Tag Archives: housing

It’s probably not the budgie

Katie (not her real name) put out a desperate plea on her community Facebook page, the battle cry of a mother at the end of her tether. A tenant of one of the region’s largest housing associations, she was living on the ground floor of a newly built block of flats in the ward I had represented for just a few weeks.

It was 2017 and Katie had lived for 3 years in the two-bedroom ground floor flat with her partner and their two tiny children, one 3 years old and the other a fragile 3 month old newborn who’d been born prematurely. The baby had had multiple trips to hospital with bronchitis in his very short life, and multiple courses of antibiotics.

Katie was convinced that the source of her baby’s health issues was the mould and damp in their flat. Shoes and toys left overnight on the floor went mouldy. The soft furnishings had had to be replaced twice in three years because they were rotting into the damp carpet. Katie spent every day cleaning, bleaching, and washing, and overnight the mould would return to anything left on the ground. Walking across the carpet in socks led to wet socks.

Katie’s mental health was suffering badly. She was cleaning all day, wiping down surfaces obsessively, but still failing to keep her children safe and healthy. She could get nobody who ought to have cared to take any interest. She felt judged at every turn. She feared being kicked out by the housing association for complaining too much. She felt as though she had no rights.

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We should be talking about Lib Dem Councils Building new homes 

One of the achievements of Lib Dem controlled  Councils  has been a focus on building social and affordable housing – but it’s not one the Party has made much of. Given that access to housing is one of the key issues in our society that seems a  pity.

In York for example the Lib Dem run council is focused  on increasing the number of  affordable homes  – 447 have been delivered in the last 3 years – and the numbers are increasing year or year. The Council is planning to have delivered  no less than 600 affordable  homes in it’s 4 years term and to have done so while protecting the local Green Belt.

Even better many of these are being delivered to ‘Passivhaus ‘ standards meaning that they are  much  better for the environment.

In Kingston we are doing something most Labour councils say is impossible – building new council  housing – and new housing build to the highest environment standards. .As the Portfolio Holder for Housing , Clr Emily  Davey says -“providing homes which meet our residents needs is a priority for us.”

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28-30 October 2022 – the weekend’s press releases

  • Lib Dems call for Suella Braverman to hand over texts and emails for future inquiry
  • Jane Dodds – The Housing Sector in Wales is Broken
  • COP27: Nadine Dorries as the voice of reason?
  • Liz Truss phone hacking story: Urgent investigation needed
  • Suella Braverman: Government must publish legal advice on detention of asylum seekers

Lib Dems call for Suella Braverman to hand over texts and emails for future inquiry

The Liberal Democrats have written to the Home Office Permanent Secretary, asking him to facilitate the handover of Suella Braverman’s text messages, WhatsApps, and emails for use in any future inquiry into her misconduct.

Lib Dem Home Affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael raised concerns that the embattled Home Secretary could take advantage of a loophole exploited by Boris Johnson during an inquiry into the funding of the refurbishment of the Downing Street flat. The former Prime Minister claimed that he had been unable to hand over important messages because he had changed his phone.

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson, Alistair Carmichael said:

We need an independent inquiry with access to all the relevant evidence, to establish the true scale of Suella Braverman’s rule breaking.

We saw how Boris Johnson and other Conservative ministers have tried time and again to duck accountability and cover up the truth.

Suella Braverman must be required to hand over all relevant evidence now before it is too late.

It took less than a day for Rishi Sunak’s government to be mired in the same old Conservative sleaze. His promise of ‘integrity’ was broken within hours of entering Downing Street. If he was serious about integrity he would commit to an independent inquiry now.

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The Liberal case for street votes

It’s no secret that our party has a housing conundrum. On the one hand, the Liberal Democrats acknowledge that we’re in a housing crisis and that we need to build new homes to have a chance of making things better. On the other hand, one of our foundational tenets – local control – commits us to listening to communities about their vision for the future. At times these have found themselves in tension, and the internal debate has been pretty heated.

Everyone here is a liberal and fundamentally we all want the same thing: for people to have the best opportunity to control their own destiny. There is a policy proposal currently being considered by Parliament that might be able to forge a thoroughly liberal way forward: allowing local people to control the development of their communities and letting them take the lead on enabling additional homes. We’re a group of young liberals who think that this should be a part of a liberal planning policy.

The idea is called Street Votes, and at its core, it’s a very simple concept. Allow an individual street to decide, by a two-thirds majority, to share in the uplift from permitting new, walkable, sustainable development on their street. Residents create a proposal – a ‘street plan’ that comes with a strict set of rules governing what can and can’t be built. They then vote and, should it pass, residents can decide in their own time to go ahead with development on their own land individually or in groups, while sharing part of the land value uplift with the wider community. If you want more details check out this briefing paper from Create Streets.

What makes this so thoroughly liberal is that only the residents can approve the vote, so local control is protected, but everyone is incentivised to deliver additional homes. Research suggests that this could deliver thousands of new homes close to existing transport infrastructure by empowering locals: it’s a win-win. In Tel-Aviv a similar rule, TAMA 38, has led to a huge increase housing led by existing local residents. The Strong Suburbs proposal is even stronger because it actually requires landlords to share the benefits with tenants. The evidence from Israel is clear: this policy works. Everyone has an incentive to say yes to new housing in their back yard.

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Help tackle the housing crisis

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England’s housing market is fundamentally unfair; it has left millions of people in insecure, unaffordable and low quality housing, whilst many others have seen their wealth increase dramatically. For many people, especially the young, the prospect of a secure home is a pipedream. The Federal Policy Committee’s working group on Homes and Planning wants your help to fix the English housing market and deliver the homes the country needs.

Although housing and planning is a devolved matter, we would welcome contributions from members outside of England about how their approach works and if there are any lessons we can learn from them.

There have been a wide range of estimates of how many homes England needs to build, ranging from 380,000 to around 200,000 a year. We believe that with a shortage of labour, skills, materials, available sites for development means that we should prioritise building social homes first and foremost – since the sector is currently struggling to build its current number of homes. These meet those in the greatest need, and can help bring down rents more generally.

We also want to ensure that homes are built to the highest standards. At the last election, we had robust and ambitious proposals for making homes fit for a carbon-neutral future, but we’d welcome any ideas you have to improve on those proposals.

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Tim Farron on Cumbria’s rural housing crisis

Tourism is the lifeblood of many of our most spectacular rural communities. Nut there is a downside for the people who live there all year round. Second homes and holiday lets mean that it can be difficult for local people to find somewhere to live.

Tim Farron raised this in a debate in Parliament this week. Here is is opening speech.

It is a huge privilege to serve our communities in Cumbria—our towns, villages lakes and dales, among the rugged beauty of England’s finest landscapes—yet the people who live in our communities are even more precious than the places themselves. We welcome those who see Cumbria as a holiday destination: a place for leisure and relaxation, and a place of peaceful serenity and exhilarating extremes. It is our collective privilege to be the stewards of such a spectacular environment for the country, yet our full-time local communities face an existential threat unlike any other in the UK. I am immensely grateful to have secured this debate, because the housing crisis that has faced our communities in Cumbria and elsewhere in rural Britain for decades has rapidly become a catastrophe during the two years of the pandemic.

For the last few decades, we have seen an erosion in the number of properties in Cumbria that are available and affordable for local people to buy or rent. What little I know of geology tells me that although erosion usually takes place over huge passages of time, sometimes a whole rockface may collapse or a whole piece of a cliff might drop into the sea in a single instant. That is what has happened to our housing stock during the pandemic. In the space of less than two years, a bad situation has become utterly disastrous.

I have been calling for the Government to take action from the very beginning, so I confess to being frustrated and angry that Ministers have yet to do anything meaningful to tackle the problem. As a result, many of us living in rural communities feel ignored, abandoned and taken for granted by the Government, and we stand together today as rural communities to declare that we will not be taken for granted one moment longer.

In South Lakeland, the average house price is 11 times greater than the average household income. Families on low or middle incomes, and even those on reasonably good incomes, are completely excluded from the possibility of buying a home. Although the local council in South Lakeland has enabled the building of more than 1,000 new social rented properties, there are still more than 3,000 families languishing on the housing waiting list. Even before the pandemic, at least one in seven houses in my constituency was a second home—a bolthole or an investment for people whose main home is somewhere else.

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The speeches that got away – Suzanne Fletcher on accessible housing and freeing Brownfield sites

Unfortunately I missed the housing debate last night as for once I put party over Party. My sister insisted on having two of her children during Federal Conference and I can almost never celebrate with them because I am at Conference. So I took advantage of the chance to do so.

By all accounts the debate was excellent, thoughtful and passionately argued. The issue was whether we should have a national target for house building, which the motion proposed, but ALDC’s amendment did away with. Conference voted to keep it so we are committed to building at 150,000 homes suitable for social rent out of a total of 380,000 per year. I am so pleased that got through. Too many young people find it impossible to find somewhere decent to live that they can afford and we have to be ambitious about resolving that.

But there are two points that weren’t really part of the debate. Stockton’s Suzanne Fletcher wanted to raise the need for accessible housing and freeing up brownfield sites. This is what she would have said if she had been called:

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Human rights campaigning wins in Ireland in the end

At the All Party Parliamentary Group for refugees Nick Henderson from the Irish Refugee Council told us about the “Direct Provision” Accommodation Centres in the Irish Republic.

Asylum Seekers live in these privately run Accommodation Centres whilst their case is being assessed.  They were originally meant for short stays when started in 2001, but are now used for much longer one’s and the median stay is 27 months.  Around 7,000 people are currently housed like this.

Those housed there have little privacy, no cooking facilities, and they are excluded from any community life.  Nearly 2,000 are sharing bedrooms with people they are not related to.  Guardians who manage it appear to have oversight of children from families in there, which causes a lot of problems for the future as well as present.

The Centres are very expensive to run and there has been a lot of opposition to them from Human Rights groups since they were started in 2001.  The system could not be amended to be done better, but needed to be replaced.  One woman said that dignity, independence and freedom had been taken from her and her children had lost their self-confidence.

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Working together to end homelessness and rough sleeping in York

Earlier in April I was pleased to join the national Kerslake Commission on Homelessness and Rough Sleeping alongside representatives from local government, housing, health and homelessness bodies, to examine and learn the lessons from the emergency response which supported people sleeping rough during the Covid-19 pandemic.

At the start of the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, the Government launched the Everyone In initiative, which sought to ensure that anyone who was sleeping on the streets was immediately provided with safe and secure accommodation.

This involved unprecedented collaboration between government at central, regional and local levels, alongside work between health and local authority housing colleagues to identify health and housing options for clients in real time. This resulted in immediate assessment of their health needs and positive moves for many clients. In many areas this work has continued with a coordinated approach to vaccinations and GP registrations.

Councils across the country are determined to build on the success of the Everyone In initiative, which has demonstrated what can be achieved when all parts of the public and voluntary sector work together to get people sleeping rough off the streets and into safe accommodation.

In joining the commission I will work to share learning from local government, from Liberal Democrat led councils and on York’s approach to tackling homelessness and rough sleeping. In York, intensive and personalised work by City of York Council and partners continues to offer support to rough sleepers and homeless families. The work is underpinned by the Council’s Homelessness Strategy, focusing on prevention, early intervention and local integrated services that step in when things go wrong. Beds are being offered in a wider variety of accommodation, supporting people to stay in their accommodation and to manage often complex needs that contribute to rough sleeping. This has been supported by over £433k funding secured from the Rough Sleeping Initiative as well as the extra capacity offered by James House, York’s newest purpose-built temporary accommodation, which opened last summer.

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Tim Farron: Planning reforms are an ineffective, illiberal and dangerous power-grab

There is a housing crisis in this country and it has been going on for years. Lack of housing is forcing people out of their areas where they grew up, while high rents mean young people cannot afford to save for a deposit. That’s why Liberal Democrats want to build 300,000 new homes a year, including 150,000 homes for social rent.

But decisions on local housing should be made by local authorities working with their communities. Not by Tories in Whitehall. Local authorities, working with their communities, know best where homes are needed and what infrastructure is needed to support them.

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Robert Jenrick’s Grand Designs

The government launched the National Model Design Code on Saturday.

Releasing important consultations over the weekend has become rather a tradition for MHCLG. Maybe they’re not fans of The Masked Singer.

Key to the Design Code is a belief that beautiful design can be objectively determined, and that people are more likely to support development in their area if the new neighbourhood looks attractive.

The Model Design Code is a good piece of work. Developed by consultancy URBED, it sets out a concise and understandable recipe for high quality places and attractive buildings. It includes guidance on coding plans, masterplans, movement, nature, public space, the built form, use of space and buildings, car parking and design.

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Embracing New Communities: Championing Community Infrastructure

The pressure for new housing, especially affordable, has highlighted the gap between the party’s national policy of pressing for new homes for new families through the community-focused effort by the local Liberal Democrat parties and the opposition from the communities they try and serve.

Because of this gap, the housing campaign becomes two-dimensional and revolves around arguments on the new development’s location, construction times, transport links, and on-road access. There is an easy (dare I say lazy) tendency to slip into NIMBYism; allowing those who shout the loudest drown out the area’s needs and those who want to call it home. …

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Homes within homes – a vital complementary approach to the housing crisis

Our reliance on new build to solve the housing crisis fails us. Walk through most new housing estates and you will discover cheaply constructed flats that are unsuitable for families and children or houses that are largely unaffordable, whose price is inflated by a shortage of supply and not by the cost of house building – but credit availability. New build comes at a huge environmental and social cost, with implications for the well-being of our communities. The conventional response is to set targets for new build, ones that are never met; a case of setting the wrong measure to drive the wrong policy. It ends with the disgrace of algorithms determining how we build communities.

Seen through a societal lens promoting the common good, exclusive reliance on new build is wrong. We need to seek complementary solutions, ones consistent with our core Lib Dem values, policies whose outcome is not determined by privately owned companies or the State.

Our largest, physical, social asset is our existing housing stock. By encouraging homeowners to create social tenancies, providing separate areas for living for tenants at affordable, freely negotiated, social rents we can increase the supply of homes. Social rents include the provision of household services: energy, council tax and water charges which become costs shared between homeowner who pays them and tenant through the rent they pay. There are no shared living areas, with homeowners and tenants only sharing access ways. By sharing services there is no cost for converting metered services keeping internal conversion works to a minimum, works that are reversible. Energy use becomes a shared resource. Every single house in the UK has the potential to provide what I refer to as a “home within a home”.

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Why should we have to move?

“Why should we have to move everywhere and everything because of him?”

That question is on the front of Change, Justice, Fairness, a Scottish Women’s Aid community research project into homelessness caused by domestic abuse in Fife.

Too often, the trauma suffered by victims of domestic abuse is exacerbated when they are forced to leave their homes, often with their children. It is not acceptable that they should be forced into this situation.

It is unlikely that the event that led to them seeking help was the first incident. Safe Lives suggest that someone will endure 50 incidents of abuse or violence before getting effective help.

So you have very vulnerable, traumatised individuals, the vast majority of whom are women, having to declare themselves as homeless. That means that they are put in temporary accommodation, perhaps for short periods into bed and breakfast accommodation with no cooking facilities, where they don’t have the comfort of having their own things around them, the children don’t have their toys. They are perhaps in an unfamiliar area away from their support networks. They could get moved at any time to different temporary accommodation. That instability and insecurity piling even more distress on to them.

Those who aren’t married and aren’t named on the tenancy face a lengthy and complicated battle to gain occupancy rights if they wish to stay in their home.

The process of transferring a tenancy can also take time, during which the victim can be homeless. This needs to be sorted with greater speed. The Scottish Government needs to produce guidance that strengthens the rights of the victim to prevent them going down the stressful homeless route.

This is why I persuaded the Scottish Liberal Democrats to pass policy calling for better support for housing for victims of domestic abuse. In a very moving debate, members shared their own experiences.

We call on the Scottish Government to do more to ensure that they have the right to stay in their own home if they wish to do so. If they are to be moved, that should be done in a planned way. We recognise that the statutory homeless route is not appropriate for families who are suffering the effects of abuse.

I was surprised to learn that not all social housing providers have stand alone domestic abuse policies so we call on housing associations to do more to support people in this situation

The Women’s Aid research identified serious flaws in the way victims were treated. Women described how they had to talk about what had happened to them in an open plan office.

A third of the staff who dealt with disclosures of abuse said that they had not had any training.

Particularly troubling was the fact that the majority of service providers didn’t have any idea that the moment of leaving an abusive partner was the most dangerous for the victim.

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Heartbreaking report on the effects of housing insecurity on children

The Children’s Society has produced a report, Moving always Moving, on the effects of housing insecurity on children.

What does that actually mean in practice?

For the purpose of this report we define it in a way that most closely reflects the experiences of relevant participants, and there are three main elements to the way we conceptualise it: with reference to multiple moves, to those moves being involuntary, forced or reactive, and to those moves being related to poverty.

When I was Scottish Housing Spokesperson, every Christmas we would do a freedom of information request on the number of children in temporary accommodation at that time of year. Imagine what that must be like, not having your things around you, not knowing whether you might have to move at a moment’s notice and often being accommodated away from your support network and friends.

The effect of this on  physical and mental health, behaviour and educational attainment is profound:

It is clear that however it is labelled, poverty-related housing insecurity is associated with potential harm to children in terms of physical

and psychological health, health behaviours, risk-taking, ‘delinquent’ behaviour, emotional and social well- being, and education. The vast majority of the literature that paints this overall picture is quantitative. While statistical analyses are crucial to understanding the prevalence of broad trends and the strength of their effects, they are necessarily limited in terms of the depth of understanding they can enable about the lived reality of housing insecurity experienced over time.

If you are living in private rented accommodation, your landlord may decide to sell up for all sorts of reasons meaning you have to find somewhere else to live. If you have pets, it can be really difficult to find another private let and social housing is so difficult to get.  I spoke to someone who had had to move twice within ten months because of landlords selling up. And moving is not cheap, even in the best of circumstances. If you are living in poverty, the costs associated with constant moves are even more damaging and impact on your ability to provide even the basics.

Some of the stories in the report are absolutely heartbreaking.

All the moving that Tiffany had done, and in particular this latest move far from the things that structured her everyday life, affected her. It meant that currently she had a really long journey between ‘home’ and school, which in turn meant that she had relocated herself outside of her nominal home a temporary two bedroom flat where she had been placed with her mum) for more than half the week. It also meant that she felt stuck at school, unhappy
but trapped because moving schools would require knowing where home was.

Tiffany also felt a certain tension around where it was she belonged – she didn’t feel a strong attachment to her new area and still identified strongly with the place where she had lived before, but she knew it wasn’t really hers to call home anymore. When we asked if she was hoping to move again, she responded by talking about her mum – about how her mum was going to be moved because her current place was only temporary and they could move her at any time –
and she absented herself from the narrative completely, suggesting a lack of attachment to the area where she now officially lived (albeit temporarily).

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Reaching zero carbon with an ambitious approach to housebuilding in York

Plans have been submitted by City of York Council for the first stage of what the Guardian recently has called “arguably the UK’s most ambitious council-led housing programme in a generation”.

As a Liberal Democrat led council we are embarking on our biggest housebuilding programme since the 1970s. Work is already under way to deliver more than 600 new homes across the city, including at least 250 affordable homes, each designed to have a net carbon emissions figure of zero.

This plan is just one element of our work to deliver more housing and tackle the climate emergency. Our target of reaching zero carbon by 2030 requires a bold and holistic approach to tackling the climate crisis.

Currently, we are leading the way nationally by introducing ambitious plans across the city to improve York’s air quality – from the largest zero emission Park&Ride fleet in the country and the first voluntary Clean Air Zone in the UK, with ambitions to become the first all-electric bus city.

This is on top of major investment in refurbishing and improving council housing, using the very latest low carbon technologies in construction, maximising the generation and storage of renewable electricity on council land and buildings, and planting 50,000 trees in 3 years as part of the Northern Forest initiative.

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Yes – in my back yard: The Lib Dems need to TRULY be the party of housebuilding

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To NIMBY or not to NIMBY, that is the question that has plagued local parties since time immemorial. But to be a progressive party today, we need to embrace a radical house-building agenda. That means supporting development projects locally across the country, and gritting our teeth and taking a constructive stance towards the Governments planning reform.

Nationally, the Liberal Democrats talk the good talk. Our manifesto includes ambitious housebuilding plans that seek to tackle the huge supply deficit in the housing market. Locally, it’s a different story altogether. It’s a faustian pact that most local politicians have to make regardless of party: the reason is that homeowners vote, and opposing more development, that will bring the value of their houses down, will win them over.

This is the unspoken reason many local parties oppose development in their area. They’ll couch it in terms of “inappropriate development” or “lack of infrastructure”, but the truth is they don’t want to see development at all. They’re caving in to parochial local homeowner pressure and it’s deeply regressive. We need to support homeownership, not homeowners. The simple fact of the matter is that you can’t be a NIMBY and progressive at the same time.

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22 September 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Government must make more help available to pubs and restaurants
  • Liberal Democrats secure urgent question to challenge Government on eviction loophole
  • PM must take responsibility for failings in test and trace system

Government must make more help available to pubs and restaurants

Responding to reports that the PM will set a 10pm closing time and only allow table service in restaurants and pubs, leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

For millions of people this will feel like a step backwards. After months of disruption to our daily lives many will feel anxious and worried about this latest development.

The Government must immediately put forward a detailed plan to fix the track and trace system, which is the only way to avoid further measures being necessary.

The Prime Minister must also financially help pubs and restaurants who will inevitably lose business. After people have already been through so much hardship, we cannot allow thousands of jobs to disappear overnight.

Liberal Democrats secure urgent question to challenge Government on eviction loophole

Today, Liberal Democrat Housing Spokesperson Tim Farron has secured an Urgent Question in the House of Commons following a loophole in the Government’s legislation to end the eviction ban, which has left an estimated 55,000 households at risk of being evicted since Monday.

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2020 – The year the housing was hit by a maverick algorithm 

Alongside Planning for the Future White Paper (see previous article), ministers published without fanfare a second consultation on changes to the planning system. Council housing targets will be set centrally using a crude formula that distributes responsibility for the government’s ambition for 300,000 new homes a year round the country. But the formula will allocate more housing to higher priced areas such as the south and east, while reducing ambitions for the Northern Powerhouse. A ‘short-term’ waiver of S106 requirements for most small sites could cut affordable housing delivery by up to 20%. A quarter of affordable housing delivered will be for sale at a 25% discount at the expense of social and affordable rented homes. 

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The Independent View: Overcrowded housing, BAME groups and COVID-19

As the COVID-19 era has progressed, more and more data has pointed towards a deeply harrowing truth – the virus is having a disproportionate impact on BAME groups. According to research from ICNARC, approximately one-third of the COVID-19 patients admitted to Intensive Care Units (ICUs) have been from BAME groups, despite the fact that just 14% of the UK population is BAME.

Added to this, black ethnic groups have experienced the highest diagnosis rates, and both black and Asian groups have experienced higher death rates than the white British majority. In order to understand this disparity, it is important to take a close look at one of the factors thought to play a part: overcrowded housing.

All minority ethnic groups are statistically more likely to live in overcrowded housing than the white British group. Taking the Bangladeshi ethnic group as an example, just short of 30% of households have more residents than rooms. For white British households, this figure stands at just 2%.

Overcrowded housing is of huge significance for two main reasons. Firstly, it dramatically increases the risk of COVID-19 transmission, as the virus can spread easily among those who live in close proximity to each other and share facilities such as bathrooms and kitchens. Secondly, it makes adhering to self-isolation guidelines essentially impossible, as a person cannot minimise their contact with others if their circumstances are such that they did not have enough personal space to begin with.

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Building back better

After Covid-19, we all must rise to the UN challenge to ‘build back better’. The impacts of the pandemic and the lockdown have accelerated changes that had been predicted would take decades to happen. We all have a new appreciation for housing, outdoor spaces, community services and the welfare state. The uncongested streets, cleaner air and slower pace of life have hopefully served as a sign that we could do things differently.

The planning system has a critical role in making the ‘new normal’ a better one. The government’s policy statement in March, perhaps due to its timing (written at the beginning of lockdown), seems to miss the public mood. For its laudable commitments on brownfield regeneration, infrastructure first and better design, government thinking on planning continues to be based on the Conservative obsession with home ownership. For sure, home ownership should be more accessible, and I acknowledge the pledges on affordable housing, social housing and the rental sector. Unfortunately, I think the statement missed the need for the planning system to take a more holistic approach – fulfilling the right to decent housing, making liveable places and delivering sustainable growth with wellbeing and tackling the climate emergency at its heart.

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Housing: A basic human right?

According to the charity Shelter, three million new social homes must be built in England over the next 20 years of which 1.2 million homes are needed for younger families who cannot afford to buy and “face a lifetime in expensive and insecure private renting”. The Government intends to build 250,000 homes by 2022, including homes for rent.

Travelling around the UK one gets the impression that there is more house building going on than ever before gobbling up agricultural land. This is at the time that we are leaving the EU, the “single market” and the “common agriculture policy”. About 30% of all our food is currently imported from EU Countries and for some products it is 100%. In 2016 more than £30.3bn of Britain’s food imports and £12.3bn of its food exports were with the EU, highlighting the scale of economic disruption if the current trade negotiations result in tariffs.

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Reducing income inequality

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This is the second of three articles on housing

Huge profits are being made out of housing when the Government estimates 4,266 people are sleeping rough. For example Barratts made pre-tax profits in 2019 of £909.8m – even after paying their Chief Executive £3.6m. Nationwide made £833m after paying its Chief Executive £2.37m and the Government collected £9.3m in Stamp Duty.

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26 November 2019 – the overnight press release

Lib Dems respond to Shelter report on private renters spending £11bn more than they can afford

Responding to a Shelter report that found England’s private renters are paying out £11 billion more a year on rent than they can afford, Liberal Democrat Housing Spokesperson Tim Farron said:

These shocking figures expose the Tories’ failure to tackle the housing crisis, leaving people across the country struggling with soaring rents and insecure tenancies.

The Liberal Democrats will fix the broken housing market and build a brighter future, by building at least 100,000 social homes a year.

We will limit rent hikes, strengthen protections against rogue

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Help make the Lib Dems the renters’ champion

On Tuesday morning, the last day of conference, I moved a motion calling on conference to support renters. To support them by instructing our party to scrap section 21 of the housing act (1988). Section 21 is the part of the act that allows no-fault evictions. You can see the debate that followed here. Please do watch it, but to save you time, I’m very happy to be able to tell you that they did. So, it is now party policy to scrap section 21, either directly as a government, or indirectly, in response to a vote in the Commons, or in response to a consultation (and of course, one is already running and offering that very approach).

But as I said in my speech, as I have in other LDV articles, I’m interested in more than just scrapping a pernicious piece of legislation. Section 21 is the legislative bullet of no-fault evictions, but it’s not really the cause. There are in fact many causes. In my speech I identified the biggest. We have too few homes, whether for rent or for purchase. And what are available are either too expensive for the vast majority of our fellow citizens, or are in seriously unfit for habitation, in dangerous states of repair or maintenance.

I, like many people, am not in a place to be able to afford to buy a home anytime soon, so I will be reliant on the private rental market (a term I hate as much as I hate the term ‘luxury’, which seems to appear in front of every new home advert my news feed seems to see fit dangle in my face) for the foreseeable future. And in itself that’s not a problem. I’m not a ‘stuff’ person, so ownership has never been the epitome of existence for me; I’m much more of a Gig person, using my local cycle hire scheme to get around and buying ‘pre-loved’ tech whenever mine finally gives up.

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Revoking Article 50 alone isn’t enough

With the prospect of a general election on the horizon, we have just finished another successful Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference in Bournemouth. Jo Swinson delivered a stirring first leader’s speech and Conference backed several new policy motions, most notably the party’s new policy on Brexit. A future Liberal Democrat Majority Government would revoke Article 50 and instantly stop Brexit.

British politics now has a party that is prepared to do its utmost to put an end to Brexit, either by getting a democratic mandate to revoke Article 50 or failing that, by securing a People’s Vote with the option to Remain in the EU. Brexit has developed into the biggest peacetime political and constitutional crisis arguably since the 17th century. It is shaking British politics to its very foundations with our constitutional settlement being tested like never before.

It is not just enough to stop Brexit by revoking Article 50, we also need to heal our broken democracy. At the time of writing this, the case against the prorogation of Parliament is playing out at the Supreme Court. The Executive branch has been made to answer a case presented to the Judiciary in regard to its actions towards the Legislature. There is conflict between the three branches of government.

Britain unlike many countries does not have a single written (or codified) constitution with clearly defined checks and balances. In the absence of this, Boris Johnson’s government is able to railroad Parliament by utilising the ancient powers of the royal prerogative to enact a five-week long prorogation. The potential for an extremely authoritarian government being able to take power is very real under the current British constitutional settlement; a fact which is underlined by the majoritarian nature of the first past the post voting system.

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Rentier Capitalism

The Financial Times  (on Wednesday, 18th September) carried an article by Martin Wolf “ Why rigged capitalism is damaging Liberal Democracy “ .He writes “Economies are not delivering for most citizens because of weak competition, feeble productivity growth and tax loopholes”

Guy Standing in his 2016 book “The corruption of capitalism” explained how capitalism has been corrupted as the security of the many has been weakened to strengthen the position of those who hold the bulk of society’s wealth. He wrote, “we have a rigged system that leaves those without much property with few rights”. He borrows from John Maynard Keynes’ critique of the rentier class — broadly, those who live on income from property, including patents and copyright, and investments. And like Keynes, he wants to see the end of the rentier on the grounds that the system they have created is both inefficient and grossly unfair. Those at the bottom Standing calls the precariat — the workers most exposed to the insecurity typical of this era of rentier capitalism driven by globalisation.

The unfairness of housing policy in the UK, one of the more egregious examples of the power of the rentier, is highlighted as are labour conditions in the era of apps, where data are used to monitor and control a workforce with little by way of employment rights. Standing writes that “the precariat’s vulnerability today is everyone’s tomorrow.”

Wolf asks the question “Why is the economy not delivering?” The answer lies, he says, with the rise of rentier capitalism. In this case “rent” means rewards over and above those required to induce the desired supply of goods, services, land or labour. “Rentier capitalism” means an economy in which market and political power allows privileged individuals and businesses to extract a great deal of such rent from everybody else.

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Reforming Private Renting – Making it fairer for all is within our grasp 

For those of you who follow my occasional posts this probably won’t be news, but for everyone else, yea, I’ve made a motion.

On Tuesday, at 11:10 I will be in the auditorium, moving a motion with a simple call, for our party to back the removal of Section 21 of the Housing Act (1988). For a small piece of legislation S21 (as we like to call it…) has a big impact. It’s the cause of many evictions, including so called ‘revenge eviction’, where landlords quite legally turf out tenants that they no-longer want with only two months’ notice… and often because those tenants have complained about something, such as faulty electrics or leaking walls or rooves.

S21 makes many private renters second class citizens, forced to endure circumstances that compromise their health or risk their safety, because they are poor or low waged or can’t get a foot on the ‘property ladder’. It threatens young and old, single folks and families, and as the size of the private renting population grows, it’s reaching into more of our communities. 

Even Theresa May recognised its invidiousness and promised to scrap it. But in typical Tory style, her passion for improving our lot only ran as far a running a consultation on the matter (I urge you to respond to it –  which our new overlord is less than likely to honour. And certainly not unless progressive parties, of which we are the epitome, hold his feet to the fire. Tim Farron has written to the new Housing Secretary to do just that. 

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4 April 2019 – today’s press releases (part 2)

And, in part two…

  • Lib Dems call for mental health support to be included in Ofsted Inspections
  • Moran: SEND funding crisis a moral failure of Government
  • Welsh Lib Dems: Embrace Green Tech to Tackle Climate Change
  • Lib Dems lead Eating Disorder Campaign in Parliament

Lib Dems call for mental health support to be included in Ofsted Inspections

The Liberal Democrats have written to the Chief Inspector of Ofsted to urge her to include assessments of mental health support in schools in Ofsted Inspections.

The Liberal Democrat lead on Mental Health, Claire Tyler, has written to the Chief Inspector as the new draft Ofsted framework does …

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Scottish Lib Dems pass policy to make it easier for domestic abuse victims to stay in their homes

I was really pleased that Scottish Conference passed a motion I proposed which aims to ensure that victims of domestic abuse don’t have to suffer the added nightmare of going through the homeless procedure when they finally seek help. It should be much easier for them to be able to stay in their home and for the perpetrator to leave.

Commonspace reported on the debate:

Across the UK, two women are killed by their partner or ex-partner every week.

Scottish Lib Dem member, Vita Zaporozcenko told the conference of her personal experience of being raised in a house with domestic abuse.

She said: “I have always wondered why my mum did not leave and I have come to the conclusion that she had simply no where else to go.”

Zaporozcenko added: “I want you to support this motion because I don’t think anyone who has gone through this at whatever age can understand the emotional strain that this puts on the person or the people who have been abused and the fear of leaving. We should not be making it harder and by removing the perpetrator is the right way to do it.”

Specifically, the conference backed calls for the Matrimonial Homes Act – where abusers can be swiftly moved out of the family home – to be updated, claiming that it is not fit for purpose.

Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP told the conference how the rollout of Universal Credit has impacted on those who are victims of domestic abuse, saying the ending of split payments within the household was “a tool of coercive control” for men.

Below is the speech that I made proposing the motion.

“Why should we have to move everywhere and everything because of him?”

That question is on the front of Change, Justice, Fairness, a Scottish Women’s Aid community research project into homelessness caused by domestic abuse in Fife.

Too often, the trauma suffered by victims of domestic abuse is exacerbated when they are forced to leave their homes, often with their children. It is not acceptable that they should be forced into this situation.

It is unlikely that the event that led to them seeking help was the first incident. Safe Lives suggest that someone will endure 50 incidents of abuse or violence before getting effective help.

So you have very vulnerable, traumatised individuals, the vast majority of whom are women, having to declare themselves as homeless. That means that they are put in temporary accommodation, perhaps for short periods into bed and breakfast accommodation with no cooking facilities, where they don’t have the comfort of having their own things around them, the children don’t have their toys. They are perhaps in an unfamiliar area away from their support networks. They could get moved at any time to different temporary accommodation. That instability and insecurity piling even more distress on to them.

Those who aren’t married and aren’t named on the tenancy face a lengthy and complicated battle to gain occupancy rights if they wish to stay in their home.
The process of transferring a tenancy can also take time, during which the victim can be homeless. This needs to be sorted with greater speed. The Scottish Government needs to produce guidance that strengthens the rights of the victim to prevent them going down the stressful homeless route.

Conference, this motion demands better for victims of abuse.

We call on the Scottish Government to do more to ensure that they have the right to stay in their own home if they wish to do so.

If they are to be moved, that should be done in a planned way. We recognise that the statutory homeless route is not appropriate for families who are suffering the effects of abuse.

We call on housing associations to do more to support people in this situation. I was surprised to learn that not al social housing providers have stand alone domestic abuse policies.

The Women’s Aid research identified serious flaws in the way victims were treated. Women described how they had to talk about what had happened to them in an open plan office.

One said:

“having to repeat my circumstances over and over again was humiliating and distressing to me. I was also worried about a negative reaction of not being believed every time I had to explain to a new person.”

A third of the staff who dealt with disclosures of abuse said that they had not had any training.

Particularly troubling was the fact that the majority of service providers didn’t have any idea that the moment of leaving an abusive partner was the most dangerous for the victim.

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