Originally posted on September 24 on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing
The disposal of public land for new homes looks destined to go down as one of the great housing fiascos of this decade.
An extraordinary report published on Thursday by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) reveals complacency on an epic scale within the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).
The report is a follow-up to an investigation by the National Audit Office into a programme announced n 2011 by a certain former housing minister (no prizes for guessing which one) to ‘release enough public land to build as many as 100,000 new, much-needed, homes and support as many as 25,000 jobs by 2015’. In March this year the DCLG proclaimed mission accomplished: land with capacity for 109,950 homes across 942 sites had been sold.
However, in a report published in June, the NAO found that ‘the target measured a notional number of expected homes, not actual homes built’. On top of that, a quarter of the 100,000 ‘homes’ were on land that had been sold before Grant Shapps set the target or on land that was categorised as ‘sold’ when its owner simply moved outside the public sector (Royal Mail was privatised and British Waterways moved to a charitable trust).
Originally posted on September 17 on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing
As official figures further undermine the government’s credibility on the right to buy there are new doubts about the feasibility of the plan to extend it.
If ministers are to meet their pledge of one for one replacement of all homes sold, starts on site should now be rising sharply as receipts from earlier sales feed through the system. Any guesses what’s happening instead?
That’s right, the latest quarterly stats from the DCLG show that just 307 replacements were started between April and June – down 17 per cent on a year ago. The significance of this is not just the year-on-year fall itself, the first since the government ‘reinvigorated’ the right to buy with increased discounts and the replacement pledge in April 2012. Nor even that starts are down 56 per cent on the previous quarter (the end of the financial year). It’s also that this quarter marks three years since the start of the new scheme: the small print of the pledge says that replacements will be built within three years for all additional homes sold on top of those already forecast.
That in turn raises severe doubts about the government’s claim that it can fund the extension of the right to buy through the forced sale of high-value council homes. It claims this will raise enough to pay for the discounts, pay off the historic debt, replace all homes sold one for one and set up a brownfield fund. The detail has not yet been published but the plan has led to alarm even among Conservatives about the impact in London.
Originally posted on September 14 on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing
On current trends the first £1m a year housing association chief executive will appear by 2025.
It could happen even sooner than that. I’ve based that on the trend in the five years since 2010, which include two years during the recession when many bosses’ pay was frozen. And who knows what will happen if (when?) the first ‘free’ housing associations are launched?
I say this not to single out the highest-paid individual or the organisation involved. Nor do I deny that housing associations are complex organisations (and becoming more complex) that require skilled leaders and need to pay well to attract the right people. Places for People is far more than a housing association and currently styles itself ‘one of the largest property and leisure management, development and regeneration companies in the UK’ (to quote its website). It says that £330,00 of the £481,000 total pay package revealed in Inside Housing’s survey was attributable to social housing and £151,000 to ‘non-social housing’ businesses.
But that £330,000, and the current average of £183,000 for chief executives of the top 100 housing associations, are still huge sums and they are escalating year by year. The latter is double what chief executives got paid in the earliest Inside Housing survey that I can find (2001/02). Median pay for full-time employees has increased by around 35% since then and has been falling for most of the period since 2008.
Originally posted on September 2 on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing
Rent control and increased security of tenure are back on the government agenda for the private rented sector for the first time in 30 years.
I am of course talking about the Scottish Government, which yesterday confirmed plans for a Private Tenancies Bill as part of its Programme for Scotland 2015/16. The Bill will ‘provide more predictable rents and protection for tenants against excessive rent increases, including the ability to introduce local rent controls for rent pressure areas’.
And it will introduce a Scottish Private Rented Tenancy to replace the current assured system and remove the ‘no-fault’ ground for repossession. That means the landlord will no longer be able to ask a tenant to leave just because the fixed term has ended but there will be ‘comprehensive and robust grounds for repossession that will allow landlords to regain possession in specified circumstances’.