Easing does it?

There’s been a real change in the way the government is talking about housing investment over the last week. Is it just talk or more than that?

Several days out of news and twitter contact have left me catching up with what seems a noticeable change in tone from the Lib Dem side of the government.

Read the rest of this post on Inside Edge, my blog for Inside Housing

Dodgy maths, lazy assertions

One of the more obvious hostages in fortune in the coalition agreement was always going to be the pledge to stick to the commitment to end child poverty by 2020.

Abandoning the legally-binding targets set by the Labour government would have sent out all the wrong signals (especially for the Lib Dems) from the outset of the coalition. Yet even as the pledge was being made it was obvious that the government’s austerity measures were going to make child poverty worse rather than better.

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Hidden reality

If you missed Britain’s Hidden Homeless last night it’s well worth making time to catch on iPlayer.

The BBC documentary was presented by Speech Debelle, the Mercury-prize winning rapper with personal experience of what she was talking about. She spent three years sofa surfing and in hostels after falling out with her mum at 19 and wrote the opening song of what went on to be her prize-winning first album while in a hostel.

So this was far more than the standard celeb-fronted BBC3 documentary. You believed her when she said that hidden homelessness is three times bigger than the official figures suggest and that things are worse now than they were for her ten years ago.

Read the rest of this post on Inside Edge, my blog for Inside Housing.

Fair rent

The proposed reduction of the ‘pay to stay’ cap to £60,000 raises introduces yet more contradictions into a policy that was already riddled with them.

Reports on Saturday (most comprehensively by Patrick Wintour in The Guardian) said a consultation paper will be published next month on the idea of charging social housing tenants a market rent once their income rises above a certain level. When the policy was first floated last year, the proposed household income was £100,000 but now Grant Shapps, with the backing of David Cameron, is apparently suggesting £60,000.

Read the rest of this post on my blog for Inside Housing.

Starter’s orders

Grant Shapps has predictably had a go but it’s hard to see the housebuilding figures out today as anything other than awful.

The housing minister tweeted that housing starts in 2011 were up 29 per cent on 2009. Curiously, though, he did not mention the figures that had just been published for the first quarter of 2012.

Read the rest of this post on my blog for Inside Housing.

Welfare reform Mark 2

With (depending on your point of view) neat or cruel irony the number of part-time employees hit a record high within hours of them being identified as a major target for a second round of welfare reform.

Official figures published on Wednesday morning confirmed that unemployment fell by 45,000 to 2.63 million people and the number of people in work rose by 105,000. However, within that total the number of people working part-time because they cannot find full-time work rose to a record high of 1.4 million. There are now eight million part-time employees and 4.2 million self-employed people – both the highest numbers since records began in 1992.

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Going Dutch

Here’s hoping that Grant Shapps found a bit more to do in the Netherlands on Monday than enthuse about self-build and get Kevin McCloud’s autograph.

The housing minister and the Grand Designs presenter were part of a UK housing delegation visiting Europe’s largest self-build project at Almere. There was also an event at the British Embassy aimed at boosting trade and business links.

They were clearly impressed by what’s happening and with good reason. There are more than 800 homes at Almere that people have built for around €50,000 less than the same property would cost in the commercial sector. Imagine something similar in Britain backed with planning reforms and help with finance and what Shapps is saying about the sector doubling in size starts to make sense (even if I wish he wouldn’t keep repeating the same announcements). If, as the minister told us two weeks ago, the future’s bright, it seems the future is orange too.

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