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Housing : Social Tenants / BTL & HB Problems / Shortages / Grenfell Tower Fallout - Page 28 - Carers UK Forum

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

Discuss news stories and political issues that affect carers.
316 posts
Bridport House Hackney flats emptied over fire fears.

Up to 100 residents are being forced out of their homes for up to three years due to " Potentially combustible insulation ".


Residents of the award-winning Bridport House in London have been told they will have to re-locate within 12 months due to "serious" structural errors.

Hackney Council confirmed legal action will be taken against Willmott Partnership Homes, who built the block.

One resident said: "It's disgusting the way we've all been treated."

The resident, who did not want to be named, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: "We've all lived here for years, and you don't want to be moving out and moving back in again."

The 41 families living in the property will be offered another temporary or permanent home in the borough while the work is carried out, but they could be displaced for up to three years.

Families moving permanently are to be offered a one-off home loss payment of £6,300 alongside other financial incentives.

Bridport House on the Colville Estate won awards awards for design and engineering when it opened in 2011.

Since then the building has suffered a litany of problems including falling roof tiles, crumbling bricks and flooding.

Investigations have now revealed more serious defects including missing fire barriers and flawed brickwork, balconies and windows.

Heat insulation was found to be "a combustible material", but cannot be tested.

Hackney Council claimed the London Fire Brigade had concluded the building remained safe for residents, but the brigade has denied this.

The council will now open a procurement process for the £6m repair works.

Mayor Philip Glanville said: "We are sorry for the failures in the construction of Bridport House, and for the huge disruption residents continue to face.

"Moving residents from homes we all hoped would be new and permanent is not an easy decision, but our first priority is their safety."
Yorkshire’s “ Dangerous ” housing crisis among elderly people needs to be averted, say charities.

The government has been urged to do more to avert a “ Dangerous ” housing crisis among elderly people in Yorkshire where town populations are aging faster than anywhere else in the UK.

Describing previous governments’ housing policy as a “catastrophic failure”, housing charity Shelter called for more social housing to meet demand for a rapidly ageing population.

This week, in his first spending review, Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid announced a 2.7 per cent increase to the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government’s budget, which campaigners said should be spent on long-term planning for housing.

Age-friendly housing is already in short supply across the region and many over-65s are trapped in homes that do not suit their needs.

Of the six small towns in the UK that are set to see the biggest rises in their elderly populations over the 20 years, five are in Yorkshire, according to research.

Polly Neate, chief executive of homelessness charity Shelter, told the Yorkshire Post: “The catastrophic failure of successive governments to build enough social homes means that a growing number of older people who’ve been unable to buy now have no choice but to privately rent. In fact, the number of over 55s renting privately has jumped by a staggering 74 per cent in the last decade.

“The wild west of private renting is no place to be when you’re moving into retirement. On top of being notoriously expensive and unstable, there are too many rented homes which are simply not up to scratch. It cannot be right to condemn older people to live in properties which are run-down, damp or entirely unsuitable for their needs.

“The new government must provide a better alternative – and that alternative should be high-quality social homes.”

Also in news: 15 of the most stunningly scenic Yorkshire pubs

Ian Warren, co-founder of think tank the Centre for Towns, said Yorkshire was the “most extreme” region in the UK.

Despite this, new build housing in towns has tended towards family homes, which are more profitable.

“There isn’t enough urgency in government. An ageing population doesn’t just impact on housing, it impacts on the health service and social care, it impacts on education, it impacts on transport and on the high street.”

A report by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and the Centre for Towns, which was discussed at a Westminster roundtable on Thursday, found that Ilkley, Knaresborough, Otley, Ripon and Wetherby are all set to see a 70 per cent rise in the difference between the number of elderly people and the rest of the population over the next two decades. Only one other UK town, Frimley in Surrey, was predicted to have as extreme growth.

Ben Derbyshire, the immediate past president of RIBA said: “It’s a dangerous trend.

“There’s not adequate awareness in government. Help to Buy is lining the pockets of housebuilders on whom there’s no requirement for them to meet [the needs of elderly people] in the homes that they build.”

Alex Sobel, Labour MP for Leeds North West, which includes Otley, said the town was benefiting from some new build properties aimed at older people but he had concerns about the provisions for changing demographics.

“There needs to be a social aspect to this, definitely. There should be state support for housing development for social but not for private.

“There’s an issue around quality and mobility. Older people need more heating so having super insulated housing

“More sustainable homes are better for older people because what you don’t want to do is build houses and put people into fuel poverty.”

Jane Branch, project leader for Humankind homeless prevention service, which works in north Yorkshire, said older people are often in more desperate need.

She added: “We tend to see more people in their mid-20s to their 40s than the older group but, when we do see them, they tend to be in circumstances that are quite pressing.”

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK said: “With an ageing population, it’s vital that we build safe, accessible, high quality homes that work for all generations and that don’t undermine our ability to stay independent as we get older.

“As well as meeting the demand for new homes local authorities need to ensure that older people have access to adaptations and repairs to improve the existing stock of homes – where most older people live.

“We agree with RIBA that more housing that appeals to older people (through better design and accessibility) needs to be built in age friendly places where older people have access to transport, shops, services and healthcare etc. That’s why it’s important local authorities measure the needs of their older population and develop a balanced comprehensive strategy on older people’s housing.

“Everyone should be able to live in a decent and accessible home which allows them to live healthy later lives.”

This comes after the government announced the 100 UK towns that will benefit from the £3.6bn Towns Fund yesterday, which is designed to help “support towns to build prosperous futures”.

However, none of the 17 towns named, which the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government chose because they had industrial heritage, were the towns that faced the biggest issues with a rapidly ageing population.

The Yorkshire towns which are part of the Towns Fund are Brighouse, Castleford, Dewsbury, Doncaster, Barnsley, Goole, Keighley and Shipley, Middlesborough, Morley, Redcar, Rotherham Scarborough, Stainforth, Stocksbridge, Todmorden, Wakefield and Whitby.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government has been approached for a comment.
Worcester Park fire: four-storey block of flats alight in south-west London.

Twenty fire engines and more than 100 firefighters on scene after the fire quickly spread in early hours of Monday morning.

The flats are believed to be part of a development called The Hamptons, which feature a number of blocks of apartments built in an American style with timber cladding. It also features detached houses which are worth more than £1m.

Regular readers will be aware of the delays in introducing new regulations following the Grenfell Tower disaster.

Cladding ....
Met interviews London fire brigade over Grenfell Tower disaster.

LFB questioned under caution as corporate body in relation to health and safety offences.

Detectives investigating possible criminality before and during the Grenfell Tower disaster have interviewed leaders of the London fire brigade (LFB) in relation to health and safety offences that may have contributed to the deaths of 72 people.

The Metropolitan police interviewed the LFB under caution as a corporate body, bringing the number of such interviews to 17 so far, two years and three months after the tragedy. Unnamed others have also been questioned in relation to offences of gross negligence manslaughter and corporate manslaughter, but police have said charges are unlikely to be brought until 2021, after the conclusion of the parallel public inquiry into the 14 June 2017 fire.

Det Supt Matt Bonner, the senior investigating officer of Operation Northleigh, established to investigate the Grenfell fire, told the bereaved, survivors and residents on Monday: “I expect that this number will continue to rise in the forthcoming weeks and months as further progress is made.”

Dany Cotton, the commissioner of the LFB, said she recognised that survivors and the bereaved needed answers and that the fire service was committed to assisting investigators.

“We have always been subject to the Metropolitan police investigation and I want to ensure it is accurately and publicly known the brigade has now, voluntarily, given an interview under caution,” she said.

Criminal charges of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act would require prosecutors to prove the defendant had not done all that was “reasonably practicable” to prevent the possibility of danger. Bodies charged with corporate manslaughter must be shown to have managed its activities in a way that caused death and breached their duty of care.

Cotton reiterated the LFB’s defence on Monday that her service was put in an impossible position by the way the building was designed and built. “We must all understand what happened and why to prevent communities and emergency services from ever being placed in such impossible conditions ever again,” she said.

Breaches of health and safety law are punishable by unlimited fines and up to two years in jail if individuals are charged. Corporate manslaughter is punishable by fines and gross negligence manslaughter can result in directors being jailed.

The conduct of the LFB was heavily criticised during the first phase of the separate public inquiry into the disaster. Cotton shocked survivors when she told the inquiry that she would do nothing differently with the benefit of hindsight. In evidence last September, she said she would not train firefighters for a cladding fire any more than she would train them for “a space shuttle landing on the Shard”.

Lawyers for the bereaved, survivors and residents have urged the inquiry chairman, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, to conclude the LFB breached its policies and legal duties in failing to plan or train for the foreseeable event of a fire such as that at Grenfell. Danny Friedman QC told the inquiry that shortcomings in the way 999 calls were handled had “undeniably contributed to people dying” and cited “callers being offered the choice whether to stay or go when there was none”. He said fire brigade commanders had failed to respond to what they could see happening in front of them as the fire jumped from flat to flat.

The inquiry’s report into what happened on the night of the fire is due to be published next month and the second phase of the inquiry examining the refurbishment of the tower with combustible materials is scheduled to start in January.
More than 8 million people in England living in unsuitable housing.

Research shows people in need outnumber those on social waiting lists by two to one.

More than 8 million people, equivalent to the population of London, are living in unsuitable housing in England, according to analysis suggesting the scale of the housing crisis could be far worse than officially estimated.

Research by Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh suggests the lives of one in eight people in England are now negatively affected by years of fast-rising prices and missed house-building targets.

The research shows that 3.6 million people are living in overcrowded homes, 2.5 million cannot properly afford where they live, the same number again are living with parents or relatives against their wishes and almost 1.4 million are living in poor or substandard conditions, according to the study commissioned by the National Housing Federation (NHF), which represents social landlords.

It adds up to almost twice the number of people currently considered to be in need of housing on official waiting lists.

The needy include couples forced to cohabit despite a relationship breakdown and “boomerang” adults who return to their parents because they cannot afford to buy or rent or have been made homeless. The NHF said England needed 340,000 new homes a year to tackle the problem, but the last time that had happened was in 1968 during Harold Wilson’s premiership. In the year to March 2019, 169,770 new homes were built in England.

“Today’s research reveals the full enormity of the housing crisis,” said Kate Henderson, the chief executive of the NHF. “It is the single biggest domestic issue we face. From Cornwall to Cumbria, millions of people are being pushed into debt and poverty because rent is too expensive, children can’t study because they have no space in their overcrowded homes, and many older or disabled people are struggling to move around their own home because it’s unsuitable.”

Campaigners are struggling to keep housing high on political agendas before a likely general election. Town hall leaders said the research showed that new powers and funding for councils to build more social housing should be included in next month’s Queen’s speech. But hopes are modest that Boris Johnson’s government will be radical after he listed housing far beneath other domestic priorities in his first speech as prime minister.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government responded that housing was a priority and said: “Last year we built more homes than in all but one of the last 31 years.” However that was only true for England, and across the UK the latest figures for 2017-18 show that eight years since 1987 had higher output.

Only one in six new homes being built are affordable homes for rent, despite it being the market sector the majority of analysts believe is in most need of urgent supply.

The ministry said 2,440 council houses had been built between 2010-11 and 2017-18, an increase on the New Labour output but a drop in the ocean compared to the NHF’s estimate that 90,000 new council homes are needed every year for the next decade to help end the crisis.

A housing ministry spokesperson said: “Since 2010 we’ve delivered 430,000 affordable homes and to protect renters we’ve cracked down on rogue landlords, banned unfair fees and capped deposits, saving at least £240m a year – helping to ensure access to safe and secure housing for millions.”

Responding for Labour, the former housing minister John Healey said that “deep cuts to housing investment since 2010 mean the country is now building 30,000 fewer social rented homes each year than we were with Labour.”

He claimed a Labour government would build a million low-cost homes over ten years, “give renters the rights they deserve and end rough sleeping within five years”.
Austerity and privatisation by consecutive governments led to Grenfell tragedy, says fire union.

Exclusive : " Deep-seated culture of complacency " over fire safety by every government since Margaret Thatcher led to inferno that killed 72 people, say firefighters.

Austerity, deregulation and privatisation by consecutive governments bears ultimate responsibility for the Grenfell tragedy, the Fire Brigade’s Union (FBU) has said.

In a document seen by The Independent, the union states that a “deep-seated culture of complacency” over fire safety by every government since Margaret Thatcher led to the disaster that killed 72 people in June 2017.

The FBU, which represents the overwhelming majority of firefighters in the UK, warns that this “dominance” of deregulation in the political ideology of central government over decades has also been fostered by the direct lobbying of private business interests.

The expertise of firefighters “has mostly been substituted with management consultants, industry lobbyists and chief fire officers” operating in a political climate that has “emphasised the need for reducing regulation driven by central government”, the report concludes.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “For at least 40 years, policies relating to housing, local government, the fire and rescue service, research and other areas have been driven by the agenda of cuts, deregulation and privatisation.

“A deep-seated culture of complacency has developed regarding fire policy and fire safety and central government bears ultimate responsibility.”

Kensington MP Emma Dent Coad welcomed the report, telling The Independent it was time for governments past and present to accept responsibility for the results of the “decimation” of fire and building regulations and the privatisation of monitoring and testing services.

She added: “Their actions created the circumstances where an atrocity like Grenfell was inevitable. However, this lets no one off the hook at [the council] or Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation. If they had listened to tenants’ warnings, and dealt with the safety concerns raised, more people could have been saved.

“So I say to both national and local governments – stop playing pass the parcel of blame. Accept your responsibilities. Take action now to save lives.”

The FBU report, to be distributed at the Labour Party conference on Monday, lists a series of policies and decisions made under numerous governments over the past 40 years that contributed to the deregulation of fire safety.

These included the Blair government’s abolition of national standards for fire and rescue services in 2004 and the Thatcher administration’s decision to cut building regulations from more than 300 pages to just 25.

Other policies and decisions of fire safety deregulation noted in the report include:

The decision by Edward Heath’s government to remove a requirement for blocks of flats to have mandatory fire certification from the final Fire Precautions Bill 1970, due to the “very considerable expenditure” involved.

A review from the Thatcher government which called for an overhaul of fire policy due to the “significant financial burden” of the legislation.

The Heath government’s failure to follow a recommendation that only those with “operational firefighting experience” be responsible for enforcing fire safety, paving the way for privatisation of the fire safety regime.

The Major government’s privatisation of the Building Research Establishment, opening a conflict of interest between its role providing advice to ministers and its commercial role in testing materials for construction firms.

David Cameron’s “one in, two out” policy on new regulations slashed regulations further.

The coalition government’s cutting of fire budgets by around 28 per cent in real terms.

Failure to follow warnings from previous fires that raised risks seen at Grenfell, including the Harrow Court fire in 2005, the Lakanal House fire in 2009 and the Shirley Towers fire in 2010.

It comes after Kensington and Chelsea councillors called on the Grenfell inquiry chief to interrogate former prime ministers David Cameron and Theresa May as well as a number of former ministers about “why they failed to take meaningful actions” that could have prevented the fire.

Cladding added to the Grenfell block in a refurbishment intended to improve the tower block in fact turned the building into a “death trap”, the inquiry has heard. Hundreds of buildings in the UK are still clad in similar material, and are likely to remain so for at least another 10 years.

No criminal charges relating to Grenfell have been made so far and, according to a statement from the Metropolitan Police in March this year, none are expected until 2021.

There has been a delay to the second phase of the inquiry, which will not now begin until January 2020 when it will focus on how Grenfell Tower was allowed to become such a risk to its inhabitants.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said:

“The government has taken immediate action on public safety following the Grenfell Tower tragedy. We’ve allocated £600m for the removal and replacement of dangerous ACM cladding on high-rise homes and are working with councils to ensure this work is completed.

“We made clear that we agree with Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety. We said that we will take forward her recommendations and outlined plans to do so in the Building a Safer Future implementation plan, published in December 2018, which will bring in a tougher regulatory system for the future."
Social housing crisis builds as government passes the buck.

Growing political and financial turmoil leaves social housing providers facing huge challenges.

Thousands of homeless children are growing up in cheaply converted shipping containers and cramped rooms in former office blocks; 130,000 families in England are being crammed into one-bedroom flats; and social housing residents of a block of flats in east London engulfed in flames say they are being forced to move back despite safety fears.

These are just a few recent examples of how the UK housing crisis is affecting the country’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens. But how much notice is the prime minister, Boris Johnson, taking?

He has made spending pledges for the NHS and police, but there is little to suggest Johnson will address the UK’s shortage of truly affordable homes for rent. Housing expert Colin Wiles points out that during Johnson’s two terms as London mayor, he redefined the term “affordable” in 2011 to mean rents of up to 80% of market rents – extremely expensive in the capital. “Johnson’s philosophy, in a nutshell, is that homeowners mean Tory voters and social housing means Labour voters,” says Wiles. “Johnson in No 10 signals a gloomy outlook.”

The National Housing Federation, which represents housing associations, says England needs about 145,000 new social homes every year, including 90,000 at below-market rent. But in 2018 only 6,000 social rented homes were built, as a result of sharp government cuts to funding for new social housing since 2010.

“We’re clearly seeing a push for home ownership,” says federation president Kate Henderson. “As a sector, we can support affordable home ownership through shared ownership homes, but we must also make the case for delivering affordable and social rented homes alongside that. We want to build the affordable homes the country needs, but we can’t do that without significant government funding.”

The government spent £1.27bn on affordable housing in 2018, according to the National Housing Federation. It wants to see that rise to £12.8bn a year for 10 years, so 145,000 more houses can be built every year.

The money is vital, as political and financial uncertainty has scuppered many housing associations’ plans to subsidise new social homes by building new houses for sale. Brexit uncertainty has prompted a downturn in the housing market, with London house prices falling at the fastest rate for 10 years.

In August, the chancellor, Sajid Javid, announced £600m of new infrastructure spending to “unlock” the construction of up to 50,000 homes in London and the south-east. But that is far from pledging direct funding to build homes for social rent. According to a Chartered Institute of Housing survey in August, more British people feel directly threatened by the UK housing crisis (57%) than our exit from the EU (56%).

There is also frustration for those who want to see reforms to the housing sector following the terrible fire in Grenfell Tower in June 2017. “We’re now confronted with our fourth housing minister within just over two years,” says Edward Daffarn, a leading member of the Grenfell United survivors’ group, which is calling for better tenant representation and the creation of a consumer watchdog for those living in social housing. “The frustration of having to start again is beyond measure.”

While Daffarn welcomes the commitment by many housing associations to change their relationship with the people they house, he points out that the process can be difficult and time-consuming. “We are sceptical of what housing associations are saying until we have quantifiable means to tell how they are performing. In the meantime, a lot of people contact us – and they are not saying: ‘Gosh, my housing association has changed.’”

Henderson says housing associations are committed to making buildings safe, but it is expensive. The federation wants the government to create a special fund, in addition to the existing £400m fund for cladding replacement, to cover further costs such as fire doors.

But it’s not all gloom. After years of frustrating restrictions, councils are finally being allowed to build houses themselves, with many already having set up innovative new ways to get more social homes built.

In Barking, for instance, the council has set up its own developer, Be First, which aims to build 50,000 new homes in the borough over the next 20 years. “We don’t have to generate the same level of profit as private housebuilders,” says Be First’s managing director Pat Hayes. “We face huge challenges but also huge opportunities. The council here is really ambitious. It actually wants to do something to try and change the place.”
Disabled children among social tenants blocked from communal gardens.

Social and affordable housing residents are being denied access to the gardens of a multimillion pound West London development despite political promises to ban segregated play areas.

Disabled children and former Grenfell residents are among social housing tenants being deliberately blocked from communal gardens, entrances and a car park on a multimillion-pound development in west London.

Guardian Cities has learned that the housing association Octavia blocks access to the communal gardens of Westbourne Place in Maida Vale for social and affordable housing residents in order to avoid the tenants facing the “financial burden” of high service charges. Service charges were originally set by the developer Redrow and are now managed by Pinnacle Property Management who run the private side of the development.

Redrow’s original plans for the luxury flats, as approved by Westminster council, appear to show open access to the gardens for all who lived there. The plans are now the subject of an enforcement investigation by council officers. Redrow – who have now sold the freehold – marketed the homes, which were sold at around £750,000 as “statement living at its best”.

A fob-controlled gate stops social and shared ownership residents entering the gardens, while private owners have fobs which allow access across the whole development.

The affordable and social residents, who pay over £200 a month service charge per home, have told the Guardian they feel the situation is unjust and discriminatory. One family with a disabled child say they have been fighting for much needed parking access from Pinnacle for several months.

The news comes despite widespread outrage sparked by a Guardian Cities investigation in March that discovered children living in social housing in Lambeth were banned from using a communal play area. After follow-up stories revealed the full extent of the problem across London, mayor Sadiq Khan announced a ban on segregated playgrounds in all future developments, describing them as morally unacceptable. The then-housing minister, James Brokenshire, announced he would like to see all forms of housing segregation driven out across Britain.

Hamid Ali Jafari lost his 82-year-old father, Ali Yawar Jafari, in the Grenfell Tower blaze. Together with his mother, wife and baby son, he was rehoused into the then newly built Westbourne Place. He is not allowed to use the large garden overlooked by his flat, and is desperate to move before his son gets older.

“He asks all the time if he can play football in the garden,” Jafari said. “Luckily he is only five so I can try to distract him and say we should play somewhere else. If he was a bit older he would know what was really happening.

“It’s just very disappointing, to be honest, to live like this. I am already suffering with depression from what I went through at Grenfell.”

His neighbour Ahmed Ali has been complaining for several months to Westminster council, Redrow, Pinnacle and Octavia about the segregation.

“My seven-year-old has a best friend in his class who lives on that private side,” Ali said. “They sit in school together but can’t play together. Private residents have access to everything, they can use all the gates and they walk through our side all the time, they exercise their dogs over here. This is open discrimination. We work, we pay service charges, we pay rent, we don’t deserve to be treated like this.”

Ali’s younger son is seriously ill with a life-threatening condition and Ali has to make regular trips to the local paediatric intensive care unit.

“I’ve told them about my seriously ill son but Pinnacle [which manages the private side of the development] won’t let me park on site or let me come in the main entrance, which is nearer the street disabled bay. Instead I have to carry my sick child in the rain and cold all the way round the building.”

One mother, whose children were playing in the small area allocated to social housing residents, said the way private owners can move freely through the social housing side is unjust. “The private residents are allowed to walk through here, they bring their dogs into our play area and let them off the leash, but we aren’t even allowed to walk through there,” she said.

The Guardian asked Octavia if they have made any attempts to negotiate lower service charges or better access for its tenants. A spokesperson replied that although they did not know what the extra cost would be, they did not want to impose a burden on their residents, saying: “The running costs at this development are quite high, as they are with many new developments of this type.

“Access for our residents to the private sale part of the development and the parking area was not part of the offer from the developer and it was not sought in our lease negotiations, as it would have put an added financial burden on all residents in terms of service charge costs. Keeping costs like this down contributes to making housing more affordable. We are challenging the current access arrangements to parking with the management agents.”

Between them the affordable and social homes are paying around £36,000 a year in service charges. Ali and his neighbours say they have offered to pay extra to use the garden but had no response. They have not been given any information on what the garden costs to maintain.

In a statement, the deputy mayor of London, James Murray, reiterated Khan’s view that service charges should not be used to segregate residents from communal gardens or play areas.

“Segregation has no place in London,” Murray said. “Developers considering any form of separation or distinction between social and private housing need to realise their position is morally unacceptable. Any designs that divide communities – from segregated spaces to poor doors and exorbitant service charges – have no place in our city.”

Councillor Adam Hug, leader of the Labour group in Westminster, said the council had been under the impression at planning stage that all residents would have access across the site. “My argument is that the onus is on the developers, Redrow, in this situation,” he said. “If they are setting the service charge too high for Octavia to allow access then I believe that is a breach of the original planning permission that shows open access.

Redrow, which posted profits before tax of £380m in 2018, and which advertised the site as “a distinguished collection of 49 luxury residences” said that the decision to segregate the site by tenure lay with Octavia, who wanted to keep costs down.

Mark Parker, regional managing director for Redrow in London, said: “We strive to create inclusive developments and work closely with the managing agent in the early stages and assess their recommendations on service charge levels for residents. We always endeavour to keep charges as low as possible for all parties.

“This particular block … is owned and controlled by Octavia Housing. Octavia sought to minimise service charges by specifying the areas that their residents would require access to within the development.”

“We no longer own the freehold of this building. Residents should raise their concerns with the managing agents concerned and Octavia Housing.”

Pinnacle, which manages the private side of the site, including parking, said in a statement: “We manage the development [on behalf of Westbourne Place Management Company Ltd] in accordance with the provisions set out in the leases which were agreed between Octavia and Redrow Homes prior to completion.”

Westminster Council has opened a planning enforcement investigation to examine whether Redrow are in breach of the original planning permissions.
Government accused of wrecking plans to build more social housing.

Councils voice frustration after shock interest rate rise imposed on cheap Treasury loans.

The government has been accused of “trashing” plans to build more social housing across the UK after it imposed a shock interest rate rise on cheap Treasury loans.

Councils reacted with frustration to the one percentage point increase on public works loan board (PWLB) finance, which was imposed “out of the blue” this week, warning it could delay or scupper housebuilding and regeneration schemes.

They said rise would lead to fewer council homes being built, and would reduce local authorities’ ability to build and maintain schools, roads and waste facilities, and invest in commercial property.

“It presents a real risk that capital schemes, including vital council house building projects, will cease to be affordable and may have to be cancelled as a result,” a spokesperson for the Local Government Association (LGA) said.

Sharon Taylor, the leader of Stevenage council, said: “It’s another big blow for local government finance. The need nationally is for good quality, affordable housing. My view is only councils can deliver that. Why would you want to slow that down in the middle of a housing crisis?”

She said the sudden rise had “trashed” Stevenage’s plans, worked up in recent months, to accelerate a scheme to build 500 homes for social rent. The town has 2,500 families on the council housing waiting list and rising homelessness.

The number of new homes built for social rent has fallen by almost four-fifths in a decade, according to official figures, with just 6,000 constructed in 2017-18. Despite the governments’ apparent enthusiasm for councils to take on a bigger housebuilding role, town halls fear the rate rise will hit hopes of a social housebuilding revival.

London First, a business lobby organisation, said: “With the base rate low, and Brexit looming, it is ridiculous that national government is making it more expensive for local authorities to invest in their communities.”

It is believed the rate rise was prompted by Treasury concern over a recent surge in borrowing by UK councils to invest in offices and shopping centres as a way of creating a new revenue stream to cover ever-widening gaps in their budgets caused by years of austerity cuts.

Spelthorne council in Surrey hit the headlines after borrowing £1bn from the PWLB to fund a huge commercial property portfolio. The aim was to cut its reliance on government funding to run local services. It reportedly banked £7.5m from its property investment last year – about a third of its annual revenue budget.

However, fears that councils’ multibillion-pound exposure to the commercial property market could turn sour in the event of an economic turndown led to the announcement of an inquiry by the National Audit Office earlier this year.

Councils borrowed nearly £8bn from the PWLB in 2018-19, a 77% year-on-year rise in new loans, prompting speculation that they wanted to build up capital reserves before an anticipated post-Brexit interest rate rise. Wednesday’s increase – from 1.81% to 2.82% – applies to new loans only.

The LGA estimates the rate rise will add about £70m to financing costs for all new loans to English councils, a change that will scupper housebuilding projects already on the edge of viability. The Treasury said the new PWLB rates still worked out cheaper than commercial loans.

A Treasury spokesperson said: “This one percentage point increase takes rates back to levels that were available in 2018. Even with this change, the PWLB rates offer very good value to local authorities. We have also legislated to increase the lending limit of the PWLB to £95bn, as part of the government’s commitment that local authorities can access financing to support their capital spending plans.”
Grenfell Tower law will compel owners to keep buildings safe.

Plans for a housing regulator are among 22 new bills in the Queen’s speech as the Tories try to move on from Brexit.

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/20 ... dings-safe

Legislation that would force developers and landlords to comply with rigorous new safety standards will be announced in the Queen’s speech on Monday with the aim of preventing a repeat of the Grenfell Tower disaster.

Ministers say that the creation of a new buildings safety regulator will be the biggest reform of the sector in 40 years, imposing far stronger obligations on those responsible for the safety of high-rise buildings throughout design, construction and occupation.

The long-awaited report from the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire on 14 June 2017, which claimed 72 lives, is due to be published within weeks.
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