Category Archives: Housing

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.

£1m for homeless veterans

Top view of Homeless man with money tin begging for money

The government has come up with a whole £1 million to support homeless veterans.

Announced today by communities secretary James Brokenshire, who has been doing loads of announcing recently, the cash will ‘help ensure those who have served their country have a roof over their heads and have the support they need once leaving the Armed Forces’.

The £1m is to be distributed among the ‘ten combined authorities and the Greater London Authority who will be able to use the funding to provide veterans with the bespoke support they need as they navigate civilian life’.

MP Brokenshire said: ‘Our veterans play a vital role in keeping our country safe and many have dedicated their lives to the services. For those who fall on hard times and end up on the street, it is only right that we give them all the support they need to put a roof over their head.’

Gaffe-haunted defence secretary Gavin Williamson also chimed in: ‘The vast majority of those leaving the Armed Forces go on to lead fulfilling and rewarding lives, but it’s right that we support those who struggle.

‘One veteran on the street is one too many and I welcome today’s announcement on funding to address homelessness and rough sleeping.’

Anyway, here’s the government’s press release in its full glory. 

Spring Statement: Housing Overview

Yellow Toy House Sitting On Top Of Coin Stack: Real Estate and Savings Concept

Yesterday, central government fiscal announcement fans, was Spring Statement Day – though it’s hard to tell if anyone noticed/cared as it was also Brexit Day, which it is everyday, of course.

So, would you like to know what was revealed? Why not!

According to chancellor Phillip Hammond, the ‘UK economy continues to grow, with wages increasing and unemployment at historic lows, providing a solid foundation on which to build Britain’s economic future’.

There followed a load more stuff about how well Hammond/the government is doing – which seems particularly remarkable coming from a regime that has somehow managed to achieve less than nothing in two years of absurd Brexit negotiations, but there you go.

Anyway, onto housing, which was promised in the headline.

The government says it is ‘determined to fix the broken housing market,’ and that ‘building more homes in the right places is critical to unlocking productivity growth and makes housing more affordable’.

Apparently, the regime is on track to deliver 300,000 new homes a year, as promised. Hmm.

Moving on, £717 million is to be taken from the £5.5 billion Housing Infrastructure Fund and used to ‘unlock up to 37,000 homes at sites including Old Oak Common in London, the Oxford-Cambridge Arc and Cheshire’.

Meanwhile, via the Affordable Homes Guarantee Scheme, the government says it will guarantee up to £3bn of borrowing by housing associations in England to support delivery of around 30,000 affordable homes.

And another £445 million from the Housing Infrastructure Fund will be deployed to unlock over 22,000 homes over on, again, the Oxford-Cambridge Arc project.

The chancellor also said that the government will hold a spending review, concluding alongside the Budget, which will set departmental budgets, including three-year budgets for resource spending, if an EU exit deal is agreed – so better not hold your breath on that one, then.

Here’s the press release covering everything else that happened. 

Now that’s over you can resume your normal position: staring blankly at Brexit.

 

PRACTICAL MAGIC: HOUSING INNOVATORS

Attention, members: You’re going to enjoy this…

You have an amazing idea. It’s been scurrying around your techie mind for weeks, months – maybe even years. You’d love to experiment, develop it, and see it come to life – but you haven’t got the resources.

Is it a system that’s going to revolutionise your customer services? An innovative piece of amazing digital design that’ll make life easier for your business and colleagues?

Tell us your idea and how bloomin’ brilliant it is and you could be the happy beneficiary of a rather incredibly awesome package of possibility!

Working in conjunction with Amazon Web Services, we’re delighted to bring you our tiptop FREE TO ENTER Housing Innovators competition which offers:

  • $20,000 of credit for use on the AWS platform to be used during the course of a year
  • AWS support
  • Named Solution Architect support throughout the project
  • Monthly business reviews
  • Free online training resources
  • Quick start set-ups of standardised AWS cloud environments that support workloads classified as United Kingdom (UK) OFFICIAL
  • 50% discounted AWS architecting and developing classroom training 3-day course

If we didn’t say it loud enough already, the competition is FREE to our members to enter.

Simply send us your idea in no more than 300 words by 31 March 2019. Our panel of judges will decide on the best idea and the winner will be announced in May.

To enter or ask any questions, please email hqn@hqnetwork.co.uk

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.

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