Owning the future

Originally published on June 30 on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing

The shift in subsidy from renting to owning under this government may be obvious but it’s only when you see it laid out in total that you appreciate its scale.

This year’s UK Housing Review Briefing, published at the CIH conference on Thursday, sets out total government support for different kinds of housing from 2015/16 onwards. The total for social and affordable rent is just over £2 bn. The total for home ownership and the private market is a cool 21 times bigger than that: £42.7 bn.

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

A shameful conquest of itself

I just checked my passport to see when it expires. On the front it says ‘European Union’ and ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’. Inside it says ‘British Citizen’.

After the referendum that the winners believe ‘took our country back’, the chances are that by the time I come to renew it none of these things will be true.

My citizenship of the European Union, giving me the right to live and work in any of the other 27 member states, will be gone. The United Kingdom and Great Britain, political constructs of centuries of history on these islands, will more than likely be gone too.

Great Britain, the union of England and Wales with Scotland, could soon cease to exist: the Scots may have voted No to independence but after voting to Remain in the EU on Thursday even unionists are coming out for a second referendum.

Northern Ireland, which also voted Remain, could see itself transformed. The majority of people may be proud to be British but they also know that Brexit could wreck the Good Friday Agreement and end freedom of movement between North and South.

Even the future of Gibraltar, for so long the rock at the heart of the British Empire, looks uncertain following its 96 per cent vote to Remain.

So by 2020 I could be a citizen (or subject) of a very different country. Whether we call it England, England and Wales or Rump UK, the constitutional clock will be turned back more than 400 years.

I will be an inhabitant rather than a citizen of Europe, the cultural clock turned back more than 40 years to the days when we used to call the land mass across the English Channel ‘The Continent’.

Read the rest of this entry »


Red flags flying over Right to Buy

How can people who can’t afford the rent suddenly afford to buy?

To recap in case you missed it, a joint investigation by Inside Housing and BBC Radio 4’s File on 4 found that 16% of Right to Buy sales by 10 councils were to tenants on housing benefit.

This is not in itself evidence of fraud: the 721 tenants concerned could have got money from their family or from a third party. But it is seen as a ‘red flag’ of potential fraudulent activity and a particular cause for concern in the councils with the highest levels of sales to tenants on benefit:  Dudley (37%) and Westminster (29%) and Croydon and Birmingham (who each estimate around half).

And it’s one aspect of a fraud problem that should also set the alarm bells ringing about the 1.2m tenants who are about to get a form of Right to Buy from housing associations that will not have the same expertise as local authorities in detecting fraud and money laundering.

Read the rest of this entry »


Home alone: what Brexit could mean for housing

Originally published on June 24 on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing

As the dust settles on the momentous vote for Brexit, the one certainty seems to be uncertainty.

I blogged last week about what would follow a Leave vote that seemed a possiblity but no more than that. Here’s my updated take on the likely consequences for housing now that it’s a reality. 

Housing market

The markets are signalling, no screaming, that they expect huge dislocation. Shares in leading housebuilders led the stock market plunge, with falls of 40% or more at one stage, and banks were not far behind with falls of 25%.

You could read this as a signal that the City expects house prices and land prices to fall with severe impacts for both – or as a reaction to panic and uncertainty.

Either way, there will be short-term consequences. Housebuilders look certain to scale back development, stop opening new sites and hold off on decisions to invest in land. Equally, few people will want to buy in a market that could be about to see prices fall and the wider market will stall.

Read the rest of this entry »


Brexit door

Originally published on June 16 on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing 

In two days’ time you could be having your breakfast to the news that the UK has voted to leave the European Union.

Whether that thought makes you choke on your cornflakes or rejoice that this is the last time the blurb on the box will be dictated by Brussels, I think we can all agree that the consequences will be profound.

Housing has only featured as a second rank issue in the campaign, well behind the economy, immigration, sovereignty and our place in the world. Yet the effect of a Leave vote on the housing market is just as much a part of Remain’s pitch as the housing impacts of immigration are part of Leave’s.

So what if Project Lie really does beat Project Fear on Thursday?

Read the rest of this entry »


A right to own?

Originally posted on June 13 on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing

What should we do if we really want to reverse the decline in home ownership?

That’s the question posed in a new book published by centre right think tank Civitas (downloadable here). The answers are interesting and surprising, not just because of where it sits on the political spectrum, but also because the author is a longstanding evangelist for the home owning society and opponent of ‘Marxist’ housing advocates.

Peter Saunders wrote a seminal book called A Nation of Home Owners in 1990 that made a passionate argument for the expansion of home ownership as the choice of most people and as a force for good in promoting community cohesion and civic participation.

As such, you might have thought he’d be completely in tune with David Cameron, George Osborne and Brandon Lewis and their policies to satisfy the 86 per cent of us who want to be home owners.

Read the rest of this entry »


Driving a hybrid

Originally posted on June 10 on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing

What is the future of social housing? Does it even have a future?

Those were the big questions posed at a conference in Birmingham last week organised by Housing & Care 21 and the University of Birmingham. The answer to the first one revolved around a concept drawn from the academic literature: hybridity, or the ability of organisations to operate in the triangle between public, commercial and community interests. As to the second, yes… but it depends.

Read the rest of this entry »