Double shift

Figures published today underline yet again the historic change in the way we are housed in England.

Headline results from the English Housing Survey for 2012-13 confirm not just one but two remarkable trends: there are now more private tenants than social tenants; and there are about to be more outright owners than people buying with a mortgage.

For more on this plus graphs read my post on Inside Edge, my blog for Inside Housing

Mixed messages

So are private landlords about to pull out of the housing benefit market or not?

It’s one of the most crucial questions for the future of the housing system but the answer may be more complex than recent publicity suggests.

The alarm was raised when Fergus and Judith Wilson, the King and Queen of buy to let, revealed that they were evicting all of their tenants on benefit. A poll yesterday by the website found that only 18 per cent of landlords currently rent to claimants, down from a third two years ago.

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

Appearance and reality in the 2014 housing market

Combine one ex-PR man prime minister with one lucky homebuyer who’s also an estate agent, then add one ex-teacher turned buy-to-let mogul. Welcome to the New Year recipe for housing, where perceptions are everything.

David Cameron used Help to Buy as a metaphor for the Conservative message about economic recovery and opportunity for all when he took part in a photo op in Southampton with a young mum and her toddler and had tea in the new home she’s just bought through a government scheme.

It seemed standard, if rather awkward-looking fare, until this post appeared on the internet claiming that the young mum, Sharon Ray, was actually Sharon O’Donnell, a sales director with the estate agent that allegedly sold the home. That was followed by a typically sexist story about the ‘attractive blonde’ in the Mail and this corrective about some exaggerations and errors in the original post. Cue a Twitterstorm and debate between those seeing the whole thing as an example of Tory fakery and those outraged by the hounding of a young woman who’d done nothing wrong.

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10 things about 2013: part 2

Here’s the second part of my look back at the key themes I’ve been blogging about this year.

6) Help to Buy

If the bedroom tax was the subject I blogged about most in 2013 (see Part 1 of this blog), Help to Buy was certainly the best (or worst) of the rest.

The first hints of the scheme came in January as the coalition published its Mid-Term Review. Perhaps conscious of the gap between rhetoric and reality when it came to the government’s record on housing, David Cameron promised more help for people who cannot raise a deposit for a mortgage, with details to come in the Budget. By March Cameron and Clegg were promising what sounded to me like the coalition’s fourth housing strategy in three years. And in the Budget George Osborne duly announced what I called a huge gamble, loosening the targeting of previous schemes at first-time buyers and new homes and extending the help available much further up the income scale.

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Home banker

Mark Carney’s pledge on interest rates can only make buy to let look even more of a one-way bet for landlords and the banks who lent them a cool £5 billion in the second quarter of 2013.

Figures published by the Council of Mortgage Lenders a day after the Bank of England governor made his announcement show a new surge in loans. In the three months from April to June its members made 40,000 gross advances to buy to let landlords worth £5.1 billion. Both are the highest quarterly figures seen since 2008. The number of loans was up 19 per cent and their combined value was up 21 per cent on the previous quarter. Loans were up 19 per cent by volume and 31 per cent by value on a year ago.

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

Dead cert

So, three years after it was pronounced dead, can anything stop buy to let squeezing out owner-occupation?

Figures from the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) yesterday showed that loans to landlords accounted for 13.4 per cent of the £165.6 billion worth of outstanding mortgages in the first quarter of the year. That’s up from 13.0 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2012 and just 9.8 per cent at the start of the credit crunch in 2007.

All of which makes it easy to forget that it was only three years ago when the last rites were being delivered for buy to let by probably its best-known pioneers, Fergus and Judith Wilson. The former teachers built a 700-home empire but by 2010 they were bailing out and telling The Guardian that buy to let was ‘absolutely dead and will never return’.

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

Learning lessons

The plight of families with children highlighted in a report out today from Shelter illustrates yet again why private renting in England so urgently needs reform.

If the experiences of tenants facing damp and disrepair and soaring rents are depressingly familiar, the report adds detail to what has become a way of life for the one in five families with children who now rent their home privately.

The insecurity inherent in short-term tenancies means that one in 10 of 4,000 families surveyed have had to change their children’s school as a result of moving. They were nine times as likely to have moved in the last year as families who own their own homes.

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

The rise of the property-owning plutocracy

If you had to think of one article of faith for the Conservative Party, a property-owning democracy would come pretty close to the top of the list.

David Cameron reached back to the idea in his ‘magic money tree’ speech yesterday:

‘It is important that people who work hard and do the right thing are able to buy a home. As I said in my party conference speech – it is a rebuke to those of us who believe in property owning democracy that the average age for someone buying their first home today, without any help from their parents is 33 years old. And we are determined to tackle that.’

The prime minister was clearly hinting at something to come either in the Budget or the housing announcement he’s planning just before it. Whether that’s a new stamp duty holiday, or an extension to FirstBuy or even perhaps making existing homes eligible for NewBuy remains to be seen.

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Owning fall-out

Should we simply be accepting the continuing shift from home ownership to private renting as somehow inevitable?

That’s one of the many housing questions posed in the latest edition of the UK Housing Review. Now in its 21st edition and published by the Chartered Institute of Housing, the review has long been the bible for housing nerds but it is the best source of authoritative information on tenure and any other aspect of housing you care to think of.

The CIH has press released the story that home ownership has slumped among the young: from 39 to 14 per cent for the 16-24s and 67 to 43 per cent among the 25-34s. However, the rate is falling for older people too.

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

How renters will pay to keep mortgages low

One of the first things that any child learns is that 1+1 = 2. Not any more it seems. In the world of austerity 1+1 = 0.5.

That was the thought that struck me after reading work and pensions minister Steve Webb sum up for the government in the committee stage of the Welfare Benefits Uprating Bill this week. Thanks to his widely applauded work on pensions reform, Webb would come close to the top of many people’s lists of effective coalition ministers and he also knows his brief better than most people in Westminster. Yet for me he has always tried too hard to defend the latest piece of indefensible welfare ‘reform’.

And that’s exactly what happened on Monday as the Uprating Bill was rushed through its committee and third reading stages with debate severely limited and time to consider just one amendment.

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