Squeezed out

Housing is the big thing missing from today’s major report on living standards from the Resolution Foundation.

The final report of its Commission on Living Standards looks at the plight of low and middle income families. Things were bad even before the crash with average incomes falling by £570 between 2003 and 2008 as growing inequality meant that prosperity was not shared around. The gap was only made up by a £730 a year increase in tax credits.

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


Red flags

As the slow motion train crash of welfare reform continues, the driver is ignoring a succession of people desperately waving as he passes them.

Heedless of the big red flags they are holding, Iain Duncan Smith and his conductor Lord Freud sometimes even wave back and blow the whistle of their sleekly designed train in acknowledgement of what they see as the congratulations of the crowd.

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

Barbed wire

Is it possible to ‘hard-wire common sense’ into a mortgage market that has a track record of irrational excess?

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) launched the final version of its Mortgage Market Review (MMR) this morning after a marathon round of consultation with lenders and consumer groups.

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

Revealing the real Rachman?

It’s almost 50 years since Peter Rachman died and we still use Rachmanism as a shorthand term for everything that is bad about bad landlords. But is what we think we know wrong?

That is the premise of a fascinating documentary on BBC Radio 4 this week that set out to find The Real Rachman – the Lord of the Slums (listen again on iplayer here). The legend it investigated was of the evil vice racketeer who owned slum properties in Notting Hill packed full of tenants with working girls ‘bending the basement’ below them. In 1963 the People exposed an ‘empire based on vice and drugs, violence and blackmail, extortion and slum landlordism the like of which this country has never seen and let us hope never will again’. The same year Panorama exposed a ‘big time 20th century racketeer’ who sent men round with dogs to evict his tenants.

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Home truths

‘We’re not in any way complacent,’ Mark Prisk told the Today programme this morning – having spent his interview being just that.

It’s the first time I’ve caught a media appearance by the successor to Grant Shapps, who was so ever-present in the radio and TV studios that he was dubbed the minister for Daybreak. Prisk is not on twitter either so other than a few brief interviews and a few blogs he is still a bit of a mystery to me.

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

Joining the dots on unemployment and welfare reform

There’s a contradiction lurking behind the good news about falling unemployment: we seem to be succeeding in getting people back into work who don’t want to be and failing with people who do.

The headline numbers in the labour market statistics are that unemployment fell by 50,000 in the three months to August to 2.5 million and the number of people in employment rose by 212,000 to 29.6 million. The latter figure is up by 462,000 since the 2010 election and is the highest total since records began in 1971.

Part of the reason why the number of people in work rose faster than unemployment fell is that the proportion of people between 16 and 64 defined as economically inactive is also falling. The total is down by 243,000 since the election to just over nine million and more than half of that fall (138,000) happened in the last three months.

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Rent spiral

Remember when David Cameron claimed that housing benefit cuts were bringing down rent levels? I bet he doesn’t now either.

Cameron said at prime minister’s questions in January that: ‘What we have seen so far, as housing benefit has been reformed and reduced, is that rent levels have come down, so we have stopped ripping off the taxpayer.’

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

Hidden costs

Bit by bit the facts about the affordable rent programme are leaking out but far too much remains hidden or unclear.

On Friday, in the typically under-stated style of all-party committees, MPs published their verdict so far. The public accounts committee concludes that ‘it is not yet clear whether the programme will deliver value for money in the long term’ and that ‘the department needs to do more work to understand the impact of the programme on tenants and its interaction with wider welfare reforms’.

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

Backyard blues

It’s great news that David Cameron used his conference speech to criticise nimbys and call for more homes but does he really get the problem?

In the week that has seen the launch of the pan-housing Homes for Britaincampaign it was significant that the prime minister went beyond the odd dutiful word in his leader’s speech at Birmingham. The bit that really struck me was this:

‘There are those who say “yes of course we need more housing”…but “no” to every development – and not in my backyard.
 Look – it’s OK for my generation. Many of us have got on the ladder.
 But you know the average age that someone buys their first home today, without any help for their parents? 
33 years old. We are the party of home ownership – we cannot let this carry on.

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

Sound of silence

Amid all the rhetoric about those £10 billion cuts in welfare, what’s not being said could ultimately turn out to be more significant.

We’ve become so accustomed to welfare cuts that it’s easy to assume that another £10 billion is just more of the same. It isn’t and it is not at all clear where the savings will come from.

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