Well, it’s my turn for the Newsround again. Lets see what we can find. As usual Grenfell related items are fairly prominent.
Home sweet home
First, we have a bit of good news for foreign survivors. They are to be allowed the chance to become permanent British residents.
It looks as if part of the reasoning is to encourage people to come forward to help the enquiries. Maybe it’s also a way of saying ‘sorry’ for allowing a situation to develop where their lives were put in danger by an unsafe home.
Other Grenfell related news is not so good.
Who will pay for safety?
This article looks at how the Government, having previously indicated that money was no object, is now refusing to pay for improvements to all the dozens of other tower blocks to ensure their safety, saying that building owners should be responsible.
Westminster, Nottingham, Croydon and Wandsworth have all had requests for funding refused we are told.
The tension over who should foot the fire safety bill follows a pledge in July by the communities secretary, Sajid Javid, that any lack of financial resources would not prevent necessary works going ahead. However, the government appears determined not to fund or allow additional borrowing for any improvements that go beyond essential safety works. The necessity of sprinklers is proving a key faultline.
Dany Cotton, commissioner of the LFB, has said retrofitting sprinklers in tower blocks “can’t be optional, it can’t be a nice-to-have”. Since 2007 they have been compulsory in new-build high-rises over 30 metres tall in England, but those building regulations do not apply to older blocks.
Are we surprised?
Re-housing the survivors
Promises to rehouse residents within three weeks made in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy are now shown to be hopelessly overoptimistic as a report to Parliament recently admitted that only 10 of the affected households have mow moved into permanent homes.
Of the 111 who have accepted offers of temporary or permanent accommodation, 44 have moved into their temporary homes but 92 households have yet to accept any accommodation.
But what can you expect in a borough where families have been on waiting lists for years? (And who will now have to wait longer due to the Grenfell disaster?).
Rogue Landlords Enquiry announced
Talking about Parliament, the Communities and Local Government Committee has announced a ‘Combatting ‘rogue landlords’ inquiry.
This will be looking at
the provision by councils of private rented accommodation and whether they have sufficient powers to deal with bad practices.
barriers to intervention in the private rented sector, whether landlord licensing schemes are promoting higher quality accommodation and the effectiveness of complaint mechanism for tenants.
The closing date for submissions is midday Friday 24 November.
But what about the others?
But, as Nearly Legal rightly points out, there are a lot of other inquiries which have not yet had final reports or been acted upon.
The ones they identify are:
- A review of the Mobile Homes Act 2013
- Banning orders, although I was told this is due to come into force in April
- Letting agents tenants fee ban
- Leasehold reform, although this has only recently closed with some 6,000 responses, and
- HMOs where the government is due to extend mandatory licensing
Are the DCLG biting off more than they can chew? And will they be able to do any of this properly while Brexit is taking up attention?
The BBC website has several articles on rents. For example, here they discuss how low-income families are spending 28% of their income in rent (up from the 1990s).
RICS are now predicting higher rises as landlords pull out due to policy changes apparently. Although I do have reservations about that as surely, if properly done, buy to let must still be better than other investments with their dismal interest rates?
Finally, they have an interesting, if inconclusive, article on rent control.
The Housing Crisis
There are also a plethora of articles about the housing crisis.
For example, Ben Chu in the the Independent believes that the Tories are incapable of solving it as it would upset the 25% of their MPs who are private landlords and
Taxes on undeveloped land to spur construction rates would be fought by private house-builders, who have been major party donors. Green Belt liberalisation, to remove an obstacle to construction and reduce the price of land for develop, would scandalise the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England and the Conservative-supporting Daily Telegraph. Proper reform of property taxation, making council tax proportionate to house values, would send the wealthy homeowners of the Tory heartlands ballistic.
Also, (he says) the Tories have an emotional and ideological block as our current crisis is the result of the failure of the Thatcher policies in the 1980s. Which they can’t admit.
Jonathan Manns writing in the Guardian believes that the crisis will only get worse unless England scraps the right to buy.
And Larry Elliott (also writing in the Guardian) gives five steps to solve it:
- Stop doing more harm via counterproductive measures such as help to buy
- Change the tax system starting with Council Tax and put in place measures to stop land hoarding
- Increase housing supply
- for the Bank of England to adopt a kid-glove approach to raising interest rates, and
- find a way of boosting wages
Not sure this government is up to doing all this though. What do you think?
Mandatory pets with lets?
I was interested to see this article on a New Zealand site reporting that from 2018 new laws will come into force in VIctoria Australia which will respect a tenant’s right to keep a pet:
Unless there are overriding regulations, such as a pet ban by a body corporate, or council by-laws that prevent you keeping chickens in the backyard, then landlords will not be able to say “no” to a pet.
I suspect this is still some way off for England though.
What made me smile this week
We watched the Blues Brothers video last night.
What a great film! Still brilliant after some 35 years.