Originally published on September 7 as a column for Inside Housing.
All through the cladding saga, the government has dragged its feet and resisted spending money before finally being forced to act.
Think back to the way ministers resisted any kind of fund for replacement of Grenfell-style ACM cladding, then insisted private building owners should pay, then denied the need for any help for non-ACM cladding and you see a pattern repeating itself.
It took the government almost a year after Grenfell to announce a £400m fund for the removal of ACM on social housing blocks, almost two years to find £200m for private blocks and almost three years to announce the £1bn Building Safety Fund for the removal of non-ACM cladding.
All this while the cladding scandal continued to escalate, dragging in more and more blocks and more and more residents and eventually wrecking the whole market in recently built flats.Read the rest of this entry »
Originally published as a column for Inside Housing on August 7.
Step away from planning reform for a few moments and grim news out today (Thursday August 6) reveals a more immediate crisis in the benefits system with even more alarming implications for the future.
Figures published by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) show that the number of households subject to the benefit cap almost doubled to 154,000 between February 2020 and May 2020. Of those, 140,000 had children.
More households have moved on to Universal Credit over time so the grey line for total capped households is the one to watch – note that the increase is much bigger than when the benefit cap was reduced in 2016.
Originally published on July 24 as a blog for Inside Housing.
Your own independent evaluation shows that the existing regime of permitted development rights (PDR) delivers poor quality homes that raise serious concerns about ‘the health, wellbeing and quality of life of future occupiers’.
Your own consultation showed that an overwhelming majority of consultees opposed major extensions of it.
You’ve previously declared your commitment to the Building Better Building Beautiful Commission’s ‘fast track to beauty’ without apparently heeding its report warning that PDR has ‘inadvertently permissioned future slums’.
So naturally enough housing secretary Robert Jenrick has decided to go ahead and allow upwards extensions and demolition and replacement of existing buildings via a PDR system that allows minimal scrutiny by local communities.
Originally published as a column for Inside Housing on July 16.
We have become so used to lamenting the revolving door for housing ministers that it’s easy to miss the fact that Boris Johnson Cabinet is now full of people with housing connections.
That thought was prompted by the realisation that less than a year ago the man who could very well become our next prime minister was still on the most junior rung of the ladder at the Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).
Rishi Sunak has won widespread praise for his performance and chancellor during the pandemic and currently seems hot favourite to be the next Conservative leader if the Tories go through another Dr Who-style regeneration ahead of the next election.
In July 2019, though, the current chancellor was still answering questions about council reorganisation in Northamptonshire, anti-social behaviour and non-domestic rates as parliamentary under-secretary for local government.
But he had already boosted his career prospects significantly by signing a joint letter with two other new-ish Tory MPs giving early backing to Boris Johnson as party leader. Appointed chief secretary to the Treasury a year ago next week, he was joined in the Cabinet by the other signatories: housing secretary Robert Jenrick and culture secretary Oliver Dowden.
Previous housing secretary Sajid Javid became the new chancellor but within seven months he resigned in a row with Dominic Cummings over special advisers and Mr Sunak stepped into his shoes.
Within another month, the lockdown began, the new chancellor was doling out the cash and Brand Rishi was building its glossy momentum.
His own ties may be more to the LG end of the MHCLG brief but look around the rest of the Cabinet table and you cannot move for former housing ministers. Read the rest of this entry »
Originally published as a column for Inside Housing on July 8.
This was a Summer Statement that was all about protecting jobs and getting money into the economy as quickly as possible.
Judged in those terms, while it does not go as far as some had advocated, the two big housing measures in chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Plan for Jobs look carefully calibrated to achieve both.
The £3.8 billion cut in stamp duty (increasing the nil rate from £125,000 to £500,000) is calculated to boost transactions, generate jobs and drive additional spending estimated at around 5 per cent of the house value.
And the Treasury reckons that the £2 billion Green Homes Grant (funding two thirds of the cost of energy efficiency work up to £5,000 for owners and landlords and all of the cost up to £10,000 to low income owners) could support over 100,000 green jobs as well as cutting carbon emissions and fuel bills.
But it’s not hard to find holes in the Summer Statement where other housing responses could and should have been: the statement does nothing more for affordable housing, it fails to fill holes in the safety net and, as Generation Rent points out, vouchers to eat out are not much use if you cannot afford to stay in.
And though the two measures that are there should boost the economy in the short term the longer-term benefits of both look uncertain at best even when you judge them in isolation and in their own terms.