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Housing : Social Tenants / BTL & HB Problems / Shortages / Grenfell Tower Fallout - Page 23 - Carers UK Forum

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

Discuss news stories and political issues that affect carers.
316 posts
Housing approved despite pollution warning to keep windows shut.

Air assessment finds pollution levels in London development far exceed legal limit.

A south London housing development has been approved in an area where air pollution is so high that residents will be advised to keep their windows closed.

Nitrogen dioxide exceeds legal limits on the busy road where the development is planned, next to the A2 in Lewisham. An air quality assessment carried out on behalf of the developers found levels of 56.3 micrograms per cubic metre in the area – far above the legal limit of 40µg/m3.

The highest estimate of NO2 inside the development was also above legal levels at 43.7µg/m3, which would affect residents on the first floor.

The assessment includes the guidance: “With opening windows the developer should advise the future occupants that their health could be at risk due to relatively high levels of air pollution in the area.”

Rosamund Adoo-Kissi Debrah, a campaigner from Lewisham whose daughter’s death has been linked to air pollution, called the decision “an absolute disaster”.

Her daughter, Ella Roberta Kissi-Debrah, was nine when she died of acute respiratory failure and severe asthma. NO2 levels near their Lewisham home were consistently above the legal limit. The attorney general has approved a new inquest into the death.

“They have learned nothing from my daughter’s death, nothing at all. It is an insult,” said Kissi-Debrah.

Despite the developer’s warnings over air quality, Lewisham council deems it a “low priority consideration” in its planning report, rejecting solutions to mitigate against the risk of high air pollution.

In one section, the council rejects providing glazing on the basis of a prediction that “air pollution levels should fall as vehicle emissions in the area reduce”.

Instead, the council agrees to finance marketing materials so that “occupiers/residents … are notified of the potential air pollution risks to human health”. It states that such information “would be likely to take the form of marketing information, leasehold clause and welcome pack”.

Claire Holman, an air quality expert, said interior air pollution can also be dangerous – such as pollution arising from using cleaning materials, toiletries, or a wood-burning stove, meaning it does not always make sense to keep windows shut.

Holman, chair of the Institute of Air Quality Management, said residents would find it difficult to know when they should be able to open their windows. “People know whether it’s too hot inside, or too noisy outside, but sensing poor air quality is more difficult. They may open their windows during pollution events without realising.”

She added: “I have a problem with leaving it up to the individual. People’s awareness of air quality is not great enough.”

The developer has agreed to pay £7,500 towards monitoring air quality near the development, as it sits in an air quality management area – an area which is unlikely to meet national air quality objectives.

The developer has also agreed to contribute £17,500 towards planting trees nearby and make further contributions towards pedestrian safety, better street signs and parking.

Kissi-Debrah dismissed the contributions as piecemeal. “Those trees will be tiny when they are planted and will do little do absorb such high levels of nitrogen dioxide,” she said. “I would like to believe [Lewisham council] were not aware of the illegal levels of air pollution in the borough when my daughter was alive.

“But now they know, how can they seriously have a policy that says people need to close their windows? Air seeps in. Do they expect people will never open their front doors? They can’t have taken [my daughter’s death] very seriously at all.”

In a statement, Bluecroft Property Development did not respond to questions about air quality, but said homes would meet living-space requirements. “London needs new homes and better air quality, which is why the mayor is taking action on both issues.

“All homes meet or exceed the standards the GLA’s private amenity space and internal space standards.”

Lewisham council said: “The housing crisis and air quality are two of the greatest challenges facing London. A planning condition is in place that ensures that the building will meet air quality objectives. The developer will provide a ventilation system that will take clean air from the roof and deliver it to the first two floors of the development.

“Lewisham is committed to improving air quality. We will soon be launching a borough wide consultation that proposes emission based charging for parking permits with the aim of encouraging residents to use low- or no-emission vehicles or, better still, seek other forms of transport.”
At this critical time…
Well ... it's not often something like this arrives like an earthquake ?

Short-notice evictions face axe in tenant rights victory.

Housing campaigners hail government plans to scrap " No-fault " removals.

Housing campaigners have hailed a groundbreaking shift for tenants’ rights after the government announced plans to scrap “no-fault evictions”, which it described as the biggest overhaul for renters in a generation.

The government will consult on abolishing section 21 evictions in England, meaning private landlords would no longer be able to evict tenants from their homes at short notice and without good reason.

Currently landlords have the right to get rid of tenants with as little as eight weeks notice after a fixed-term contract has ended. The government said that section 21, which is notoriously hard to challenge, had become one of the leading causes of family homelessness.

Announcing the plans, Theresa May said tenants had the rights to feel secure in their home, settled in their community and able to plan for the future with confidence. “Millions of responsible tenants could still be uprooted by their landlord with little notice, and often little justification,” she said.

“This is wrong – and today we’re acting by preventing these unfair evictions. This important step will not only protect tenants from unethical behaviour, but also give them the long-term certainty and the peace of mind they deserve.”

The changes, which Shelter called “an outstanding victory” for renters, will in effect create open-ended tenancies and give tenants more reassurance that they will not face snap evictions if they complain about the poor quality of their accommodation.

Under the proposals, landlords seeking to evict tenants would have to use the section 8 process, which can be implemented when a tenant has fallen into rent arrears, has been involved in criminal or antisocial behaviour or has broken terms of the rent agreement, such as damaging the property.

Ministers have said they will amend the section eight process to allow it to be used by landlords if they want to sell the property or move back in themselves. Unlike section 21, tenants can challenge section eight evictions in court.

The proposed change drew fury from landlords’ representatives, who said the no-fault eviction rules had been used as a way to circumvent lengthy court delays when landlords needed to evict tenants when they fell into arrears. Buy-to-let lenders are also likely to watch the proposed change closely and may be less likely to lend if landlords find it harder to evict unruly tenants.

David Smith, the policy director of the Residential Landlords Association, said changes would lead to more cautious investment in buy-to-let properties from landlords and prospective lenders. “For all the talk of greater security for tenants, that will be nothing if the homes to rent are not there in the first place,” he said.

More than 4m households, equivalent to around 11 million people, are now in privately rented accommodation in England, but the communities secretary, James Brokenshire, said the housing market had not kept pace with the explosion in the rental market.

Brokenshire said it would be “the biggest change to the private rental sector in a generation” and that families had the right to build a home without fear of being evicted at a moments’ notice.

Polly Neate, Shelter’s chief executive, said the government would deserve great credit if it delivered on the promise quickly and that the change would transform lives. She said tenants were often given contracts “shorter than your average gym membership, who live in constant fear of being thrown out at the drop of a hat”.

The housing charity said it had found that one in five of families who rent privately have moved at least three times in the last five years, and one in 10 say that a private landlord or letting agent has thrown their belongings out and changed the locks.

The Citizens Advice chief executive, Gillian Guy, said the change was a “groundbreaking shake-up” and said it would prevent landlords from “evicting tenants for simply complaining”.

The most recent research by Citizens Advice suggested that tenants who made a formal complaint about their landlord or the state of their rented home had a 46% chance of being issued with a section 21 eviction notice in the following six months.

Heather Kennedy, a housing organiser at the leftwing thinktank New Economics Foundation, said she had experienced two no-fault evictions, including last winter just days after finding out that she was pregnant.

“I know how brutal and terrifying no-fault evictions are,” she said. “It’s impossible to build a stable, rooted life as a private renter under laws like section 21. So government plans to repeal this appalling legislation are a massive victory for the growing renters movement which has fought collectively to make this happen.”

The announcement drew a cautious welcome from Labour, but the shadow housing minister, John Healey, said the government must also protect against landlords forcing tenants out by stealth.

“Any promise of new help for renters is good news but this latest pledge won’t work if landlords can still force tenants out by hiking the rent,” he said. “Tenants need new rights and protections across the board to end costly rent increases and substandard homes as well as to stop unfair evictions.” Healey said.

The change had been the subject of a campaign by Generation Rent, backed by Labour and the Green party as well as a 50,000-strong petition and 13 local authorities which supported the abolition of section 21, including the inner London boroughs of Lewisham, Southwark and Hackney.

Renters’ campaign groups also hailed the proposal as a victory but added to the calls that it should be part of a package of reforms. Acorn, another renters union, said the change should not be seen as “a gift from a benevolent government” but the result of a long-fought campaign by organised tenants.

The government has said it will also amend rights for landlords who wish to evict tenants in order to sell or move into their property and has also promised to speed up legal processes for evictions if tenants fall into arrears or damage the property.

Richard Lambert, the chief executive of the National Landlords Association, said there was often “no choice” but to use section 21. “They have no confidence in the ability or the capacity of the courts to deal with possession claims quickly and surely, regardless of the strength of the landlord’s case,” he said.

It will be " Interesting " to see the effect in the BTL market IF this one hits the statue book.

With 2 in 5 mps holding some form of interest in BTLs , don't hold your breathe !!!

Even now , just minutes after reading this , I foresee carnage at the lower end ... especially with the Housing Allowance still frozen.
Had to smile ... Daily Chuckle's comments section has gone into meltdown over this issue :

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/articl ... eason.html
Yep ... The Guardian agree ... possible carnage at the lower end ... are they now reading my posts ???
" No-fault " eviction of tenants must end. But beware unintended consequences.

The government is right to curtail landlords’ section 21 powers. But too much regulation could end up hurting the poorest.

Theresa May’s government can get some things right. The curtailment of landlords’ power to evict tenants for no reason with only eight weeks’ notice has been rejected by Labour and Tory ministers for decades. Now the proposed abolition of “section 21” evictions should free landlords from being seen as heartless exploiters, and tenants as worthless transients, endlessly complaining.

Europe’s maddest housing market should be brought closer to its sanest, Germany, where 55% of people enjoy secure and mostly happy private tenancies, for an average of 11 years each. In Britain just 20% are private tenants, with tenancies of an average 30 months. Germany suffers no get-on-the-ladder hysteria. Private savings are not frozen in bricks and mortar, but put to economic use.

To deprive someone of a roof without good cause – such as damage, nuisance or falling behind in rent – should be illegal. A rented house is also a home, part of a neighbourhood. Landlords should be seen as community architects. Section 21 must go.

But every housing reform in history has had unintended and often adverse consequences.

The government has decided not to allow extended minimum tenancies of three years but to make them open-ended. At face value, this “semi-nationalises” the private rented sector. Without some rights for landlords over their property, the consequence will be, as it was with council houses, to restrict availability and diminish flexibility. Downsizing will be discouraged. Houses will be underoccupied by ageing tenants.

British housing policy remains obsessed with new building – largely at the bidding of the construction lobby. By far its greatest housing resource lies in existing buildings, which remain occupied at low density because of high stamp duty and low property taxes. The 2011 census showed Britons now occupying 2.5 room each, against 1.5 in 1980. Housing densities in British cities are the lowest in Europe.

The poorest people tend to live in privately rented accommodation. London councils rely on it to house thousands of newcomers who land on their doorsteps each year. Newham recently found 80% of its council houses that had been sold to tenants under right-to-buy had then become private rentals. Many were housing the 5,000 newcomers a year on the council’s list and on housing benefit. They were a desperately needed resource.

A drying up of this supply would mostly hurt the poor. Drive the property market towards sale not rent, and the rich will benefit from falling house prices.

The easing of rent regulation over the past 40 years certainly went too far.

But the job of government is to balance the market to protect its most vulnerable users, not stifle it.

For their part, the landlords should not howl. They should argue for a clear definition of what does and does not constitute cause for eviction. Germany has made renting respectable. Now Britain should do so.
A VERY apt letter from a reader of the Wakefield Express :
Reading once again about plans to build more affordable housing set me thinking as to exactly what those responsible for building and selling/renting houses actually consider to be affordable ?

A professional premier league footballer or a leading businessman/woman would find a million pound plus house in leafy Cheshire or Alwoodley etc perfectly affordable.

However, someone working on a zero hours contract at Wetherspoons, or in one of the huge distribution warehouses, may well find it difficult to manage to pay rent on a one bedroom flat in a “ Social housing ” complex.

We should always be mindful that very little in life is as simplistic as those running our lives would have us believe.

I would like to hear one of those who talk about “ Affordable ” housing explain to a family struggling on the minimum wage just exactly what is considered as “ Affordable ” ?

Yes ... there is a textbook answer but ... just how realistic would that answer be in today's housing market ????
Labour pledges to end " Slum " office housing.

Labour says it would scrap a government scheme that allows offices and industrial buildings to be converted into homes without planning permission.

The party said changes to permitted development rules in England had led to the creation of "slum housing and rabbit hutch flats".

It also said developers had been able to avoid building affordable homes.

The Conservatives said the plans would "cut house building and put a stop to people achieving home ownership".

In 2013, the government changed planning rules to allow developers to turn offices, warehouses and industrial buildings into residential blocks without getting permission from the local council, in a bid to boost house building.


The rules have since been further relaxed, leading to 42,000 new dwellings being created from former offices in the last few years.

However, permitted development schemes are exempt from official space standards and also from any requirement to provide affordable homes.

Labour said the policy had seen the loss of more than 10,000 affordable homes, and meant that flats "just a few feet wide" were now counted in official statistics as new homes.

It said its policy was still to build 250,000 new homes a year in England with 100,000 being "genuinely affordable".

"This Conservative housing free-for-all gives developers a free hand to build what they want but ignore what local communities need," said John Healey, Labour's shadow housing secretary.

"Labour will give local people control over the housing that gets built in their area and ensure developers build the low-cost, high-quality homes that the country needs."


In one permitted development scheme at Newbury House in Ilford, an office block has been turned into 60 flats measuring as little as 13 sq metres each.

According to national space standards, the minimum floor area for a new one-bedroom one-person home is 37 sq metres.

Critics say the schemes can be damaging to residents' mental wellbeing, as well as being miles from amenities and conducive to crime.

At Terminus House - a converted office block in Harlow - crime jumped 45% in the first 10 months after people moved in and by 20% within that part of the town centre.

Tackling the housing crisis ?

But some developers warn that without permitted development many office to residential schemes would no longer be viable.

The government says the rules are helping tackle the housing crisis and allowing people to get on the housing ladder.

Of the 13,526 homes delivered under permitted development last year, more than three quarters were built outside of London

Marcus Jones, Conservative vice-chair for Local Government, said: "Labour's plans would cut house building and put a stop to people achieving homeownership.

"We are backing permitted development rights, which are converting dormant offices into places families can call home.

"Whilst Labour put politics before our families, the Conservatives are delivering the houses this country needs so every family has a place to call home."
Halifax Courier for this one :

Exclusive : Housing scheme " Has delivered £1 BILLION subsidy to leasehold sales " , says Labour.

A government housing scheme has been subsidising the sale of controversial leasehold properties to the tune of almost £1bn since 2013 – despite an official ban.

New analysis, conducted by Labour and revealed by The Yorkshire Post, shows that the Conservatives’ Help to Buy programme has enabled the sale of almost 18,000 new leasehold houses over the past six years.

Back in December 2017, Ministers announced “a ban on leaseholds for almost all new build houses” and pledged to write to developers “to strongly discourage the use of Help to Buy Equity loans for the purchase of leasehold houses”.

However, more than a year later, official statistics show leasehold houses are still being sold to buyers using Help to Buy loans.

According to official figures released earlier this week, 17,975 controversial leasehold houses have been bought through the Government’s Help to Buy scheme since 2013.

With average Help to Buy per-property funding of £54,630, this equates to an estimated £982m of Help to Buy cash going to leasehold houses.

In Yorkshire and the Humber, government money has funded the sale of 1,448 leasehold homes – the second highest figure in the country after the North-West where a huge 10,976 properties are affected.

Selling houses as leasehold means developers keep freehold ownership of the property and can charge home-owners hundreds of pounds in so-called ‘‘ground rents’’.

Homeowners are also often legally bound to ask and pay for the freeholder’s permission to make minor alterations to their own house.

Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey, who is the MP for Wentworth and Dearne, said: “This billion pound bung to developers selling rip-off leasehold houses makes a mockery of Ministers’ promises to ban these homes.

“The Government is not only giving developers the nod to sell these leasehold houses, they’re helping them do it with Help to Buy.

“The leasehold rip-off means people buy their home but find they don’t really own it. Ministers should put a stop to it, starting with an immediate block on Help to Buy cash for new leasehold houses.”

Responding to the findings, a spokesman for the housing department said: “Exploitative and unfair leasehold arrangements have no place in a modern housing market.

“We have made it clear to developers that Help to Buy funding should not be used for leasehold houses, and recent statistics show this practice is already reducing.”

Housing and Communities Secretary James Brokenshire last month vowed to crack down on unfair leasehold deals, with 40 leading property developers and freeholders backing the Government’s calls to reduce fees.

Speaking at the time, Mr Brokenshire claimed that the new pledge by leading figures in the housing industry would help to support existing and future leaseholders from having “onerous fees” imposed on them.

Labour has said that it will scrap a “get-out clause” which allows developers to avoid their obligations to provide decent social housing, putting up new “slums” instead.

Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey said the “permitted development” rule – intended to boost housebuilding – was being used to get round requirements to provide decent quality affordable housing.

Developers can bypass planning rules by converting commercial spaces into housing without council consent. Mr Healey said poor quality, “rabbit hutch” flats were being created, with 42,000 new housing units converted from offices since 2015.
Government set to miss public land housebuilding target by 95,000, says spending watchdog.

Labour describes government’s efforts as ‘pitiful’, and said auditors’ report displayed little evidence ministers can fix housing crisis.

Ministers are set to miss a crucial target to build homes on public-sector land by 95,000 by the end of the decade, according to a damning new report by the National Audit Office (NAO).

The spending watchdog outlined that plans to release government-owned land for 160,000 homes by 2020 are unlikely to be achieved.

Auditors at the NAO claimed that by December 2018, the government had only released land with a capacity for 38,166 homes.

This is expected to increase to around 65,000 by the end of next year – 60 per cent below the official target outlined by ministers.

“The government currently does not expect to reach the 160,000 target until after 2025,” the auditors add.

Although the government has so far failed to find enough land to build the promised homes, the report said, it will still meet a target to raise £5bn through the sell-off of public land.

Labour described the government’s efforts as “pitiful”, and said the auditors’ report displayed little evidence the current administration can fix the housing crisis.

Meg Hillier, the chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, said the government must “get its act together” if it is going to deliver the promised homes.

She continued: “Not only is its programme highly unlikely to meet its target by 2020, it is also unable to provide basic information about the number of affordable homes for key workers being built.

“It is also unacceptable that the government does not have a national picture of where proceeds from the land sales have gone.”

Responding to the report, Labour’s shadow housing minister John Healey said: “This is pitiful. If this Conservative government can’t even get homes built on the land it owns, then there is no hope that ministers can fix our country’s housing crisis.

“The homes that are being built on former public sites are too few and too expensive, with housing built on former NHS land that nurses can’t afford to live on.”

Housing minister Kit Malthouse said: “We have an urgent mission to build more homes for the next generation so they can realise the dream of home ownership. The latest figures show us delivering 222,000 new homes, more than in all but one of the last 31 years.

“Government departments have identified enough surplus public-sector lands for 160,000 new homes and our development accelerator Homes England is providing expert assistance to get these properties built more quickly.”
What a surprise ?

Grenfell Tower inquiry " Failing to deliver " as survivors and bereaved families " Lose faith ", lawyers warn.

Law firms accuse probe of showing " Complete disregard " for victims and their relatives and warn that, without urgent action, it will be " Shrouded in secrecy. "

A snippet :

Despite assurances that chair Sir Martin Moore-Bick was expecting to deliver his interim report on the inquiry’s first phase by spring, the Grenfell community still does not have a date for its release.

And while Sir Martin initially said he was aiming for the second part of the inquiry to start at the end of 2019, it will now be early 2020 before hearings resume.

The inquiry team has been aiming to produce the report, based on the first phase of the inquiry, before 14 June – the second anniversary of the fire.

But less than a quarter of the 200,000 documents relevant to this phase, which will examine the wider issues surrounding the fire, have been disclosed.

The delays will exacerbate concerns about delays to any charges being brought, as the Metropolitan Police have said they must take the final report of the public inquiry into account before submitting a file to the Crown Prosecution Service.
Grenfell Tower : Government to pay £200 MILLION for safer cladding.

The government is to cover the £200m bill of replacing Grenfell Tower-type cladding on about 150 private blocks in England with a safer alternative.

Housing Secretary James Brokenshire had previously said the bill should be footed by the owners, not the taxpayer.

But he acknowledged the long wait for remedial work to be carried out had caused anxiety and strain for people living in those high rises.

He said owners had been trying to offload the costs on to leaseholders.

You couldn't make this up !

WE , the taxpayers , being stung by the freeholders of these tower blocks ... many are offshore registered and / or
pension funds ... yet another cop out ???

By all means carry out the works ... then invoice the freeholders !!!
316 posts