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

Discuss news stories and political issues that affect carers.
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Revealed : the private landlords profiting from England’s housing crisis.

Big companies accused of overcharging as families are forced into low-quality emergency accommodation.



Private companies have been accused of profiting from England’s deepening housing crisis after an Observer investigation found homeless families crammed into squalid hostels, crime-ridden tower blocks and rundown estates.

Freedom of information responses from councils in England’s top-50 homeless blackspots reveal that the 156 largest private providers of temporary accommodation collected more than £215m in the last financial year. On average these firms received £10,000 of public money for each booking.

A separate report, released on Sunday by the cross-party group London Councils, shows cash-strapped councils in the capital are facing a daily struggle to accommodate growing numbers of families and individuals entitled to additional support under flagship reforms designed to prevent homelessness. The research reveals government funding is not covering the full costs of implementing the Homelessness Reduction Act, which has left boroughs with a shortfall of more than £200m a year.

One in five of the largest private providers supplied homes in the last financial year that led to official “suitability reviews”, sparked by serious complaints about poor conditions, overcrowding or violence. The Observer spoke to families living in accommodation managed by some of the main players in the industry. It included:

• Two hostels in Hackney, east London, where mothers and children complain they share cramped, bed-bug infested single rooms for years on end.

• A tower block in neighbouring Newham, where children sleep on broken beds and the heating is so expensive families say they huddle in the library downstairs to keep warm in winter.

• A rundown estate where a ceiling fell on a woman, who says she has often complained about leaks.

• A converted office block in Harlow, Essex, where families say they cower behind their doors while drug-users roam the corridors.

In London, which accounts for nearly 70% of all the families in temporary accommodation in England, almost one-third of the firms breached guideline rent levels, overcharging councils searching for emergency accommodation on 288 occasions over the last financial year. Five of these overchargers also negotiated additional financial incentives totalling nearly £500,000 from councils desperate to secure accommodation over the same period.

Some of the most successful business models are built on the worst types of emergency accommodation, such as B&Bs, where families can share bathrooms and cooking facilities with vulnerable adults, and self-contained studios, where whole families are sometimes housed. Previously unreleased data shows eight of the firms profited from 1,689 studio-flat bookings and nine profited from 2,359 B&B bookings in London last year.

The children’s commissioner, Anne Longfield, said it was completely unacceptable that homeless children were growing up in substandard temporary accommodation. “Some private companies are receiving enormous sums from councils yet providing cramped, low-quality temporary accommodation for homeless families,” she said.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “These findings reveal a shocking picture of the appalling and degrading conditions many homeless families are forced to live in, which sound like something out of a Charles Dickens novel.” She said the firms were profiting from homelessness. “We need to ask serious questions about whether it is acceptable for private companies and individuals to profiteer from homelessness by charging struggling councils vast sums of money to deliver such poor housing,” she said.

Neate called on the government to invest in 3 million council homes over the next 20 years, thereby “preventing homelessness and circumventing the need for temporary accommodation”.

Darren Rodwell, housing executive member for London Councils, said local authorities were between a rock and a hard place. “More and more homeless Londoners are coming through our doors but there’s a severe shortage of accommodation available. And as homelessness rates continue to rise, private providers of temporary accommodation are able to keep demanding higher prices,” he said.

Councils were working together to agree price caps and reduce competition between boroughs, but he warned: “We will never be able to get a handle on the crisis until the government addresses the reasons why so many families and individuals are becoming homeless in the first place.”

Rodwell said the Homelessness Reduction Act had increased demand without giving councils enough resources to help people at risk of homelessness. “The situation is unsustainable and we urgently need increased investment in homelessness services,” he said.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said it was investing £1.2bn in tackling homelessness. “Everyone should have somewhere secure to live and it is completely unacceptable if standards are not being met. Councils have a duty to provide suitable temporary accommodation to those who need it,” a spokesman said.
Grenfell survivors fear inquiry judge will side with establishment.

Report on 2017 fire must be as hard-hitting as Stephen Lawrence report, say bereaved.




As predicted earlier in this thread ... I hope I am wrong !!!
Grenfell Tower ... quite a bit in the press today ahead of the release of the first part of the Inquiry tomorrow.

Suffice to say , the Fire brigade are in the frame.

In his 1,000-page report, Sir Martin makes 46 recommendations following a two-year investigation into how the fire in the west London tower block unfolded on June 14, 2017.


Enough from me , plenty of newspapers and web sites out there if you want more.

Cladding / planning elements ?

Next year for those.

Part two of the inquiry – examining the circumstances and causes of the disaster – begins in January.
Grenfell inquiry has cost 100 times amount saved on cladding.

Most of £40m spent so far has gone on lawyers representing inquiry, bereaved and survivors.


https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/201 ... f-cladding


The Grenfell tower inquiry has cost the taxpayer at least £40m so far, more than 100 times the savings made by swapping fire-retardant cladding on the council block for cheaper combustible panels that fuelled the fatal fire.

Most of the money went on the array of more than 150 lawyers and legal fee earners representing the inquiry and the bereaved and survivors from the 14 June 2017 disaster that claimed 72 lives.

These QCs, counsel and solicitors have so far charged £24m, according to accounts published by the inquiry on Friday. They include 52 barristers instructed by the inquiry, which is chaired by the retired appeal court judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick, who earns up to £220,000 a year, 13 barristers and 91 other fee earners, mostly solicitors, for survivors, bereaved and residents.

The inquiry was established by Theresa May in August 2017 to look into the events of the night of the fire and the circumstances of the refurbishment project that preceded it. It has spent £4.6m on expert evidence and scientific investigations, £9m on back-office costs and £2.6m on hiring the venue at Holborn Bars in London’s legal district.

The costs do not include well over £10m already spent on legal fees by other public bodies and government departments, including the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, which oversaw the decision to shave £293,368 from the refurbishment budget by swapping zinc cladding with a fire-resistant core for an aluminium alternative with a combustible polyethylene core. Kensington and Chelsea has allocated £6.3m to the legal costs.

It means the inquiry has already cost considerably more than the Iraq inquiry, chaired by Sir John Chilcot, which spent just over £13m, and the Leveson inquiry into press culture and standards, which cost about £5.4m.

The £18.9m cost of representing the 585 bereaved, survivors and residents who have core participant status does not yet match the £63.6m legal costs for representing the families of the 96 people who died at Hillsborough before and during the two-year inquest that ended in 2016.

But with at least another two years to run, lawyers’ bills are set to soar during the second-phase hearings, which will last an estimated 18 months – three times longer than the first phase.

“You can’t put a cost on justice,” said Deborah Coles, the executive director of Inquest, a charity that provides expertise on investigations into contentious deaths. “The vital role that the families’ lawyers play in going through thousands of documents and making sure that evidence is properly presented and helping them through a complex and difficult process cannot be overestimated. In the next stage there will be unlimited funds for the corporate lawyers so there has to be a level playing field for families”.

Private companies involved in the construction project are already using 20 firms of solicitors, 14 QCs and five other barristers, suggesting that all told the costs of the inquiry could easily exceed £100m when it finally concludes no earlier than late 2021.

The inquiry has received and reviewed more than 500,000 documents, of which more than 200,000 are expected to be disclosed to core participants.
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On Wednesday, Moore-Bick published his report into the night of the fire which found the London fire brigade’s readiness was “gravely inadequate”, fewer people would have died if it had been better prepared, and that the refurbishment project that wrapped the building in combustible insulation breached building regulations.
The Grenfell families have been vindicated. Now they need justice
Seraphima Kennedy
Read more

Survivors called for the resignation or dismissal of Dany Cotton, the commissioner of the London fire brigade, but she resisted and claimed Moore-Bick lacked evidence to say fire commanders’ slowness to order an evacuation cost “many more lives”.

In comments that angered the bereaved, she said: “We note the chairman states he has received no expert evidence to guide him on reaching his conclusion.”

That was true, but he went on to say: “I am confident that, on the clear and extensive evidence about the events of the night that I have heard at phase one, I can and should reach the conclusion that … [evacuation should have been ordered at least an hour before it did and] would have resulted in the saving of many more lives.”

Natasha Elcock, the chairwoman of Grenfell United, the survivors and bereaved group, said she saw the conclusion of the first phase as the first of four stages in the survivors’ search for justice. Next comes the second phase of the inquiry into the refurbishment project, which is overlapped by the ongoing Metropolitan police investigation into possible manslaughter, corporate manslaughter, individual gross negligence and health and safety offences which currently involves more than 160 police officers and staff.

Leaders of the London fire brigade have already been interviewed under caution and the police said in June that they had conducted 13 interviews under caution, gathered 45m documents in digital form and 14,500 physical exhibits. Finally, the survivors and bereaved hope for prosecutions, convictions and jail sentences.
None of pledged starter homes built, says watchdog.

A government plan to create 200,000 new homes for first-time buyers has resulted in no homes being built, the National Audit Office has found.



Announced in 2014, "starter homes" were meant to be aimed at those under the age of 40 and sold at a 20% discount.

But legislation to take the project forward was never passed.

Labour called the policy a total failure, but the government said it had a "great track record" for house building.

Former prime minister David Cameron committed to the scheme in the 2015 Conservative Party manifesto as a way of tackling the affordable housing crisis.

The project was also supposed to support the wider growth and regeneration of local areas, and some town centres.

The homes were meant to be built across the country by the end of the decade and more than £2bn was set aside for the first tranche of 60,000 dwellings.

According to the National Audit Office (NAO), between 2015-16 and 2017-18, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) spent almost £174m on acquiring and preparing sites originally intended for building starter homes.

These were in places such as Plymouth, Bury, Basildon, Stockport, Bridgwater, Cinderford and Bristol.

But the spending watchdog said the sites were all now being used for housing more generally, only some of which was affordable.

Dashed expectations

It said the scheme had faltered because the necessary legislation and planning guidance had never been put through Parliament, despite expectations it would happen in 2019.

As a result, even new homes conforming to the intended specifications cannot be marketed as starter homes, which has made getting developers on board challenging.

The NAO said the government also no longer had a budget dedicated to the starter homes project.

Labour MP Meg Hillier, chairwoman of the Public Accounts Committee, said: "Despite setting aside over £2bn to build 60,000 new starter homes, none were built.

"Since 2010 many housing programmes announced with much fanfare have fallen away with money then recycled into the next announcement.

"The MHCLG needs to focus on delivery and not raise, and then dash, people's expectations."

John Healey, Labour's shadow housing secretary, said the Conservative Party had wasted four years and spent millions of pounds.

"After nearly 10 years of Conservative failure on housing, the country needs a Labour government to fix the housing crisis."

But a housing ministry spokeswoman said house building was at its highest level for all but one of the last 30 years.

"We have a great track record... with 222,000 homes delivered last year, and 1.3 million in total since 2010, including over 430,000 affordable homes."

Workable rules

David O'Leary, policy director at Home Builders Federation, said that even though starter homes had not got off the ground, the scheme had not been a total failure.

He said the engagement it had generated between local government, builders, mortgage lenders and valuers was positive.

"The difficulty in creating a workable set of rules demonstrates the importance of ensuring that proper consideration is given to the practical implementation of interventions and their market impacts as early as possible."
Grenfell fire : Sadiq Khan bans contractor pending inquiry verdict.

Mayor suspends Rydon from list of firms recommended to carry out London housing work.


https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/201 ... ry-verdict
House of horrors ! Cardiff tower block residents battle developer Redrow after building faults left them at risk of fire - and some have just 10 days left to claim.

Some 2,000 residents are living in a building that isn't properly fireproofed.

The developer has offered loans for repairs, which residents say is " Insulting. "

Some leaseholders of the properties have just 10 days left to make a claim.



https://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/mortg ... perty.html


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An independent buildings survey carried out in July 2019 by Heartland found that in some circumstances there had been 'no attempt to install any fire-stopping whatsoever' in the buildings.

In some instances it found no attempt at fireproofing cables and gaps under doors that would allow fires to spread quickly. It also found what it described as 'masses' of expanding foam used as fire sealant.

Residents say a lack of fire proofing in the block is causing them deep anxiety

The survey report found: 'There is a theme of very poor or non-existent fire-stopping through all seven buildings... We recommend that the shortcomings are addressed as quickly as possible.'

South Wales Fire and Rescue have since issued enforcement notices which residents say prohibit disabled and elderly people from living in or visiting one of the buildings.

Meanwhile, the leaseholders are facing having to potentially pay tens of thousands of pounds each to ensure the flats are safe to live in.

One concerned resident told This is Money: 'I bought the property in 2007 as part of my pension plans. Within about five years the problems with the property began to emerge.

'Today the flats are effectively worthless due to a whole series of major construction and fire safety defects.

'It's shocking, deeply stressful and worrying. There are young families in here. There are retirement plans on hold as a result. People can't move. It is a shocking injustice, and we've been trying to sort it out for years.'
The controversy over external cladding and safety in high rise buildings is back in the news :

Fire alarms " Didn't sound " in Bolton University flats fire as flames engulfed six-storey building with Grenfell-style cladding and injured two - even though inspectors passed building as safe just two years ago.


https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/articl ... lding.html
Firm which runs fire ravaged student flats, was previously reprimanded over fire regulations at Leeds student digs.

The company which runs the fire ravaged Bolton student accommodation was previously reprimanded for breaching fire safety regulations on new build student flats in Leeds in 2016, it has emerged.



https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/uk ... 1-10108257
The billionaire and the 219 tiny flats : a new low for rabbit-hutch Britain ?

A London office block is to be turned into apartments, and some could be just 4 metres by 4 metres ( 13 feet by 13 feet ... in old money ).



Image


https://www.theguardian.com/money/2019/ ... ch-britain
292 posts