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

Posted: Wed Jul 17, 2019 8:32 am
by Chris From The Gulag
UK's renting millennials face homelessness crisis when they retire.

Report finds at least 630,000 will be unable to afford private rents on their pension income.

More than 600,000 members of so-called ‘Generation Rent’ are facing an “inevitable catastrophe” of homelessness when they retire, according to the first government inquiry into what will happen to millennials in the UK who have been unable to get on the housing ladder as they age.

People’s incomes typically halve after retirement. Those in the private rented sector who pay 40% of their earnings in rent could be forced to spend up to 80% of their income on rent in retirement.

If rents rise at the same rate as earnings, the inquiry found that 52% of pensioners in the private rental sector will be paying more than 40% of their income on rent by 2038. This will mean that at least 630,000 millennials are unable to afford their rent.

They will find themselves homeless or with no choice but to move into temporary accommodation, at the state’s expense, according to the report by the all-party parliamentary group on housing and care for older people.

“The number of households in the private rented sector headed by someone aged over 64 will more than treble over the next 25 to 30 years,” said Richard Best, the chair of the group. “But unless at least 21,000 suitable homes are built a year, there will be nowhere affordable for them to live. The consequence is bound to be homelessness for some.”

The report also forecasts that, in terms of quality of accommodation, the number of older households living in unfit and unsuitable private rented accommodation could leap from about 56,000 to 188,000 in 20 years’ time and to 236,500 in 30 years’ time. And it warns that the UK is headed towards an ‘inevitable catastrophe for the pensioners of tomorrow”.
More than 600,000 members of so-called ‘Generation Rent’ are facing an “inevitable catastrophe” of homelessness when they retire, according to the first government inquiry into what will happen to millennials in the UK who have been unable to get on the housing ladder as they age.

People’s incomes typically halve after retirement. Those in the private rented sector who pay 40% of their earnings in rent could be forced to spend up to 80% of their income on rent in retirement.

If rents rise at the same rate as earnings, the inquiry found that 52% of pensioners in the private rental sector will be paying more than 40% of their income on rent by 2038. This will mean that at least 630,000 millennials are unable to afford their rent.

They will find themselves homeless or with no choice but to move into temporary accommodation, at the state’s expense, according to the report by the all-party parliamentary group on housing and care for older people.

“The number of households in the private rented sector headed by someone aged over 64 will more than treble over the next 25 to 30 years,” said Richard Best, the chair of the group. “But unless at least 21,000 suitable homes are built a year, there will be nowhere affordable for them to live. The consequence is bound to be homelessness for some.”

The report also forecasts that, in terms of quality of accommodation, the number of older households living in unfit and unsuitable private rented accommodation could leap from about 56,000 to 188,000 in 20 years’ time and to 236,500 in 30 years’ time. And it warns that the UK is headed towards an ‘inevitable catastrophe for the pensioners of tomorrow”.
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Substandard housing is already known to be a direct cause of death for many older people: at least 53,000 winter deaths of old people over the last five years have been attributed to conditions related to living in a cold home.

While retired people in social housing are more likely to live in affordable, decent homes, the report – Rental Housing for an Ageing Population – says there is not nearly enough of this housing even now.

“We see the likelihood of a significant shortfall in the available places within the current stock since, at present, few retirement schemes are being created,” said Lord Best.

The report calls for a national strategy to avoid a “crisis of pensioner homelessness”. The authors want to see least 38,000 new rental homes specifically for older people built over the next 30 years – more than 1.1 million extra homes by the late 2040s.

Brendan Sarsfield, the chief executive of Peabody, who was a member of the inquiry, said: “The problem with the private rented sector is that people think it is the solution. It isn’t. Insecure tenancies and expensive rents mean that very often it is not a suitable tenure for older people.

“Many older people today were lucky enough to be able to buy their own home and watch the value of it grow. But for the pensioners of tomorrow there is little chance of being able to do that,” he added. “The broken housing market and failure of past governments to adequately fund social housing means that we are going to see many more older people struggling to pay the rent.”

Kate Henderson, the chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said: “There is now a rapidly growing number of older people who are struggling just as much as the younger generation. This must be a wakeup call to the government that more money for building social housing, and especially housing that is fit for retirement, is desperately needed.

“Our latest research shows that the government must invest £12.8bn in building new social housing every year if they are to ensure all generations have somewhere secure and affordable to live.”

George McNamara, the director of policy and influencing at Independent Age, said: “Our research has shown that the lives of too many older renters are blighted by insecure tenancies, woeful living conditions, dealing with unscrupulous landlords and constant financial stress.”

Caroline Abrahams, the charity director of Age UK, agreed, adding: “The government needs to also invest more in good-quality social rented housing that offers security, affordability and independence to people who need it.”

Dr Rachael Docking, senior programme manager for homes at the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “We have an urgent challenge on our hands to prevent people in later life being pushed into poverty or trapped in unsuitable housing in the years to come.”

Polly Neate, the chief executive of Shelter, said: “This country is failing to build social homes at the rate we need them, leaving older generations who missed the homeownership boat with little choice but to rent privately.

“On top of being notoriously expensive and unstable, too many privately rented homes simply aren’t up to scratch either – condemning older people to live out their retirement in places which are cold, damp or infested with mice.”

The housing minister, Heather Wheeler, said: “We have given councils more than £2.7bn since 2012-13 so that people, including older and disabled people, can live independently and safely at home.

“The recent introduction of the Homes Act means a fairer deal for both tenants and landlords as we strengthen all tenants’ rights.”
Substandard housing is already known to be a direct cause of death for many older people: at least 53,000 winter deaths of old people over the last five years have been attributed to conditions related to living in a cold home.

While retired people in social housing are more likely to live in affordable, decent homes, the report – Rental Housing for an Ageing Population – says there is not nearly enough of this housing even now.

“We see the likelihood of a significant shortfall in the available places within the current stock since, at present, few retirement schemes are being created,” said Lord Best.

The report calls for a national strategy to avoid a “crisis of pensioner homelessness”. The authors want to see least 38,000 new rental homes specifically for older people built over the next 30 years – more than 1.1 million extra homes by the late 2040s.

Brendan Sarsfield, the chief executive of Peabody, who was a member of the inquiry, said: “The problem with the private rented sector is that people think it is the solution. It isn’t. Insecure tenancies and expensive rents mean that very often it is not a suitable tenure for older people.

“Many older people today were lucky enough to be able to buy their own home and watch the value of it grow. But for the pensioners of tomorrow there is little chance of being able to do that,” he added. “The broken housing market and failure of past governments to adequately fund social housing means that we are going to see many more older people struggling to pay the rent.”

Kate Henderson, the chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said: “There is now a rapidly growing number of older people who are struggling just as much as the younger generation. This must be a wakeup call to the government that more money for building social housing, and especially housing that is fit for retirement, is desperately needed.

“Our latest research shows that the government must invest £12.8bn in building new social housing every year if they are to ensure all generations have somewhere secure and affordable to live.”

George McNamara, the director of policy and influencing at Independent Age, said: “Our research has shown that the lives of too many older renters are blighted by insecure tenancies, woeful living conditions, dealing with unscrupulous landlords and constant financial stress.”

Caroline Abrahams, the charity director of Age UK, agreed, adding: “The government needs to also invest more in good-quality social rented housing that offers security, affordability and independence to people who need it.”

Dr Rachael Docking, senior programme manager for homes at the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “We have an urgent challenge on our hands to prevent people in later life being pushed into poverty or trapped in unsuitable housing in the years to come.”

Polly Neate, the chief executive of Shelter, said: “This country is failing to build social homes at the rate we need them, leaving older generations who missed the homeownership boat with little choice but to rent privately.

“On top of being notoriously expensive and unstable, too many privately rented homes simply aren’t up to scratch either – condemning older people to live out their retirement in places which are cold, damp or infested with mice.”

The housing minister, Heather Wheeler, said: “We have given councils more than £2.7bn since 2012-13 so that people, including older and disabled people, can live independently and safely at home.

“The recent introduction of the Homes Act means a fairer deal for both tenants and landlords as we strengthen all tenants’ rights.”

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

Posted: Thu Jul 18, 2019 8:36 am
by Chris From The Gulag
Delays to safety reforms " Risk a repeat of Grenfell disaster. "

MPs say ministers must work faster as hundreds of towers still have dangerous cladding.


Ministers are risking people’s lives because safety reforms after the Grenfell Tower disaster have been too slow and “simply not good enough”, a cross-party group of MPs has warned.

More than two years since the fire claimed the lives of 72 people, the government is taking too long to remove potentially dangerous cladding from hundreds of other housing blocks and, despite promising in July 2017 to “urgently assess” building regulations, it has taken 23 months to merely publish proposals for consultation, a damning parliamentary inquiry concludes.

“The government must pick up the pace of reform, before it is too late and we have another tragedy on the scale of Grenfell Tower,” the Commons housing, communities and local government committee said on Wednesday.

The government’s own figures revealed that in May there were still 328 high-rise residential and publicly owned buildings in England fitted with cladding similar to that which burned with such ferocity at Grenfell. But the pace of repairs has been so slow that only one was fixed last month, leaving tens of thousands of people living in blocks wrapped in materials that the government says breach building safety rules.

Ministers have made £600m available for the removal of the specific type of aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding used on Grenfell but not other panels used on hundreds of other buildings that are believed to be equally combustible.

New building regulations remain several months away at least, and the conclusions of the first phase of the delayed public inquiry into how the fire spread are not expected before October.


“The government cannot morally justify funding the replacement of one form of dangerous cladding but not others,” said Clive Betts, the committee chairman. “Much more progress should also have been made on developing a comprehensive building and fire safety framework.”

Fears of another disaster grew last month when the wooden cladding and balconies on an apartment block in Barking went up in flames. No one was hurt but building safety experts said that people would have died if the fire had happened at night, as at Grenfell. The material was allowed under current building regulations. Residents of the affected building, Samuel Garside House, were relocated to hotels but have been told they should move back in on Monday.

They will protest against the decision outside Barking town hall on Thursday, saying they fear the buildings are not safe.

The committee cited evidence from the Royal Institute of British Architects that apart from a ban on combustible cladding on high-rise buildings, building regulations remained largely unchanged and “we are potentially still constructing unsafe buildings”.

Grenfell survivors who were moved into a newly built block in Earl’s Court have suffered problems. In one case, the mother of a young child who escaped the burning tower had to endure the heavy ceiling of her new balcony collapsing in a way that could have caused serious injury.

The MPs also took evidence from Dame Judith Hackitt, the government’s reviewer of building regulations, who said ministers have lost momentum for reforms. Roy Wilsher, the chairman of the National Fire Chiefs Council, said the decision to ban only certain types of combustible cladding was “inadequate”. Ed Daffarn, a Grenfell survivor, warned: “Grenfell 2 is in the post unless you act, and quickly”. He said the bereaved and survivors were “sick and tired of being told by ministers: ‘Government is difficult, government takes time.’”

The committee’s conclusions were backed by firefighters, who said: “There has been virtually nothing done to prevent another fire like Grenfell from happening.”

Matt Wrack, the leader of the Fire Brigades Union, said: “Time and time again we have raised the issues in this report, but the silence from government is deafening. This is a national emergency which is being met by the government with utter complacency.”

The committee also warned that ministers have unacceptably delayed plans to compel landlords to listen to tenants’ complaints, despite evidence that Grenfell residents’ safety fears were ignored by the council.


Daffarn told the committee: “If you live in social housing and you have a complaint about where you live, whether it is mould, or health and safety, the primary way you get this complaint addressed is by [uploading a photo] to Twitter and hoping you can embarrass your housing provider enough that it does something about it. That is not good enough post-Grenfell.”


A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “Public safety is paramount and within days of the Grenfell Tower fire a comprehensive building safety programme was put in place to ensure residents of high-rise properties are always kept safe.

“We have committed up to £600m to fund the removal and replacement of unsafe ACM cladding on high-rise social and private residential buildings. Ultimately building owners are responsible for the safety of their building and we expect them to carry out work quickly – anything less is unacceptable.

“At the same time, we are supporting the bereaved, survivors and their families of the Grenfell Tower tragedy and have already committed over £100m.”

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

Posted: Fri Jul 19, 2019 7:33 am
by Chris From The Gulag
No-fault eviction ban will hurt tenants, landlords say.

A government plan to ban no-fault evictions in England will backfire, landlords say, as lower-income tenants will find it harder to rent homes.



Proposals to scrap section 21 notices would mean landlords could no longer evict tenants without a reason after their fixed-term tenancy period ended.

The plan aims to give tenants security and halt "revenge evictions" when tenants are thrown out for complaining.

But a landlords' trade group says its members will be more choosy over lets.

The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) said its survey of 6,400 landlords suggested that 84% of its members would be more selective, picking tenants on higher incomes and leaving those earning less to fight over fewer properties.

Landlords could even decide to let fewer homes to tenants with pets, as they would be considered as carrying a higher risk of causing damage.

Housing charity Shelter dismissed the fears, arguing that there had been no such consequences in Scotland since it banned section 21.

There are two options for a landlord to ensure tenants leave a property - section 21 when they must give two months' notice but no specific reason at the end of a tenancy, or section eight when they take cases of rent arrears and anti-social behaviour to court.

The RLA said the section eight process was lengthy, costly and needed reform before any decision was taken to scrap section 21.

" I want to let a local house to a local person "

Una Walsh, based in Leeds, has 20 properties and had served three section 21 notices in the last five years.

All were for rent arrears, and the notices were served after she received professional and legal advice. She they were used as a "desperate last resort".

Her properties are mostly three-bedroom family homes and she said the evictions allowed her to re-let the properties swiftly to families who needed them.

"My ethos was local houses for a local person. If they grow up in the neighbourhood, they are settled here," the 57-year-old said.

However, she feared that slow evictions, during which tenants failed to pay the rent, would mean she would only be able to let to households with two wage earners after 30 years of operating in different way.

The RLA claimed that vulnerable tenants would be most at risk from the tougher selection criteria that landlords would be forced to adopt.

The survey suggested that 45% of RLA members would consider selling some of their properties as a result of any section 21 ban, although a survey of intentions does not always happen in reality.

Section 21 notices are already banned in Scotland, but the RLA said the Scottish government put far more preparation in place, whereas the authorities in England were "twisting in the wind" on policy.

It called for wholesale changes to the eviction system, including the introduction of a dedicated housing court.

David Smith, policy director at the RLA, said: "While no landlords should ever abuse the system, it is only right and fair that they can repossess properties swiftly and with certainty in legitimate circumstances."

Some tenants say the system is actually being abused by landlords who kick out tenants following complaints, so-called revenge evictions.

Earlier this year, 24-year-old Alicia Powell told the BBC how she was renting a flat in north London with her boyfriend when she noticed a wet patch on the ceiling.

The couple complained to their property manager but nothing was done so they said they were going to report it to their local council.

Shortly afterwards, they were served with a section 21 notice.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: "The government's plan to scrap no-fault evictions is vital to tackle the turmoil experienced by people up and down the country, especially children and the elderly who are worst affected by sudden evictions.

"Being turfed out of your home for no reason, with no evidence, and with just eight weeks of warning can have devastating consequences. This practice must be consigned to the history books."

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

Posted: Sun Jul 21, 2019 7:19 pm
by Chris From The Gulag
Homeowners face pulling down extensions in Grenfell building inspection crisis.



Hundreds of homeowners face having to rebuild newly erected extensions, lofts and basements because of a crisis in building inspections arising out of the Grenfell Tower disaster.

The crisis has led to private building inspectors, known as Approved Inspectors (AI), being unable to obtain insurance, forcing them to hand over inspection of newly built homes and extensions to local council officials.

But it has now emerged that unless the AIs can provide satisfactory documentation to show councils that the building work meets certain standards, then local authority inspectors may order the structures to be dismantled so they can be re-examined to determine whether they were built in accordance with strict safety rules.

That means hundreds of loft extensions, basements and other structural work may have to be partly or wholly dismantled in order for council building inspectors to issue the required approval certificates.

The crisis is the result of a number of Approved Inspectors no longer being able to obtain the necessary liability insurance for them to carry out their work.

This follows a decision earlier this year by one of the two main insurers, Howden, to pull out of the market as a result of the potential cost of the requirement for potentially lethal cladding to be removed from buildings in the wake of the Grenfell fire. This left 72 people dead in June 2017, after flammable cladding was used during its refurbishment.

The Telegraph understands that at least three AI firms have gone into liquidation, leaving thousands of building notice cases that may have to be handed over to local authorities for approval.

The professional body representing council building inspectors, Local Authority Building Control (LABC), estimates there are currently 14,000 ongoing building projects in England and Wales that have yet to receive final safety certificates.

That means many homeowners have been left in limbo over the status of their building work

A senior local government source said: “Local government officers have got to satisfy themselves that any building work has been done according to building regulations. But the AI may not have the required documentation and the council inspectors may have to carry out invasive checks, which could mean pulling things apart to make sure they were originally done as they should be.”

Several Approved Inspectors, including Darlington-based Aedis Regulatory Services, have been unable to secure insurance cover, leaving them unable to carry out inspections and forcing clients to seek approval from council building control inspectors.

In a number of cases homeowners have already been advised to remove newly built roofs so the council inspectors can gain access to structural work before approving it, leaving them facing the cost of reinstating the roof and other work.

In a letter to clients the Bromley-based loft conversion firm Econoloft, said: “We would recommend contacting your Local Authority Building Control. This would involve cancelling the initial notice received by them from Aedis and submitting a Reversion or Regularisation application. This would mean that the local authority would take over the application. They may ask for areas of your conversion to be exposed (steels, insulation etc). Levels of intrusion will vary from local authority to local authority.”


The knock on effect of the Grenfell fire has left the insurance industry wary of providing cover for private building inspectors because of the potentially high cost of liability they may face should things go wrong.

“After Grenfell the industry has taken the view that the risk is high and people are reticent to provide insurance,” said the source.

The crisis has also had a dramatic impact on new developments, creating problems for the wider housing and commercial building sector, as a result of a shortage in the number of inspectors able to sign off work.

The Home Builders Federation says the insurance issue “potentially has implications for housing supply”, and that it “is particularly impacting small and medium-sized builders”.

Homeowners who fear they may have to have new work dismantled and reinspected have now been urged to contact their local authority for advice.

Lorna Stimpson, chief executive of LABC, said: “We are doing everything we can to assist people who are the receiving end of this problem, including homeowners who face spending more money to rebuild and complete existing work.”

The Local Government Association (LGA) called on the Government to help councils and homeowners tackle the mess.

Cllr Martin Tett, the LGA’s housing spokesman, said: “As councils pick up the pieces their priority is to ensure homeowners suffer minimal disruption to their building projects, while ensuring what work has been done to date complies with the building regulations.

“The representative bodies for these private sector firms and the Government need to help councils and their residents by doing all they can to ensure those who need to cancel the notices do so, letting councils inspect, and where appropriate, sign-off work as complying with the building regulations.”


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

Posted: Wed Jul 24, 2019 9:35 am
by Chris From The Gulag
Housing crisis exacerbated by government failure to sell land so new homes can be built, MPs warn.

Ministers failing to sell land needed for more than half of homes promised under its land disposal targets amid " Severe shortage " in social housing, says Public Accounts Committee (PAC).



The UK’s housing crisis is being exacerbated by the government’s failure to sell off unused land so that new homes can be built, MPs have warned.

Ministers will have failed to sell the land needed for more than half of the homes promised under its land disposal targets, missing its aim to sell enough land by 2020 for 160,000 homes by the considerable margin of 91,000 homes, according to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

The committee accused the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government of wasting a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity and failing to use its position as a major land owner to alleviate the nation’s housing crisis.

They said ministers set up “clearly unrealistic” disposal targets without a rigorous evidence base of what could actually be delivered, saying it was “no real surprise” that the government would now fail to meet them.

A report published by the committee on Wednesday also said it was unacceptable that the department paid “so little attention” to how the release of public land could be used to deliver affordable homes, including social homes for rent, which are in “severe shortage”.

Chair of the PAC, Meg Hilier, said the nation’s housing crisis was being “prolonged” by the government’s “failure” to develop a strategy for public land disposal, adding: “We are frustrated that this unique opportunity has been wasted.

“The UK needs more houses. As a major land holder, the government is in a unique position to release land for new homes; and yet the objectives of its land disposal programmes are chaotic and confused.

“We are baffled that the programmes were not designed with a view to how many homes were needed of what type, and where – nor how the proceeds will be used.”

She called on the government to set out a decisive course of action for how it would execute its land disposal strategy so that it translates into actual homes for the people that need them most.


The report comes after research revealed England was on course for its worst decade for housebuilding since the Second World War, with the number of completions between 2010 and 2019 around 130,000 per year – well down on the 147,000 of the 2000s or the 150,000 of the 1990s.

The figure, published in January by the Centre for Policy Studies, was just half of the level in the 1960s and 1970s, continuing a 50-year pattern that has seen successive governments failing to build enough new homes.


The government has been approached for comment.

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

Posted: Sat Jul 27, 2019 10:40 am
by Chris From The Gulag
Burnley housing association set to build thousands of new social homes after securing bond.

Burnley based housing association Accent has priced a £225m. public bond so it can deliver new homes and services to its 5,000 residents living across the region.


Accent, which has been working across Lancashire for over 50 years, has priced the bond at a coupon (or interest) rate of 2.625%. This is the lowest ever rate secured by a housing association in the UK for a bond greater than 12 years.

The bond, which has a term of 30-years, is the first for Accent. It comes after over two years of detailed planning and hard work to transform the association’s business, governance, finances and new corporate strategy.

Accent will use the bond to build over 2,000 new homes across the country in the next five years. A number of these are planned for the region in areas which include South Ribble, Preston and the Ribble Valley. The association will also invest in its existing homes and provide new and improved services for all its 35,000 residents who live across the country.

Accent chief executive Paul Dolan said: "This is a fantastic outcome for Accent. It has exceeded all our expectations and it will help us improve the homes and services we provide across Burnley and Lancashire, build many more new homes for people in housing need and make a huge difference to our residents.”

Bookrunners on the Accent deal were Barclays, Lloyds Bank Corporate Markets PLC and Nat West Markets who were very positive about Accent’s business plans, governance and organisational structure which increased the demand from investors and resulted in such a successful bond issue.

The bond has set has set a new precedent for future business in the social housing sector across England.

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

Posted: Wed Aug 14, 2019 8:41 am
by Chris From The Gulag
Barking fire : social tenants told to return despite safety fears.

Residents of east London flats say they are being forced back before safety assessments.



Image

Social housing residents of a block of flats in east London that was recently engulfed in flames say they are being forced to move back despite safety fears.

All residents at Samuel Garside House in Barking were evacuated after a fire on 9 June. About 100 firefighters and 15 fire engines were dispatched to deal with the blaze. The majority of residents were put in hotel accommodation, while others were rehomed in temporary accommodation.

The landlord for social tenants, Southern Housing Group, has now informed residents that they will no longer receive financial support to stay in alternative accommodation and must return to their flats.


Leaseholders will continue to receive financial support for alternative accommodation until September.

Social housing residents said they were being forced to move back in before safety assessments were carried out by the building control department of the borough of Barking and Dagenham. These assessments are due to start on 21 August and be completed on 29 August.

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined but experts had previously warned that the building’s wooden balconies could “accelerate fire spread”.


While some of the cladding has been removed, residents have been told it will take several months for it all to be removed. Though a report in June recommended that the existing wooden cladding on the building be sprayed with fire retardant in the interim, this has yet to happen.

Twenty flats were destroyed by the flames and a further 10 were damaged by heat and smoke. The worst-affected flats were in blocks C and D, which are largely owned by leaseholders or privately rented. Social housing tenants largely reside in blocks A and B, which were not badly affected.

Peter Mason, the chair of the Barking Reach residents’ association, described the decision to force social housing residents to move back as “disgraceful”. He said: “We will be contacting Southern Housing urgently to protest.

“Although they’ve partially removed some decorative portion of the cladding, the vast majority of it remains. If a balcony caught fire, it would spread rapidly from flat to flat. I don’t think they have removed the danger.”

Shaun Murphy, a senior solicitor at Edwards Duthie Shamash, is representing several residents at Samuel Garside House. He said: “We are very concerned about the decision of Southern Housing Group to withdraw financial support for the residents. All this has happened prior to the completion of safety reports due at the end of the month, to be undertaken by the London borough of Barking and Dagenham.”


He added: “There is also the outstanding issue of the recommendation of existing cladding still not having been sprayed with adequate fire retardant. All of this has been ignored by Southern Housing Group in forcing residents to go back into Samuel Garside House now.”

The local MP, Margaret Hodge, said: “It is not right that social housing tenants of Samuel Garside House are forced to return to the block whilst private tenants and leaseholders have until September. These families and individuals deserve equal treatment.

“I urge Southern Housing to reconsider. Their tenants must be allowed to stay in their temporary accommodation until further repair works and the next fire safety assessments are completed.”

A spokesperson for Barking and Dagenham council said: “Residents are understandably concerned about returning home and, despite our limited powers to intervene as this is not a council block, they have asked if we can assess the block’s safety. We have appointed an independent HHSRS [housing health and safety rating system] assessor to determine whether there are any category 1 or 2 hazards and this assessment is due to start on 21 August.”


Chris Harris, the customer services director of Southern Housing Group, said: “Our priority is always the safety and wellbeing of our residents. From the moment the fire was reported, Southern Housing Group has worked with London borough of Barking and Dagenham(LBBD), the London fire service and other stakeholders to ensure that the people affected could return to their homes and normality as soon as possible.

None of the properties occupied by Southern Housing Group’s residents were directly damaged by the fire and so they are not being inspected by LBBD. Indeed, the properties were deemed safe for the return of residents by LFS’s fire safety engineer shortly after the fire was extinguished and residents started to return from the afternoon of Tuesday 11 June.”

Harris added: “At no time has there been any suggestion from the London fire service, the council or independent fire safety inspectors that it is unsafe to for Southern Housing Residents to return home.”

Case study

Jacqueline, 52, a social housing tenant at Samuel Garside House, said she has not been able to sleep in her room since moving back into her flat. She sleeps in the living room with the lights on instead. She fears the block is not safe to live in, but said her social housing provider has left her with no other option.

“If anything happens, I need to know I can get out quickly because I don’t trust their system to wake me up on time,” she explained. “I live on my own, which makes it even worse.”

Southern Housing, the social housing provider, told Jacqueline that as of Monday 12 August, she would no longer be receiving financial support to stay in alternative accommodation and she could return to her flat.

“My first thought was: is the property safe? What are we moving back into? I don’t feel safe or comfortable at all but I don’t have any choices,” she said.

Jacqueline had lived in her flat for five years and said she became emotional when she thought about the fire tearing through the building while she was sitting in her flat. While there was no physical damage to her flat, she worried that the wooden cladding, which experts have previously warned could accelerate a fire, had not been sprayed with fire retardant and could take months to remove.

“I know people suffered more than me, but no one gets where we are coming from because they just want people in the flats,” Jacqueline said. “I know it’s not on the scale of Grenfell, but it’s only for the grace of God that no one died that day.”

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

Posted: Thu Aug 15, 2019 7:16 am
by Chris From The Gulag
Grenfell survivors housed in flats with high fire risk, report finds.

Campaign group Justice4Grenfell say findings show " Lack of humanity " on part of council.



Survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire are living in a block of flats with a high risk of fire, according to a risk assessment report commissioned by a resident.

In July 2018, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea acquired 31 flats on Hortensia Road, London for survivors of the tragedy at Grenfell Tower. The new-build property was bought from a private contractor as part of the 300 homes for Grenfell survivors.

A fire risk assessment completed last month concluded that current provisions were not satisfactory and that the building was at high risk of fire.

The report noted that combustible materials were currently not separated from ignition sources, the smoke extraction system was not working, and that there was no adequate procedures for disabled residents to be evacuated.


The fire assessment also found no evidence that the cladding had been inspected and noted there wasn’t compartmentation of a reasonable standard or reasonable limitation of linings that might promote fire spread.

The report, commissioned by a resident, was obtained by Inside Housing.

Sarah Jones MP, the shadow housing minister, said: “This is yet another example of how neither the Conservative government nor Kensington and Chelsea council have learned the lessons from the Grenfell tragedy. No one should be living in unsafe buildings, but of all people, putting Grenfell survivors at risk of another fire is a complete disgrace.”

She added: “Two years after Grenfell, 60,000 people are still living in tower blocks with deadly ACM cladding, 95% of council blocks still don’t have sprinklers, and countless more could be at risk because the government has failed to do safety checks on most tower blocks.”

Morya Samuel, a spokesperson for the campaign group Justice4Grenfell said: “It’s obvious that the council are not taking residents health and safety seriously. It’s obvious to us that the council is continuing its institutional indifference and has gone back to a business as usual approach.

“People have been saying the local authority just does not have any respect for the residents of North Kensington. If you can do this to people who have survived fire, it shows the lack of humanity and duty of care.”

The assessment was critical of the “poor” housekeeping in the building’s carpark and the refuse area and notes there are no fire action notices at call points.

A council spokesperson said: “Our first priority is the safety of our residents and we have been working closely with them from the beginning, keeping them regularly informed of progress.”

The spokesperson criticised the fire risk assessment, stating it “contains a number of errors and parts appear to be cut and pasted from other assessments. There are also references to features which do not exist at Hortensia Road”.

The council also said that the building had a sprinkler system, 30-minute fire resistant doors, a firefighter lift for use in the event of an emergency, and carried out weekly block inspections to ensure communal areas were kept clear.

“We undertook an enhanced, Type 3 FRA, on 18 July, the results of which we will be sharing with residents soon. This will include timescales to deal with the issues raised. Many of the issues have already been addressed and we have recently replaced insulation around windows as recommended by the latest government advice,” the spokesperson added.

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

Posted: Wed Aug 28, 2019 8:42 am
by Chris From The Gulag
Plan to change shared ownership equity rules described as " Tinkering. "

Labour dismisses housing secretary’s plan to allow buyers to boost stake in smaller steps.


People seeking to get on the housing ladder through shared ownership may be allowed to increase the proportion of the home they own in smaller steps than currently allowed, the housing secretary, Robert Jenrick, has announced.

Instead of increasing equity in 10% chunks, people who share the ownership of their home with a housing association could buy as little as 1% a time, in what the government described as an effort to make home ownership more accessible to low-income groups and to “level up” the country.

Labour criticised it as “tinkering” and said it did not tackle the lack of new affordable housing.

Housing experts said the idea, which is to go out to consultation would only work if transaction costs were reduced. There are high costs to buying additional chunks of equity that act as a disincentive to “staircasing” ownership, industry sources said.

The Home Owners Alliance estimates it costs about £2,000 to buy an additional tranche of equity on top of the cost of the share itself because of the costs of valuing the property, conveyancing, stamp duty and rearranging mortgages.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has yet to offer any indication about how these costs may be reduced.

“My mission is to increase the number of homes that are being delivered and to get more young people and families on to the housing ladder, particularly those on lower incomes,” said Jenrick. “That’s why I am announcing radical changes to shared ownership so we can make it simpler and easier for tens of thousands trying to buy their own home.”

The ministry gave the example of a family in a £450,000 shared ownership property who could buy an initial 25% stake with a mortgage for £112,500, while paying subsidised rent on the remainder. Currently they would then have to pay £45,000 to “staircase”, meaning to increase their stake and decrease their rent. If the new plans are introduced they would pay as little as £4,500 a time.

Polly Neate, the chief executive of Shelter, said: “Pinning his hopes on yet another complicated housing scheme is a worrying start for the new housing secretary. The government must realise that unworkable schemes, laden down with admin costs, are the wrong priority at any time - and are woefully inadequate when this country is facing the current housing emergency.”

The shadow housing minister, Sarah Jones, said: “Tinkering with the details of shared ownership is meaningless when lack of investment from government means low-cost homes for ownership simply aren’t getting built. The Tories have failed to deliver the low-cost homes we need to get people on the housing ladder.

“Just 1% of all homeowners have accessed shared ownership, and the number of these and other low-cost homes being built each year has almost halved since its peak under Labour.”

However, Catherine Ryder, the director of policy and research at the National Housing Federation, which represents housing associations, said: “We very much welcome the news that the government is looking at ways to make staircasing in shared ownership easier. Shared ownership is the best route into home ownership for people who can’t afford to buy outright and housing associations, who built 14,000 shared ownership homes last year, are committed to working with the government to continue improving it.”

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

Posted: Wed Aug 28, 2019 9:52 am
by Chris From The Gulag
Cladding safety : homeowners still waiting for safety inspections on their cladding two years on from the Grenfell tragedy.

Flats with cladding need to be inspected to ensure they comply with safety — a job which has taken at least eight months in some cases.


When Rob Leary bought his first home two years ago he was full of hope for the future.

He was on the housing ladder, happy with his girlfriend and living in an exciting, regenerating corner of London.

But Rob and his girlfriend split up at Christmas. They agreed he should stay in their one-bedroom flat in Stratford, built in 2012, and he would buy her out of her share of their investment. To raise the money he approached Santander to remortgage the flat, which had cost £340,000.

“We got to the stage of a surveyor coming round and it all seemed fine, and then I started to get a series of calls saying they needed information on the cladding,” he says.

Rob’s home is in a block covered in ceramic rain screen cladding. These large, decorative tiles reflect the light and their subtle green and purple hues gave the building its name — Aurora.

Unsurprisingly, the technical specification of the cladding material had not come up when Rob bought the flat. “It didn’t even cross our minds,” he says.

But he came to learn that the ceramic panels are one of the many varieties that, while not actively condemned, have also not received the safety all-clear in the fallout from the Grenfell Tower blaze of June 2017 that claimed 72 lives, the rapid spread of the flames blamed in large part on aluminium cladding.

In December the Government updated its safety guidance on cladding materials.

As a result, blocks with cladding need to be inspected to ensure they comply — a job which should be carried out by the managing agent or building owner, in Aurora’s case One Housing Group.

Eight months on this has not been done at Rob’s home, leaving him in limbo.

“As things stand my flat is worth zero,” he says. “I am not the only one. There are people at Aurora who want to sell, and this is holding up people’s lives.

"And obviously there is the safety issue. We do not know if this cladding is combustible or not. There are families in the block, children, old people, young people. It is a big worry.”

Rob is fortunate in that his ex is understanding about being owed a five-figure sum.

“I still love living in Stratford but it is very frustrating,” he explains. “I can’t understand why after eight months the building still has not been checked. The last time I spoke to them they said they were still looking for quotes and that would take them six weeks. None of us knows if this building is safe.”

Contacted by Homes & Property, One Housing apologised to residents and said Aurora will be inspected in September, with results expected around six weeks later.

A spokesman said: “We take the safety of our residents very seriously, and as a responsible landlord, we intend to fully comply with recent advice published by the Government.

“If the inspection should reveal that any remediation is necessary we will investigate all options to ensure that residents are not unreasonably impacted. It is also our intention that our residents will not have to pay for such remediation, if it is required.

“We are sorry to hear some residents have faced difficulty in re-mortgaging and selling their homes. We are aware that lenders and their surveyors are increasingly requesting confirmation statements from building owners as to matters specifically concerning the fire safety of tall buildings. This is unfortunately impacting on many residents, leaseholders and landlords throughout the UK.”


The plight faced by Rob and his neighbours is all too familiar to Rituparna Saha, co-founder of the UK Cladding Action Group.

“This is something we hear a lot. People only find out when they try to sell. Banks are saying they must have proof that buildings are safe, and if there is no fire risk assessment report you are stuck in the flat until it is done and, if necessary, the cladding is changed. The only way you would be able to sell is if you can find a cash buyer who will take it for a fraction of its value.”

Fire safety in tall buildings has become a complex issue since the disaster at Grenfell Tower in North Kensington.

The 24-storey block was clad in aluminium composite material or ACM which is now known to be dangerously combustible. Yet progress in removing ACM from about 433 buildings in the UK — the majority in London — appears slow.

In May, in a written response in Parliament, then-housing minister Kit Malthouse confirmed that some 16,500 flats in privately owned residential towers remained covered in ACM. An estimated 10,600 of these are in the capital.

Councils and housing associations have generally accepted responsibility for making their buildings safe but it is claimed some private developers have been less forthcoming.

The Government has agreed to provide a £200 million fund to cover the costs of removing ACM. But almost simultaneously a whole new can of worms is opening.

In July the Government’s expert panel on fire safety said high pressure laminate, or HPL, cladding panels, often made from compressed wood and paper, are also unsafe.

According to Sarah Jones, Labour’s shadow housing minister, HPL cladding could be present on up to another 1,700 blocks.

Saha of the UK Cladding Action Group became involved in the issue because her flat at Northpoint in Bromley, south-east London, is clad with both ACM and HPL. Despite active campaigning, she claims it has proved impossible to get any satisfaction.

Developer Taylor Wimpey said it sympathised with residents but as it sold Northpoint in 2007, it was no longer the company’s responsibility.

Current owner Citistead also offered sympathy to residents. It said it had paid for expert reports on the cladding and continued to hope that a “viable solution” could be reached.

“However, Citistead had no involvement in the installation of cladding on the building,” added a spokesman.