Originally posted on November 19 on my blog for Inside Housing.
With unintended irony the government has responded to a United Nations report accusing it of being ‘in denial’ about extreme poverty by denying that there is a problem.
The last time a UN official visited Britain and had the temerity to criticise government policy it sparked a furious row on the Today programme.
Ministers dismissed Raquel Rolnik, the special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, as ‘the woman from Brazil’ and ‘an absolute disgrace’ ad accused her of producing ‘a misleading Marxist diatribe’.
This time around there was no real row about ‘the man from Australia’, no formal complaint to the UN secretary-general and the Today programme ignored Professor Philip Alston, special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.
Whether that reflects changed editorial priorities at the BBC, a ministerial determination not to rise to the bait or simply the way that Brexit sucks away all the oxygen from other news remains to be seen.
However, Professor Alston’s report published in London on Friday is if anything even more damning that the one produced by Ms Rolnik.
Originally published on November 30 on my blog for Inside Housing.
If you listened to the chancellor’s speech you may have thought this was a Budget that did not mean much for housing. As ever you may think again after reading the small print.
As I live blogged for Inside Housing yesterday, the big news in the speech was the extra money for universal credit that makes up for many of the cuts imposed in universal credit and delays the roll-out yet again and sounds like it will be enough to avoid a backbench Tory rebellion.
Elsewhere, Philip Hammond found £2.8 bn to bring forward cuts in income tax allowances by a year but he failed to find roughly half that to scrap the final year of the freeze in most working age benefits including the local housing allowance.
This was a clear political choice to go for tax cuts that overwhelmingly benefit the better-off over benefits that go to the poorest households.
Ahead of the next spending review, numbers crunched by the Resolution Foundation overnight suggest that the squeeze on everything apart from health will continue well into the 2020s.
However, the most interesting developments for housing came in the background documents published as Mr Hammond sat down.
Originally published on October 26 on my blog for Inside Housing.
What might have been the Budget’s headline announcements on housing were made by the prime minister last month at the National Housing Summit and Conservative Party conference.
And it will also reveal the total spending envelope for the 2019 Spending Review, teeing up a race to calculate whether austerity really is as ‘over’ as Theresa May promised.
With Brexit and the NHS to pay for and crises in local government and social care as well as in housing that could be a tall order.
In the meantime, here are six areas to look out for on Monday.
- The borrowing cap
When the prime minister made her surprise announcement, the concern was that it would come with strings attached when the detail was revealed in the Budget.
That could still happen but one big fear – a long delay before implementation – has already been allayed by last week’s announcement by housing secretary James Brokenshire that the cap will be lifted from Tuesday.
However, the impact of the rent cut, the Right to Buy and welfare reform still loom large and are seen as more important than the borrowing cap by some councils.
And the suspicion remains that the Treasury is not exactly enthusiastic about a move that will increase public borrowing under current rules.
In which case, as John Perry argues, why not bring the UK into line with other countries and give council housing the same financial independence as housing associations?
And why not, as the Local Government Association (LGA) argues in its Budget submission, allow councils to reinvest 100% of Right to Buy receipts and decide discounts locally?
Originally posted on my blog for Inside Housing on October 22.
When England’s most high-profile local authority calls the behaviour of the country’s largest housing association ‘morally wrong’ you sit up and take notice.
Clashes between the local priorities of a council and the organisational ones of an association are nothing new of course but this week’s statement by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) seems different.
Clarion is in its sights over rejected proposals for the regeneration of the Sutton Estate in Chelsea.
Council leader Kim Taylor-Smith told a council meeting last week:
‘HAs in the borough are, in some cases turning away from their core purpose and in some cases becoming all but private developers.
‘You will all know I am talking about Clarion Housing, the owners of my local and cherished Sutton Estate which they wish to knock down the estate with a loss of affordable homes We stand shoulder to shoulder with local residents in opposing this
‘I think we all in the chamber are untied. This is wrong.’
Originally posted on October 11 on my blog for Inside Housing.
For all the government’s new-found enthusiasm for social housing and local authorities, the politics of the housing crisis are still fundamentally about home ownership.
Anyone pleasantly surprised by the change of tune in the green paper will still have found two particularly discordant notes: the convictions that welfare reform is ‘empowering tenants as consumers’ and that social housing should be a ‘springboard to home ownership’.
Housing may have been the dominant issue at fringe meetings at the Conservative party conference but two reports out this week highlight the fact that the frustrated aspirations of young private renters are still the dominant concern.
The new Tory think-tank Onward brought forward publication of a proposal for new tax incentives for landlords to sell to long-term tenants following reports over the weekend that the government is considering it as a new form of Help to Buy.
And a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies put the problem of frustrated ownership into perspective.
Over the last 20 years owner-occupation among the 25-34s has fallen from 55% to 35%. Their incomes are up by 19% in real terms but rents have risen 38% and house prices 173%.