Tag Archives: social housing

Housing – where should it go?

I’ve been doing some research into housing as it has become a hot topic in Oxfordshire where I am a county councillor.

Young people want to get on the property ladder but can’t, houses are just not affordable.

Keyworkers wish to take jobs but can’t afford to live locally.

Our social housing register in Oxford city has over 3000 people on it.

There is a housing crisis, but it won’t be solved by landowners building houses which can only be afforded by London commuters.

At the same time, government is pushing for growth in the south – we have a Growth Board in Oxfordshire which comprises all the district, city and county councils, and we have just signed a Growth Deal with government which commits us to building 96K homes in Oxfordshire up to 2031.

But shouldn’t we be growing our economy in the north? The country is already unbalanced, and it will become even more so if plans to build a million more houses along the proposed Oxford to Cambridge Arc proceed. The National Infrastructure Commission report on that proposal is here. On p. 28 there is a chart showing housing planned for 2016-2050: 130K extra houses for Oxfordshire as “additional development required to meet corridor-level housing need”, plus another 70K homes for Oxfordshire required “to reflect pressures from land constrained
markets”.

To get my head around this topic, I’ve been looking at recent government data on where houses need to go across the country as a whole. It includes economic growth and population analysis. Evidently, we don’t need as many houses in Oxfordshire as the last Strategic Housing Market Assessment of 2014 shows. However, all local plans are using the SHMA figures, not latest government figures.

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Wera Hobhouse argues for more social homes for rent

99 families stand to lose the chance of a socially rented home in Wera Hobhouse’s Bath constituency after the Planning Minister failed to call in a planning decision. In what Wera described as “social cleaning”, these families will be forced out of the city.

In an adjournment debate last night, Wera took her argument directly to the Housing and Planning Minister. She outlined the direct consequences of the lack of social housing provision:

What about the 99 most vulnerable families, who will now simply be moved out of their home city of Bath? They cannot stay because there will be 99 fewer social homes for rent under the current plans. This sort of social cleansing is unacceptable and it gives the Government the reputation of being uncaring. The Minister will know that I requested him to call in the planning decision that reduced the number of social homes for rent by 99, but he refused to do so. The implication is that this reduction in social homes for rent is in line with Government policy, but on Monday the Secretary of State, in a quick reply, said it was not Government policy to reduce the number of social homes to rent. It cannot be both things in this specific instance, so what is the answer?

Wera outlined the scale of the problem. The number of houses being built for social rent is plummeting:

Government statistics show that nearly 40,000 social homes for rent were built in 2010-11, and the figure for 2016-17 was just 5,380. In the 2016-17 financial year, 12,383 council homes were sold under the right-to-buy scheme. Year in, year out, the number of social homes for rent is being reduced.

The human consequences are horrific:

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Economic Implications of Autumn Budget

Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake commented:

“Instead of a bright future for Britain, Conservative plans will see a £65bn hit to tax receipts, slashed wages and higher borrowing.

The Government found £3bn to spend on Brexit, but nothing for our police or social care.

The Chancellor has completely failed to show the ambition needed to tackle the housing crisis, build the infrastructure the country needs or fix Universal Credit.”

And here is the breakdown of the economic costs:

1. £65bn hit to tax receipts: Tax receipts have been downgraded by £65.4 billion over the five-year period compare to …

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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: 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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Stephen Williams writes: Social housing stock rises back above 4 million

Houses being builtWhen the Liberal Democrats entered government in 2010, it was clear we had inherited a housing crisis. House prices and private sector rents were becoming more and more unaffordable. House building had slowed to its lowest level since the 1920s and social housing waiting lists had soared to 1.7 million households. Added to that, successive governments had also let the social housing stock wither on the vine, with 1.5 million homes lost by Labour and Conservative governments alike since 1979.

I know that if we are to solve the housing crisis, we need to reverse the decline in social homes and build more. That is why I was delighted recently to see new statistics published by my department (DCLG) showing that the number of social homes has increased for the fifth year running, taking the overall stock back above the 4 million mark for the first time in a decade.

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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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Lord German writes… Monitoring the removal of the spare room subsidy

Like many people reading the front page of the Guardian this morning, I was worried by the headline on the pronouncements by the UN special rapporteur on the removal of the spare room subsidy. But it is important to look behind the headline to see that these comments were based on a very brief visit from this adviser, who did not have the time for a detailed discussion with the Department for Work and Pensions to understand the policy. If she had done she would have been able to understand that this policy brings the rules for the social …

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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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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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Margaret Thatcher, the 1983 election and the ‘bedroom tax’

margaret-thatcherLike Caron, I spent more than a healthy amount of my Bank Holiday Monday watching BBC Parliament’s re-run of the 1983 general election.

It’s not an election I remember (I was 6). But the symmetry of yesterday’s hyperbolic Guardian (‘The day Britain changed’) front page and the televised reminder of Margaret Thatcher’s first landslide seemed calculated to confirm the left’s view that 1st April 2013 marked the ultimate victory of those on the right who wanted (and still want) to destruct the welfare state.

What Mrs T, Geoffrey Howe …

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LDV poll: 80% of Lib Dems back wealthier households in social housing paying full market rent

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 560 party members responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

4-in-5 back change, just 1-in-10 oppose outright

The Coalition last month announced it was consulting whether to charge a full market rent to those in social housing whose household income is over £60,000. We asked our sample of Lib Dem members for their views…

LDV asked: At the moment, rents in social housing are capped at 80% of the market value. It is estimated

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If you’re earning over £60,000 should the state subsidise your rent?

The government is bringing back to life earlier talk about removing the rent subsidy for those in social housing whose household income is over £60,000.

At the moment, rents in social housing are capped at 80% of the market value, but with around 34,000 homes in England occupied by families with a household income of over £60,000 the government is commencing a consultation on removing the 80% limit for them:

Government research shows that as many as 6,000 social rented homes in England are lived in by people who earn a combined income of more than £100,000, including Bob Crow, leader of

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Housing: six things that could be done

As Tim Leunig pointed out last week, housing plays an important role in most people’s concept of social mobility, a point highlighted in Stephen Gilbert’s piece over the summer recounting his own personal circumstances:

Last year I was probably the only MP to be elected while still living with my parents. Of course, I’d moved out of home and, like many others, had to move back again. It’s a symptom of the fact that housing policy in the UK is in crisis. We have millions of people languishing on social housing waiting lists, first-time-buyers priced out of the market

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Opinion: Boosting housing supply

The Conservatives’ proposal to resuscitate the Right to Buy through increasing discounts appears to be an attempt to bask in some of Mrs Thatcher’s reflected glory. Unlike the 1980s version, though, Mr Cameron and Mr Shapps are emphasizing that each property sold will be matched with a newly built property at “affordable” rent. This is an attempt to head off criticisms that the Right to Buy reduces the supply of “social” housing. So, it would appear, this initiative could lead to a net increase in the housing stock.

Of course, things are never as they first appear. It is not yet …

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LibLink | Andrew Stunell: Social housing to get first boost in 30 years

Andrew Stunell, the Communities and Local Government Minister, has an article in the Huffington Post today, announcing Government plans to increase social housing after decades of declining numbers and soaring waiting lists:

Liberal Democrats in government are ensuring this trend is reversed. We fought hard to make sure that the Comprehensive Spending Review last October included money for a social housing building programme of 150,000 new social and affordable homes to be built up to 2015. A key part of this was the new Affordable Rent model that we introduced, with an invitation to social housing providers to bid for

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Opinion: The housing policy jigsaw – the changing picture

I started this discussion of current developments in policy towards housing by noting that it is an area in which the tensions in inherent in balancing “the fundamental values of freedom, equality and community” are absolutely central. Housing policy needs to strike a balance between the individual and the aggregate – neighbourhood, city, regional – outcomes if it is going to deliver economically and socially (and environmentally) successful settlements. In this last post I will reflect briefly on changes in where this balance has been struck over time.

In the post-Second World War period housing policy was directed at improving …

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Opinion: The housing policy jigsaw – a picture begins to emerge?

In yesterday’s post I set out key policy developments affecting housing. So what can we discern about the current government’s approach to housing?

For a start there is a continuing emphasis upon choice. This is particularly clear when discussing how to encourage underoccupying social renters to move. The CLG rhetoric is of increasing choice and making choices easier to realise. They neglect to cross-refer to the DWP proposals to cut the housing benefit of any social renter deemed to be seriously underoccupying. The approach isn’t all “carrot”.

The Local Housing Allowance (LHA) proposals more generally are framed in terms of housing …

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Opinion: The housing policy jigsaw – identifying the pieces

Yesterday, I suggested that it would be valuable to piece together the housing policy jigsaw in order to reflect on the picture that emerges. Policy in this field speaks directly to our fundamental values -freedom, equality and community – and how they are to be reconciled. My aim today is to identify more fully the key pieces of the current policy jigsaw.

So what can we make of the way policy towards housing is developing?

The key proposals on social housing reform in the Local Decisions consultation paper were heavily trailed. Many are embodied in the Localism Bill. They have been …

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Opinion: Piecing together the housing policy jigsaw

The Coalition government is seemingly intent upon drowning us in a blizzard of consultation papers, green papers, white papers, and hasty legislation. No doubt there is also a bit of kite flying taking place for good measure. One problem with all this activity is keeping track of overlapping agendas. How do we sum the parts in a way that allows us to get a sense of the likely cumulative impact of change?

One area in which this is particularly acute is housing. Policy which impacts upon housing and the housing market sits with a number of government departments. Housing policy and …

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Opinion: Why the Government’s social housing reforms are flawed

The Coalition announced its plans for the reform of social housing on Monday and Andrew Stunell – our man inside the Department for Communities and Local Government – summarised the main points and the reasoning behind them here on Lib Dem Voice.

These plans, especially when coupled with the previously announced changes to housing benefit, are sure to spark a great deal of debate on these pages and we’ve already seen this happening in response to Stunell’s article.

At first glance, the main idea behind the reforms is admirable – to make social housing fairer. Most people are aware of …

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Andrew Stunell MP Writes: Your Chance to Influence Coalition’s Housing Policy

There have been plenty of Housing posts on Lib Dem Voice over the past few months. Social and affordable housing is rightly a hot issue and has been the subject of much debate. I have been keen to get stuck in myself, so I’ve had face-to-face meetings with party members, conference calls with my local government colleagues, and been online in this forum, all aimed at us having an informed and full dialogue.

The next step of that begins today with the Coalition Government’s Social Housing Consultation paper, which I launched this morning.

So far a lot of the housing …

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Opinion: Disposing of that pesky homelessness problem

It was entirely predictable. The opening moves in a game that could see another hard-won component of the welfare state undermined have now been played.

It may have been predictable, but it is no less distasteful for all that.

The Coalition’s proposals for restricting housing benefit in the private rented sector have been greeted with a chorus of disapproval from informed commentators and the housing policy and practice community. Many grassroots LibDem members are equally concerned. Dire consequences are forecast.

The Government believes that landlords will happily adjust their rent downwards to reflect benefit cuts. Informed opinion says otherwise. (I discuss this issue …

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Opinion: Spinning the death of affordable housing

At the heart of politics lie battles over meaning. In an uncertain world there is plenty of scope to contest the definition of problems and the perceived effectiveness of solutions. Under Labour we came to think of agenda management as “spin”, and to condemn it. But the Blairites were simply the most egregious and effective exponents of the political arts. All politicians face decisions about the message and how one would ideally like it interpreted.

This seems particularly pertinent in relation to current discussions about affordable housing. We’re seeing the government providing some creative readings of what is on offer.

One component …

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Adrian Sanders writes… The cap that doesn’t fit

People outside of London who cannot afford to buy a home or meet their rent without help from the benefit system are missing out in the current debate on the capping of Housing Benefit.

The housing benefit bill doubled under Labour but it wasn’t because of an increase in claimants, it was because Labour failed to ensure enough regulated rent social housing was built for the increasing numbers of people who could not and cannot afford to buy.

The problem didn’t start under Labour; it began in the early 80’s. The ratio between wages and house prices rose at the same …

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Opinion: Are there no workhouses? Our skewed housing benefit debate

This recent debate about housing benefit has been explosive, with anger and froth expelled by both sides of the debate. And with Christmas coming, I can’t help feeling that there are many out there whose approach to housing the poor is somewhat Scrooge-like. ‘Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?’ they are almost asking.

Housing benefit reform is a tricky beast, no doubt, as the most outrageous (but numerically few) examples of, say, unemployed immigrants getting £1,000 a week to live in Notting Hill have riled many, myself included. But it’s worth asking the question why are so many …

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Labour’s manifesto pledge to cap Housing Benefit

Those listening to Labour’s outrage about the so-called “social cleansing” they believe would result in capping Housing Benefit to four hundred pounds a week might get he impression that Labour opposes the policy.

Odd, then, that it appears in the Labour Party manifesto for the 2010 General Election :

Our goal is to make responsibility the cornerstone of our welfare state. Housing Benefit will be reformed to ensure that we do not subsidise people to live in the private sector on rents that other ordinary working families could not afford. And we will continue to crack down on those who try

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Opinion: A post-CSR view from the South West

Down here in the South West we are bracing ourselves for the impact of the government’s efforts to reduce the budget deficit.  The public sector is by far the biggest employer here (about 40%) and redundancies seem inevitable, compounded by posts falling empty and not being filled thus reducing the number of real vacancies. Will the private sector be able to grow fast enough to compensate? I live in Sherborne, a pretty little market town which is renowned for its variety of small, independent retailers. They sustain the local way of life, provide some limited employment opportunities and attract visitors …

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Opinion: emotional cleansing or ‘oops, your metaphor’s slipped’

Fluff over substance
I have a confession. While I have reservations about the current policy on social housing, that’s not what this piece is about. Andrew Stunell has written compellingly about our policy as has Dominic Curran.

All I’ll say is that successive Labour and Tory governments have failed abysmally over the last thirty years to invest in affordable housing. They’ve helped exacerbate social and community division, inflate housing price bubbles and distort the economy and our attitudes to wealth. Unwittingly or not, they are the architects of the ghetto. So

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Andrew Stunell writes… Myth-busting: what the Coalition’s plans for houses really mean

There has been a lot of talk over the last few months about the Coalition’s plans for social housing. Much has been written, and most of it has been wrong, as illustrated by Dominic Curran’s piece on Lib Dem Voice yesterday. This piece is intended to explain what we are actually doing, rather than what the Labour party, and their friends in the media want you to think we’re doing.

Firstly, we will be increasing social housing supply by more each year than Labour achieved in thirteen years added together.  That’s because Labour sold off almost as many houses as …

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