Man on a mission

So can the Quiet Man with missionary zeal really deliver on the universal credit?

The policy regarded as (depending on your point of view) flagship reform or slow-motion train crash, started in a low-key way in Ashton-under-Lyne on Monday. So low key that, according to the Guardian, nobody turned up for help on the first day.

However, the internal battles over it revealed in Rachel Sylvester’s column in today’s Times (here for those with access) were anything but low key. She describes how Iain Duncan Smith  battled with civil servants, the Treasury and Downing Street to secure what he sees as a moral mission of ‘changing people’.

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Letting go

Things are slowly changing for the better for tenants in the private rented sector. It’s about time.

A series of small but significant things have happened over the last couple of weeks that suggest that even the government is waking up to the fact that it cannot continue to leave customers of a multi-billion pound industry to fend for themselves.

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

Debating downsizing

So it turns out that the Daily Mash has the answer to the housing crisis: build more bungalows but make them stackable.

As ever, Policy Exchange has succeeded in identifying a problem – the distribution of housing between old and young – and coming up with a media-friendly solution that sees planning as the villain of the piece. The ‘return of the bungalow’ for elderly downsizers has duly made all the headlines this week.

The problem with bungalows – and the reason why so few are now built – is that they don’t make financial sense in areas with high land prices where the affordability crisis is most acute. No housebuilder or housing association in their right mind would use scarce and expensive land in such an inefficient way. Existing bungalows tend to cost more than bigger terraced homes but only because of the potential to knock them down and redevelop their large plots. As the RIBA revealed yesterday, the average new-build one-bedroom home is now not the size of a spacious bungalow with a garden but of a London tube train carriage.

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

Beyond help

It’s hard to remember a more damning select committee report than the one just published on Help to Buy – and it has not even started yet.

You don’t even have to read between the lines of the Treasury committee report on the Budget to detect its doubts about a policy announced by chancellor George Osborne last month. It leaves him with a string of questions about how it will work and a list of concerns about unintended consequences.

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Putting the cap on it

Amid claim and counter-claim the benefit cap began this week with a deepening mystery about how many people will be affected and how much it will really save.

As the four guinea pig boroughs in London – Haringey, Croydon, Enfield and Bromley – began applying the cap on Monday, the Department for Work and Pensions revealed in ad hoc analysis that it now expects 16,000 fewer households to be affected by the time when it is introduced in the whole country over the next few months.

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

Taking the strain

If the housing legacy of Margaret Thatcher Mark I was about dismantling much of what had gone before, Mark II created even more of what we have now.

Thatcher’s first two terms saw the right to buy, cuts in subsidies to council housing and the promotion of home ownership (see the first part of this blog). Mark II added big changes for private renting, housing associations and housing benefit, though not without some hiccups along the way.

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Buy, buy, buy

The first part of my analysis of Margaret Thatcher’s housing legacy looks at the right to buy and the property-owning democracy.

The death of the former prime minister got me thinking in what I hope is a dispassionate way about what her time in office meant to housing.

What seems to be undeniable is that the right to buy represented a sea change. Many people would nominate British Gas or British Airways or BT as her greatest privatisation but council housing was bigger than any of them. Some 1.5 million homes were sold between 1979 and 1990 (500,000 of those between 1979 and 1983). Capital receipts from the right to buy totalled £17.6 billion between 1979 and 1989 compared to £23.5 billion from all the other privatisations put together.

It is the one housing policy that is being mentioned in all of the obituaries and hagiographies in the national media but the truth about Thatcher and the right to buy is more complex that you might think.

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Bedrooms, football and the top rate of tax

This is a tale of two cities. Of one city and two different planets. And of one City and one United.

On Monday a wave of welfare reforms began to hit claimants and tenants across the country. Today the top rate of tax is cut from 50p to 45p on earnings above £150,000. For the connection between the two, in the immortal words of Carlos Tevez:


The city is home to the richest football team in the English Premier League, Manchester City, and the most successful, Manchester United (give or take the location of Old Trafford). It is also the bedroom tax capital of the UK with more than 14,000 tenants facing an average loss of £624 a year. They have lost a total of £168,000 this week – less than many of the footballers earn in a week on their own – and will lose a total of £8,736,000 this year.

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Waiting game

This week’s move by Prudential into the private rented sector one is highly significant for reasons that go far beyond the 500 or so homes involved in the deal.

First reported by the Financial Times on Monday, official confirmation of the Pru’s £105 million deal with Berkeley Homes is extensively covered in today’s papers. See Inside Housing’s story here.

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