Two years ago I did a review of Roof Magazine on my Landlord Law site, where I said how good it was. I have just finished reading the January / February 2010 issue, and have decided I need to write about it again. It really is excellent, this issue in particular. For example articles I have enjoyed reading include:
Time is money – an article about Time Banking and how it can help communities come together. Time banking is a system of people exchanging skills, which is explained on the web-site www.timebanking.org.uk. Apparently there are 122 timebanks set up in the UK and another 89 in the pipeline
Backs to the wall – an article about how over a million householders are using their credit cards to pay their mortgages, and the horrendous debts that can be run up as a result of this
The right to buy – a debate on whether it was a triumph or a disaster. Peter King (reader in Social Thourght at De Montford University and author of Housing Policy Transformed: The Right to Buy and the Desire to Own) thinks it was a great policy, Nicola Hughes, Policy Officer at Shelter, thinks it has done lasting damage
The gentle touch – a report on the Roof conference on private renting where the governments proposed ‘light touch’ landlord licensing was discussed. The views of landlords, such as Susanne Chambers that “tenants in privately rented accommodation have never had it so good” were vigorously opposed by tenants such as blogger and journalist Penny Anderson. There seemed to be general agreement that the regulations we already have are not properly enforced, the question is, is anything more needed? I liked Green Councillor Bill Randalls comment “you need a license to clip a poodle in this country, but you don’t need a license – unless you’ve got an HMO – to be a landlord”, which puts it in perspective.
Mutual housing – an article on co-operative and mutual housing groups (very popular on the continent but less common here), looking at a report brought out by the Commission on Co-operative and Mutual Housing. The report shows that this type of housing is extremely popular with those who live in it, and that it fosters a sense of belonging, identity and ownership. The report calls for more mutual housing organisations to be set up.
Direct Pressure – an article on the problems faced by tenants who find it difficult to handle money and who are tempted to spend their housing benefit, which under the current Local Housing Allowance rules, must be paid direct to tenants and not paid to landlords, on other debts. Examples are given by Pastor Pete Cunningham from the Green Pastures Foundation, a leading housing charity which houses vulnerable people, who says that the resultant rent arrears are putting organisations such as his, under enormous strain.
Tenant satisfaction – an article about Giroscope, a community based housing organisation in Hull which buys and renovates empty and dilapidated properties, which are then rented out to those in housing need. It does not ask for deposits or rent in advance and charges a weekly rent based on what people can afford.
Finally, Jacky Peacok in her regular Tenants’ Voice column, looks at how localism can save the planet in the wake of the failure at Copenhagen. She suggests local authorities institute planned inspections of all properties in their area, to identify energy saving measures, and to enforce these. As poor health often comes from poor housing, funding could come from health budgets (on the basis of the savings they would make through the better health of local people) and from the landlords. She suggests that local community groups be given direct responsibility for managing the programmed inspection and enforcement regime. Sounds good to me, although I doubt whether the Health Authorities would agree.
These are just a few of the many excellent articles in this issue.
Note: Sadly, since this post was written, Roof has ceased publication. A great loss.