Originally published as a column for Inside Housing on July 12.
How difficult should it be for Kensington and Chelsea to find new permanent homes for the families made homeless by the Grenfell Tower fire?
A month on from the disaster, new council leader Elizabeth Campbell promised on the Today programme this morning (listen from around 2:10:00) to build new council homes and buy existing ones.
So far 68 social rented homes have been reserved for the families at a new development in Kensington but they were always going to be affordable housing anyway, built under a Section 106 agreement and bought by the City of London Corporation.
Only 14 out of the 158 Grenfell families currently living in hotels have accepted offers of temporary accommodation as they wait for permanent homes.
Cllr Campbell, who is also the new cabinet member for housing and regeneration, gave a contrite but awkward interview in which she claimed (wrongly) that the Royal Borough would be the first in London to build new council homes and admitted (eventually) that she has never been inside one of the council’s tower blocks.
However, she did at least perform better than her predecessor as leader, Nick Paget-Brown, and another Tory councillor, Catherine Faulks, who made an embarrassing appearance on the same programme last week.
Originally posted on May 18 on my blog for Inside Housing.
This is a Conservative manifesto with only two firm targets on housing but lots of interesting hints about future direction and some intriguing omissions.
The first target is to halve rough sleeping by 2022 and eliminate it completely by 2027 by implementing the Homelessness Reduction Act and piloting a Housing First approach.
The 2022 target may seem bold but it would mean that rough sleeping would still be significantly higher than it was in 2010 when the coalition came to power.
The one for 2027 is incredibly ambitious and would mean matching Finland’s incredible record on homelessness within ten years.
Sajid Javid obviously returned fired up from his visit to Helsinki but you wonder if he took on board just how comprehensive and well-funded the Finnish version of Housing First needed to be to work.
The second target is ‘meet our 2015 commitment to deliver a million homes by the end of 2020 and we will deliver half a million more by the end of 2022’.
The first bit is unambitious and should be achievable, especially as the end point has been shifted from May 2020 (the original end of the parliament) to December 2020.
As the National Audit Office pointed out in January, that would actually mean that fewer new homes will be built over the next three years than were achieved last year. This is on the basis of the net additional supply of homes rather than just housebuilding completions.
The second bit is a different matter. A quick look at the net supply figures shows that there have only been three years in the last 25 when we have exceeded 200,000.
The Tory ‘council house revolution’ trailed in all today’s papers begs all sorts of questions that I’ll be blogging about soon (now up here).
In TV interviews today we’ve learned that there is no new money, just the £1.4bn for affordable housing promised in the 2016 Autumn Statement.
Conservative spokespeople refused to say how many homes were involved but the Autumn Statement said 40,000.
If that is welcome news it hardly qualifies as a ‘revolution’. However, the policy includes other details that could prove to be more significant in the longer term.
Given that all today’s reports are based on a Conservative Party press release that I can’t find anywhere online, here it is:
Originally posted on April 27 on my blog for Inside Housing.
Sometimes a conjunction of different news stories shines a new light on things and makes the obvious more obvious.
That’s exactly what happened this week when two excellent long read features on housing and a select committee report made me see familiar issues in a slightly different way.
The first was in Tuesday’s Guardian, an investigation by Holly Watt into the scandal of the privatisation of Ministry of Defence housing.
The big picture is that in 1996 the MoD sold its housing stock for military personnel to Annington Homes for £1.67bn and then rented them back at a big discount to market rates for 25 years.
That may have made short-term financial sense but the long term is a different matter altogether. The homes are now worth £6.7bn and the 25-year discount runs out in 2021. After that there is nothing to stop Annington charging full market rents.
Originally published on April 18 on my blog for Inside Housing.
Here are some quick thoughts on what the snap General Election might mean for housing.
First, what about the campaign? Labour and Jeremy Corbyn will make a housing a big part of their alternative vision for Britain.
There will be lots about council and social housing and lots to appeal to private renters. Housing will be more prominent in the campaign of one of the two major parties than it has been for years.
But will any of that matter? Theresa May and the Conservatives will not need to say much about housing because their campaign will be all about Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn.
Housing won’t matter much to any of the other parties either as the Lib Dems try to win back seats by appealing to Remainers and the SNP and Plaid use the looming Tory apocalypse in England to win votes in Scotland and Wales.