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

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Grenfell Tower survivor tells minister: you are doing almost nothing.

James Brokenshire accused of not doing enough to prevent a repeat of the disaster.


A snippet :

The housing secretary, James Brokenshire, has been angrily confronted by a Grenfell Tower survivor and accused of failing to do enough to prevent a repeat disaster.

The day after a fire raged through balconies at a housing block in Barking, Willie Thompson, who escaped the Grenfell disaster two years ago, warned Brokenshire that he would be held responsible if it happened again and said: “There’s another Grenfell in the post and it is going to land on your door.”

“You guys are doing almost nothing,” Thompson told the minister responsible for building safety at an event in parliament to mark the second anniversary of the fire that claimed 72 lives. “Does it take another Grenfell?”

“No,” Brokenshire said, who admitted the responsibility “weighs heavily on me” and later described the Barking fire as “deeply concerning”. “It takes a lot longer than we would have wanted it to. I accept your challenge on how we speed this up.”

“But I bet you are not losing any sleep at night,” Thompson, a father of two, angrily replied. “Parents are afraid their children will die … One of my best friends in the world was flashing his light [from his flat in Grenfell]. That man never came out. Take that image to bed with you.” Thompson then walked away.

The highly charged exchange came as survivors and the bereaved expressed frustration at the pace of changes to the culture over housing. On Sunday the Guardian revealed that a month before the fire at Barking Riverside, residents asked Bellway, the builder, to carry out fire safety checks, but were told there was nothing to worry about.



Yep ... as I said yesterday ... nobody would disagree with you !
Supreme court rules in favour of single mother declared " Intentionally homeless. "

Finding against Birmingham council sets precedent in cases of people unable to afford rent.
The supreme court has ordered a council to reconsider its decision to declare a single mother of four to be “intentionally homeless” because she was unable to afford the rent.

The unanimous ruling by five justices sets a significant precedent that will expand the housing responsibilities of underfunded local authorities.

The case of Terryann Samuels, whose children are all under the age of 16, also highlights the way in which the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) repeatedly refused to support her appeal even though she was in immediate danger of being turned out on to the street.

Ministers have consistently said that legal aid remains available to those in danger of losing their homes ever since the 2012 Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act introduced swingeing cuts to funding.

The supreme court judges specifically criticised the “very substantial delay in bringing the case to court” caused by the LAA’s refusal and belated change of mind.

Samuels applied to Birmingham city council as homeless after she had been evicted from her previous, private accommodation because of rent arrears. There was a shortfall in her housing benefit of around £150 a month and she could not afford to bridge the gap by using her other benefits payments.

Delivering judgment, Lord Carnwath said the council officer who reviewed her case had not considered her needs other than housing. “He asked whether there was sufficient ‘flexibility’ to enable her to cope with the shortfall of £151.49 between her rent and her housing benefit,” he said.

“However, the question was not whether, faced with that shortfall, she could somehow manage her finances to bridge the gap; but what were her reasonable living expenses [other than rent], that being determined having regard to both her needs and those of the children, including the promotion of their welfare.”

Her other expenses could not be regarded “as other than reasonable”, he said, given that benefit levels “are not generally designed to provide a surplus above subsistence needs for a family”.

Samuels, who was provided with temporary accommodation pending the outcome of the proceedings, said: “I am delighted with the decision of the court. I have been fighting for so long for this, and have been suffering from the uncertainty of not knowing what will happen to me and the children.”

Mike McIlvaney, her solicitor at the Community Law Partnership in Birmingham, said: “This important case would never have reached the supreme court if the Legal Aid Agency had had its way. Decisions such as these are churned out across the country on a daily basis, finding individuals to be intentionally homeless in circumstances where they can’t meet the rent.”

The chief executive of Shelter, Polly Neate, said: “We’re very pleased to see the court recognise that it’s not lawful to expect families to rely on money they need for their basic living expenses to pay their rent when their housing benefit can’t cover it. This is an important judgment for the future of the welfare system.

“When someone is forced to choose between rent and keeping their children fed, they cannot be viewed as ‘intentionally’ homeless when they choose the latter. Housing benefit cuts mean it has not kept pace with rents for years – it now doesn’t cover a modest rent in a shocking 97% of the country – and cases like this are the result.

“We are hearing from more and more families who are choosing between rent and absolute necessities like heating and food. We urge the government to lift the freeze and make sure benefits cover at least the lowest third of the rental market.”
Help to Buy : " Most users did not need help report finds."

Almost two-thirds of homebuyers who used the government's Help to Buy scheme could have bought a home without it, an official report has said.


However, they may not have been able to buy the house they wanted without the help, the report from the National Audit Office (NAO) found.

It also found that one in 25 of participants had household incomes of over £100,000.

The scheme did help boost the profits of building firms, the NAO said.

It was too early to determine if the scheme had delivered value for money for the taxpayer, the report said.

"Help To Buy has increased home ownership and housing supply, particularly for first-time buyers," Gareth Davies, head of the NAO, said.

"However, a proportion of participants could have afforded to buy a home without the government's help.


"The scheme has also exposed the government to significant market risk if property values fall, as well as tying up a significant public financial capacity.

"The government's greatest challenge now is to wean the property market off the scheme with as little impact as possible on its ambition of creating 300,000 homes a year by 2021," he said.


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The scheme comes in two forms, Help to Buy loans and Help to Buy Individual Savings Accounts (Isas).

In the first version, the government lends up to 20% of the cost of a newly built property, or 40% within Greater London, so buyers need only a 5% deposit and a 75% mortgage to buy it.

Those purchasing a new-build home are not charged interest for the first five years.

The Help to Buy ISA was launched later, in December 2015, and is open to first-time buyers in the UK.

Savers receive a 25% bonus from the government when they withdraw the money they have saved to buy their first property. The maximum purchase price is £250,000, or £450,000 in London.

The maximum government bonus that someone can receive is £3,000, if they have saved £12,000.

"By 2023, the government will have invested up to £29bn in the scheme, tying up cash which cannot be used elsewhere," the NAO said.

Bigger firms made the most of the scheme.

Between 2013 and 2018 more than half the sales in England made by Redrow, Bellway, Taylor Wimpey, Barratt and Persimmon involved Help to Buy.


'Housing bubble'

Persimmon is the biggest beneficiary, with almost 15% of the sales made under the Help to Buy Scheme.

Persimmon saw its annual profits top £1bn last year.

Mike Amey, managing director of global investment management firm Pimco, has told the BBC that profit on a house sold by Persimmon had trebled since Help to Buy was introduced, "roughly from £20,000 to £60,000".

Fran Boait, executive director of campaigning body Positive Money, said: "It's now beyond clear that rather than helping those who can't afford to buy a home, Help To Buy has mainly been a subsidy for a housing bubble, benefiting property developers and existing home owners."

The government's investment is expected to be returned from the scheme by 2032 after is closes in 2023. However, the size of the loans mean it is very much exposed to the performance of the housing market.

From April 2021, the scheme will be restricted just to first-time buyers.



Follow the money ... who has benefited most ???
" This building has no sprinklers " : Grenfell United's 12-storey high guerrilla messages.

Group beamed huge projections on high-rises to highlight fire safety crisis.



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Yep ... good news ... first year for no £ 85 fee for renewing my 12 month tenancy ... a mere electronic signature on a standard template !

Tenant fee ban to save renters £192m a year, study finds.

" Until this point, the majority of letting agents have essentially been taking extra money above and beyond any justified fees for no additional work. "


“For far too long letting agents have essentially been writing their own rules when it comes to the fees they charge tenants for all manner of things, and as a result, it has left a very sour taste in the mouths of many in the rental sector,” said Tom Woollard, co-founder and chief executive of Bunk, which carried out the research.

“The ban on tenant fees is undoubtedly a step in the right direction as we now have a clear piece of legislation that letting agents, landlords and tenants can all adhere to with a good level of accountability when this isn’t the case.
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There are high-rise buildings with ACM cladding in 62 local authority areas across England.

Greenwich, Tower Hamlets and Salford were all found to have at least 20 buildings each with the cladding.

Brent, Newham, Wandsworth, Westminster and Manchester have between 11 and 20 each, while Camden, Haringey, Islington, Lambeth, Leeds and Liverpool have between six and 10 each.
Adding more fuel to the housing crisis ?

Soaring second home ownership hitting young people.

The number of British people who own a second home, buy-to-let or overseas property has doubled since 2001, says think tank the Resolution Foundation.



While the number of millennials who own a home continues to fall, one in 10 people now own an additional property.

Just 37% of people born in the 1980s managed to buy a home at the age of 29, compared with half of those born in the 1960s.

Wealth from owning a second home has risen since 2001 to almost £1 trillion.

Buy-to-let property is now the most common form of property wealth, having grown by 58% since 2006-08, the report found.

However, when looking at the number of people who can afford an additional property, millennials match the property ownership rates of other generations.

This suggests that only younger people who are rich can afford a second home - a sign, according to the foundation, that property wealth is not distributed fairly across the country.


'Wealth gap'

The Resolution Foundation wants to see policymakers step in to reform the housing market, in particular buy-to-let, in order to rebalance the housing market back towards first-time buyers.

"The sheer scale of additional property wealth is an important driver of rising wealth gaps across Britain," says George Bangham, policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation.

"While young people in particular are less likely to own their own home than previous generations, those that do own are more likely to have more than one property.

"And as the huge stock of second homes, buy-to-let and overseas properties starts to be passed on to younger generations, Britain risks becoming a country where getting ahead in life depends as much on what you inherit, as what you earn."




Housing ... always been the joker in the pack when considering alternative ways of reducing inequality in society.

For generations to come , a problem that will resonant ... and be a constant barrier to achieving a more equal society.
Gwynedd housing : Prefab pods plan to tackle housing demand.



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Energy-efficient prefabricated "pods" could help reduce a council's housing waiting list, if approved by planners.

Gwynedd Council's housing department want to install four pods on the former site of Caernarfon's Ysgol Pendalar.

The authority it could pave the way for a bigger variety of homes in the town, with the pods also being moveable.

The design of the one-bedroom pods is based on building principles which cut heating requirements and the resulting bills by up to 90%.

Councillor Craig ab Iago, the cabinet member for housing, said: "This is an exciting scheme and I'm proud of the work of the council's housing staff who have developed this innovative model for the pods.

"Because of the design, the buildings would create their own energy and there would be very low heating costs.

"The scheme underlines our desire to ensure a range of affordable housing that is low cost to maintain for tenants."

The decision will ultimately lie in the hands of Gwynedd's planning committee, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

In March, officers proposed the authority started building council houses again to tackle a waiting list of 2,000 people.



My immediate reation ?

When can they start flattening most of Worksop and building these ???
Most public sector workers can only afford to own home in 8% of UK towns, report finds.

Affordability gap widens as house prices outpace earnings growth for nurses, teachers and police.


Most nurses, teachers and emergency service workers can only afford to own a home in 8 per cent of towns across the UK, a new report shows.

An analysis of housing affordability for five public sector professions across 515 towns, including 31 London boroughs, shows just one in 12 of these areas were affordable – down from one in four (24 per cent) in 2014.

In some areas, a home typically costs more than 18 times a key worker's average annual wage, according to the findings.

Halifax, which looked at average earnings for nurses, teachers, police officers, firefighters and paramedics, said the widening gap in affordability was due to house prices outpacing earnings growth for public sector workers.

Average house prices increased by 32 per cent between 2014 and 2019 - more than four times the average key worker's annual earnings growth, which stands at 7 per cent.

Halifax made the calculations on the basis that areas where house prices were typically less than four times average annual earnings were deemed affordable, while those above this ratio were seen as unaffordable.

Their analysis shows that only 3 per cent of towns were found to be affordable for nurses – compared with 12 per cent in 2014.

Meanwhile, some 9 per cent of towns were deemed affordable for teachers, 15 per cent for paramedics, 18 per cent for police officers and just 5 per cent for firefighters.

The research found that the most affordable towns in Britain for public sector workers were in the northwest of England, while the least affordable were in London and the southeast, where house prices are significantly higher than the national average.

Andrew Mason, head of mortgages at Halifax, said: “Over the past five years, UK wages have not increased in line with average house prices across the UK and this has had a knock-on impact on affordability for key workers.”

It comes as years of wage freezes and pay rises below inflation in the public sector have seen a growing number of teachers, nurses and other public service workers unable to afford to buy basic essentials.

The Independent revealed last year that the number of public sector workers having to rely on charity handouts to make ends meet had soared by more than 100 per cent in seven years as stagnating wages failed to match the rise in living costs.

The government has been approached for comment.



At last , a glimmer of hope for the lesser prosperous areas ... an influx of public servants ?

Think again.

Most on " Higher " salaries than the norm will set up roots in towns like ... Worksop ... and then commute into higher paying
areas such as Sheffield / Lincoln / Nottingham ... as there are virtually no vacancies in towns like ... Worksop.
Better late than never ???

Liverpool to build new council houses for first time in 30 years.


The council is pressing ahead after the government confirmed a £735m debt - wiped when the authority transferred its properties to housing associations - will not be reactivated.

Mayor Joe Anderson has pledged to build 10,000 houses, but did not specify how many would be council homes.

The city needs to develop 30,000 new homes by 2030, the council said.

Councils have been able to borrow more to build homes since April after the government removed a cap on borrowing limits.

Housing minister Kit Malthouse wrote to Mr Anderson, saying he was "pleased to see the ambition and enthusiasm" of the city "in engaging with the urgent process of delivering the new homes".

Mr Anderson said: "Liverpool pioneered public sector housing. I am extremely proud that, 150 years on from the city leading the way on social properties, we are now able to do so again."

He said "affordable, social, properties are desperately needed" but "buying is not for everyone".

"We need to rebalance the city's housing market with a wider choice of the homes that people need," he added.

A set of refurbished houses on Webster Road in Picton are the first to form part of the scheme.


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The boom continued when the Conservatives returned to power in 1951. Then "right to buy" began to take off and the number of council houses sold in England went from 7,000 in 1970 to nearly 46,000 in 1972.

Even during the late eighties, local authorities were responsible for more than 40% of house builds - but by By 2017, it dropped to less than 2%, according to government statistics.

Now that existing limits on councils' ability to borrow money have been lifted and the wiping of prior debts confirmed, council house building is expected to grow again.

274 posts