Category Archives: Central Government

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.’

Former housing minster demands reforms

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A former housing minister has come up with a raft of reforms that he kept to himself when he was in a position to potentially do something about them.

One of many, many former housing ministers, Dominic Rabb MP has demanded a brand new help to buy scheme that would see landlords exempted from capital gains tax if they sell to their tenants, and the scrapping of stamp duty for homes worth less than £500,000.

However, critics have slammed the much-derided MP – who, amazingly, is apparently a genuine contender to become next prime minister when Theresa May quits – and have pointed out that he kept his mouth firmly shut about such things when he was housing minister.

In conversation with the the Sunday Telegraph, naturally, Rabb also said that his government had failed to stand up to developers and make sure that enough new homes are being built.

On top of all this, he also called for more public-owned land to be released and for councils to be allowed to sell plots to small developers – once again, opinions that weren’t evident while he was in charge of housing, a point that hasn’t escaped the National Federation of Builders (NFB).

Richard Beresford, CEO of the NFB, said: ‘I don’t remember Dominic Raab having any of these ideas when he was housing minister. The revolving door used to usher in a steady stream of housing ministers is unlikely to get any rest, so how likely is it that these ideas will be implemented?’

Raab quit as Brexit Secretary some time after discovering that Dover played an important role in the transport of goods between the UK and continental Europe. Since then, he has furiously criticised Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal – a deal he himself partly negotiated.

Rogue landlord database has 4 (anonymous) entries 12 months on

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A year ago, the government brought in laws to punish terrible landlords – so, 12 months later, how many have been hit with one of the new banning orders?

None! That’s right – according to this Guardian article from which I’m lifting this entire story, not a single slum landlord has been banned from renting homes in England: which may mean all the rubbish landlords have bucked their ideas up, but I doubt it.

Under the rules, dodgy landlords must have their details put into the government’s rogue landlord database.

Anyhow, local authorities are also able to make discretionary entries onto the database – and according to the results of the Guardian’s FOI request, a mere four suspect landlords have been entered into the system since it went online; and their names can’t even be accessed, so it’s hard to imagine what the point of all this is.

Despite the suspicious lack of entries on the would-be flash but currently fruitless database, the government reckons there are a massive 10,500 rogue landlords plying their trade across England.

Heather Wheeler, minister for housing and homelessness, is clearly a fan of the database and very keen to defend it. ‘The rogue landlord database is targeted at the most prolific and serious offenders. It is a lengthy process to build cases and secure convictions and it is therefore not surprising that there are only a limited number at this stage,’ she said.

She continued: ‘We expect the number of entries to the database to increase during the year as only offences committed from April last year can be included and it can take time to secure convictions.’

But none of that’s flying with Clive Betts, chair of the parliament’s housing, communities and local government select committee,  who said: ‘Given what we know about the bad behaviour of a small number of landlords, it is very, very disappointing there aren’t more being prosecuted and banned.’

So, who’s right: Wheeler or Betts? Let us know in the comments section.

 

‘This is wrong’ – Theresa May pledges to abolish section 21 evictions

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The government has decided it’s going to get rid of ‘no-fault evictions’ in a move that has understandably delighted housing campaigners.

Prime minster Theresa May’s crumbling regime says it will now consult on freeing England of section 21 evictions, which will mean the four million tenants living in the private rented sector (PRS) can no longer be evicted at short notice and for no good reason.

PRS landlords can evict tenants with eight weeks’ notice after the completion of a fixed-term contract, which even our current government has admitted has become one of the main reasons families become homeless.

Taking some time out from Brexit, PM May said: ‘Millions of responsible tenants could still be uprooted by their landlord with little notice, and often little justification.

‘This is wrong – and today we’re acting by preventing these unfair evictions. This important step will not only protect tenants from unethical behaviour, but also give them the long-term certainty and the peace of mind they deserve.’

Homelessness charity Shelter has hailed the announcement as ‘an outstanding victory’ that will basically lead to open-ended tenancies, with tenants less terrified of immediate eviction if they complain about the quality of their homes.

Shockingly, recent research by Citizens Advice found tenants that make a formal complaint about their landlord or home had a 46% chance of being issued with a section 21 eviction notice within the following six months.

Should the government’s plans become a reality, landlords will have to employ a section 8 process if they seek an eviction, which can only be used in relation to proper things like criminal or antisocial behaviour, rent arrears and so on – not when someone has merely complained that their flat has rats/mold/falling masonry in it.

James Brokenshire, the communities secretary, has spoken at quite some length: ‘By abolishing these kinds of evictions, every single person living in the private rented sector will be empowered to make the right housing choice for themselves – not have it made for them. And this will be balanced by ensuring responsible landlords can get their property back where they have proper reason to do so.

‘We are making the biggest change to the private rental sector in a generation. We are creating homes, opportunities and thriving communities, where people can come together and put down roots, bound by a strong sense of belonging.

‘Everyone has a right to the opportunities they need to build a better life. For many, this means having the security and stability to make a place truly feel like home without the fear of being evicted at a moments’ notice. We are building a fairer housing market that truly works for everyone.’

As you can imagine, not every is happy, and none less so than David Smith, policy director of the Residential Landlords Association, who said: ‘For all the talk of greater security for tenants, that will be nothing if the homes to rent are not there in the first place.’

Unsurprisingly, Richard Lambert, CEO of the National Landlords Association, isn’t over the moon either. He said: ‘[Landlords] have no confidence in the ability or the capacity of the courts to deal with possession claims quickly and surely, regardless of the strength of the landlord’s case.’

MPs have made £42m profit from second homes

If you think our industrious MPs are already busy enough with Brexit, spare a thought: they’ve also got to manage the process of profiting from their second homes!

According to a Mirror investigation, our dear leaders have collectively made £42 million in profit from selling their taxpayer-subsidised second homes.

One beneficiary is hot/cold Brexit fan Michael Gove, who has apparently made £870,000 from two homes. Nice!

But that’s small beer compared to ex-Cabinet minister Maria Miller, who made more than £1.2m from some slick second home sales work.

Though under parliamentary rules the 160 profiteering MPs are allowed to keep the money, naturally, critics are urging them to hand it back, what with trust and patience levels at record lows amongst the public.

One of these critics is the unimpressed Sir Alistair Graham, former chairman of the Committee of Standards in Public Life, who said: ‘You should not be profiting out of special taxpayer funds; you should repay any gain you made over that period.

‘The arrangement was made purely to take into account MPs who came from the North who would struggle to meet the housing costs.

‘It would need to be carefully ­calculated, but Independent ­Parliamentary Standards Authority has done this before and they can do it again.

‘I don’t think anything will restore trust – it’s at such a low ebb – but it’s the right thing to do.’

According to the investigation, MPs made an average profit of £255,000 on selling their  homes.

Interestingly, second home-selling Labour MPs made an average of £193,000 profit, while Tories floggers made a average of £417,000 – so maybe there’s something in the old myth that conservatives are better with money?

 

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