Originally posted on August 24 on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing
Something about the rash of stories this week about ‘private landlord subsidy’ left me feeling very uneasy.
The stories were based on a briefing from the National Housing Federation (NHF) on how the amount of housing benefit that goes to private tenants has doubled in the last decade. As reported in the Daily Mail and elsewhere that means ‘Private landlords rake in £9bn a year from Housing Benefit’.
The figures were mostly familiar ones about the big increases seen since the financial crisis in the total bill, the number of claimants and the number of private tenants who are in work and also on housing benefit.
David Orr argued:
‘It is madness to spend £9bn of taxpayers’ money lining the pockets of private landlords rather than investing in affordable homes.’
He’s right, it is madness. Yes, private landlords do get £9.3bn in housing benefit. Yes, the bill has doubled since 2008.
Originally posted on August 15 on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing
Cathy Come Home has lost none of its power as it nears its 50th anniversary. As everyone in housing knows, the classic BBC play brought homelessness to national attention. Shelter was founded a few days after its first transmission, Crisis a year later and many housing associations at around the same time.
There are currently three different ways to watch again: the original BBC play by Jeremy Sandford and Ken Loach is on iPlayer, a stage version by Cardboard Citizens will be on tour over the Autumn and Winter and its production is also available on YouTube). Housing associations with a connection have also formed the Homes for Cathy group to raise awareness.
Watching the original for the first time in years, it was obvious that Cathy is still just as hard hitting as an exposé of what happens when a family slip through the safety net. Her harrowing descent from flat to squat to traveller camp to hostel was watched by 12m people in 1966 (a quarter of the population) and they got the message that housing matters.
In that final scene at Liverpool Street station, Cathy’s kids join the other 4,000 that the commentary tells us are taken into care each year because their parents are homeless.
Originally posted on August 4 on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing
Record low interest rates have been great for people with mortgages but terrible for the housing system as a whole.
Like the Bank of England’s decision in March 2009 to cut the base rate to 0.5%, Thursday’s further reduction to 0.25% is motivated by concern about the economy as a whole. But nobody imagined in 2009 that seven and a half years later interest rates would still be as low, still less even lower.
The result has been severe distortion in the housing market. What was only meant to be a temporary fix has instead become a semi-permanent feature of the system that has benefitted home owners and landlords at the expense of everyone else. The effect of Thursday’s small cut will be limited in itself but it means that effects of the low rate regime will be with us for much longer.
Originally published on July 15 on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing
Take your pick: targets for new homes are much too low; the private sector cannot deliver them; and policy is too focussed on home ownership.
A report published on Friday by the all-party economic affairs select committee of the House of Lords does not so much criticise the government’s approach to building more homes as skewer it.
And one of the clearest explanations I’ve yet read of why current policy cannot, and will not, work does not come from just any old committee. The group of Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem and Crossbench peers includes two former chancellors of the exchequer (Lords Lamont and Darling) and two former permanent secretaries of the Treasury (Lord Burns and Lord Turnbull) with more cabinet ministers, senior mandarins, special advisors and business people also in the mix. They are drawing on decades of experience of previous failures in housing policy.
The report is also brilliantly timed, just at the point when Theresa May’s new government is getting down to work and preparing for life after the referendum and George Osborne’s budget surplus targets.