Originally published on June 2 on my blog for Inside Housing.
When it comes to the private rented sector are we all Chavistas now?
Back in 2014, when Ed Miliband’s Labour proposed a standard three-year tenancy with limits on rent increases, Conservative party chair Grant Shapps was quick to accuse it of ‘Venezuelan-style socialism’.
Flash forward four years and the Conservatives have stolen Labour’s policy at the last two elections and announced plans of their own for three-year tenancies – and if they are not quite proposing limits on rent increases they are not ruling them out either.
Even two years ago it would have been unimaginable for them to propose anything like the proposals announced by housing secretary James Brokenshire on Monday and first reported in the Conservative-supporting Telegraph on Saturday night.
Indeed, far from increasing security for private renters, Conservative-led governments had spent the years since 2010 attempting to undermine it for social tenants.
Originally published on March 29 on my blog for Inside Housing.
Sometimes it feels like I’ve written a blog at this time every year with the headline ‘April is the cruellest month’.
It’s not that I have a TS Eliot fixation nor (I hope) that I endlessly repeat myself but because ever since 2010 the start of the financial year seems to have meant yet another benefit cut or housing policy change to cope with.
This year is a bit different not so much because there is no bad news but because there is some good news as well. Here are some examples:
- The u-turn on the withdrawal of support for housing costs for 18-21 year olds under universal credit announced on Thursday. This was a cumbersome policy that required significant exemptions and barely saved any money but it’s still a significant change to the original pledge to make young people ‘earn or learn’.
- The Homelessness Reduction Act passed in 2017 applies from April 3. The legislation should be a big step forward in ensuring that more people get help earlier but despite a recent announcement on funding there are still well-founded concerns about whether councils have the money to implement it.
- Claimants already getting housing benefit who move on to universal credit will from April be paid an additional two weeks of housing benefit. That may not be much consolation for the (in theory) five-week wait for their first universal credit but the payment (worth an average of £233) should ease the transition a bit –and it is not recoverable.
- It will be unlawful for landlords to give new tenancies on the least energy efficient property from April 1 – all rented property will have to qualify for at least an Energy Performance Certificate rating of E so (in theory) tenants will no longer be stuck paying high heating bills for the worst F and G property.
- More measures introduced against rogue landlords in the Housing and Planning Act 2016 come into force, including powers for councils to issue banning orders against the worst offenders and implementation of a database of landlords and letting agents convicted of some offences.
Bear in mind too that it’s not so long ago that I would have been writing about plans to apply a Local Housing Allowance (LHA) cap to social and supported housing from…April 2018.
For all that good news, though, the suspicion remains that it will at best mitigate the impact of policies already implemented and still in the pipeline.
Originally posted on my blog for Inside Housing on January 25.
More of us now rent from a private landlord than at any time since the first man walked on the moon.
Figures in the 2016/17 English Housing Survey published on Thursday show yet another rise in the proportion of households renting from a private landlord and decline in home ownership.
More than 20% of us are now private renters, the highest figure in any year since 1969, the year of Woodstock and one small step for man.
Owner-occupation declined slightly from 62.9% to 62.6% but that overall figure conceals two very different trends.
The proportion of households who own outright rose again to 34.1% while the proportion buying with a mortgage fell to just 28.4%.
To put that second figure in perspective, throughout the 1990s more than 40% of us were buying with a mortgage.
Social renting remained stable at just over 17% of households, but with the local authority share of that falling again.
A report today from Generation Rent predicts that the number of pensioner private renters will increase by 169% in England over the next 20 years at a cost of an extra £3.5bn in housing benefit.
The increase will come as a result of trends already hard-baked into the housing system and they have nothing to do with the people in their 20s and 30s that we are used to thinking of as Generation Rent.
Successive editions of the English Housing Survey (EHS) have shown that falls in home ownership are rippling up through the age bands as existing private renters get older and find themselves unable to buy.
The report by David Adler of Oxford University and Dan Wilson-Craw of Generation Rent looks at the current EHS, Office for National Statistics and housing benefit data to forecast what will happen by 2035/36.
There are currently 1.1 million private renter households aged between 45 and 64 who will reach retirement age in the next 20 years. Some of them will still be able to buy but on current trends 947,000 will be private renters into retirement.
Add another 50,000 current retiree households who will live into their 80s and you have a million who could be reliant on insecure short-term tenancies and potentially dependent on housing benefit. That could translate into an extra £3.5bn on top of the current housing benefit bill.