Category Archives: Homeownership

Former housing minster demands reforms

house in construction

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.

Over 630,000 living in ‘hazardous conditions’, report

A major report has revealed that 631,000 people in England are living in ‘hazardous conditions’.

In response to 2017’s Grenfell Tower disaster, and commissioned by homelessness charity Shelter, ‘A Vision for Social Housing’ consulted over 31,000 people from across the country and brought together 16 commissioners from across the political spectrum.

The report reveals that 3.1 million people in England need a social home – and of the 1.27m in greatest need: 631,000 live in hazardous conditions; 240,000 live in overcrowded accommodation; 194,00 live with ill health or disability; 128,000 are rough sleeping and hidden; and 79,900 are homeless and in temporary accommodation.

Asking ‘what is the future of social housing’, the authors state that the country is ‘feeling the effects of 40 years of failure in housing policy’ and specifically blame:

  • A failure to build enough homes. Over the past five years, housebuilding has averaged 166,000 a year, yet government wants to deliver 300,000 homes a year
  • Huge waiting lists for social homes. Today, 277,000 people are homeless
  • The explosion in the numbers renting privately, unable to buy or access social housing
  • Huge rises in welfare costs to government, driven by more people renting privately at higher costs

According to the report, if the crisis is to be solved, 3m new social homes must be built over the next 20 years.

The commission warns that without a ‘radically different approach’ the country faces a future in which:

  • A generation of young families will be trapped renting privately for their whole lives, while more and more will face living in dangerous accommodation or going into debt
  • By 2040, as many as one-third of 60-year-olds could be renting privately, facing unaffordable rent increases or eviction at any point
  • £billions more in welfare costs will be paid to private landlords due to a lack of more affordable social housing
  • Over the next 20 years, hundreds of thousands more people will be forced into homelessness by insecure tenancies and sky-high housing costs

Nadine, a private renter who contributed to the report, lives with her teenage daughter and works two jobs – yet still struggles to keep up with the rent. She said: ‘My rent is over half my monthly income, so that’s where most of my money goes. It’s hard to afford other things we need. I am cutting back and doing the best I can, but there are times we can’t live on the money we’ve got.

‘We budget on our food and it’s very rare that I buy anything full price. I shop around to take advantage of all the vouchers and deals I can get.

‘No one should have to spend more than a third of their income on rent. If they are going to set a minimum wage, then there should be places you can afford to rent on that income – how can it be a living wage if you can’t find anywhere to live on it?’

One of those who contributed to the report’s recommendations on reforming social renting was Rob Gershon, Lead of the HQN Residents’ Network, who said: ‘I’ve always thought of myself as incredibly lucky to be a social housing tenant… On the two occasions I’ve come to rely on social housing, it has been there to make sure my family has had somewhere to live.’

The commission recommends:

  • Setting clearer standards
  • Ensuring speedier redress for individual complaints
  • Proactive enforcement of regulation to protect social renters
  • Giving residents a voice in landlord governance and decision-making
  • Giving residents a voice in decisions made by national, regional, and local government

Click here to download the full report.

Government committee slams bank’s ‘DSS housing backlist’

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A bank’s refusal to re-mortgage a property because the applicant was renting to a tenant on housing benefit (HB) has been slammed by a government committee.

In October, NatWest came under fire after it refused landlord Helen McAteer’s application – and actually threatened revocation of the existing mortgage because of the sitting tenant’s receipt of HB.

She was told by the bank to either evict her tenant, a vulnerable elderly lady, or pay the early repayment charges and forego the mortgage as it was the bank’s policy not to allow rentals to a ‘DSS claimant’.

Now the Commons Work and Pensions Committee has stepped in, urging the government to intervene in the ‘housing blacklist’ run by lenders’ ‘no DSS’ policies.

In correspondence with the committee, NatWest’s CEO, Ross McEwan, expressed the bank’s ‘extreme disappointment’ with the way the case was handled, claiming it ‘did not reflect the values of [the] organisation’ and promising an immediate review its lending practices.

However, the CEO’s letter also states that ‘in line with a number of other lenders…our mortgage policy for landlords with smaller property portfolios…includes a restriction on letting to tenants in receipt of housing benefit. This reflects evidence that rental arrears are much greater in this segment of the market and we are satisfied that this restriction does not contravene equality legislation.’

According to the committee, there are 4.2 million people in receipt of HB in the UK – and research by the Residential Landlords Association found that 66% of lenders, covering 90% of the buy-to-let market, have this kind of prohibition on lending.

The committee says it is ‘deeply concerned about the extent to which mortgage providers are therefore preventing landlords from renting to benefit claimants, especially given the desperate shortage of affordable housing and the large numbers of claimants now dependent on the private rented sector’.

Committee chair Frank Field MP said: ‘The government claims its welfare reforms are intended to drive employment, but allowing banks to operate a “no DSS” policy is a return to the wicked old days of housing discrimination, with claimants effectively blacklisted for housing and at risk of being senselessly evicted for no greater crime than receiving housing benefit.

‘NatWest is now taking a look at its policy, and other mortgage lenders will no doubt follow suit. If the change we need to protect people is not forthcoming voluntarily, we may need to look to regulation.’