problems.

Grown-up children are costing their parents an average of £21,500 a year a YouGov survey has found. Ninety-four per cent of those questioned said they had contributed financially to help their children and in many cases grandchildren. Even half of parents over 70 years old, who accounted for only 10 per cent of those questioned, said they were still helping their children. The majority of the money went towards help in buying a house.

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Lunchtime news Thursday 4 September 2023


Posted by:
AJ Williamson

The Bank of England has kept interest rates on hold at 5 per cent. It has forecast that inflation will peak at 5 per cent by the end of the year, before falling sharply.

Even as the government was touting its £300 million shared equity scheme yesterday, the Welsh Assembly was questioning the future of HomeBuy’s future. The assembly announced it was suspending the scheme in Wales pending a review of its effectiveness. It said that ‘the decision had been taken because of concern that it is currently not achieving value for money, is not widely available and hasn’t been targeted at those who are most in need of government support’.

Meanwhile, the Times has learnt that homeowners whose properties are worth less than the value of their loans will not be eligible to benefit from the mortgage rescue package. Recent research by Standard & Poor’s show around 70,000 borrowers already owe more than their property is worth, with tens of thousands more at risk, including thousands of customers who took out a Together Northern Rock mortgage of 125 per cent. A spokesperson from Communities and Local Government said that the mortgage rescue package was one ‘of a range of options’ available which those suffering could use, and confirmed that those in negative equity would be ineligible.

Gordon Brown’s plan to help families struggling with rising fuel bills was under pressure in a double blow. One scheme, to make energy companies pay more for pollution permits was dismissed as unworkable. The scheme was to raise £500 million to be used to fund fuel vouchers for vulnerable families faced with big increases in gas and electricity bills. The Times understands that this plan has been scrapped after the EU insisted Britain would not be allowed to increase the number of emission permits it planned to sell.

This has put pressure on the Government to introduce a windfall tax on the energy companies. But the energy companies have warned the government they will pull put of a planned £10 billion investment in renewables and nuclear power if forced into giving up profits. The Government is looking to energy companies to help fund a new home insulation and energy efficiency drive as the best long-term way of protecting those facing fuel poverty.

And so to another house price index. Halifax has recorded an annual fall of 10.9 per cent – its first double digit drop since 1983. The monthly drop between July and August was 1.8 per cent. The figures show that the average price of a home in the UK was the same level as it in February 2006. Chief economist of the Halifax said it welcomed the announcement of the stamp duty holiday that will benefit a significant number of homebuyers. However, market conditions will remain ‘challenging’.

And finally, a couple are putting up their six-bedroom seaside house as a competition prize after two failed traditional sales have fallen through during the past two years. They are aiming to sell 40,000 tickets at £20 each, with a £1 from each ticket going to charity.

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Lunchtime news Wednesday 3 September 2023


Posted by:
AJ Williamson

The centrepiece of yesterday’s housing industry rescue package – the stamp duty holiday - has come under fire today. Referred to as a ‘sticking plaster’ by many, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors said it will have little impact in London, where a first-time buyer’s property averages at around £260,000. As many as nine out of 10 transactions will be unaffected around the country said RICS. RICS wants a complete holiday from stamp duty, followed by a reform to the system. The Government believes that half of all homebuyers will now pay no stamp duty. Most commentators feel that a one per cent saving is not enough to tempt first-time buyers back to the market, when anaylsis shows that house prices still have some way to fall, and may yet lose a further 30 – 40 per cent in value. Alistair Darling has yet to explain how this £600 million package will be funded, saying more details would be provided in the pre-budget report in the autumn.

The three-pronged mortgage rescue scheme, worth £200 million of the £1 billion price tag for the entire package, is aiming to help 6,000 families currently at risk of repossession. Under sale and rent back, people struggling with their mortgage would have the debt cleared by a housing association, with the former homeowners paying rent at a level they can afford. Alternatively owners could part-buy, part-rent their homes under a shared ownership deal with their housing association. Or housing associations could offer equity loans to struggling homeowners. Mortgage lenders have welcomed the move, but others such as the Council of Mortgage Lenders who have estimated that as many as 45,000 households could have their homes repossessed in the next year, see the move as having little impact.

The government has also been criticised for not doing enough to free up overall finance to the mortgage market. Only 10,000 buyers will benefit from the £300 million initiative to extend HomeBuy Direct, a shared equity scheme, and the money must be used to buy new builds within specific developments. RICS and the Home Builders’ Federation came out against the measures, accusing the government of ‘failing to listen to the property industry’ and saying the proposals will have little impact on those who need it most.

Meanwhile, it is believed that lenders have taken £200 billion from the Bank of England’s special liquidity fund – well above the initial £50 billion set aside. A bank spokesperson said that it had always been the case that there was no cap on the scheme – its size would reflect its use. However, economists were surprised by the forecast saying it was ‘unlikely but plausible.’ If right, it means British banking is relying much more heavily on state support than either Europe or the US.

The rescue package announcement was overshadowed somewhat by a warning from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that the economy will shrink in the final two quarters of the year, leading Britain into recession by the end of the year – the only G7 economy to suffer such a fate. After nearly 16 years of consecutive growth, the OECD has downgraded the annual rate from 1.8 per cent to 1.2 per cent. It said the sharp downturn in the property market and the increased importance of housing in the economy had led it to slash its forecast.

Meanwhile in Scotland, Alex Salmond has announced his intention to introduce a bill to Parliament removing council tax, and replace it with a local income tax. Calling council tax ‘regressive and unfair’ Mr Salmond said the move would lift 85,000 individuals from poverty and save the average family up to £535 a year. He told a meeting of MSPs that eight out of 10 families would be better off. The move is facing widespread public criticism, while Treasury said that if Scotland no longer had council tax, it would be ineligible for £400 million in council tax benefit.

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Lunchtime news Tuesday 2 September 2023


Posted by:
AJ Williamson

The Government announced its £1 billion housing package this morning. It aims to help first-time buyers get on the housing market with a £300 million shared equity scheme, support vulnerable homeowners at risk of repossession with a £100 million mortgage rescue scheme, and support the housebuilding industry with a £400 million boost for social housing providers to builde more homes. The chancellor has also announced that stamp duty will not apply to purchases of residential property of £175,000 or less for the next year, and the Department for Works and Pensions will reform support for people in difficulty over mortgage interest payments by shortening the waiting period to 13 weeks. Housing minister Caroline Flint said the government was doing everything to promote long-term stability and market fairness, and repeated the call on lenders to exhaust all other measures before resorting to repossession.

New rules from the Council of Mortgage Lenders and Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors have come into force to stop mortgage lenders becoming the victims of over-inflated property valuations. Developers and builders must now reveal through a disclosure of incentives form – a 12-point questionnaire - if they have offered buyers incentives such as cash back, cars or paid-for legal fees. Lenders have been concerned that the growing use of incentives to encourage buyers has duped them into lending more than the house valuation. This has been especially true of new-built city centre flats in cities such as Manchester, Leeds and Nottingham.

The Bank of England, due to set base interest rates on Thursday, has ruled out an extension of its six-month scheme designed to ease strains in the mortgage market. The special liquidity scheme which was established in April for a six-month period allows lenders to exchange mortgage assets for government guarantees, will close in October.

According to a National Association of Estate Agents’ survey half of all sales in some areas are being gazundered, as buyers at the last minute reduce their offer. In many cases sellers are forced to accept the new offer to avoid having to put their homes back on the market. One in five agents said half their sales were affected by the practise. Critics, including the Conservative Party, claim the research shows that the government’s housing information packs, brought in to take some of these worries out of buying and selling a house, had failed to make any impact.

And finally spare a thought for the Queen whose property portfolio has plummeted in value. Buckingham Palace fell £57 million during the past year to be valued at £935 million, while Windsor Castle fared better dropping by only £8 million to £180 million.

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Lunchtime news Monday 1 September 2023


Posted by:
AJ Williamson

The Bank of England figures show the number of new mortgages approved for homebuyers fell in July to just 33,000, down 71 per cent on a year ago. This brings further pressure on the government which is expected to release tomorrow a package of financial measures to get the housing market moving again. The latest organisation to claim that governmentefforts are lacking, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, has come up with its own reforms, after its latest research found that housing sales are at a 30-year low. Recommendations include: allowing the Bank of England to guarantee the issue of new mortgage-backed securities; establishing a tax-free savings scheme to allow first-time buyers to save for a deposit more easily; a short-term holiday on stamp duty, followed by a new lower rate; reduced VAT on repair and maintenance costs; changes to the home information packs; and a mortgage rescue scheme that will allow people to remain in their properties.

Hometrack has also released figures showing that sellers are having to cut almost 10 per cent off the asking price in order to secure a sale, but there were signs that falling prices were starting to attract buyers as the number of viewings to achieve a sale fell for the first time in a year. However properties are still taking more than 11 weeks to sell, twice the time taken a year ago.

Meanwhile, a member of the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee, David Blanchflower, has warned that two million people may be out of work by christmas and house prices will have fallen by 30 per cent unless interest rates are cut. He said the Bank should learn from the example of the US Federal Reserve which cut rates to halt a recession.

Housing Minister Caroline Flint has said that the government has created a housing system that encourages people to claim benefits and avoid working in order to get a council home. She said the ‘demeaning and dysfunctional’ rules force people to manipulate the system in a ‘race to the bottom’. She said the government had started looking at some of the issues around allocations and whether the system is fair or not.

If you had bought a house in a university town during the past 5five years however, chances are you won’t be too concerned about the state of the housing market. Prices have soared in 23 towns by an average of at least 50 per cent – but some towns such as Belfast and Dundee had increases of more than 100 per cent. The UK’s ten most expensive university towns are in the south-east of England.

According to the Guardian, some local authorities are advising tenants served with notices to quit, to stay in their property until they are forcibly evicted. The councils say that tenants who give up their accommodation before eviction could be viewed as intentionally homeless and may lose eligibility for a council home.

MPs called for a ‘radical overhaul’ of the outdated benefits system for carers, and urged the government to provide them with extra financial support. People who care for relatives and friends are believed to save the government £87 billion annually, and the Commons work and pensions select committee has recommended income replacement for those who have to work part-time or are unable to work because of their commitments, and compensation for the extra costs incurred by those providing ‘intensive’ caring roles.

The report coincides with the launch of a new service, FirstStop, which aims to be a free one-stop shop for information about care fees, funding, chosing the right home, as well as information about social care provision, benefits and rights. Help the Aged believes that care fees have increased by 51.5 per cent in the past five years to an average of £20,000 a year, and have predicated that they will double in the next 20 years.

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Housing Care and Support conference