Category Archives: Finance

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.

UK rents drop

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Rent news, anyone? Allow me…

UK average monthly rents are at their lowest level for three years, or so The Deposit Protection Service’s (DPS) quarterly report says.

The average rent fell to £757 during the first quarter of 2019, with tenants paying £5 (0.64%) less than 2018’s closing quarter, and over £14 (1.87%) lower than 2018’s first quarter.

And what’s caused this drop? The DPS reckons that it may in part be caused by tenants reluctant to move until the new tenancy fees ban comes into effect in June. Maybe.

It’s not good news for renters all over, though: the South West, East Midlands, Yorkshire and The Humber and Wales saw increases in the last quarter, even if they were rather tiny.

Daren King, the DPS’s head of tenancy deposit protection, said: ‘The depressed market for rents is part of the larger slowdown that began during the summer of 2016 and which we believe is linked to broad economic factors affecting spending power and demand in the UK.

‘We also believe that the rental market may be experiencing a period of tenant inactivity driven by uncertainty ahead of the imminent enforcement of the ban on tenancy fees.’

Naturally, expensive old London remains by far the most costly place to rent, while the North East is still the cheapest option.

Anyway, here’s the DPS’s report which you might enjoy on this sunny if not especially warm Friday afternoon.

In private sector news… rents rising at fastest rate in over two years

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It’s always good to keep a beady eye on the machinations of the private rented sector if you’re in social housing, as big change there will inevitably have a knock on effect for social tenants too. And it seems all is not entirely comfy for both tenants and their landlords at this precise moment.

HomeLet, an organisation that very handily keeps watch on private rent levels, has found that there has been a steep rise in rents over the past months, the fastest in over two years in fact.

In their latest analysis they found rental values have increased at a higher pace than was seen throughout last year, rising by 3.3% in the last 12 months with the average rent in the UK now being £924 per month. They state that this shows a move away from the normal fluctuations of the market with rents for new tenancies now rising at a rate above inflation, which has not happened since 2016.

The reason for this is the Tenant Fees Act, due to come into effect on Saturday 1 June 2019. This sees the banning of letting fees for new tenants, which on the surface seems a good thing. But when combined with new taxation changes it is leaving many landlords out of pocket, and they are passing the buck – quite literally – onto prospective new tenants. They’ll now have to pay more as part of their rent each month instead of upfront when they first move in.

Of course, that could be a good thing as many tenants would prefer to spread the cost of moving into a new pad over a longer period, but with the cost of living still high it won’t be for everyone.

And with Brexit continuing to hover around the place like an angry wasp, who knows where rent rates will be months or even years down the line? HomeLet’s Chief Executive comments that for rates to stay the same current wage and employment levels will need to as well, to prop up demand. All ifs and buts and maybes at this point, but it does seem we’re set for a few more months of rent rises as the PRS adapts to all these new changes… be they for good or for ill.

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?

 

We’re still not taking safety seriously: So here’s what to do

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By Alistair McIntosh, CEO HQN

It’s getting on for two years since Grenfell. So, what have we done about it?

To cut to the chase, this is what Judith Hackitt said about us at the time: first of all, we didn’t know enough about our homes. But we certainly didn’t let that get in the way of cutting costs to the bone at every turn. It’s a pity we’re not so hot at listening to folk or keeping them safe.

Have we sorted this all out? No chance.

The RSH is still having to step in when landlords are lax on fire safety, gas and lifts. And associations are taking homes from builders that are not up to scratch. You’ve got to meet those targets after all. While we are on with that numbers game, Kit Malthouse says that he is fed up of being the complaints department for his local associations. What is the root problem here?

I don’t think the desire is there to fix safety. Why do I say that? Private finance came along. What did we do? We went out and got top notch finance directors. You’ve got to hand it to them. They’ve pulled in lots of cash to see us through anything Brexit throws at us. Well done.

Associations were told to get commercial and build loads more homes. We did what we did on finance. Yes, those development directors are pushing up the numbers. Of course that’s a good thing.

So, we know what to do. When there’s a problem you go out and find people that can fix it. And, crucially, you give them a seat at the top table. You make them directors. We’ve not done that with safety. You don’t see too many directors that can spend all their time on this. Yes, it gets added to other jobs but that’s not the same thing.

You have to fight for safety. If the finance director won’t pay for works you’ve got to stand up to them. So you need to be of the same rank. And money is not the issue anyway. There seems to be no end of money to blow on Emperor’s New Clothes, change-things-for-the-worse IT fiascos. When the development team pleads with you to take some lousy homes to hit their bonus, just say no. And you can only do that if you are round the same table.

When you come to think of it, isn’t it astonishing that your safety team seldom gets to vet new schemes? Housing managers don’t have much of a say either. And when you do get the handover papers, they can have more holes than a Swiss cheese. Then there are the endless battles between the award-winning builders and the poor sods that have to manage and live in the homes. Not to mention the MPs who are spending more time on sorting out new homes than Brexit. Maybe that’s why Theresa can’t get a decision out of the blighters.

So it’s time to appoint directors for safety. That’s what we do when we give a damn. The Bank of England knows this is the best way to get things done. That’s why they are insisting that banks and insurers put a senior executive onto climate change. And there is a lot of cross over. NICE are saying we should not build homes near main roads and the government’s climate change advisory board wants to get gas out of homes.

There’s a lot to do for a safety director. Sign one up now. Don’t wait to be told.

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