Originally published on March 5 as a blog for Inside Housing.
The way that responsibility for housing is split between different government departments means that sometimes the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing.
The classic example of this came in parliament yesterday when even as MPs were approving another year of frozen working-age benefits, the housing secretary was making a written statement attacking landlords for refusing to let to tenants on housing benefit.
The vote means that the local housing allowance (LHA) will be frozen for the fourth year in succession and the benefit cap will stay stuck at the reduced rate of £20,000 (£23,000 in London).
The impact of that will fall directly in the ‘thousands of vulnerable people and families’ mentioned by James Brokenshire in his written statement and will be felt most by families with children and those living in the most expensive areas.
And it will come on top of the continuing impact of the transition to universal credit and all the problems with waiting times, delays in payment and supposed simplicity for tenants and landlords that it brings in its wake.
If it reinforces the sense of relief among social landlords that the government abandoned plans to cap housing benefit for social and supported housing at LHA rates, it means many social tenants face a freeze on the rest of their incomes despite rising prices.
But the freeze will give private landlords yet more reasons to think twice about letting homes to tenants on benefits.
And the move by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) comes at precisely the moment that ministers at the Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) give their backing to a campaign by Shelter on ‘No DSS’ adverts.
Originally posted on September 10 on my blog for Inside Housing.
So what is the state of the private rented sector – and what can be done about it?
Ten years on from their official review for the government, Julie Rugg and David Rhodes of the University of York are back with an update for the Nationwide Foundation.
Despite finding some progress – the average condition of rental property has improved, the average tenancy has got longer and Build to Rent investment is at long last producing results – the problems remain depressingly familiar and in many areas things have got worse.
The private rented sector is now 40% bigger but that growth is more down to the decline of home ownership and social renting than a wave of new construction or an expansion of choice. Perhaps half a million homes sold under the Right to Buy are now private rentals.
Thanks to Buy to Let, the sector is even more dominated by individual ‘investors’ looking to boost their wealth by getting tenants to pay the mortgage – mainstream commercial property companies account for just 3% of the stock.
The review estimates there are now 2.3m adults in England who are landlords – of those, 9% are themselves also private tenants and (surely some mistake?) 1% are social tenants.
And the bottom end of private renting – the only option for tens of thousands of tenants on benefit – is under such pressure from welfare reform that it is becoming ‘a residual slum tenure’.
Originally posted on August 2 on my blog for Inside Housing.
The second in a series of blogs looking at the latest English Housing Survey considers the state of the private rented sector in 2016/17.
Home to a fifth of us
The private rented sector has doubled in size over the last 20 years from 10% of households in 1996/97 (2.1m) to 20% in 2016/17 (4.7m). Most of the growth took place after 2003.
To put that growth into perspective, the private rented sector now accommodates a greater share of households than at any time since 1970. As recently as 1997, following rapid decline in the 1970s and 1980s, it was half the size of the social rented sector.