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Housing : Social Tenants / BTL & HB Problems / Shortages / Grenfell Tower Fallout - Page 26 - Carers UK Forum

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

Discuss news stories and political issues that affect carers.
316 posts
Abandoned by housing policy, England’s " Kept-behind " towns are fighting back.

The strategy for building homes is so skewed towards the south, whole swathes of the country are having to go it alone.

English housing policy has one objective: build more.

The country needs extra, and better housing. Right? On the surface, it might seem an obvious objective. But where? And should better housing always mean more homes, rather than renewed homes and revitalised communities?

Currently, the government’s strategy is largely focused on areas facing what its housing agency calls “affordability pressures”. The rationale appears simple: build more, and assuredly house prices will fall.

That neatly ignores the fact that its heavily criticised “help-to-buy” scheme, offering subsidised loans of up to 20% of a property price (40% in London) has pushed up prices further and boosted the profits of the big house-builders.

More contentiously, though, the strategy of Homes England skews funding overwhelmingly towards the south-east – and away from other towns, cities and once-thriving industrial communities, largely in the north.

In short, England’s housing strategy is so partial it hardly passes for a policy, still less a plan to address whole swathes of the country. After 62 of the 73 local authority areas of the north voted to leave the EU three years ago, Theresa May promised a radical agenda in which “no community is left behind.” Yet what has emerged, in housing, is an unequal funding formula.

Carol Matthews, chair of Homes for the North (representing 17 large housing associations), lamented at a weekend conference in Newcastle upon Tyne that large chunks of the north and the Midlands are not eligible for 80% of Homes England funding – further exacerbating the north-south divide, and leaving more northern towns behind while “increasing demand and pressure in southern regions”.

This makes them, according to one delegate, not left behind, but “kept behind”. In other words, as a matter of policy, help for such places had been withdrawn, deliberately, or otherwise.

With national and local government hollowed out after nine years of austerity – and the abolition of regional development agencies, government regional offices and the effective scrapping of a national regeneration agency – it was heartening to be reminded at the conference, organised by the Town and Country Planning Association, that local endeavour can work wonders. Inspiring stories from two small Northumberland towns – Wooler and Amble – caught the imagination.

A community trust in the former has assets of almost £3m, owns high street shops, has delivered 18 affordable homes, and runs a large community hub incorporating a library and much more. Similarly, another trust in Amble, once a coal port, has bought and renewed shops, created a new town square, and built a “harbour village” with a variety of shops and cafes. People – yes, from the south – have moved in.

Until 2010, places like Wooler and Amble could count on the support of (now abolished) regional bodies. Northumberland, for instance, had a strategic partnership, funded by the county council and the local regional development agency. A dilapidated pier in Amble was rebuilt 20 years ago by the (then) national regeneration agency, English Partnerships.

About time, then, for a government policy reappraisal to make renewal in our kept-behind towns, cities and communities as important as new house-building.

• Peter Hetherington writes on communities and regeneration and is former chair of the TCPA
Manchester tower block residents to sue in fire safety row.

Exclusive : residents say it is unfair there is money to fix cladding but not other issues.

Residents of more than a dozen Manchester tower blocks are to sue the government for failing to protect them from fire amid rising frustration that thousands of people are still living in dangerous homes more than two years after the Grenfell Tower disaster.

Ministers have promised £600m to fund the removal of the type of combustible cladding that spread the fire at Grenfell, but checks since the tragedy have identified many high-rise blocks with other faults including wooden cladding and missing fire breaks, for which no public funding is yet being offered.

Leaseholders in 14 blocks in Manchester are facing bills of up to £80,000 each and are now working with lawyers to bring legal action against the government, arguing that it is unjust for only some residents to be bailed out when the problems appear to be systemic.

James Oates, 31, a leaseholder at the Skyline building, which has wooden cladding, said: “If building control signed off a building like this, it is not doing its job properly. It all stems back to the government. It seems strange they can announce a fund for ACM [cladding] but not other [problems]. It feels unjust. We are being told by Greater Manchester fire and rescue that if we don’t have a waking watch in place they would have to evacuate the building.”

Other affected blocks in Manchester include Burton Place and City Gate. Lawyers are understood to be exploring different avenues for the action, including whether residents’ right to “adequate housing” under a legally binding international treaty is being violated and whether the building regulations were fit for purpose.

“We feel cast aside in terms of the cladding lottery they have created,” said Fran Reddington, a leaseholder who is helping to lead the campaign. “Government isn’t stepping up to help. Some residents are facing £80,000 bills and we don’t have any other choice. Fire doesn’t distinguish between the different types of dangerous material but the government is doing just that.”

Families of those who died at Grenfell have also turned to the courts for justice. This month they announced they would sue the cladding and insulation manufacturers in the US courts for punitive and compensatory damages for alleged wrongful death.

The UK government has announced funds to replace aluminium composite material used as cladding, which has been found on 393 social, private and student residential blocks above 18 metres in height in England. It earmarked £400m for social housing and £200m for private blocks.

Leaseholders have been left in limbo by wrangling between the government, freeholders and housebuilders over who should pay to fix their homes. As of last month, none of the owners or developers of almost 100 of the privately owned towers with ACM had agreed to pay for safety works.

Scores more buildings, including low-rise wooden-clad flats in Barking that caught fire this month, have other fire safety faults. Many are wrapped in panels made of high-pressure laminate materials that can be combustible. Their flammability is currently being tested by the government.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said the funding for ACM was exceptional because of the unparalleled fire risk it posed.

“We have repeatedly and consistently made clear building owners are responsible for the safety of their buildings,” a spokesperson said. “We issued unambiguous advice to building owners 18 months ago to reinforce existing building safety requirements and tell building owners what to do to make sure their cladding system is safe. This advice was updated in December 2018.”

Suzanne Richards, Manchester city council’s executive member for housing and regeneration, said it was “disheartening” to hear that leaseholders in her city felt they had no other option than legal action.

“We have consistently said that all residents facing fire issues should be treated equally and not bear the burden of costs,” she said. “Residents should not be exposed to a cladding lottery and be forced to bear life-changing bills.”
The next MAJOR housing scandal is brewing ... very nicely ... TOXIC LEASEHOLD INTERESTS :

Trapped by a toxic leasehold: Kim and Craig are selling their £300k flat, but their buyer's bank won't approve a mortgage due to the £500 ground rent - and there are thousands like them.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/mortg ... -rent.html

Kim Healy and Craig Gibson were desperate to move into their new home before the birth of their first child.

The young couple from Binfield, Berkshire, had planned to move from their two-bedroom flat to a three-bedroom house on the same new-build estate as Kim's mother, so she could help with childcare following the birth in August.

But just weeks before they had hoped to move, their solicitor told them their buyer's application for a mortgage had been refused because the ground rent on the flat was too high.

When Kim, 29, and Craig, 35, asked their housebuilder, Shanly, to reduce the annual payment from £500 to £300 — which the buyer's lender would accept — the firm said they would need to pay more than £7,000.

'I was appalled,' says Kim. 'Even our solicitor told me she was shocked by the amount. For our buyers to achieve a saving of £200 a year, it will cost us 35 times than amount.'

The couple are among tens of thousands of families trapped in unsaleable homes due to onerous ground rent. This is an annual charge lease-holders must pay the freeholder — the person or company that owns the land the property is built on — which is stated in the lease terms and conditions.

In worst-case scenarios, ground rent can double every ten years — leaving many homeowners unable to sell their homes.

Several articles on this specific issue earlier in this thread !
Another one for us poor BTL folk to read and digest ?

Hundreds of thousands of tenants in unsafe homes, survey finds.

Citizens Advice research finds half of landlords don’t know or understand legal obligations.

Weak regulation of private renting has left hundreds of thousands of tenants living in mouldy or dangerous homes, Citizens Advice has warned.

A survey of English landlords and tenants conducted on behalf of the charity found that half of landlords do not know or understand their legal obligations. Meanwhile, renters aren’t aware of their rights or don’t feel able to enforce them.

The result, it said, is that many tenants end up living in homes with health-affecting hazards such as mould, or dangerous problems such as missing or inoperative smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, it said.

Citizens Advice on Wednesday called for a national housing body for private renting to set standards. This could include creating a home “MOT”, or the setting a “fit-and-proper person” test for landlords and standardising rental contracts, it said.

Last year the Guardian revealed that 90% of local authorities had failed to use new powers to fine rogue landlords over the previous year, suggesting tenants are being failed by a lax enforcement regime. Convicted landlords who had been ruled unfit to rent out their properties were continuing to operate by exploiting loopholes in the law.

Three-quarters of landlords questioned for the survey said they would be happy with a single national housing body responsible for setting standards, as it would make their job easier.

The report, titled Getting the House in Order, found that landlords are not meeting obligations to make the repairs for which they are responsible. A quarter of tenants questioned by Comres said their landlord failed to carry out an annual gas safety check, or make sure smoke and carbon monoxide alarms were working. About 60% of tenants had reported a problem in their home in the past two years that had not been fixed by the landlord as it should have been.

Gillian Guy, the Citizens Advice chief executive, said: “Too many private renters live in hazardous homes – often with potentially fatal flaws. The government must establish a national housing body to ensure landlords let property that meet legal standards, and gives renters the support they need when they don’t.”

A third of landlords questioned said they found it difficult to keep up with rules and regulations. Half (49%) did not know the potential penalty (a fine of up to £5,000) for not checking that smoke and carbon monoxide alarms were in working order on the first day of the tenancy.

Citizens Advice helped almost 60,000 people with issues related to private renting last year. One in four (24%) had issues getting repairs completed, and more than 2,500 were being harassed by their landlord.

The minister for housing and homelessness, Heather Wheeler, said: “This government is committed to cracking down on the small minority of landlords who are not giving tenants safe and secure places to live.

“We have given councils strong powers to make sure that when a property contains potentially serious health and safety risks, landlords must take immediate action.”
Government to axe leaseholds for new-build homes.

Housing minister says move will protect buyers from " Exploitative arrangements. "

All new-build houses will be sold on a freehold basis and ground rents on new flats will be slashed to zero, the government has confirmed.

Ministers said the moves would “put cash back into the pockets of future homeowners” and prevent them from being trapped in “exploitative arrangements”.

The announcement follows an official consultation held in the wake of widespread outrage about unfair abuses of the leasehold system. It was part of a package of measures unveiled on Thursday that also included proposals to make it easier for private tenants to transfer deposits directly between landlords when moving home.

There are about 4.2m residential leasehold properties in England, of which about 2.9m are flats, and the government first outlined plans for a clampdown in this area in July 2017.

This followed reports that tens of thousands of homebuyers had been saddled with spiralling ground rents which had in some cases left homes virtually unsaleable. Fees of up to £2,500 were demanded by some freeholders for permission to build an extension, and some homeowners have been asked for up to £35,000 to buy freeholds on recently built detached houses with long leaseholds.

James Brokenshire, the communities secretary, said the government was pushing ahead with axing leaseholds for all new houses, which would in future be sold as freehold unless there were “exceptional circumstances”.

Flats can continue to be sold as leasehold but ministers said they would reduce ground rents on future leases to zero, as opposed to an earlier proposal to cap them at a nominal £10 per year – down from the current average of about £300.

Meanwhile, to stop freeholders and managing agents taking as long as they want – and charging what they want – to provide leaseholders with the information they need to sell their home, ministers will introduce a new time limit of 15 working days and a maximum fee of £200.

The government said contracts relating to the help-to-buy scheme would be renegotiated to explicitly rule out the selling of new leasehold houses, other than in exceptional circumstances, to protect homebuyers from unscrupulous charges.

In addition, where buyers were incorrectly sold a leasehold home, consumers would be able to obtain their freehold outright at no extra cost.

However, it is not clear when the measures will formally take effect. Brokenshire said the government would be “pressing ahead as soon as parliamentary time allows”.

Meanwhile, ministers said that when some private tenants moved home, they found it a struggle to come up with a second deposit for their new landlord, so the government wanted to create a system that would allow someone’s deposit cash “to follow them from property to property”

Mmmm ... nothing on existing " Toxic " leasehold interests ... so far !
Grenfell and the long wait for a tenants’ watchdog.

Campaigners, including the chief executives of major charities, write to demand the creation a consumer regulator for social housing, in the wake of the Grenfell disaster.

Two years after the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower, bereaved, survivors and residents are growing increasingly frustrated that there has been no response to their demands for a new consumer regulator for social housing.

They want the loss of their loved ones to be a catalyst for positive change. Yet we are still awaiting meaningful action from the government as to how it will ensure tenants in social housing are listened to, and how it will genuinely strengthen the regulation of their landlords. Theresa May’s speech at the Chartered Institute of Housing conference (Opinion, 27 June) spoke of a stronger consumer regulation regime, but we need more than this.

If the 9 million social tenants in England are to feel safe in their homes, and assured they’ll receive the standard of service to which they’re entitled, we need a tough new regulator to enforce consumer housing standards. Governments have responded to protect consumers in this way before, creating the Food Standards Agency after a series of high-profile food deaths, and the Financial Conduct Authority following financial scandals.

Why should social tenants matter less? Tenants need to know that their wellbeing, health and safety will be protected, and standards rigorously enforced, by a regulator focused on working for them.

We call on the government to show social tenants that they matter and will no longer be ignored. When next steps for social housing are announced later this year, the government must go further than their initial proposals. We expect nothing less than a new consumer regulator.

Polly Neate CEO, Shelter
Ed Daffarn Grenfell United
Rev Dr Mike Long Notting Hill Methodist Church
Jon Sparkes CEO, Crisis
Rick Henderson CEO, Homeless Link
Ryan Shorthouse Director, Bright Blue
Ed Miliband MP Labour, Doncaster North
Lord Jim O’Neill
Samia Badani Co-chair, Notting Dale Residents Advisory Board
Rob Gershon Social housing tenant activist
David Tovey London Tenants’ Federation
Caroline Abrahams CEO, Age UK
Paul Farmer CEO, Mind
Miatta Fahnbulleh CEO, New Economics Foundation
Raji Hunjan CEO, Zacchaeus 2000 Trust
Jo Miller CEO, Doncaster Council
Professor Anne Power LSE Housing and Communities
Dr Stuart Hodkinson University of Leeds
Steve Hilditch The Campaign for Social Housing
Rev Paul Nicolson Taxpayers Against Poverty

Quite an impressive tombstone !
There are landlords ... and there are landladies ... some better known that others ?

Whilst all profits are passed to the Treasury , quess whose name is " Above the door ? "

Crown estate faces tenants' anger over rent hikes, evictions and repair delays.

Exclusive: Guardian finds Queen’s £14bn property portfolio has had more than 100 complaints over management of housing.

Ex-crown estate home has rent raised by 7% in a year.

Scores of complaints have been made about rented properties on royal land and tenants have faced more than 100 evictions, a Guardian investigation has found, prompting anger over how the Queen’s £14bn property portfolio is managed.

The crown estate, which helps bankroll the Queen by giving the monarch 25% of its profits, has sought to evict 113 tenants in the past five years so they can sell their homes for profit.

It comes after it has emerged on Tuesday that the taxpayer has footed a £2.4m bill to renovate Frogmore Cottage, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s official residence, according to royal accounts. While the royals have no direct oversight role in crown estate’s dealings, Prince William and Prince Charles have both spoken before about the importance of ensuring good quality housing is available for all.

Figures obtained by the Guardian show that the crown estate has received more than 100 complaints about its residential properties in just two years, including grievances over rent hikes, leaks, delays in repairs and faulty electrical goods.

One evicted tenant accused the crown estate – which made £329m profit last year – of “greed”. The retired police officer, who said he was left thousands of pounds out of pocket after being evicted, told the Guardian: “The crown estate are custodians, they are not a bloody commercial estate agent. They are custodians and therefore they have a social duty to the public and their communities.”

An investigation using data obtained through Freedom of Information laws reveals that:

The crown estate has made £1.1bn selling off more than 700 residential and commercial properties since 2014, with one private firm subsequently hiking rent well above inflation.

More than a quarter of a million pounds has been banked by the crown estate in housing benefit from just seven hard-up tenants.

Four tenants have sued the crown estate for breach of contract, including one claim worth half a million pounds.

The disclosures will be uncomfortable for senior royals who have previously expressed their concern over the state of private rental properties. In March, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited dilapidated housing in Blackpool and saw rain leaking through the windows of a property and holes in the ceiling. The third-in-line to the throne later said during the visit: “There is a sadder side to Blackpool,” adding: “And we shouldn’t skirt around these issues.”

Prince Charles has also spoken out in the past in favour of affordable housing for low-paid workers. In 2003, he said in a speech that “the lack of affordable rural housing is one of the most important issues facing the countryside”.

But a catalogue of complaints to the crown estate since 2017 show that tenants of properties on land deriving profits for the royals have raised grievances about a host of topics.

They include complaints about leaks in properties, faulty lights, noise and homeless people sleeping in a bin store in winter months. Other complaints include: a tenant being chased for arrears, rent hikes, delays in repairs, a defective gas cooker, “large volumes of flies” at a resident’s home and there being no hot water in the taps or shower at a property.

The crown estate received 71 complaints about residential properties in 2017-18 and 38 in 2018-19. The crown estate said its records did not distinguish between whether a complaint was made by a tenant or visitor to a property.

Over the same period, the crown estate received more than 300 complaints about its property portfolio – including commercial and residential leases – but pointed out the figure included grievances about visitor attractions, such as Great Windsor Park.

The crown estate issued 113 “notices to quit” to residential tenants from 2014 to 2018, including 97 in rural properties, nine in Windsor and seven in central London.

Other figures also reveal that the crown estate gained more than a quarter of a million pounds in housing benefit from just seven tenants. People renting in Camden, Runnymede and Windsor and Maidenhead have let property on royal land using housing benefit paid directly to the crown estate.

Since 2014, £253,092 has been paid to the crown estate in housing benefit. The majority of the payments were for five tenants in Camden, north London.

The Guardian has also established that four tenants have sued the crown estate for breach of contract, including one claim worth half a million pounds concerning a breach of “repairing obligation” in central London.

Retired police officer Peter Franklyn, 65, was evicted from the three-bed home he shared with his then wife in Taunton, Somerset, in 2014.

He explained how he was forced to sell £6,000 worth of woodwork tools well below market value as there was no space for them in the smaller property the couple moved to. “To me, the crown are not a commercial property company and have a duty to preserve and utilise properties for the benefit of society,” he said.

The crown estate, which runs the monarchy’s land holdings, gives 25% of its profits to the Queen from funds two years in arrears as part of the sovereign grant – the remainder goes to the Treasury. The grant for 2018-19, which is linked to the crown estate’s profits in 2016-17, was £82.2m. It is set to rise to £85.7m in 2020-21.

The Queen has no role in managing the crown estate but its accounts state that “the sovereign is an important stakeholder as regards good constitutional management and the standards maintained by the crown estate in the undertaking of its business”. The chief executive officer and chairman of the crown estate meet the Queen yearly to report performance.

A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said: “The crown estate is an independently run organisation. All profits are returned directly to the Treasury.”

A crown estate spokeswoman said: “We manage in excess of 9,000 leases across the country and we aim to maintain all our properties to high standard. We take customer feedback seriously and are thorough in recording all complaints – including minor issues – as part of continuing efforts to improve our service.”

In response to the eviction figures, the spokeswoman added: “The majority of all notices served were in 2014 as part of a rural residential sales programme. Although we worked hard to manage that process as well as possible for all those involved, we implemented a number of policies to help our tenants in any future sales, including … the opportunity to buy the property at market value; substantially increased notice periods – typically six months; rent deposits released early to assist with securing alternative accommodation; assistance and advice on locating new properties in the local area; flexibility to accommodate the specific circumstances of the individual.”

The spokeswoman said both commercial and residential properties are let at market rates, adding: “As we cannot borrow, we regularly sell both commercial and residential properties in order to raise capital to invest.”

And , when a certain landlady needed a multi million makeover on her main residence , guess who footed the bill ?

Buckingham Palace to get £369m refurbishment. Buckingham Palace is to undergo a 10-year refurbishment costing the taxpayer £369m, the Treasury has announced. The Queen will remain in residence during the work, to begin next April.

High time to bring this structure into the 21st. century and , like all other legislation , make it bite when needed ???
The fight for fair housing is finally shifting power from landlords to residents.

In the UK and beyond, movements targeting housing injustice are gathering momentum. Politicians ignore it at their peril.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know there is a housing crisis – and even if you have been, your rent has probably gone up. Despite house prices having fallen slightly as a result of diminished consumer confidence, housing continues to devour outrageous amounts of income. In the UK and elsewhere, many poor, working-class and even some middle-class households experience housing as unaffordable, exploitative and precarious.

Housing has been a site of injustice for so long that it is easy to think this condition is permanent. But across the world, activists are reinvigorating housing politics. Demands that have been marginalised are becoming mainstream. There appears to be a new level of awareness today that the residential is political. And there are some initial signs that the balance of power may finally be starting to shift away from landlords, developers and speculators, and towards tenants, activists and residents.

From community organisers to the United Nations, there is a growing momentum in housing politics. Grassroots organisations and tenants unions are being formed. Housing movements are gaining members and support. These efforts are beginning to have a real impact. Last month, following a tenacious campaign by activists, New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, signed a law strengthening rent regulation, bolstering protection against evictions and improving tenants’ rights. In Berlin, activists succeeded in pressuring the city’s Senate to approve a five-year rent freeze.

And in recent years, cities across the world such as Belo Horizonte, Montevideo, Valparaíso, Warsaw, Beirut and Jackson, Mississippi have seen mounting vote shares and some outright victories for candidates associated with the new municipalist movement, a contemporary update of the municipal socialist tradition whose central goals include participatory urban democracy, the right to the city and the right to housing.

In some places, a new political calculus seems to be emerging. Establishment figures such as Cuomo have now evidently decided it is more advantageous to defy the real estate lobby than to disregard tenants. Even Theresa May’s government ignored objections by landlord groups this April and announced a plan to abolish no-fault evictions. Real estate capital remains a major political force, but the power of residents and housing activists is on the rise.

As a result, strategies that were seen as non-starters even a few years ago are now on the agenda. Barcelona’s leftwing mayor, Ada Colau, expropriated an empty flat owned by the bank BBVA and has promised more municipal takeovers. The Canadian province British Columbia has introduced a speculation and vacancy tax. Oregon has established state-wide rent controls. More than a dozen countries have piloted some form of unconditional housing for the homeless.

These are preliminary steps that clash with other government priorities, and not all of them will succeed. But they set the stage for deeper changes. There’s now serious discussion of renationalisation, eviction moratoriums and new public housing offered to everyone as a right.

This is not to say that there has yet been any significant improvement in the process of finding and maintaining a home in most big cities. And housing movements have also faced disappointing setbacks. In May, the municipalist platform in Madrid lost power in local elections. Voters in Barcelona failed to deliver a majority for Colau and and her programme of higher public investment in housing, punitive fines for owners of empty apartments, and affordable housing quotas for new private developments, though she remains in power as part of a coalition.

But even if housing activists’ recent electoral record has been uneven, it is clear that housing is being politicised in new ways. Local branches of the Labour party and the Democratic Socialists of America have led campaigns around housing. Feminists and antiracism activists have highlighted the ways in which the housing crisis reinforces and in turn is reinforced by patriarchy and white supremacy. Proponents of the Green New Deal have put housing justice at the core of their debates.
The answer to the UK’s homelessness crisis is painfully simple: give people homes

All of these developments herald a new direction for housing. Since the 1970s, housing systems across the world have been moving towards models dominated by owner occupation and private renting. Developers, speculators, banks and other financial actors have become increasingly powerful. In the process, residential space has been turned into a commodity for speculation and exchange. Public housing, cooperatives and other residential alternatives have been sold, demolished or aggressively underfunded.

The ideological consensus of the neoliberal era has been that housing should be privately controlled, debt-fuelled and highly unequal. It will take a lot of work to dismantle this system and build an alternative based on the idea of a universal right to good housing.

But housing is not going to disappear from the political agenda anytime soon. It is becoming both more central to contemporary political economies and less accessible to many households, creating ongoing opportunities for activists. The housing crisis is lurking just below the surface of many of today’s political currents, from socialism to populism. The idea that the home has special ethical and social significance, and therefore should be available to all as a matter of right, can draw support from many political positions and create new alliances.

The housing question is not going away. The resurgence of housing movements, and the fact that housing is increasingly seen as a site for political struggle, are signs of hope on an otherwise bleak political horizon. It is an issue that established political actors ignore at their peril.

• David Madden is an associate professor of sociology and the co-director of the Cities programme at the London School of Economics, and co-author of In Defense of Housing.
Health of older people suffering in poor housing, MPs warn

Cold, damp and other hazards exacerbate physical and mental ill-health, report says

More than 2 million older people are suffering physical and mental ill health and even death as a consequence of living in substandard and non-accessible homes, according to a cross-party group of MPs.

Substandard housing costs the NHS £1.4bn every year with cold, damp and other hazards causing falls and exacerbating conditions such as heart disease, strokes, respiratory illnesses and arthritis as well as contributing to poor mental health, according to an in-depth inquiry by the all-party parliamentary group for ageing and older people.

“Many older people are living in unsafe, unsuitable and unhealthy accommodation with little hope of being able to move somewhere better or improve their homes,” said Rachael Maskell MP, chair of the group. “Unless we work to find tangible solutions, older people and some of the most vulnerable in society will continue to live in substandard and unsuitable accommodation, the implications of which could be devastating to their physical, mental and social wellbeing.”

The report into decent and accessible homes for older people comes after an in-depth inquiry over the last year into the link between health and housing, home ownership, supported housing, and the private rented sector.

The inquiry also predicted that the number of older people renting in the private sector would soar in the coming years – often in unsafe, unsuitable and unhealthy accommodation.

Currently households comprising people aged over 65 account for less than 10% of all those living in the private rented sector, but their numbers are reportedly rising fast: a recent survey by the National Landlords Association found that the numbers of retired people in the UK moving into the private rented sector had increased by 200,000 over the last four years.

The report recommends a national housing strategy to help to improve housing standards for this and future generations of older people.

Lady Greengross, a cross-bench peer said: “Many older people are living in unsafe and unhealthy accommodation, and have little hope of being able to move somewhere better.

“To tackle this, more older people should have the option of living in sheltered or supported housing. Unless we work on sustainable solutions, vulnerable older people will continue to live in substandard accommodation, the implications of which could be devastating to their physical, mental and social wellbeing.”

Barbara Keeley, the shadow cabinet minister for social care and mental health said: “This report has highlighted the clear link between housing, health and care, and that living in poor quality housing can have a detrimental impact on older people’s physical and mental wellbeing.

“There are more than a million people aged over 65 in the UK with an unmet care need. For them, everyday essential tasks like getting out of bed, going to the toilet or getting dressed can be made harder by poor housing. Poor housing puts increased strain on an underfunded care system and can result in unnecessary hospital admissions.

“We need to see action now to create decent and accessible homes that meet the needs of the ageing population. By providing suitable housing for older people, we can prevent their health from deteriorating,” she added.

Lady Jolly, a Liberal Democrat peer, said: “There are increasing numbers of older people living in the private rented sector who are struggling with rising rents, insecure tenancies and a lack of social or supported housing to move into.

“We have to consider whether this sector can be suitable for all older private tenants, especially those with low incomes developing care and support needs. We urgently need to reform security of tenure for all private tenants as this will play a key role in improving conditions and accessibility for growing numbers of older people living in privately rented homes,” she said.

Andrew Selous MP, a member of the health and social care committee, said: “Everyone should be able to live in a decent, healthy, accessible and adaptable home that allows them to receive the right health and care services at home. It is important that we improve the conditions of our current housing stock so that it works for the older people living in them.”

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government refused a request to comment.
UK housing crisis deepens as benefit claimants priced out by high rents.

Benefit freeze is making London and Manchester increasingly unaffordable.

Britain’s housing crisis has hit a new low with not one of the single rooms available for private rent in large parts of London and Greater Manchester within the budget of people on housing benefit.

None of 87 rooms for rent in outer south-west London – which includes areas such as Feltham and Hanworth – were affordable for people relying on local housing allowance (LHA) and neither were any of the rooms in the southern Greater Manchester area, including Stockport and Wythenshawe, according to analysis of official 2018 data by London Councils, the local government association for the capital.

LHA is relied upon by 1.2m households to rent private accommodation but it has been frozen since 2016 and will continue to be frozen until at least 2020 as part of welfare cuts.

Council bosses have said that with private rents continuing to rise, sharp falls in affordability over the last three years are causing homelessness and child neglect as families cut back on essentials including food to make up rent shortfalls.

In Swindon and Newbury only 2% of one-bedroom flats available on the private rental market are now affordable, and in Northampton just 3%. Fewer than one in 10 three-bedroom family homes are affordable in Ipswich, Milton Keynes, Rugby, Luton and Cambridge.

In the capital, the plunge in affordability has been greatest in outer north-east London, which includes Ilford, Dagenham and Romford. In 2016, 30% of one- and two-bedroom homes were affordable, but fewer than 2% are now

Londoners on housing allowance were typically finding themselves £50 a week short and unable to pay their rent, London Councils said. Barking and Dagenham council reported a 200% rise in the number of people approaching them for help with housing over the last year.

Muhammed Butt, London Councils’ executive member for welfare, said the housing benefit freeze was “fuelling London’s skyrocketing rates of homelessness”.

“Pressures on household finances are immense and are a crucial factor in the increase in homelessness,” he said, adding that the number of homeless households in the capital was 50% higher in 2018 than at the start of the decade.

Mark Fowler, the director of community solutions at Barking and Dagenham council, said: “This is leaving people in a more precarious position. It means less money for food and clothing. You can see an increase in the neglect of children.”

The work and pensions secretary, Amber Rudd, told parliament in March she had concerns about the impact of the housing allowance on affordability and would discuss it with the chancellor before the budget, but the freeze remains in place.

In outer east London, which includes areas such as Walthamstow and West Ham, a quarter of rents were affordable for people relying on benefit looking for a one-bed place in 2016, but that has since fallen to less than 2%.

The median cost of a two-bedroom flat in outer east London, which includes Barking, is £316 per week. The maximum amount payable by housing benefit is £244. In Bristol and Cambridge, only 5% of the two-bedroom flats were affordable, and in Stevenage and central Northamptonshire it was just 4%.

“There is a gap between LHA and the bottom third of rents in 97% of areas across the country,” said Greg Beales, the campaign director at Shelter. “When housing benefit is so low that people are having to find over £50 of week to cover even the lowest rents, they face grim decisions between food, electric bills and keeping a roof over their head.”

Shelter, the housing and homelessness charity, is calling on the government to lift the freeze to stop more people falling into poverty and homelessness. It acknowledged the government had provided up to 3% extra for about 140,000 households hit hardest by the LHA rate freeze, but said this was not enough.

A government spokesperson said: “Providing quality and fair social housing is an absolute priority. The government increased more than 360 local housing allowance rates this year, by targeting extra funding at low-income households. We are also investing £4.8bn to build more affordable properties in London and have abolished the housing revenue account borrowing cap, giving councils across the country the tools they need to deliver a new generation of affordable housing.”
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