Tag Archives: housing

On liberalism and NIMBYism

 

I was delighted to see Tim Farron taking on housing as a personal campaigning priority. In order to do this effectively, though, he will sooner or later need to take on a culture of expedient NIMBYism in his own party.

Local campaigns against new development are often highly effective in garnering media attention and engaging people who might join or support the party. At times, they are also the right thing to do for an area. At other times, however, they can be opportunistic and exaggerated: in a recent example I came across, a local party deliberately misinterpreted a proposal in a non-party, think-tank style report on the housing crisis for a concrete, Conservative plan to pave over a large swathe of the district. Local campaigns which proudly ‘see off’ developers may leave a legacy of usable sites remaining derelict for years, and seek to spin this as some sort of victory over vested interests, when in fact it is anything but.

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LibLink: Cllr Jayne McCoy: Council intervention drives housing market

Cllr Jayne McCoy chairs the London Borough of Sutton’s Housing, Economy and Business Committee. She has written for the Local Government Association’s First magazine about how Sutton Council have set up a development company to build the right sorts of houses at the prices key workers can afford:

In Sutton we have seen numerous private developments of one bedroom flats, however what we need are two and three bedroom family homes. We also see both the private for sale and private rented sector out of the price range of most of our residents.

In response we have sought to take control and lead the delivery of housing ourselves by setting up a council-owned development company. This will allow us to take advantage of preferential borrowing rates to invest in the housing market across all tenures.

The development company gives the council the flexibility to build homes for private ownership, private rent or to build council houses in the traditional sense. The company will also seek to unlock sites where development has stalled.

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The next housing crash

It’s not only the Tory crackdown on tax credits for families that will hit the working poor: it’s the Conservatives’ multiple mistakes on social housing that will do the most damage to our society. The problem is, these are less well-understood. Yet added together, they are set to cause a social housing sector crash almost comparable to the banking crash.

This is probably unintended – not least because there’s not one single policy that’s driving this. It’s the combination of a series of separate decisions that are coming together to fatally undermine the finances of many social housing providers, especially housing associations. More cuts in tax credits and benefits of course cause problems to the social housing sector by themselves – because they are certain to lead to greater rent arrears. But it’s only when you add in other changes, like the way benefits will be paid in the future, imposed cuts to housing association rents and the ideologically driven extension of the Right to Buy to Housing Associations, that the full disaster facing us becomes clearer.

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Opinion: Building homes has never been more important  

 

Conservatives claim that extending the so-called ‘Right to Buy’ policy to housing association tenants will give the possibility of home ownership to 1.3 million families.

But at what cost? And is this the right policy priority, given our housing crisis?

What isn’t explicit in the name of this policy (‘right to buy’) is that it involves selling off homes at a very large discount to their market value – over £100,000 per home.  This amounts to a huge give-away of public assets to the new owner-occupier of the homes in question – who are likely to be amongst the better-off housing association tenants and already benefitting from a secure affordable home.  The Institute of Fiscal Studies has estimated that the total cost of the policy is likely to be of the order of £11.6 billion over the next five years.  As Boris Johnson correctly warned on the 25th March, the policy “would involve massive subsidies.”  His scepticism of the policy has subsequently been revised, but he was of course spot on.

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LibLink: Cllr Keith House: The New Housing Finance Institute can help Councils build homes

Eastleigh Council leader Keith House has written on the party website about the potential of the new Housing Finance Institute to ensure that we build the houses we need to tackle the housing crisis we face in this country:

The aims of the HFI are to increase housing supply across all tenures; to unlock opportunities for the public sector and to help business to deliver and finance housing.

The HFI was a key recommendation of the Government-commissioned Elphicke-House Report 2015. Over the course of a year-long review, Natalie Elphicke and I listened to more than 400 organisations from across the nation. The organisations came from all parts of the housing and finance industries as well as local and national government. They made the case for a new approach that would bring everyone together. The idea for the HFI was born and made a key recommendation of our report. Councils can do more, working with housing associations and developers, with private and public finance. My own Council, Eastleigh, is building homes for affordable and private rent, and homes for sale.

There are three things the HFI can do:

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Opinion: Cameron is in danger of being like Mugabe on property

Terraced housingHousing is Londoners’ top priority according to the polls. Not surprising – with problems ranging from the cost, to shortage and too often to the quality too.

Yet the Conservatives’ lead housing policy – to extend the right to buy to housing association tenants – will solve none of these London housing problems: we should make attacking it a Lib Dem campaign priority for next year’s GLA elections.

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Opinion: Let’s make this the Housing General Election

Last month,  2,300 people descended on Westminster for the Homes for Britain rally calling for all political parties to end the housing crisis in a generation, and publish a plan within a year of office setting out how they would do this. It was an inspirational moment, and one of the biggest campaign rallies I have ever seen. Many people from took part in the relay leading up to it – walking, running, cycling from all over the country. There was even a bus, Betsy, who journeyed up from Land’s End, visiting towns and cities along the way taking the message about the housing crisis to the people.

So why is it so important? Well we are in the midst of a terrible crisis. For over 30 years no Government of any political party has built anywhere near enough homes. We need 245,000 homes a year now, yet we only built around half that figure last year. As a result for young people in many parts of the country owning a home is something they can only dream of. There are still 1.6 million families on waiting lists for affordable housing. And we lack suitable housing options for older people despite the massive demographic changes coming our way. Of course this crisis looks different in different housing markets, for example in some parts of the country the challenge is about regenerating communities and replacing decrepit homes, but one thing is clear – our housing system is dysfunctional and fails almost everyone.

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Opinion: Don’t sell social housing

A Conservative housing policy is likely to exacerbate London’s housing crisis because it proposes to sell more social housing.

If we can sell homes at a discount of 70 – 80% of the ‘market value’, then what does that say about the market?  Simply put: London’s housing market is over priced – most likely by similar amounts.

At the University College of London’s seminar: “How Should we Respond to Rising Inequality” last month, political economist Will Hutton, David Goodhart and Sir John Gieve discussed reasons behind rising housing costs.

They talked about the impact of unmanaged markets, lack of supply, cartels in house building, land values underpinned by dysfunctional finance markets etc and unmanaged banking and finance systems. This is compounded by a lack of political will and vision.  Essentially, our government lacks the ability to ensure low costs housing remains in an ‘open market economy’. If these opposing forces can come together and agree, it is time housing policies do too.

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Baroness Cathy Bakewell writes… Lib Dem Lords act to stop retaliatory evictions

Yesterday, we moved forward in protecting vulnerable tenants by protecting them from the questionable practice of retaliatory evictions. This is the culmination of a process started by Sarah Teather MP on 28th November when she secured a private Members Bill on Tenancies (Reform) to deal with the problems caused by Retaliatory Evictions.  Sadly there were members in the Commons that day who were themselves landlords, did not share the ethos of the Bill and talked it out of time.  So it was a great privilege for Lib Dems in the Lords to be able to support the essence of Sarah’s Bill in the amendment we debated yesterday. Sarah Teather deserves a lot of credit for her efforts to end this pointless suffering. And for the work she did in the commons to stand up to right wing Tories all too willing to see this continue.

The amendment is not about penalising conscientious landlords, nor is it about protecting bad tenants who do not respect the property they are renting.  It is about protecting the rights of both groups and giving security to tenants, who when reporting a fault which affects their ability to live happily in their home, will not dread an eviction notice landing on the doormat as a result.  It gives a clear signal to those landlords who currently ignore the state of their properties, that this is no longer acceptable.  If such landlords engage in a regular programme of maintenance, they are likely to have a much better relationship with their tenants, reduce the incidence of costly tenancy turnover and be less likely to face expensive repair bills for major incidents, such as collapsed ceilings due to persistent leaks.

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Opinion: Housing – yes, we can

It is probably (I am sticking my neck out here) the belief of most councillors that the power to build council houses was abolished by Margaret Thatcher. This, coupled with right to buy, has led to a crisis in social housing which governments fail to tackle and councils can’t.

But a report commissioned by the Government as part of the Autumn Statement in 2013 has challenged local councils to have more confidence in what they can already do.

The Elphicke-House Report (pdf) published earlier this week, following a review by Natalie Elphicke, chair of Million Homes, Million Lives, and Keith House, Leader of Eastleigh Borough Council, contains 30 recommendations to both Government and Councils.

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Opinion: London’s house clearing and what the Focus E15 campaign tells us

The introduction of the Benefit Cap and Housing Benefit changes is adding fuel to the gentrification of our urban centers, throwing out many small businesses that can just afford the London Living Wage, and pushing micro urban economies into a transition that will inevitably see the marginalized and low income workers evicted from London’s salubrious centre zones.

Local Authorities (LAs) are already reconfiguring their homeless departments which, if pursued to their natural conclusion, will see changes in their service delivery because officers will have to eventually move out with their service users – starting the same homeless process all over again in the outer areas.

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LibLink: Sarah Teather: Let’s stop the scourge of revenge eviction

Sarah TeatherSarah Teather has been writing for the Guardian about the problems created by so-called revenge eviction and how her Private Members’ Bill will tackle it. First she gave an example of what had happened to her constituent:

Last month, a constituent came to my office in Brent for help after his landlord served him with an eviction notice. His property suffered from severe cold and a cockroach infestation, and following an environmental health inspection the council served notice on the landlord to fix the property. The landlord decided to evict my constituent and re-let the flat instead.

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LibLink: Sarah Teather: Tackling revenge eviction – a step closer

Sarah Teather was one of the five Liberal Democrat MPs who won a spot in the annual ballot (actually a big raffle) for Private Members’ Bills. John Hemming is tackling secrecy in the family courts, Andrew George the Bedroom Tax, Martin Horwood is trying to stop parking on pavements while Mike Moore wants to enshrine the 0.7% aid target into law.

Sarah’s bill is to stop your landlord chucking you out in the street if you complain about poor conditions. So called revenge evictions cause huge problems. She’s written a blog for Shelter explaining what her bill would do and why it is necessary:

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Tim Farron MP writes…We must continue to fight hard for fairer housing

In case you weren’t able to make it to Glasgow, here’s some good news from Conference. The hard work that many people in the party have done on housing is being recognised. Jules Birch, housing blogger, sums up our party’s policies on housing: ‘As so often before the Lib Dems look like going into the next election with the best housing policies.’

This is not an easy feat. Housing is a complex issue which spreads its effects throughout society. It runs all the way from the individual tragedies of homelessness, to structure of our economy and the psychology of homeownership. To sort out housing you need action on at least four fronts: land, finance, the home building industry and political leadership. So bringing in my own motion on housing, it was a real privilege to build on the work that the party has already done to address the whole spectrum of issues affected by poor housing policy. I want to thank everybody who contributed to our policy development, spoke in the debate and voted for it.

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Opinion: Lib Dems must commit to end the housing crisis within a generation

Matilda HouseThis Monday in Glasgow, Lib Dem conference will debate motion F21 “Building the Affordable Homes We Need”. The Liberal Democrats have a fantastic opportunity to tackle the greatest social challenge of my generation, the housing crisis.

The economic and social cost of this crisis is huge. England needs around 245,000 new homes a year just to meet demand. Yet we are building half the homes we need. The latest figures show that the average income needed to buy a home is £36,500, higher than the incomes of more than half of the households in the country.

Add to that the largest baby boom since the 1960s, between 2001 and 2012, and we can see that this is a crisis that threatens to engulf the hopes and dreams of a generation, many of whom will never be able to afford a home they can truly call their own. But, for me, this crisis has always been about more than numbers.

photo by: celesteh
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Opinion: Let’s keep social housing in London

As the ‘housing crisis’ debates continue and all political parties table motions to attract voters for the 2015 elections, we in Hackney Downs feel it’s time to raise our campaign which is in support of social housing in London.

Our bold online petition is calling for London Local Authorities and Chief Executives to publicly declare their non-attendance and to actively refrain from selling our public land for housing at the property fair in October 2014 and thereafter.  The host boroughs have already done so and it is time the remaining boroughs follow.

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Opinion: Housing is the cost of living crisis

Today there are more affordable products than ever. Not only have freer markets driven down prices on almost every consumer good imaginable they have expanded range. You can get more luxury goods than ever before but you can also get more discount/budget goods. Electronics, clothing, food, beauty products, household items, I could go on… And yet we are experiencing a so-called ‘Cost of Living Crisis.’ This is a fundamentally dishonest way of framing the debate about cost of living today. There is no ‘cost of food crisis,’ no ‘cost of washing machines crisis,’ and no ‘cost of clothes’ crisis. The only thing that is more expensive is housing.

Housing outside London is 35% more expensive than its equivalent in wider Europe according to a new study, ‘The impact of the supply constraints on house prices in England,’ set to be published in the Economic Journal. This is certainly not due to a lack of enfranchisement. Like everything else credit and mortgages are cheaper than they have ever been due to interest rates being kept artificially low. So what’s the problem? According to this paper, houses are too expensive because the supply has been needlessly cauterized. The UK has suffered from dysfunctional housing policies since the aftermath of WWII. However, the seeds of this dysfunction were sown even earlier. The Town & Country Planning Act 1947 deepened this dysfunction and houses are meaner in size and shorter in supply than they ought to be directly because of this legislation and its subsequent incarnations. The supply issue was subsequently worsened most notably under Thatcher and Blair. 

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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.”

photo by:
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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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