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Large Energy Performance Certificate rise in England and Wales

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I’ve got the last quarter’s domestic Energy Performance Certificate (EPCs) figures – but I’m not going to tell you what they are.

Only joking! Between January and March this year, an impressive 396,000 EPCs were lodged in Wales and England  – 85% (337,000) of which were for the sale and letting of existing dwellings, an increase of 36% on the same quarter last year.

Valid for 10 years, EPCs were introduced ‘using a phased approach,’ or so this government release says, with ‘the requirement fully implemented for domestic properties by autumn 2008’.

The government speculates that the large increase in numbers ‘may reflect EPCs issued before 2009 being renewed when a dwelling was let or sold in 2019’.

Anyhow, 15% (60,000) of the quarter’s certificates were for new builds and conversions – up 13% on 2018’s first quarter.

In summary, in the year ending March 2019:

253,000 EPCs were lodged for new build dwellings and conversions, up 13% on the previous year and the largest annual total for new properties since 2008 when records began.

Most EPCs (245,000, up 13% on the previous year) were for new builds and conversions in England (probably because it’s bigger and has more houses and people in it), with the remaining 8,500 (up 7%) were lodged in Wales (probably because it’s smaller and has less people and houses in it).

Universal credit slammed as ‘Orwellian’ by judge

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Much-troubled Universal Credit (UC) has now been described as ‘Orwellian’, as hopes that anyone will ever say anything nice about it continue to fade.

According to high court judge Sir Stephen Sedley, the government’s flagship reform of the benefits system tends to make life miserable for claimants while simultaneously implying that it will rescue them from poverty.

The judge’s harsh comments have been delivered along with a report that reveals hundreds of people risked tumbling into greater debt because floundering old UC miscalculated their payments.

The report, by charity Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), cites the plight of a working mother who lost £400 a month because the bungling UC system somehow failed to include the child element for her daughter or a work allowance.

Judge Sedley said: ‘People in need are left to guess at and grope for things which should be clear and tangible. The consequences are not limited to over- or underpayment. They feed into the stress and worry that so many people managing on low incomes experience, which in turn can affect family life for children growing up in these environments.

‘There is something Orwellian about a system which is intended to alleviate hardship yet is administered in ways which generate and aggravate human misery. Whether this is happening by accident or by design is an argument for another time and place.’

And the government still want this thing rolled out across the entire country by 2024.

Anyhow CPAG’s chief executive, Alison Garnham, said: ‘The DWP must improve the information it provides so that universal credit claimants are not floundering in the dark about their award. Clear and accessible information on how decisions are made and your right to appeal is the bare minimum we should expect from a modern benefit.’

Over 200,000 properties bought with Help to Buy

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I’ve got the latest Help to Buy figures: I hope you enjoy them.

According to the government’s numbers, between its April 2013 launch and December 2018, 210,964 properties were purchased with the Help to Buy: Equity Loan scheme.

The total value of these loans? An impressive £11.71 billion (if you’re impressed by large amounts of money, of course, which many of us are), while the total value of the homes
sold under the scheme hits an even more impressive £54.48bn.

Now then, most of the purchases were made by first time buyers, who accounted for 171,053 (81%) of sales.

The mean purchase price of a property bought under the scheme was £258,223, with buyers using a mean equity loan of £55,498.

Meanwhile, in expensive London village the maximum equity loan was increased from
20% to 40% in February 2016 – which led to 12,511 completions up till 31 December 2018, of which 10,635 were made with an equity loan higher than 20%.

Here’s the government’s massively long and detailed report if you fancy it.

Government spent £1.46bn on decent homes in 5 years

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Would you like to know how much the government spent on bringing homes up to a decent standard between 2011 and 2016?

Well, according to housing minister James Brokenshire MP, it was £1.46 billion, spread across 45 councils, but you will already know that if you read the headline.

Prompted by a question from Labour’s shadow housing minister, John Healy MP, Brokenshire said the cash helped bring over 158,000 properties up to the Decent Homes Standard.

Furthermore, according to the housing minister, the number of social housing units that failed to meet the standard fell by 32% between 2010 and 2017.

So, hope you enjoyed that.

Government cuts leave £1bn funding hole in homelessness services

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A rather enormous £1 billion funding hole is putting single homeless people at risk, new research has warned.

The government’s widespread and ruthless cuts to the budgets of local councils over the last nine years have left their services in tatters, according to homelessness charities St Mungo’s and Homeless Link.

And if the government wants to hit its dream target of ending rough sleeping by 2017, it’d better act now and fill the funding hole, the charities have said.

Produced by WPI Economics, the report – Local Authority Spending on Homelessness – shows English councils’ spend for supporting single homeless people dropped by a huge 53% between 2008-9 and 2017-18 – nearly £1bn less than 10 years ago.

St Mungo’s CEO Howard Sinclair isn’t best pleased, as you can imagine. He said: ‘This shocking billion pound a year funding gap must be a wake-up call for the Government.

‘Councils have a crucial role to play in preventing and reducing homelessness and rough sleeping, but years of cuts have left them struggling to tackle rising homelessness with fewer and fewer resources. If the Government does not act to restore funding to previous levels, it is likely to miss its target of ending rough sleeping by 2027.

‘The human cost of these cuts is all too real. The people we work with – many struggling with poor mental health, substance use or domestic violence – are often being left with no option but to sleep rough. With nearly 600 people dying on our streets or while homeless in a year, this really is a matter of life and death.

‘The Government must use this year’s Spending Review to put the money back and to turn the tide of rising homelessness. It can only do this by committing to a programme of guaranteed, long-term funding, so that everyone can find and keep a home for good.’

According to St Mungo’s and Homeless Link, single people and couples without children are most likely to end up living on the streets as they’re the least likely to have a legal right to council housing – therefore supporting them is crucial, the charities say.

Up until 2009, the government-funded Supporting People programme gave councils ring-fenced cash to help people avoid becoming homeless. However, the present regime saw fit to remove the ring-fence, naturally, which has had a devastating impact on people struggling to stay off the streets.

Rick Henderson, CEO of Homeless Link, said: ‘There are too many people sleeping rough and facing homelessness in this country – we can see it every day on our streets and it is unacceptable.

‘Local authorities have a key role in supporting people who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness, but they can only do so if they have enough money to fund services properly.

‘Guaranteed and long-term funding for councils to prevent and resolve homelessness would be a game changer. It would allow for focused, joined-up, strategic commissioning of services that truly work. The Government have a chance to do this in the upcoming Spending Review and we urge them to do so.

‘This, alongside building more genuinely affordable homes and creating a robust welfare system that adequately supports people and stops them from being locked in poverty, should be an essential part of their plan to end rough sleeping. It’s only right that people have a place to call home and the support they need to keep it.’

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