Rule of law

If you take even a cursory glance at the circumstances of the 10 families involved in the legal challenge to the bedroom tax you’ll be left wondering how discretionary housing payments can possibly resolve their problems.

I read the High Court ruling painfully aware that I lack the legal expertise to interpret the finer points of the European Convention on Human Rights and Public Sector Equality Duty but with enough experience to know that what is lawful is not necessarily the same as what is fair.

The background to the case has already been covered in detail elsewhere. As Inside Housing reports, although the judges said that new measures must be introduced to protect disabled children who need their own room, housing groups were left bitterly disappointed by the dismissal of the other part of the judicial review and lawyers plan to appeal. Read this excellent blog by Kate Webb of Shelter or see statements by the solicitors involved here and here if you haven’t already for the background.

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Paying the price

All those high earners with social tenancies seem to be slowly melting away ahead of the government’s plan to implement ‘pay to stay’ market rents.

I’m not just talking about the impact of the policy itself and the incentive for tenants to declare an income of £59,999 or even to cut the number of hours they work to get out of paying a market rent for their homes.

Rather I’m talking about the government’s own estimates of the number of high earners. When the policy was first floated at the Conservative Party conference in October 2011, the Telegraph was briefed that there were 6,000 ‘fat cat’ tenants earning more than £100,000 a year.

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

Rock and hard place

With the Institute of Directors on one side and Simon Jenkins on the other, where is a safe place to stand?

I blogged about Help to Buy 2 earlier this week the day before the breakfast meeting at which George Osborne would apparently reveal full details of the mortgage guarantee that will be available in January.

Nothing that happened over the coffee and croissants has changed my view about the dangers of increasing demand for housing while doing nothing about supply. The schemes that it replaces are open to criticism too but at least they were targeted at first-time buyers and new-build homes. Help to Buy 2 will available to all buyers and on secondhand properties too – and it extends state support to people on household incomes of up to £150,000. Will it trigger a boom and bust that leaves the government picking up the bill or (perhaps more likely) give future governments a direct stake in propping up house prices?

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

Stay or go?

Every time I think I’ve got my head around the pernicious impacts of the bedroom tax something new emerges to make me think again.

The trigger this time is an excellent report from Aragon Housing Association on the first 100 days of what the government calls the spare room subsidy. But that also sent me back to several conversations I had at the CIH conference in Manchester and reports published while I was on holiday from the National Housing Federation (twice), Chartered Institute of Housing and Convention of Scottish Local Authorities.

Even before that the evidence was accumulating from around the country that the effects are at least as bad, and probably worse, than most people expected or feared. From rent arrears in Newcastle and Ayrshire to fears of more suicides in Birmingham to criticism of the Labour leadership’s stance on the issue in Liverpool, the effects of the bedroom tax continue to be felt emotionally, financially and politically.

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Going up

Is it too late to mitigate the impact of the impending disaster that is Help to Buy?

As the government prepares to reveal more details of the mortgage guarantee element of the controversial scheme (probably tomorrow), the evidence is already accumulating of the effect of early impact of Help to Buy plus the boost to mortgages delivered by the Funding for Lending scheme.

Mortgage lending is upasking prices are up for seven months in a row and reservations under the equity loan part of Help to Buy are up by almost three times on the more limited and targeted FirstBuy scheme that it replaced. So too are forecasts of what will happen to prices over the next few years.

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

Middle way

A call to force letting agents be upfront about their charges has made all theheadlines but a report published by MPs today is about much more than that.

After complaints from both tenants and landlords about a sector dubbed ‘the property industry’s Wild West’, the cross-party Communities and Local Government committee recommends going further than the government’s plan to require letting agents to belong to an approved redress scheme. They say it should be accompanied by ‘a robust cost of practice that sets out clear standards with which agents are required to comply’ and they recommend that letting and managing agents should be subject to the same regulation – and required to meet the same professional standards – as sales agents.

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Missing millions

So where are the 250,000 homes going to come from? And what are the consequences of not building them?

Almost ten years after the Barker review set that benchmark for housing provision in England to keep house price inflation under control, a new report out from Shelter points out that we are already a million homes behind. If we carry on building at today’s miserable levels the shortfall will rise by another million homes every six and a half years.

In Getting Serious About the Housing Shortage, Matt Griffith and Pete Jefferys argue this would mean accepting a continued fall in home ownership and an ever-rising housing benefit bill while increasing individual and national vulnerability to economic shocks.

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

Leap of faith

Returning from holiday this morning to hear Iain Duncan Smith mouth half-truths and dodgy stats about benefits on the Today programme it felt like I had never been away.

The work and pensions secretary was speaking as the overall benefit cap was introduced in another 335 local authority areas from today. The remaining 40 most affected areas will follow next month.

In an astonishing interview IDS packed in so many questionable claims that it seemed he was determined to establish a decisive lead in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) game of dodgy stats bingo.

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