Five-year stretch

Five years ago this month I started my blog for Inside Housing wondering how I would ever find enough interesting things to say. I needn’t have worried.

Fortunately for me (bad news is always good news for bloggers and journalists) and unfortunately for everyone else, the week before I wrote my first post a small bank called Northern Rock went bust. The consequences of that still dominate my blogging five years later (and hopefully that makes it interesting enough to keep reading).

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


Clear yellow water

There are some fine words on housing this week from the Liberal Democrats but do they amount to any more than just words?

The policy paper they endorsed at their annual conference in Brighton yesterday reads like it has been plucked from the wish list of the housing organisations campaigning jointly under the banner of Homes for Britain. And the Lib Dem rejection of the planning liberalisation proclaimed by what I have now come to think of as the Conservatories differentiates the governing parties still further. I’m not sure I’d want to go too close to it but there is now some clear yellow water.

Yet even as the Lib Dems call for housebuilding to be trebled to 300,000 homes a year it’s hard to forget that they also endorsed the coalition’s 65 per cent cut in affordable housing investment.

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CIH social media conference talk

Just a quick post with the links to my talk on blogging and twitter for the CIH social media conference today (#socmed12 on twitter).

The talk is in four sections – the what, why, who and how of blogging – ending up with the impact of twitter and some practical tips.

Here are the links to the blogs I’ll be mentioning if anyone out there wants to follow them up.

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Child’s play

Nick Clegg’s ‘pensions for property’ plan is the most breathtakingly stupid idea since, well, the last time a government proposed something similar.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg and Treasury chief secretary Danny Alexander put forward the proposal in interviews on Sunday as a way of allowing parents and grandparents to use their pension fund to guarantee a deposit for their children and grandchildren.

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

Runaway train

The universal credit was meant to be the great prize that would make up for all the pain of welfare cuts but what if it just adds to it?

A range of evidence about the past, present and future of welfare is published today and the results suggest a system that is cracking under the strain even before the big wave of cuts due next April and the phased introduction of the universal credit starting at the same time.

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

Going backwards

The government is missing the chance to tackle housing market volatility and its damaging consequences for households and the wider economy.

That’s the fear expressed in a progress report out today from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s housing market taskforce that warns that ‘in some ways we are moving further away from this goal’.

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

A lot of quid, not much quo

The bail-out of the banks quite rightly led to calls for them to do something in return. Why is nobody saying the same about the bail-out of the big housebuilders?

Each new scheme for the banks has come with strings attached designed to ensure that they make more loans. None have worked so far but a quid pro quo is seen as a political necessity every time a new scheme is suggested. Under the latest wheeze, the Bank of England’s Funding for Lending scheme, banks can borrow money at just 0.25 per cent for four years but if their lending falls between now and 2013 the rate on the loan will be steadily increased.

Contrast that with what has happened with the major housebuilders. Just as with the banks, the credit crunch triggered a crisis for the industry, this one caused by having paid too much for land that fell in value and sites full of homes they could not sell. Just as with the banks they have been bailed out by the taxpayer – and, just to be clear, we are not talking about tens or hundreds of millions but several billion pounds.

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Third time lucky?

So here it is: what by my reckoning the coalition government’s third housing strategy in two and a half years.

Mark one was the assumption that implementing the coalition’s programme for government would do the trick. The ‘powerful new incentive’ of the new homes bonus would persuade local authorities to approve more homes and get housebuilding moving. The Localism Act would turn help turn NIMBYs into YIMBYs. And FirstBuy would give a time-limited kick-start to the housing market with equity loans for first-time buyers.

When that didn’t work, Mark two came last November. The big idea was NewBuy, a government-backed mortgage indemnity scheme to give 95 per cent mortgages on new homes to up to 100,000 buyers. That was backed up by funds for custom homes and empty homes, a consultation on right to buy 2 and another review of investment in the private rented sector.

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Home delivery

It’s still very early days but the appointments of the new ministerial team at the DCLG team are already raising some questions for me.

According the line being spun by the new Conservative chair Grant Shapps on the Today programme this morning, the government is now at the delivery stage. Within that context, new housing minister Mark Prisk’s previous job as construction minister should bode well for the top priority of building more homes. Meanwhile the appointment of Nick Boles as planning minister looks to signal a fresh emphasis on reforming the planning system to boost the economy.

However, a brief look at their track record suggests some intriguing possibilities on policy – as well as some potential tensions. Here are three initial questions that occur to me about the green belt, private rented sector regulation and housebuilding.

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

Taken for granted

Many people will be celebrating the departure Grant Shapps today. My own feelings are much more mixed.

I’ve disagreed with the housing minister on most of the major policy changes he’s made, from ending security of tenure to affordable rent and from watering down the homelessness legislation to pay to stay, as well as those he hasn’t like greater regulation of the private rented sector.

However, I’ve never agreed with those who regard him as a few sheets short of a ministerial brief: the Stan Laurel to the Oliver Hardy of Eric Pickles. Entertaining as the comparison was at the time, amusing as it may be to play #shappstistics and #shappsbingo on twitter, if he was just a figure of fun would he have been able to deliver the most radical change in social housing policy for 30 years?

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