[News and views from our investigative reporter Ben Reeve-Lewis, plus a few pithy interjections from me – Ed]
Now here’s an interesting concept.
The latest from Shapps is to cut maintenance costs on social housing by getting tenants to do it themselves.
Apparently maintenance and repair bills in social housing properties comes to £4 billion a year, averaging out at £1,000 house. The idea is for a tenant “Cash Back” scheme to allow them to do minor repairs themselves.
What horrifies me is not so much the ethics or policy debates surrounding this but the thought of the standard of my own DIY skills, which make Frank Spencer look like Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen.
It would cost £1,000 to repair the damage from me simply putting up a toilet roll holder, not to mention the damage to my relationship as I scream and shout at Frazzy for her daring to make a delicate, practical suggestion when just picking up a screwdriver is enough for me to turn into the incredible hulk.
Two housing associations are going to be piloting the scheme. The organisations currently on death row are….”Home Group” and “Hastoe Housing Association. Can’t help wondering how much the government promised them as a reward. Have you ever heard the words Defective Premises Act 1972??????
Now we all know about the government’s plans to reduce housing benefit, and I wrote in the first news report about Welfare Reform Minister Lord Freud’s faith in restricting housing benefit to force a drop in private rents when he said private landlords should…… “meet us half way” by lowering rents in exchange for a return to the system of direct payments, where rent is paid directly to the landlord by the local authority, rather than by the tenant.
LHA Folks……the system the Labour government brought in to empower tenants to take control of their finances, whereby HB payments go direct to the tenants, whether they want it or not. Universally hated by both landlords and tenants. Now it’s repeal is being used by the government to drive down rents. [What about clawback though, one good reason to avoid direct payment – Ed]
There is at the moment a massive shortage in private rental properties on the market. So much so that in London (sorry non Londoners but I only have direct experience of my area) rents are galloping and many letting agents, of whom I personally know quite a few, are very on edge wondering how they are going to keep going.
One month ago a 2 bed flat around the corner from me was on the market for £1,100 a month. 2 weeks later it was still on the market…but at £1,250. The agents obviously advising the landlord of the current supply and demand issue. What is going to happen in a few months’ time when HB cuts bite though? Will there be enough working and renting couples to let to? [We had a post on gazumping a few weeks ago – Ed]
What happens to people on benefits if the landlords won’t comply with Lord Freud’s faith and keep the rents so high that HB tenants won’t get a look in?
Ian Fletcher, director policy at the British Property Federation said of the plan “This is Del-Boy benefit policy. Seeking to trade a landlord’s right to be paid with the Government’s desire to reduce its expenditure. The Government would not dare treat other small businesses in such a way, but seems to think it is acceptable to allow people to rack up huge debts and treat landlords so badly.”
I just returned this evening from training a bunch of housing advisers in the West Country. I was explaining the history of rent legislation going back to the Glasgow rent riots of 1917. One delegate commented that current plans seemed to be winding the rental clock back to the First World War.
Don’t get me wrong, I am no socialist (not since I sold my black 501s, DMs and donkey jacket anyway) [Donkey jacket? – Ed] but this slavish belief in the logic of market forces to dictate how we progress as a nation seems ludicrously misplaced when it comes to housing.
People don’t want mobility in their housing, they don’t even want flexibility, this is just such utter tosh. People want to live somewhere, raise families, put down roots etc.; it is the one area of human life where we don’t want that flexibility. [Funnily enough Steve Perrons on the Podcast said he likes HB tenants because they stayed longer and he got less voids – Ed]
I read a couple of years back that thanks to Assured Shorthold Tenancies, every 3 years 50% of the population has moved, How do you build and sustain communities in that environment? [Its not necessarily landlords who want them to move though, they don’t like voids, why is it the ASTs fault?? – Ed]
Is it just me, or is it cold in here?…….
Finally, having just endured the recent Red Nose Day, where a record amount was raised for genuinely needy people, not us lot, of course living in 21st century Hi-Tech culture. I read with interest the report of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health that said, rather worryingly, that 655,800 homes rented from a landlord or letting agency are so cold they are officially a health hazard.
Friends of the Earth’s warm homes campaigner, Dave Timms, said: “It’s shocking that people still have to put up with cold rented homes that make them sick and cost a fortune to heat – while the NHS spends millions every year that decent insulation could help avoid.
Luckily the government has a new Energy Bill going through the parliamentary motions to alleviate the problem. You see this green stuff isn’t all about icebergs and skin cancer, it strikes closer to home than we think. [Very true, and shut that perishing door! – Ed]
[What do you think of these news items? Thoughts, comments? Place them below … Ed]