Housing : Social Tenants / BTL & HB Problems / Shortages / Grenfell Tower Fallout

Discuss news stories and political issues that affect carers.
250 posts
Rule changes " Risk new social housing black hole " in England.

Shelter says plans create " Get-out clause " for developers to avoid providing affordable homes.

A proposal designed to speed up the creation of new homes in England risks “supercharging” a get-out clause allowing developers to build properties without providing social housing, the charity Shelter has said.

The government has proposed new rules that would allow builders to buy and demolish commercial buildings and create new homes without planning permission.

The plan would extend permitted development rights, which allow the conversion of office buildings to homes.

The rules have also allowed developers to build tiny homes, some as small as 13 sq metres.

Almost one in 10 new homes created last year were created this way, but councils do not get the chance to see plans before the homes are built and miss out on planning fees, as well as contributions towards affordable homes.

Shelter said extending the right could create a new “social housing black hole” if they allowed more developers to avoid building affordable homes as part of their project.

The charity said in a handful of local authorities more than half of new homes had been delivered like this, despite the need for social housing in those areas.

In Stevenage, for example, 73% of new homes built last year came through permitted development rights, while in Nottingham 60% of its 975 new homes were created this way.

At the same time, 159 affordable homes were delivered in Stevenage, and its waiting list for social housing stood at 1,862 households. In Nottingham, 5,188 households were waiting for social housing, and 143 affordable homes were built.

Under the proposal in the consultation paper delivered on budget day, the government says the current system “may encourage an owner to change use rather than seek to redevelop the site, which is likely to allow for a higher density development”.

It also raises the question of contributions for affordable homes, asking for input on how this money could be secured for projects that do not need planning permission.

Polly Neate, the CEO of Shelter, said: “Anyone can see it’s wrong to give developers a licence to dodge social housing when hundreds of thousands of people are homeless.

“We need to raise the alarm so the government halt these plans and instead look to bring down the cost of land to build the social homes we need.”

The Town and Country Planning Association recently voiced its concerns about the plan to extend the permitted development rules, warning that it could deprive local authorities of essential funding and risked “creating poor living conditions for vulnerable people”.

“Under the existing system of permitted development, 1,000 new flats can be built in an old 1970s office building or industrial estate, and the local council can’t require a single square foot of play space for the children who live there – and the communities have effectively no say,” said its interim chief executive, Hugh Ellis. “This cannot become the norm.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, said: “No one benefits from delays in planning applications. We expect these proposals to provide flexibility, reduce bureaucracy and make the most effective use of existing buildings.

“We are committed to delivering more affordable housing and we are investing £9bn.”
Construction of homes for social rent drops 80% in a decade.

Figures for England show 6,463 homes built in 2017-18 despite 1.25m families on waiting lists.

The number of new homes built for social rent has fallen by almost four-fifths in a decade, according to official figures that come as more than 1 million families are stuck on waiting lists for council housing in England.

Figures released by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government show just 6,463 homes were built in England for social rent in 2017-18, down from almost 30,000 a decade ago.

Condemning the lack of new social housing, Labour said that a the current rate of construction it would take at least 170 years to house the families on waiting lists.

John Healey, the shadow housing secretary, said: “These figures confirm the disastrous fall in the number of new affordable homes for social rent under the Conservatives.”

Despite the sharp decline, the overall number of properties constructed in England that were classified by the government as affordable rose by 12% last year to 47,355.

The bulk were built for so-called “affordable rent”, where rental costs are capped at 80% of local private sector rents. Affordable rent properties are typically favoured by the building industry because developers tend to make larger profits on them.

Unlike affordable rent, social rental properties also take into account local incomes as well as house prices. Campaigners have criticised the term affordable rent for “turning the English language on its head”, saying they are still unaffordable to many people.

The number of affordable rent properties has soared since they were introduced by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government in 2011, as the number of social rent properties has declined. Almost 27,200 were built last year, up from about 24,300 in 2016-17.

About 57% of all new affordable homes built last year were for affordable rent, while just 14% were for social rent. The rest are intermediate affordable housing, which includes shared ownership properties and affordable home ownership schemes.

In England, about 1.25 million families were registered on the waiting list for social housing between 2016-17. About two-thirds have been waiting for more than a year. On average, an English local authority has more than 3,500 families on its books.


Polly Neate, chief executive of the charity Shelter, said the gap between the number of social homes needed and those being built was vast. “This just isn’t acceptable when nearly 280,000 people are homeless in England today,” she said.

In her Conservative party conference speech last month, Theresa May said a cap on local authority borrowing for the construction of new homes would be scrapped, a step designed to increase the number of new homes built across Britain.

Patrick Gower, a residential research associate at the estate agency Knight Frank, said the prime minister would be encouraged by the 12% rise in the number of affordable housing completions.

He said the number of affordable homes starting to be built last year also increased by 11% to 53,572. “The number of homes likely to complete in the coming two to three years is also likely to increase,” he added.

Increasing the number of affordable homes has become a top priority amid a national housing shortage exacerbated by high house prices. High rental costs have added to the pressures facing households across the country.

Councils used to build more than 40% of affordable or social homes in the 1970s but there has been a shortage of properties since Margaret Thatcher introduced right to buy in the 1980s.

Mark Robinson, the chief executive of Scape Group, a public sector construction outsourcer, said: “Councils must be empowered to build social housing themselves, as they were in the 1970s.”

At least 320,000 homeless people in Britain, says Shelter.

Charity says figure for England, Scotland and Wales is likely to be underestimate.


It is Shelter’s third annual analysis of homelessness. In 2016, it estimated there were 255,000 homeless people in England alone, a figure it subsequently adjusted to 294,000 for Britain. This rose to 307,000 in 2017.

Polly Neate, Shelter’s chief executive, said: “Due to the perfect storm of spiralling rents, welfare cuts and a total lack of social housing, record numbers of people are sleeping out on the streets or stuck in the cramped confines of a hostel room. We desperately need action now to change tomorrow for the hundreds of thousands whose lives will be blighted by homelessness this winter.”



Two articles which are , sadly , connected.
Rent fees: New laws " Will not stop hidden charges. "

Campaigners say new laws going through Parliament will not go far enough to stamp out all hidden fees and charges for renters.

Charlotte Von Crease, a 27-year-old renter, says: "When we moved into our last property we were hit with nearly £3,500 worth of fees, before we even got the keys."

However, those pre-tenancy fees are just one of the hidden costs.

Tenant campaign groups say banning them will not solve the problem.

There were the usual costs for Charlotte, such as one month's rent in advance and six weeks' rent as a deposit. But she told BBC Radio 5 Live's Wake Up To Money there were "also £875 worth of letting agent fees, £600 were admin fees, £120 for employers' references for both me and my partner, and £155 for an inventory check-in fee as well".

Charlotte is one of the estimated 11.5 million people who live in private rented homes in England.

Many renters complain of high upfront costs to secure a property and the Tenant Fees Bill passing through Parliament will effectively cap or ban these extra, unavoidable charges for tenants in England.

Wales has similar legislation under way and Scotland outlawed pre-tenancy fees back in 2012.

In Northern Ireland it's a more complicated picture. A judge recently ruled that tenants could not be charged upfront costs, but without a sitting assembly to bring in new rules, tenants there are still paying them.

But those pre-tenancy fees are just one part of the hidden costs for renters and a number of tenant campaign groups, including Shelter and Generation Rent, have expressed concern that banning them will not solve the problem.

When the new rules eventually come into force, they will not stop landlords and letting agents from charging default fees, such as cleaning costs or those for repairs. While those are often for work needed after tenants leave a property, some tenants report being charged huge amounts for tiny jobs. Some tenants say they feel ripped off.

"I've just ended 10 years of renting [and] each property was its own frustrating experience," says 30-year-old former renter Jen Eastwood.

"Never once have I received a full amount of deposit back, despite every property being returned in a better condition than when it was given to me. Twice I paid for professional cleaning and gave the receipts as proof, and still I was charged for cleaning."

Ask any group of renters about their experiences and at least some will have similar stories. Private renting has more than doubled in the past 20 years.

There's been a decline in home ownership among millennials in particular, leading more to rent for longer. Earlier this year the Institute for Fiscal Studies reported there had been a large decline in home ownership among middle-income 25-34-year-olds. In 1995-96, 65% of this group owned a home but by 2015-16 that fell to just 27%.

Shelter has said tenants are routinely being overcharged. It lists examples of tenants paying as much as £20 an hour for their landlord's time, £45 for procuring a replacement dustpan and brush - and even £100 for removing cobwebs. None of those charges will be banned by the Tenant Fees Bill.


Tenants deposits are now routinely held in deposit protection schemes, meaning money is protected and they can challenge charges they think are unfair.

However, if a landlord or agent can show invoices and receipts for work carried out then it can be hard to argue it was unnecessary or unfair.

What's more, tenants who dispute deductions have to wait until that is resolved to get any of their deposit back and many need the money quickly for their next moving costs.

Polly Neate, chief executive of the charity, says she will welcome the new rules but tells Wake Up To Money it must go further.

Clearer guidelines on what tenants can and can't be charged for are needed, she says, to prevent landlords and agents finding "additional things" to charge for.

"Letting agents are running a business and their business is managing properties. So they ought to be able to calculate the general costs that they will incur. [These] should be part of the totally predictable cost of managing a property."



Tenants may feel ripped off by these fees but letting agents and landlords argue they genuinely reflect the cost of the work.

One letting agent, who did not want to be named, said: "To get anyone to show up at your door no matter what they do is £50 or something in that region. So, if a tenant is to leave a bit of fluff somewhere, someone still has to take an hour to go there, do it and come back and you have to hire a professional.

"I used to own a property and I wouldn't just run out to clear up a bit of fluff or change a bulb, I'd say it's my tenants' responsibility."

His comments were echoed by housing minister Heather Wheeler. "I genuinely think that you have a responsibility when you take on a property - you expect it to be in good order when you arrive, it's your job to make it in a good order when you leave."

Richard Lambert, chief executive of the National Landlords Association, said the new rules will curb abuses. "Default fees will have to be a reasonable charge for a defined purpose. But if I have to come to you to change a light bulb then I have to drive for half-an-hour, plus petrol, to carry out the work. I wouldn't be charging you anything more than what it cost me.

He said the government had tried to strike a reasonable balance between tenants and landlords.

David Cox, chief executive of Arla Propertymark, said: "Letting agent fees cover the cost of essential services during the lettings process, such as referencing, negotiations about clauses in the tenancy agreement and the inventory - processes that cost letting agents time and money to carry out.

He says research for Arla by Capital Economics showed that a full ban on tenant fees would mean two tenants would end up paying an extra £206 per year in rent.

"Ultimately, the ban doesn't reflect the value of the services which agents provide to tenants," he said.



Nothing new for the millions ... estimated to be around 11.5 MILLION ... now renting from BTL landlords.

Always bear in mind that 40% of the current members in the House have declated interests in the BTL sector !!!
Rogue landlords: 90% of local authorities fail to issue fines.

FoI responses from 293 English councils reveal string of weaknesses in private rented market law.

Almost 90% of local authorities failed to use new powers to fine rogue landlords last year, in the latest finding to suggest tenants are being failed by a lax enforcement regime.

It follows a Guardian and ITV News investigation in October, which revealed a string of weaknesses in the legislation governing the private rented market and which also raised questions about the rigour with which certain councils pursued any offenders.

Only 11% of local authorities issued a civil penalty notice against a landlord or letting agent during 2017-18, according to data provided by 293 English councils responding to freedom of information requests made by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA).

Civil penalties were introduced in April 2017 as an alternative to councils bringing criminal prosecutions. The new powers allow local authorities to fine landlords up to £30,000 – penalties the borough could keep.

The RLA’s data also showed that the average fine levied during the first year of civil penalties was £6,392 while, out of a total of 332 civil penalties issued, 271 were made by London boroughs.

David Smith, the RLA’s policy director, said: “These results show that for all the publicity around bad landlords, a large part of the fault lies with councils who are failing to use the wide range of powers they already have.”

The Guardian and ITV recently revealed that convicted landlords who have been ruled unfit to rent out their properties were continuing to operate by exploiting loopholes in the law.

The investigation also revealed that central government’s new rogue landlord database was completely empty six months after its launch. It found that more than one in seven councils in England and Wales had failed to prosecute a single bad landlord over the past three years, despite some having very high numbers of homes classed as “non-decent”.

Those prosecution figures were mirrored by other data collected by the RLA, which also found that 67% of local authorities across England and Wales failed to commence a single prosecution of a landlord during 2017-18.

A spokesman for the Local Government Association, which represents local authorities in England and Wales, said: “The private rented sector is growing and, with limited resources and competing funding pressures, councils are working hard to ensure that complaints from tenants are prioritised and dealt with appropriately.”

He added: “When councils do prosecute they are too often being hamstrung by a system not fit for the 21st century.”


Smoke and mirrors yet again ?
At last :

Councils cleared to rip Grenfell-style cladding from private buildings.

Housing secretary gives authorities power to remove panels and bill landlords.

A total of 289 privately owned high-rise residential blocks have been identified as using similar aluminium composite (ACM) cladding to Grenfell. At only 40 of these have the panels so far been removed or started to be removed. At a further 147 there are plans underway or in development to do so, but the status of 102 buildings remains unclear.


Sanity finally surfaces !
Grenfell Tower aftermatch ... the debacle continues :

Taskforce to oversee cladding removal is not ready, admits minister.

James Brokenshire says team promised in June to make safe high-rise towers is still not active.

A government taskforce announced in June to help make safe privately owned tower blocks wrapped in combustible Grenfell-style cladding has still not started work, the housing secretary, James Brokenshire, has admitted.

Only five of the 183 high-rise private apartment blocks found to have unsafe cladding have so far been repaired as disputes continue between freeholders and leaseholders over who should pay.

Figures published by the government on Wednesday showed that plans remain unclear on 50 of the buildings identified, even though they are considered unsafe. Not one of the 27 hotel towers identified with Grenfell-style aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding has yet been fully remediated.


In June, two months after he took over the response to the Grenfell disaster that claimed 72 lives, Brokenshire told parliament that, in light of the pace of repairs in the private sector, a joint expert inspection team was being convened to help councils handle the problem.

“This team will support local authorities in ensuring and where necessary enforcing remediation of private sector high-rise residential buildings with unsafe ACM cladding systems,” he said.

However, almost six months on, he was asked in parliament this week by the shadow housing secretary, John Healey, who the members of the taskforce were. He declined to answer, but said instead: “The joint expert inspection team is being established to support the next phase of work.” Officials admitted it would not start work until next year.

Labour has accused the government of dragging its feet over the removal of cladding on thousands of homes and its admission that the taskforce has not been set up as promised came just days after Brokenshire indicated he had lost patience with the speed of the private sector’s own response. He gave councils the power to strip the materials off themselves and reclaim the multimillion-pound cost from the landlord.

Healey said it was shameful that hundreds of buildings with Grenfell-style flammable cladding still had not had it replaced.

“Theresa May promised to do ‘whatever it takes’ to keep people safe, but her government has dragged its feet at every stage,” he said. “Conservative ministers must now set a firm deadline by which all buildings will have dangerous cladding removed and replaced – and take the urgent action needed to make it happen.”

A spokesperson for the communities secretary said: “Since the team was announced, private sector buildings where there is no plan or intent to replace cladding have fallen from over 200 to less than 70. The joint inspection team will begin work in the new year focusing on taking action in the remaining cases where owners are refusing to make their buildings permanently safe.”



Potential threat to lives ... what does that REALLY matter in today's Sad New World ?
Disabled woman evicted before Christmas … for highlighting the damp.

Plight of Surrey resident who never missed a rent payment in 12 years puts focus on lack of tenant security.


It is two weeks before Christmas and boxes are strewn across the living room of an apartment in Weybridge, an affluent town in the chancellor Philip Hammond’s leafy Surrey constituency.

Despite the time of year, this is not a festive gift-wrapping session. Instead, the packages contain the possessions of a 63-year-old woman, moving out of her home at a far from ideal time of year.

Wendy (not her real name) has little choice, however. She is being evicted by her landlord – a Malaysia-based investor and owner of numerous UK properties – who is throwing out his tenant despite her never having missed a rent payment.

“I am literally being sick,” Wendy said in the run-up to her move. “I am absolutely desperate and housing associations will not help; it is a nightmare.”

This tale of a Christmas eviction may seem Dickensian but it is current, commonplace and seemingly frequently tolerated by local authorities. In many cases – including Wendy’s – it is also perfectly legal.

Legal no-fault evictions – called “section 21” in the jargon – have existed since 1988. They are controversial and there is now a parliamentary move to change the law – partly because of the type of antics highlighted by campaigners such as the Labour MP Karen Buck, who told a Westminster Hall debate on section 21 earlier this month how an unidentified landlord had bragged on social media about timing his evictions at this time of year. The post read: “If a tenant has annoyed me I wait to pull the trigger in mid-November to screw up their Christmas.”

Wendy’s rent was paid in full during her 12-year tenancy, despite longstanding problems at the property, which she says included seven years of a leaking roof. She suspects that she was the victim of a “revenge eviction” – a punishment for her commencing legal proceedings because of conditions in the flat.

The complaint letter sent by Wendy’s lawyer to the landlord’s estate agent, Winkworth, in March of this year, stated: “You were notified [about conditions] verbally by our client on a number of occasions … The defects at the property are causing an exacerbation of our client’s health issues. Our client is disabled and the damp is causing our client to suffer significantly.”

Ten weeks later and Wendy, who describes herself as “slightly disabled [with] crippled fingers”, received a section 21 notice from her landlord Bazmore Enterprise, a UK-registered company owned by Bujang Bin Ahmad Zaidi.

When asked by the Guardian to explain the decision, Kim Karpeta, a director of Winkworth’s Weybridge franchise, said: “If she hadn’t got lawyers involved and tried to beat the landlord up with a stick, she’d have probably been fine.”

Karpeta later said he “used the wrong choice of words and … did not present the situation in the correct light”. Bazmore’s lawyers added that Karpeta was not authorised to comment on its behalf and denied the eviction was retaliatory.

Before Wendy left her home the leaking roof had been fixed but the smell of damp would hit you as soon as you entered the two-bedroom flat.

A dark mould clung to some ceilings and around the kitchen window, which remained moist to the touch. There was a coldness to the walls, stained by dripping water, while the ceiling lights would flicker on and off seemingly at a whim.

The property appeared, by most modern standards, a miserable place to live – an assessment pretty well agreed by all parties. However, each side has differing versions about why problems went unsolved – and why Wendy was evicted just before Christmas.


Bazmore and Winkworth said Wendy was an awkward tenant, who did not always allow workmen access to the property to make repairs. They also claimed that other tenants in the block had complained about her.

Wendy argued that despite years of complaints to the current and a previous landlord, Bazmore’s eviction proceedings only commenced after she started her legal claim in March.

If that was the trigger, she would hardly be alone. Nearly half of all tenants who make a formal complaint about their housing suffer a “revenge eviction” by private landlords, according to research by Citizens Advice. Rules protecting tenants from revenge evictions exist but they do not always work and did not apply in Wendy’s case.

So who can tenants complain to ?

The obvious answer might be the local authority, although many are under financial pressure and the IFS, an economics thinktank, calculates that council housing budgets were down 53% in real terms from 2009-10 to 2017-18.

Also, Wendy resides in a borough with a statistically weak enforcement record.

Elmbridge was one of 53 councils in England and Wales that did not make a single prosecution under the Housing Act during 2015, 2016 or 2017, according to responses to freedom of information requests made as part of an earlier joint investigation into rogue landlords this autumn by the Guardian and ITV News.

Furthermore, Elmbridge failed to impose a single civil penalty on a landlord during 2017-18.

Dan Wilson Craw, a director of the private renters’ campaign group Generation Rent, said: “Relying on cash-strapped councils to give tenants protection from retaliatory eviction is too fiddly. We need a stronger fundamental right over our homes – and that starts with abolishing section 21.”

Elmbridge did serve an improvement notice on Wendy’s property in 2015, which supposedly compelled the then landlord – and future landlords – to act.

Russell Moffatt, a former enforcement officer with the London borough of Newham in east London and now co-founder of the property licensing software firm Metastreet, inspected Wendy’s property in November, at the request of the Guardian and ITV News.

He said: “Councils, I’m sure, want to do more, [but] they are hard-stretched at the moment. An improvement notice was served. Could it have been enforced and more done? Yes it could have.

“Breaches of an improvement notice are a criminal offence if the work is not properly carried out … It could have been done but wasn’t done here”.


A spokeswoman for Elmbridge said: “We did follow up on the improvement notice, in terms of reminding the then landlord of their responsibilities and strongly encouraging them to act … All things considered, we were broadly satisfied with the progress that was made.”

She added that the council preferred dealing with landlords using “an approach built on advice and guidance, backed up by the threat of enforcement action”.


A spokeswoman for Winkworth said: “We acted in good faith throughout [the] tenancy. At all times, correct landlord and tenant procedures, as prescribed by the industry codes of practice and relevant legislation, have been adhered to.”

Bazmore’s law firm said: “Our clients deny that they have failed in their obligations towards [Wendy] in respect of the property.”
Tower blocks ?

Sydney Olympic Park : Thousands evacuated from Opal Tower and surrounding area after " Cracking " sounds spark fears building could collapse.

Residents evacuate huge Sydney high rise amid fears it could collapse.


Image

More than 3,000 people living in or near to a 36-storey high-rise in Sydney were evacuated today after cracking noises sparked fears the building could collapse.

Residents of Opal Tower in Sydney Olympic Park reported hearing loud noises as if something in the building had "snapped" throughout the morning.

An emergency operation was launched to assess the building's structural integrity, with multiple buildings in the area evacuated as an exclusion zone was in place.

Firefighters and engineers were expected to enter the later on Monday to examine what caused the reported cracks on its 10th floor and to determine whether the building is in danger of collapse.

Experts using sensitive monitoring equipment determined the $165 million (£130 million) building, completed in August, had moved between 1 and 2 millimetres, according to police Detective Superintendent Philip Rogerson.

Police reportedly had to use heavy equipment to force open doors to allow residents to escape.

Australian Broadcasting Corporation there were cracks on the building's 12th and 13th floors.

"I'm concerned, of course," he said. "A few days ago the doors looked different, like they couldn't close properly. And you do feel (movement) sometimes when there's strong wind."

Residents from Opal Tower and surrounding properties had been taken to an evacuation centre and it was not clearly if or when they would be able to return to their homes.



There are 4,000+ tower blocks in the UK.

Perhaps , if the Grenfell Tower enquiry goes deep enough , there will be 4.000 less by 2025 ???
How " Placemaking " is tearing apart social housing communities.

It’s gentrification by any other name, helping councils to force out tenants and decimate public housing.

Joyce (not her real name) was in east London long before the Cereal Killer cafe, moving from East Ham to the Carpenters estate in Newham months before her son was born in 1972.

She doesn’t describe a life of luxury: “We had young children, we had three bedrooms, [but] it was warm.” Nor was the community on the estate devoid of problems, but she made friends among her neighbours and was able to put down roots with the kind of security that is becoming increasingly rare.

She says her flat was in “perfect condition” apart from some ceiling damp, the result of a forgetful neighbour with a quick-running bath. So when she received a letter from Newham council in 2010 advising that the whole estate was going to be decanted for “refurbishment”, it came as a surprise.

Her fears were quelled when the council confirmed that once the refurbishment was over, residents who wanted to return would be more than welcome to do so (subject to availability). But seven years on, Joyce has not returned, and more than 400 properties on the estate sit empty. With the glistening Olympic stadium looming over it, the fate of the Carpenters estate represents an all-too-familiar story for social housing tenants across the capital.

Joyce moved to a nearby housing association property in 2011, avoiding the anxiety of having to negotiate a whole new area. Yet when I ask if she would move back into the Carpenters estate, her “yes” is unequivocal. She recently returned to visit her old flat with a member of the Focus E15 housing campaign group, and declared with a big smile that “I felt like I came back home.”

Between 2012 and 2017, Newham council rehoused more than 3,000 homeless families outside of the borough. Meanwhile, some London councils are shipping households as far away as Newcastle. So why are so many homes sitting empty when demand is grossly outweighing supply? Joyce doesn’t mince her words: “I think it’s because of the area and the potential in the area and they just want to make more money.”

Newham argue that it consulted the residents repeatedly between 2004 and 2009 but “every option was too expensive to be feasible as the costs outweighed the value of the leaseholders’ properties and council-owned flats”. Instead it tried to sell the properties to University College London.

UCL was interested but ultimately withdrew from the estate following protests from its staff and students, as well as local residents. Selling to a university doesn’t scream of greed like signing it all away to an offshore company. But it would have generated “cultural capital”, which is a key component of “placemaking”, a vital stepping stone in attracting much more affluent people to an area.

Writer and academic Anna Minton describes how “placemaking” involves creating “‘innovation clusters’ – ideally featuring a university, commercial space, shops, restaurants and perhaps an art gallery, all alongside luxury apartments”. The fizz of culture and luxury are a cocktail that few deep-pocketed developers can resist. But this commitment is almost always to the detriment of social housing tenants, who are shooed out of the way. When the radical Hungarian architect Ernő Goldfinger designed the well-known Balfron Tower in Poplar, nearby in east London, he did so with the tenants in mind. He put all the bedrooms on the eastern side of the building so residents could enjoy the sunrise, while balconies are on the west to take in the sunset.

Yet those enjoying the personal touches of the tower are now doing so at sky-high London rents. Poplar HARCA, the housing association that manages the homes, started “decanting” residents from the property in 2008 saying that they would “possibly but not probably” have a “right of return” once the refurbishment was complete. Not a single one did. This decision to let all the flats at market rates coincided neatly with Poplar HARCA’s plans to regenerate the nearby Chrisp Street market to “create a thriving town centre”.

Elsewhere in London, Southwark’s council’s decision to demolish the Elephant and Castle shopping centre and surrounding homes to make way for a new university campus will likely result in a loss of social housing and significantly decreased space for local businesses. In all these cases, the social tenants were treated like cattle, herded elsewhere with minimal consultation about their wishes. What is left unsaid is the apparent attitude that they should just be happy to have a roof over their heads at all.

Yet Joyce talks about the Carpenters estate more like a lost sweetheart then a collection of bricks and mortar. “It’s like losing someone. You had made plans with that person, you were going to spend the rest of your life with that person. Then suddenly they change their mind. Obviously, it puts a dent in your everyday.”

The new Newham mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz, has changed tack from the previous council regime, promising that the fate of the estate will be decided by local residents and recommending that people whom the council displaced should be allowed back. Let’s hope this a genuine promise rather than empty words. “Placemaking” wrenches social housing communities away from their homes because they don’t fit in with the developer’s dream. It’s heart-breaking.
Just 5 per cent of new homes to be built with government money will be most affordable type, ministers admit.

Exclusive : Government's admission it will fund just 2,500 social homes a year condemned as " Just not good enough. "


Just 5 per cent of homes to be built with government money will be the most affordable type of housing despite the prime minister’s pledge to build a “new generation of social homes“, ministers have admitted.

The government said only 12,500 of the 250,000 homes to be built with the affordable homes budget by 2022 will be social homes – equivalent to 2,500 per year.

The other 237,500 are likely to be more costly “affordable homes”, which can be sold for hundreds of thousands of pounds or rented out at up to 80 per cent of full market value.

The admission comes despite Theresa May having promised to deliver “a new generation of social rented homes” amid soaring demand for low-cost housing.

It prompted criticism from housing charities, who said the lack of new social housing was “totally unacceptable”. Labour said the “tiny fraction” of social homes being built was “just not good enough”.

There were 1,409 social homes built in England last year. With ministers now promising a total of around 2,500 per year until 2022, it means the increased funding will deliver only an additional 1,000 each year.

In contrast, 39,402 were built in 2009-10 – the year before the Conservatives came to power.

In October, Ms May announced that her government was increasing funding for the Affordable Homes Programme by £2bn, taking the total to almost £9bn.

Heralding the move, the prime minister said she was making it her personal “mission” to tackle the housing crisis and assured those in need of a better home that “help is on the way”.

But in answer to a parliamentary question from Labour, housing secretary James Brokenshire said just one in 20 of the new homes to be built will be social homes.

He said: “The £9bn Affordable Homes Programme will deliver at least 250,000 homes by March 2022. At least 12,500 of these will be for social rent outside of London.

“The Greater London Authority has the flexibility to deliver social rent in London.”

Commenting on the revelation, John Healey, Labour’s shadow housing secretary, said: “There’s been a disastrous fall in the number of new genuinely affordable homes for social rent under the Conservatives. We are now building over 30,000 fewer social rented homes a year than when I was Labour’s last housing minister in 2010.

“Ministers’ flawed definition of ‘affordable housing’ includes homes for sale at up to £450,000 and to let at 80 per cent of market rents, so it’s just not good enough for ministers to only commit a tiny fraction of the affordable homes budget to new social rented homes. The next Labour government will build a million low-cost homes, the majority for social rent.”

Addressing the Conservative Party conference in October, Ms May promised “a new generation of council houses to help fix our broken housing market”.

She said: “In those parts of the country where need is greatest we will allow social rented housing to be built, at well below market levels, getting the government back into the business of building houses.”

And during the 2017 election campaign, Ms May promised the Tories would deliver “a new generation of social rented homes”.

Housing charities condemned the revelation that the government will only fund 2,500 new social homes per year.

Greg Beales, campaign director of Shelter, said: “The gap between the number of social homes we need in this country and how many get built is vast. In fact, we delivered 84 per cent fewer social homes this year than in 2010. This is totally unacceptable when hundreds of thousands of people are homeless and millions more are struggling in unstable and expensive private renting.

“It is time the government charted a new course and seriously ramped up its efforts to get more social homes built. That’s why Shelter has launched an independent commission into the future of social housing that will soon set out a bold and far-reaching vision for the pivotal role it has to play in ending the housing crisis.”

And Jon Sparkes, chief executive of homelessness charity Crisis, said: “It is very disappointing to see such a tiny proportion of the properties to be delivered through the Affordable Homes Programme being made available for social rent. Research shows we need 90,000 social homes built every year for the next 15 years to meet demand – both for those experiencing homelessness, and for those on low incomes, many of whom are at risk of homelessness.

“The current lack of genuinely affordable housing is leaving thousands living on a knife-edge, unable to keep up with spiralling rents and housing costs.”

Kit Malthouse, housing minister, said: “Over the last three decades governments of all stripes have built too few homes of all types, including for affordable and social rent.

“We’re correcting this with massive investment in house building, including the £9bn affordable homes programme, but also by setting councils free to build the social homes their communities need.

“We expect many thousands of new homes to result and we share the impatience of the British people to see decent homes built for the next generation.”
250 posts