Tag Archives: housing

Stephen Williams writes … Energy efficient homes, house building and minority rights for Cornwall

Terraced housingAs we have now begun the summer recess, I wanted to write an update on the progress that has been made at the Department for Communities and Local Government in recent months. Despite differences in priority between our Conservative coalition partners we have made huge strides in key policy areas and I believe that we should be proud and confident highlighting these achievements on the door step.

One of the most crucial recent breakthroughs has been in regards to zero carbon homes. As I am sure you are aware, if we are to meet our carbon emissions targets then we have to make our housing stock more energy efficient by introducing strict new regulations. This, of course, is easier said than done and we have had to work extensively with developers, industry representatives and environmental groups in order to agree ambitious yet practical energy efficiency targets.  As a result of drawn out negotiations with the Conservatives, the government is now legislating, through the Infrastructure Bill, to introduce a list of ‘allowable solutions’. This is the final measure needed to enable house builders to construct all new homes to a zero-carbon standard from 2016. Zero carbon homes has been a key priority for me since becoming a minister and I am delighted that this incredibly important green policy is now being delivered.

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LibLink: Tim Farron – Where have all the political giants gone?

CO 1069-1-3. Harold Macmillan. Photo by National ArchIves UKOver on politics.co.uk, party president Tim Farron has been expanding on some of the themes of his weekend lecture. He begins with some interesting history:

When you ask me who my political heroes are, I will reel off a list of people like Beveridge, Penhaligon, Harry Willcock (the man who brought down the ID cards scheme in the 1950s) and Paddy Ashdown.  But in the last 12 months I have become attached to Harold MacMillan, when he was housing minister between 1951-1954. This admission usually raises an eyebrow or two.

Now, MacMillan is a much maligned political figure, I think that has much more to do with his association with David Cameron than to do with him. But as housing minister he was someone who, working under the post-war consensus, delivered one the best social policy achievements of the 20th century – he delivered 300,000 homes a year.

In 1951, he was appointed by Churchill to be housing minister – his task, to build 300,000 per year. It was a bold policy in the Conservative party manifesto and one many considered totally undeliverable. Famously, when tasked by Churchill, he was told: “It is a gamble. It will make or mar your political career. But every humble home will bless your name if you succeed.”

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Bedroom Tax review raises serious questions – abolition or serious reform is now essential

Bedroom tax demo , all the photos taken with a iphone 5In amidst the excitement of the Cabinet reshuffle, the Government slipped out its first interim review of what is technically called the “Removal of the Spare Room Subsidy”. That’s the “Bedroom Tax” to you and me. The conclusions are pretty damning:

At the time of the research, four out of five claimants affected by the RSRS were reported by landlords to be paying some or all of their shortfall, although half of these had failed to pay in full. There

photo by: paul bevan
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Nick Clegg: £104 million investment is an important day for Hull

City HallWho’d have thought Nick Clegg would write for the Daily Mail? Well, actually, not THAT one, but the Hull Daily Mail about the Government’s £104 million investment in local infrastructure which will be spent on transport links, housing and flood defences. It’s a Liberal Democrat initiative to have local councils and communities decide where money is best spent – good old fashioned liberal decentralisation.

He talked about how he has put his vision into practice:

I wanted to see every part of Britain given more freedom than at the start of this

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Opinion: Tackling Housing Benefit reform

Matilda HouseThe Liberal Democrat policy paper on housing notes that the primary driver of growing housing benefit and Local Housing Allowance bills has been the shortage of housing, leading to higher rents, and increasing number of people unable either to buy or to access social housing. The paper focused on the most pressing issues:

  • Building more homes – providing environmentally sustainable homes where people need them, creating jobs and kick starting the economy.
  • Giving tenants more power and security – making social landlords more accountable and improving standards and security in the rapidly

photo by: celesteh
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Nick Clegg’s press conference: A new policy, looking ahead to an “independent, liberal” manifesto, Iraq, leadership and Smarties

Nick Clegg Q&A 19I promised you a bit more from Nick Clegg’s  monthly press conference this morning. Overnight, he had released his opening statement, but there was a surprise to come – a shiny new policy.  Now, obviously, that has to come to Conference so it’s not set in stone, but I suspect it will get a favourable hearing.

From cradle to college

Basically, all early years and school education funding, including the Pupil Premium, will be ring-fenced.

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When Vince Cable warns we should listen

Vince Cable - Some rights reserved by Liberal DemocratsWhen Vince Cable issues a warning we should all pay heed.

According to the Guardian he was speaking last week at the Resolution Foundation and claimed that booming house prices are destabilising the economy. He said we should all be worried about what will happen when interest rates return to normal.

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Opinion: The “Bedroom Tax”: a great socialist policy?

Bedroom tax demo , all the photos taken with a iphone 5One thing escapes most political commentators when critiquing the merits of the Bedroom Tax. It is, of course, a great socialist policy.

Of course most commentators accept New Labour introduced the Bedroom Tax through the Local Housing Allowance policy from 2003 to 2008. The mistake commentators make is that they believe LHA to be an ideologically compassionate conservative policy, instead of democratic socialist one.

The argument has two parts. The first is relatively straight forward. For a socialist common ownership (of which …

photo by: paul bevan
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Rent reforms – Miliband to announce 20th area of Lib-Lab agreement today

decent homesSix weeks ago I highlighted the 17 policy areas where there is significant agreement between Labour and the Lib Dems. These range from tax-cuts for low-earners and the mansion tax to local school accountability to an EU in/out referendum. There were also two areas I omitted, flagged by Adam Corlett in a comment here: childcare and a living wage.

A 20th area can now be added, with Ed Miliband set to announce Labour’s plans for the private rental sector, some of which mirror the Lib Dems’ Decent Home

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Clegg announces three new garden cities to be built

Nick Clegg Q&A York Some rights reserved by Liberal DemocratsThe BBC reports:

Up to three garden cities, each with more than 15,000 homes will be built to help deal with a “chronic” housing shortage, Nick Clegg has announced. The deputy prime minister promised “high-quality homes in thriving new communities”, on potential sites yet to be identified.

Funding from an existing £2.4bn pot will be made available for developments being built up to 2020. Councils will be asked to raise any concerns over the schemes.

Last year 109,370 new homes were completed in England, …

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Opinion: Don’t close spare room subsidy loophole – just yet

In January, it was revealed that there was a loophole in the Government’s welfare reforms. The loophole relates to those people claiming Housing Benefit whilst in the same property for at least the past 17 years.

The government have indicated they will reverse this loophole as soon as possible. Reports suggest legislation will be brought forward in March.

I would call on the government to hold on closing this loophole until the independent review, ordered by Nick Clegg, has reported back on the implications of the spare bedroom subsidy.

I base this on my own experiences. Although I lost my seat in May

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Opinion: Tackling Britain’s housing crisis

Terraced housingLiberal Democrats have long recognised the housing crisis that has grown steadily worse since the 1979 Conservative Government stopped councils building new homes.  In Government, Liberal Democrats have made a good start at increasing the number of affordable homes built for rent, with 335,000 homes to be completed between 2011 and 2018, and supported initiatives to help deliver market housing.

We’ve also agreed an ambitious target of 300,000 new homes each year for overall housing supply as party policy.  But even with some councils starting to build again, there is a long way to go before anywhere near enough homes are built each year in Britain to meet need. 

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Farron: Tories are “nimby” over garden cities

From today’s Telegraph:

A secret Whitehall report recommending that two new cities are built in southern England to combat the housing shortage is being suppressed by David Cameron, The Telegraph can disclose.

The document was drawn up after the Prime Minister gave a speech supporting the idea nearly two years ago. It was described this week by Nick Clegg, his deputy, as a “prospectus” for future developments.

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LibLink: Tim Farron – Why has the plight of the overcrowded and the homeless not been prioritised?

In a hard-hitting article in today’s Guardian, Tim Farron hits out at David Cameron’s “lack of humanity in face of basic need” on housing while outlining what Liberal Democrats want to see done to make sure that there are enough affordable houses for people.

He outlines the scale of the problem first:

The real divide in modern Britain is not between strivers and shirkers, but between those who were lucky enough to buy homes before 1997 and those who were not. Unless we tackle the housing crisis, homelessness is going to become a mainstream problem. Working families can’t afford to buy, and

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Opinion: It’s time to say Yes to Homes

Britain is in the grip of a housing crisis. There are 1.8m households on waiting lists for affordable homes, totalling over 4.5m people. Millions of young people are priced out of the housing market, unlikely to ever be able to afford to buy their own home. Poor quality, overcrowded accommodation impacts significantly on the health and well-being of its residents. It is undoubtedly one of the great social crises of my generation.

Yet for all the statistics, case studies and figures there are two that really stand out – 98,280 and 240,000. The first is the number of new homes built last …

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Delivering affordable homes and new jobs in London

Affordable Homes for LondonLast month house prices in London rose by 10 per cent – yes you read that correctly. Yet affordable homes, not over-inflated house prices, are what we need.

For an overseas investor in London’s housing market – and there are many – the price rises are wonderful news. They will be equally welcome by someone who has cleared their mortgage and is looking to sell up and move out of the capital. However, for most people who live in the capital or plan to move to the capital, such price rises are far from welcome.

It is not sustainable for people to ‘earn’ far more from rising house prices than working. As Vince Cable has rightly said these soaring house prices in London as “dangerous and unsustainable”. Vince is also right to express his misgivings about the Help to Buy scheme, which will almost certainly contribute to the over-inflated housing market in London and the South East.

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Stephen Williams MP writes… Making self build accessible

Houses being builtI was honoured to be appointed as Liberal Democrat Communities and Local Government Minister in the recent reshuffle. As a former councillor and passionate advocate of localism, I am excited to take up my post in the Department for Communities and Local Government and hope to continue the good work of my predecessors Don Foster and Andrew Stunell.

At last month’s autumn conference in Glasgow, Don announced measures to open up the self build market to those on lower incomes.

 

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The 17th Tory policy Lib Dems have blocked: Clegg rejects Theresa May’s plans to impose new immigration regulations on private landlords

Perhaps the silliest proposal in a generally thread-bare Queen’s Speech in May was the Conservatives’ plan to ‘look busy’ on immigration.

Yes, the party that claims to want to cut back red-tape for small businesses decided to try and tie-up private landlords in it by imposing a legal duty on them check the immigration status of new tenants and lodgers. It’s an, erm, interesting approach to regulation, I guess: out-sourcing it to people who’ll have no way of validating the information they’re given.

However, the Tories’ grand plans have been scuppered thanks to the Lib Dems, as The Guardian …

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Danny Alexander writes… A good home should not be a luxury for the few, but an achievable aspiration for the many

Across the UK tens of thousands of aspiring homeowners find themselves in the same situation. They have steady jobs, reasonable incomes, but for them the dream of owning their own home is currently just that-a dream. It’s made even worse by the fact that they can afford the mortgage repayments on a new home.

The one thing holding them back is the cost of a big deposit. And without parents wealthy enough to give them a helping hand these aspiring homeowners will continue to be excluded from the property ladder. I don’t think our housing market should be shut off …

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Does any Lib Dem except Danny Alexander support the Coalition’s ‘Help to Buy’ house price inflation scheme?

I missed it yesterday, but have just caught up with Lib Dem chief secretary to the treasury Danny Alexander’s (rather flailing) attempts on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme to justify the second stage of the Coalition’s ‘Help to Buy’ scheme for folk wanting to buy their own house. You can listen to it here or below.

There are two stages to ‘Help to Buy’. The first, announced by George Osborne earlier this year, offered anyone purchasing a newly built home costing less than £600,000 the opportunity to apply for a 20% government-guaranteed loan with just a 5% deposit. The Economist explains the rationale:

The basic economic thrust makes sense. Rental rates are high in Britain, meaning punishing payments to landlords. Given that a mortgage can be cheaper, wider home ownership could put more disposable cash in Britons’ wallets. In an economy where private consumption accounts for four-fifths of spending cutting housing costs in this way is likely to boost GDP. And since this part of Help to Buy is tied to building, it should work even if the new nests end up in the hands of buy-to-let landlords: a bigger housing stock should drive down rents, and provide jobs for the workers that build them.

The big problem comes with the second stage of ‘Help to Buy’, which breaks the explicit link with new-build housing. From this month, pre-owned property also qualifies. If widely taken up, it will stoke demand among eligible buyers but do nothing to increase supply: a recipe for house price inflation in many areas, especially London and the south-east. That will be good for the equity of home-owners like me, but rubbish for those not yet on the housing ladder who find themselves once again priced out of the market. Here’s The Economist again:

The prospect is unnerving, especially since the new part of the scheme may well distort banks’ incentives by driving a wedge between what they lend and the risks they face. With the housing market already rampant in London—up 20% annually in the trendiest parts of the city—and pepping up in the rest of the country too, Help to Buy is adding heat to a market that does not need it.

The Coalition appears to be banking on the winners from the scheme being happier and more numerous than the losers. Depressingly, there’s a chance they’re right. After all, Margaret Thatcher’s ‘Right to Buy’ did serious damage to the country’s social housing stock, but was (unsurprisingly) highly popular with those it helped. That said, the latest polling on ‘Help to Buy from YouGov suggests the public, post-credit crunch, is more alert to the dangers of house price inflation than it was: by 58% to 17%, voters reckon the new scheme risks creating a housing bubble.

Danny thinks it’s all worth the risk: “Our housing market has to be opened to a wider range of people,” he says. Don’t we all? The way to do that, though, is by increasing housing supply, not by the kind of blatant market-manipulation the Coalition (rightly) slams Ed Miliband for when he makes similarly ill-thought through promises to fix energy prices.

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The Independent View: The Lib Dems can – and should – be the Party of the Entrepreneurs

Every party claims, in some way, to be on the side of small business, but none has really given new and potential businesses much time or attention. Firms that do not yet exist are much less easy to champion and harder still to help than existing small businesses, but they are no less important.

It may be no wonder, then, that not one of the three main party leaders mentioned entrepreneurs in their Autumn conference speeches. That’s why today we at the Adam Smith Institute are helping to launch The Entrepreneurs Network, a new think tank dedicated to giving …

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“Mr Sprawl” Miliband abandons localism – but will he deliver good housing?

Ravilous Labour New TownsSomething big needs saying about housing. I guess Ed Miliband thinks he has achieved it. Maybe, but when I read his speech it struck me as bluster and a recipe for chaos, peppered with some rather cute ideas.

We need new homes. We also need good planning. The success or failure of new towns, urban extensions and housing estates depends on location, fortune, ambition and leadership. But above all those towns that work are a triumph of planning.

For every housing scheme that has been an outstanding success, another has failed. For every booming new town like Milton Keynes or Welwyn Garden City, there is a Cumbernauld or Corby.

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Conference: Do the Liberal Democrats want more homes and more jobs?

Do the Liberal Democrats want more homes and more jobs? That and other questions that will get an answer, one way or another, when our Conference debates the economy today (Monday). One of the two amendments tabled by the Social Liberal Forum with support from 100 Conference representatives calls for the Coalition to commence the dramatic increase in housebuilding that the Party endorsed last year.

The barriers to this at present are, as ever, in the housebuilding industry and the Treasury.

The former has by most estimates some 400,000 planning consents at its disposal, assisted by policies that effectively waived the lapsing …

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Conference: There is an urgent need for more social housing

Lord Shipley gives some of the background to Amendment 2 to the Economy Motion. 

A year ago our Party committed itself to building up to 300,000 new homes a year. The proposals were outlined in the housing policy paper Decent Homes for All. The aim was to achieve this by supporting private investment and by giving greater powers to local councils and social landlords.

A shortage of homes has made it extremely difficult for young people to buy their own home. Rents continue to rise to unaffordable levels for many and 500,000 people in work now receive housing benefit because …

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Opinion: Vince Cable is right to question the wisdom of Help-to-Buy

Rocks Green LudlowAll policies have winners and losers. The inevitable consequence of policy-making is that some people in the country must lose out; it is the Government who must decide who this will be when they are passing laws. Which is why, on the surface, few scrutinised George Osborne’s help-to-buy scheme when it was introduced in the form of an Equity Loan in April of this year. The idea of giving people help to buy new build homes is one that has no immediate losers. But in the long run, we will all pay the price.

The housing market has crashed before, and it will crash again if house prices go back the days of increasing at an alarming rate. It is not a sustainable model and it is one that contributed heavily to the UK staying in recession for longer than most. The worrying thing is that Osborne is ignoring this recent history for short-term political gain. Booming house prices are frequently reported in the media as being ‘healthy’, whereas the reality is anything but. The reality is mortgages that will take a lifetime to pay off, placing a huge burden of debt on an entire generation.

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“Yes to New Homes” – time to cure the housing deficit disease

Housing completions by tenureWe used to be good at housebuilding. As the economy recovered after the Second World War, house building in England grew to reach a peak of around 352,000 in 1968. That level of housebuilding seems inconceivable now.

The ugly truth is that we have not been building enough houses to cope with our growing population and shrinking household sizes since the late 1970s. We need something like 250,000 new homes a year, yet we are barely building more than 100,000.

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LibLink…Tim Farron: From Whitehall to the Town Hall, why we must say Yes to Homes

This week the National Housing Federation is running a Yes to Homes week to encourage councillors to allow more homes to be built within their areas. From their website:

Just a small handful of people can block the new homes that are a lifeline for many. When they are the only people putting pressure on local politicians their views are heard loud and clear.

All too often the people who actually need homes are missing from local debates. That’s why we have launched the Yes to Homes campaign. We want to make sure people who do support more housing are included

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Lessons of Coalition (12): what do the Lib Dems need to learn from the first 3 years?

ldv coalition lessonsLibDemVoice is running a daily feature, ‘Lessons of Coalition’, to assess the major do’s and don’ts learned from our experience of the first 3 years in government. Reader contributions are welcome, either as comments or posts. The word limit is no more than 450 words, and please focus on just one lesson you think the party needs to learn. Simply email your submission to [email protected] Today Patrick Murray shares his thoughts.

Make sure our policies are reflected in our manifesto

One of the great challenges facing our society is the housing …

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Vince Cable’s concerns about Help to Buy

Vince Cable - Some rights reserved by Liberal DemocratsOn the Andrew Marr Show yesterday Vince Cable expressed concerns about the Government’s Help to Buy scheme. He claims that the government’s mortgage guarantee scheme could inflate the market, leading to another housing bubble.

Under Help to Buy, launched earlier this year, anyone purchasing a newly built home costing less that £600,000 will be able to apply for a 20% government guaranteed loan with just a 5% deposit. This is clearly intended to boost the housing market and to create new jobs in the …

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Vince Cable: “Go home” poster vans “stupid and offensive”

Those of you who have not been willing to take the word of senior Liberal Democrat sources on those notorious poster vans, and have been waiting for a minister to say something will not be disappointed by Vince Cable’s comments on today’s Andrew Marr show:

It’s stupid, as Trevor Phillips said, the idea that illegal immigrants have got a sophisticated grasp of English, read at a distance and I think it is offensive. It is designed, apparently to create a sense of fear within the British population that we have a vast problem with illegal immigration. We have a problem, but

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