10 things about 2012 – part 2

The conclusion of my two-part review of the issues and people I was blogging about in 2012 looks at bullding, owning and affording homes – and a year of anniversaries.

6) Housebuilding: talking a good game

If you measure the importance of an issue by its media profile, 2012 was certainly the year of housebuilding. The first half of the year saw momentum building behind the idea that investment in new homes would be good for the economy as well as people who need a roof over their heads. Support came from economists and politicians (increasingly from the Lib Dem side of the coalition) and even the director-general of the DCLG was talking about a ‘decade of housebuilding’ at the CIH conference in June. Hopes were genuinely high that the case for housing was winning support at the highest levels of government and David Cameron’s party conference speech in October was heavy on anti-nimby rhetotric.

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10 things about 2012: part 1

The first of a two-part look back at the issues and people that I was blogging about in a momentous year for housing.

1) Private renting: a year of growth

I predicted in January that 2012 would see the private rented sector overtake social renting. As things turned out, I was wrong – but not by much. Whether you judge it by the number of homes or the number of households or the answers given by people in the Census, a combination of growth in buy to let, shrinking home ownership and the slow decline of social housing mean it will happen sooner rather than later.

It was also a year that the boundary between the two sectors continue to blur: social housing responded to the tenure shift as a series of social landlords from Thames Valley to L&Q launched private renting initiatives; private landlords like Grainger registered social housing subsidiaries; and the government approved proposals in the Montague report to kick start institutional investment in private renting.

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Flying blind

It seems about as realistic to expect clear answers from the direct payment demonstration projects as it does to expect them from senior civil servants at a select committee hearing – and that’s exactly how things turned out this week.

As the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was publishing the first data from the projects, witnesses including its permanent secretary Robert Devereux and head of housing policy division Andrew Parfitt were appearing before MPs at the public accounts committee (watch again here). The two things happened so simultaneously that the officials told the MPs that there was ‘no data on arrears so far’.

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


A housing timebomb

The big shift from owning to renting revealed in the Census has potentially massive implications for government spending on housing costs.

The headline results revealed by the Office for National Statistics last week were that home ownership fell from 68.3 per cent of households if England and Wales in 2001 to 63.5 per cent in 2011. Private renting increased from 9 per cent to 15 per cent and social renting fell from 19.3 per cent to 17.6 per cent.

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


A nation divided by housing tenure

This week’s Census reveals a historic shift from owning to renting as the nation adjusts to new housing realities. That much is obvious but there are some significant trends behind that headline number too.

The results for England and Wales show private renting has risen from 9 per cent of households in 2001 to 15 per cent in 2011 and that home ownership has fallen from 68 per cent to 64 per cent over the same period.

However, that simple two-way split misses what has happened beneath the surface. Tenure is now split roughly three ways between outright ownership, owning with a mortgage and renting (itself split evenly between social and private renting). Many people were watching to see whether private renting would overtake social renting (for the first time since 1961) but this did not happen unless you include all forms of private renting, including those who rent from an employer or live rent-free.

So the more significant change for me is the fact that there are now more renters (private and social) than people buying with a mortgage. Between 2001 and 2011, mortgaged home ownership fell from 39 per cent of all tenure to 33 per cent. The total number of households buying with a mortgage has fallen by 749,000 over the last ten years from 8.4 million to 7.6 million. However, if mortgaged ownership had maintained its 2001 share of a rising number of households, there would now be 1.4 million more home owners on the housing ladder.

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No hiding place

A combination of the recession, welfare reform and localism is set to generate increases in almost all forms of homelessness in England, according to comprehensive new analysis.

Homelessness Monitor: England 2012 published yesterday by Crisis is the full version of an academic study from which headline findings were released last week (equivalents will also be published for Wales and Scotland). It draws together evidence not only on what we normally think of as homelessness – rough sleeping and homeless acceptances – but also more hidden forms too such as concealed households, sharing and overcrowding.

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


Two cheers

I’d love to give three cheers for Labour’s new approach to the private rented sector but I can only manage two.

Yesterday it published a policy review paper on stability and affordability for renters and families. This is the second of three policy review papers on private renting: the first covered management and letting agents, the third will cover standards and rogue landlords.

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


A blog about blogging

I’m giving another talk about blogging and twitter today for a social media conference organised by the Chartered Institute of Housing (#socmed12 on twitter).

The whole process got me thinking about what I’m trying to do when I blog and also about the other blogs I follow. So for anyone interested and especially for anyone in Birmingham, here are some links to the blogs I’ll be mentioning, with some brief explanation.

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Autumn Statement 2013 – live blog

17:00 The independent Office for Budget Responsibility has issued yet another update to its estimate of the size of the housing benefit bill. It says housing benefit will cost £6 billion more over the next five years than it estimated at the time of the Budget in March. It puts the cost at £600 million more in 2013/14, rising to £1.8 billion more by 2017/18. According to the OBR’s Economic and Fiscal Outlook:

‘About half of this is explained by an increase in the proportion of employed people who receive housing benefit, based on recent data and detailed modelling, which suggests that growth in renting for this part of the working age population is likely to continue to increase further over the forecast period. Changes in the caseloads for other benefits, particularly ESA, explain the majority of the remaining increase.’

This is the third time in a year that the OBR has increased its estimate of the cost of housing benefit. The March estimate was itself £3.7 billion higher over five years than the one it gave in last year’s autumn statement, and that one was £2.8 billion higher than the one at the March 2012 Budget.

What happens next? Though the OBR’s updated cost estimates seem to grow bigger every six months, the Treasury is determined to cap ‘the vast majority’ of housing benefit spending as part of its overall welfare cap. Those rising in-work claims are the result of low wages and high rents, yet only ‘cyclical’ spending like JSA-related housing benefit will be exempted from the cap. Yet more housing benefit cuts to come?

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