A Week in Housing

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Today’s roundup of the week must start with Brexit. Heard of it? It’s a drawn-out, bitter, uber-divisive, massively time-consuming, baffling calamity currently shattering the UK and jamming Twitter with a billion gigabytes of nonsense an hour.

Yesterday, ministers began dropping like displeased MPs from high office – among them Dominic Raab, the man who, in theory, was behind the execution of the very thing he resigned over(?!).

And this is merely the beginning! The EU has said that the deal is the best the UK is going to get, which suggests we are now at a…what? Crossroads? Dead end? Final reckoning? Rubbish tip? Haunted theme park? Underground treehouse?

Anyway, joining Raab in the pegging-it game was work and pensions secretary, and Universal Credit devotee, Esther McVey. Adding to the fun was Scotland boss Nicola Sturgeon, who asked on Twitter if McVey would mind taking Universal Credit with her?

And it’s a good question: might the blast wave from Brexit’s latest backfiring shell lead to a big shakeup of a thing that’s been controversial for even longer than Brexit itself has? Because…

***

…in extremely depressing news, a report has revealed that the anxieties caused by Universal Credit (UC) have led some claimants to consider suicide.

Commissioned by Gateshead Council, the study focused on the impact of UC in two North East locations and included interviews with 33 claimants aged 21-63.

Surprise, surprise, those interviewed reported finding UC ‘complicated, difficult and demeaning,’ and described a ‘labyrinthine, dysfunctional UC system prone to administrative errors, experienced as impersonal, hostile, punitive and difficult to navigate’. (But other than that, it’s great, right?)

Recorded and analysed by researchers from Teesside University and Newcastle University, the interviews also revealed that the consequences of waiting an average of 7.5 weeks for a payment ‘pushed many into debt, rent arrears and serious hardship, which included going without food and utilities’. Who would have thought it?

Most disturbingly of all, the investigation found that navigating UC’s mazes coupled with the threat of sanctions ‘exacerbated long-term health conditions and impacted so negatively on participant’s mental health that some had considered suicide’.

Now that MP McVey is gone, maybe it’s time for some fresh eyes to have a good hard look at this situation?

***

Meanwhile, over in sunny, Brexit-free Florida a planned community of solar-powered homes will aim for a ‘net zero’ energy footprint, which sounds jolly good and sensible.

It’s hoped the houses in the Hunters Point neighbourhood near Tampa will achieve zero emissions status; will be stuffed with lots of very clever gadgetry; and will be hurricane-proof (time will tell if they are also Trump/alt-right/white supremacist/lunatic-proof as well).

Sadly, the homes smart energy management system will be controlled by Google Home, so that’s another advance in the internet giant’s strategy to control every aspect of our lives.

Blake Richetta, senior vice president at Sonnen, the firm making the batteries that’ll store the development’s solar power, said: ‘It’s going to be a grid-interactive, grid-optimized virtual power plant.’

So, during the day, when homeowners are, presumably, at work, Google’s Nest thermostat will start ‘pre-cooling’ the homes, meaning solar power from the roof can be used directly; while during the evening’s peak time the system can gradually raise the temperature.

Developer Pearl Homes plans to begin the project late next year – and if it likes what it sees it intends to build another 720 rental homes nearby, with two-bed units going for $1,200-$1,400 a month (I don’t know what that is in proper money).

Pearl Homes president Marshall Gobuty is apparently a caring soul at heart, claiming that his firm’s mission is ‘everybody should be able to afford a sustainable home,’ and that his sustainable homes ‘should not just be for the rich’.

Now, I wonder if we could build a load of these clever, highly sustainable, apparently cheap homes in the UK? Too sensible?

***

It’s list of upcoming HQN events time, so it is, and it begins…now:

Our Equality and Diversity Network has launched its first best practice group – and it’s going to be held in Birmingham, which [checks map] is in England’s middle bit, meaning it’s kind of going for geographical equality too? What am I talking about? Anyway, click this red bit of text to book.

I’m pretty sure I mentioned this last week but I’m going to plug it again, anyway. Next year, which experts are calling ‘2019’, is going to be a big year for housing. That’s what we reckon – which is why we’ve created an event called ‘2019 – a big year for housing’.

Not only will the event probe the coming 365-day unit’s possibilities, it’ll also look back at old hat year 2018, which has nearly used up all its day quota. Tsk, profligate 2018. To book, click.

Our Housing Management Network has an annual conference on a yearly basis – and this year is no exception. We’ve decided to call it ‘The Housing Management Network annual conference 2018: Future-proofing frontline services’. We’re holding it in that big town in the south of England. I forget the name. You know, the place where Grange Hill was set. Anyway, click any of this bit to book.

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