Author Archives: maxsalsburyhqn

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.’

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!

1% own 50% of England

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A tiny fraction of people own half of England a book has revealed – but we suspected that already, didn’t we?

In good news for fans of the aristocracy and big corporations, author Guy Shrubsole’s book ‘Who Owns England?’ shows that a mere 25,000 people currently hold 50% of the country’s land area.

According to this Guardian story, some of the bigger players include the Queen, the Duke of Buccleuch and the Brexit-loving vacuum cleaner salesman James Dyson, who recently moved his air sucking operation to Singapore.

Shrubsole is scathing: ‘Most people remain unaware of quite how much land is owned by so few. A few thousand dukes, baronets and country squires own far more land than all of middle England put together.

‘Land ownership in England is astonishingly unequal, heavily concentrated in the hands of a tiny elite.’

The author drew on public maps and FOI requests when creating his book which shows: 30% of England’s land is in the hands of ‘aristocracy and gentry’; 18% corporations; 17% oligarchs and city bankers – all groups most of us respect and look up to no doubt.

Meanwhile, 5% belongs to ‘homeowners’ and the public sector has a 8.5% share.

MP Jon Trickett isn’t very pleased, as you’d hope given that he’s in the Labour party. He said: ‘The dramatic concentration of land ownership is an inescapable reminder that ours is a country for the few and not the many.

‘It’s simply not right that aristocrats, whose families have owned the same areas of land for centuries, and large corporations exercise more influence over local neighbourhoods – in both urban and rural areas – than the people who live there.

‘Land is a source of wealth, it impacts on house prices, it is a source of food and it can provide enjoyment for millions of people.’

Anyway, happy Easter.

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