MPs demand: No more ‘No DSS’ ads

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‘No DSS’ clauses on rental properties could be on the way out, if MPs get their way.

Yesterday, the Commons work and pensions select committee quizzed, among others, the director of online lettings behemoth Your Move, which last month ran an ad that actually said ‘No DSS. Small dogs considered’.

Housing minister Heather Wheeler has claimed she wants to get rid of the ads, but so far no dice.

Anyway, the committee’s hearing also received input from the likes of Your Rent and Hunters, agents that claim to be opposed to ‘no DSS’ ads but which still run them.

According to housing charity Shelter, ‘no DSS’ ads are in breach of equality laws because they disproportionately affects women and people with disabilities.

Frank Field MP, the committee’s chairman, said: ‘If we are serious about this we have to get lenders and insurers to stop the discrimination.’

Curiously socially-conscious ex-Tory Heidi Allen MP added. ‘It is clearly dysfunctional and not working for huge swathes of those people on benefits.’

Meanwhile, Croydon renter Philippa Lalor went further, claiming that in ‘the 1950s it used to be no blacks, no Irish, no dogs. Now we have “no DSS”. It is in the shop window.’

And things are changing it seems. Property website Zoopla has already pledged to ban carry ‘no DSS’ ads, while NatWest, the Co-op Bank and Nationwide have also committed to abolishing such demands from their loan agreements.

 

 

11m adults to lose or gain money under Universal Credit

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Ever wondered how many people will either lose out or gain under Universal Credit (UC)? Well, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) did and this is what it found out…

According to the IFS’s research, 11m adults will see their money go up or down under the government’s flagship reform of the benefits system, though by this stage in the game ‘reform’ is a pretty wacky way of putting it.

Apparently, when UC is fully rolled out in 2024 (which if it’s passage into the world so far is anything to go by, is far from certain) around 2m people will be £1,000 worse off a year, with self-employed on below average incomes and low-income families with little savings among the biggest losers.

The IFS says that UC disproportionately reduces incomes among poorer adults, with those in the lowest-income 10% of the population on average losing the most – a 1.9% fall in their income, equivalent to £150 per year per adult.

Tom Waters, an IFS research economist, said: ‘The biggest losses experienced because of the switch are mostly down to a small number of specific choices the government has made about universal credit’s design, such as its treatment of the low-income self-employed and people with financial assets.

‘Many of those very large losses do turn out to be temporary for those concerned.

‘However, even when measuring people’s incomes over relatively long periods, universal credit still hits the persistently poor the hardest on average.’

So, poor old UC gets yet another savaging. Will there ever be any good news? IFS report here.

 

 

Labour to scrap developers’ social housing dodge / tiny homes rules

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The next Labour government – should there be one, of course – will abolish rules that allow developers to avoid building social housing and instead create ‘slum housing’, or so the currently not-in-power Labour party has promised.

Introduced in 2013 by the Tory-led coalition, permitted development rights allow housebuilders to circumvent normal planning rules and local authorities when converting former commercial spaces into homes.

The handy loophole alleviates builders of the demand to supply new affordable homes while simultaneously gifting them the strange right to avoid normal space standards, and are thus free to construct flats that are only a few feet wide should they wish.

The Tories and their Lib Dem underlings introduced the rules to give a quick fix to housebuilding figures – however, like much of the coalition’s oeuvre, the plan seems to have backfired/failed miserably, with the local Government Association estimating that over 10,000 affordable homes have been lost to the literally dodgy rules in the last three years.

Meanwhile, in another damning blow, research by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors reveals that permitted development rights have ‘allowed extremely poor-quality housing to be developed’, with only 30% of homes created via the rules meeting space standards.

Since 2015, 42,000 housing units have been birthed in former commercial buildings.

According to John Healey MP, Labour’s shadow housing minister, the Tories’ ‘permitted development rules have created a get-out clause for developers to dodge affordable homes requirements and build slum housing’.

The MP added: ‘To fix the housing crisis, we need more genuinely affordable, high-quality homes. This Conservative housing free-for-all gives developers a free hand to build what they want but ignore what local communities need.

‘Labour will give local people control over the housing that gets built in their area and ensure developers build the low-cost, high-quality homes that the country needs.’

Rough sleeping figures ‘should not be trusted’

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The manner in which data on the numbers of those sleeping rough on the streets has been subject to much debate in the sector of late, particularly following recent government claims that the number of rough sleepers has actually fallen. This has caused – to put things mildly – some slight consternation.

Enter stage left Sir David Norgrove, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority. He has said that these recently released figures, showing an apparent 2% fall in rough sleeping in England in 2018, “should not be trusted” until the government explains how data from an emergency funding scheme might have been interpreted.

The reason for the controversy surrounding these figures? Many councils have changed their data collecting methodologies over the past few months and years, moving away from estimates to a count. Doing so sees a reduction in the official numbers of rough sleepers across the board. Critics claim that this methodology does not portray an accurate representation of the reality of rough sleeping.

Norgorve seems to be among these critics, saying that the official 2018 figures should not be used to make claims about rough sleeping until concerns that some councils deliberately under-reported the “scale of crisis” in their area are addressed.

Lies, damn lies, and statistics, and all that. In related news, perhaps the Big Issue can shine some further light on this…er, big issue (well, you would think they know what they’re talking about). They’ve published a report of their own using FOI requests to detail the impact of the Homelessness Reduction Act, with some intriguing results.

Brexit, Halloween, Grenfell: Latest HQN magazine issue out now

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The latest edition of HQN’s The Governor magazine is now available online! (And also in print – the old-fashioned, slower, more papery version of online.)

And now I’m going to tell you about some of the things that are in it:

Tiptop journalist Jules Birch has a tremendous feature in which he examines the Halloween Brexit implications for the social housing sector (and some of it is quite scary).

There’s an eight-page edition of HQN’s Evidence journal, featuring topical housing research and analysis from leading academics.

Colin Wiles looks at the links between stigma and the way social housing is planned, designed and built.

And of course, HQN CEO Alistair McIntosh’s inimitable voice can be found is in the house, too. Here’s a taste:

It’s getting on for two years since the fire. How should we mark it in the right way? What about this idea as part of it?

Every day we read of shoddy new builds and of poor doors, tenant’s children not being allowed in play grounds while their mums and dads are banned from the gym. At the same time associations want more grant to shore up their business plans as sales of homes have dried up.

Of course the associations need help to build. So give them the cash. But with strings. Any new homes paid for with grant should be safe, well finished and with no segregation whatsoever. This should be checked carefully before the money is paid out.

I’m not kidding myself that this is the whole of the answer. But it’s a start. So far all we have had is warm words. Use grant to halt stigma in its tracks now.

Read the new issue by clicking any of this bit!

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