[Ben Reeve Lewis has had a busy week this week …]
A hectic week to say the least.
My co-TRO is on holiday so I’ve been on my own being deluged by the hoards arriving through the door, single-handedly dealing with illegal evictions, harassment cases, several court appearances and training tenants for our new accreditation scheme and designing a training course I have to deliver to a bunch of housing officers in Cardiff on Tuesday.
To quote Foghorn Leghorn I’ve been busier than a centipede at a toe counting contest.
On an up note I met the lovely people of ‘Digs’ – the newly formed Hackney Renters Group at their inaugural meeting at the Councillor James Library in Dalston on Thursday night, an enthusiastic and capable group of whom much can be expected as the future unfolds.
Somewhere in there I also managed to cook a giant pot of pumpkin, oxtail and green banana stew for a pop up world cafe in the homelessness office to raise money for a cancer charity and managed to pull in £350, and all that without poisoning anyone.
And so to this week’s housing news.
Rat & Mouse is a very useful and entertaining link site (Rat & Mouse is cockernee rhyming slang for ‘House’, in case you were mystified) run by Ben Brandt.
He highlighted an interesting bit of news about how the FSA are going to start issuing instructions to mortgage lender’s clamping down on granting mortgages to anyone who will be over 70 when the mortgage get’s paid off.
A narrow window
Something I read a few weeks back said that because of the sizeable deposit needed these days and the lack of mortgage products to get people on the ladder, the age of the average first time buyer is now 37.
This news about the FSA will mean that would-be homeowners will have a narrow window of 8 years in which to get on the homeownership ladder.
An extraordinary change when you think about it. No longer will people progress from living with parents, through their first rented homes and into homeownership, it will simply be a case of parents – rent – death, with perhaps a short few years of opportunity when, providing your income is sound and substantial enough at the right time that the door opens for you to jump into the escape pod and get a bit of security.
Home truths on benefit
Housing Excellence ran a piece, one of several covered across the housing news websites, about the National Housing Federation’s report “Home Truths”. The rather shocking piece of news is:-
“Despite Government efforts to tackle public debt, it is actually spending more on housing benefit, according to the report, with 417,830 more working people – an 86 per cent increase since 2009 – now reliant on housing benefit to help them pay the rising rents on their home.
And this is increasing as almost 10,000 more working people every month need housing benefit to help pay their rent.”
Sorry to raise the subject of rent levels again but there simply is no way to avoid it as every publication and blog as latching on to the importance of it.
The report goes on to talk about how the growing seriousness of the problem is coming back on Cameron as he fails to check the wind direction before undoing his flies:-
“With people in work increasingly struggling to afford ever-rising rents and house prices, the knock on effects will undermine the Government’s efforts to reduce welfare spending as more working people – Cameron’s “strivers” – are forced to seek state assistance”.
Not the scroungers so beloved of IDS and Lord Fraud then.
And on the subject of the Home Truths report I read an interesting bit of smoke and mirrors in the Daily Mail, headlined ‘Working families on housing benefit soar: Number of applications rising by 10,000 every month’.
It was interesting because although they picked up on the same facts and figures highlighted by Housing Excellence (well they couldn’t very well ignore it….its news) as I scanned through their article I couldn’t find a single opinion voiced, just a recording of the facts.
The report is quite damning but the Daily Mail isn’t going to criticise government are they and they are hardly going to support the downtrodden either but the pay-off, the money-shot as it is referred to in some circles came in the strange little insertion box at the end of the article headlined:-
“Workshy to lose dole for up to 3 years under new rules”
Haha. There it is, the validation of the article.
Only the Daily Mail could run an article about the depressing fact of working people forced to claim housing benefit to meet rents and qualify it by complaining about the “Workshy”.
Renting to benefit tenants can pay
On the Guardian Housing Network my mate Aki Elahi ran a sensible article about renting to benefit tenants. Now before you think “Oh it’s Ben and his bleedin heart mates, it isn’t.
Aki and his family have been property investors and landlords since the 1970s, they run a massive and successful property business in the midlands but in his article he doesn’t buy into anti benefit tenant prejudice and makes a case for it being a good business model if you get it right.
He said to me when we met up the other week for a chat and a pizza in Fulham that what really puts landlords off of benefit tenants is having to deal with councils, rather than the tenants themselves.
I work for a council and I entirely get his point. Councils are so often their own worst enemies.
Councils keeping it to themselves
A point not lost on David Lawrenson who wrote an article on this very subject, again for the Guardian where he says:-
“Councils cannot criticise landlords for failing to meet their obligations if the councils themselves are failing to provide the information that landlords and tenants need.”
Not all of the comments below the article agreed with David but I did and still do, very strongly.
New homelessness laws
The new homelessness suitability order comes into force on the 9th of November 2012. I have an article over on the Guardian Housing Network about this today (yet another thing I managed to shoehorn into my mad week).
All council’s in the UK are going to be needing PRS landlords to help them discharge their homelessness duty if they aren’t to go bankrupt. Chucking out a load of disjointed regulations and then threatening to prosecute landlords for not complying will do nothing to get them sitting around a table together.
Councils have to roll up their sleeves and become part of the PRS triangle of landlord- tenant- local authority. The unholy trinity.
Me? Well I aint got the time to be honest.
Ben Reeve Lewis