HQN Residents’ Network News
Each week Rob Gershon and Steve Cook, associates for The Residents’ Network, go over the biggest and most relevant news stories, reports and publications of the past few days for members, while providing their own analysis and comment.
For more expert analysis, briefings and best practice for those involved in resident involvement and tenant engagement, be sure to join The Residents’ Network. You can find out more here.
Week commencing 11 February 2019 – by Steve Cook
Government finally acknowledges link between Universal Credit and increase use of foodbanks
Amber Rudd has for the first time acknowledged that increased use of food banks has, to some extent, been caused by problems with the roll out of Universal Credit (UC). She accepted that delays in payments had caused hardship but insisted that the government was tackling these problems. Her comments made in the House of Commons were responding to figures released by the Trussell Trust that show use of foodbanks has increased by more than 50% in areas where UC has been in place for more than a year, compared to 13% in non UC areas.
Freedom of Information for housing associations
As the Westminster government considers whether or not housing associations in England should be subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOI), the government in Scotland has acted. From 11 November 2019 housing associations will be classed as public bodies as far as FOI is concerned. One of the driving factors behind the changes is how tenants were thwarted from obtaining information about fire safety from their landlord Kensington and Chelsea Tenants Management Organisation. It would be a brave person who bets against a similar move from Westminster in due course.
More 20-34 year olds living at home
If you are waiting for the kids to leave home, you may be waiting some time yet. Research published last week suggests that there are now a million more 20 – 34 year olds living with their parents than there were 20 years ago. Problems accessing owner occupation and the lack of affordable social housing for young single people are forcing young people to stay at home longer – something that in many cases suits neither the kids nor the parents.
Over 300 high rise buildings still unsafe
Latest government figures show that there are still over 360 buildings with ACM cladding systems likely to fail the new building regulations. At the end of last month 73 high-rise buildings had had cladding removed, up six from the previous month. Progress and planning in the private sector is mixed but good progress is being made on the residential schemes owned by local authorities and housing associations. A quarter of all affected buildings have been completed, and work has started on half of the total. All buildings have plans in place for work to commence.
Local authorities failing the housebuilding challenge
A critical report from the National Audit Office (NAO) suggests that a half of all local authorities will fail to meet their housebuilding targets despite housing being one of the government’s top priorities. And the NAO report goes on to suggest that many local authorities no longer have the staff experienced enough to negotiate deals with the big housebuilders. The consequence of this is that already profitable building companies are paying less than they should be towards public infrastructure schemes such as schools or health centres. Unless the planning system in England is overhauled soon it looks very unlikely that the government will get anywhere near its target of building targets.
And finally: Is this love?
It is not a small settee, it is a ‘loveseat’. Sales of these oversized chairs designed for snuggling together are on the increase, but sadly it’s got nothing to do with Valentine’s Day. The real reason is much less romantic: it’s because our homes and living spaces are getting smaller.
Week commencing 4 February 2019 – by Rob Gershon
Universal Credit rent arrears six times higher than housing benefit
Barely a week goes by when the actual facts and data about Universal Credit do not rub uncomfortably against the carefully-managed comms output of the Department for Work and Pensions. This week, in The Independent, May Bulman and Chaminda Jayanetti examine the detrimental effect Universal Credit is having on tenants’ ability to pay rent, as the amount gained by a successful claim for the benefit often do not cover rent, let alone costs for other outgoings like food and heating.
165,000 social rent homes lost… and counting
Expecting upwards of 200,000 social rent homes to have been lost by next year, the Chartered Institute of Housing has released new data showing that 165,000 homes have already been taken out of reach for tenants and prospective future residents. Mostly having been sold under the Right to Buy and never replaced. Some genuinely affordable homes have also been “converted” into much-less “affordable” rents, preventing them being accessible to the people who need housing the most.
Brexit “opportunities” for housing sector
Not a piece of comedy, Director of property at Altair Matt Carroll argues in 24housing that Brexit might theoretically offer some opportunities for the housing sector. Some might debate just what kind of opportunities they are, given that they seem to focus on how falling house prices might allow landlords to snap up homes on the cheap, or that the failing financial viability of organisations might make them an attractively undervalued investment opportunity by investors from Russia or further afield. On the plus side, theoretically house-builders, landlords, or governments might set up some colleges to train builders, so that is nice.
No plan to replace faulty fire doors used in Grenfell Tower
Huffington Post is reporting that nearly 20 months since the Grenfell Tower fire, there is still no plan in place to replace fire doors that do not in fact act to slow the spread of fire. 25,000 doors that failed fire safety checks therefore remain in place in public housing across the UK. The doors previously tested only offered protection for 15 minutes, as opposed to the 30 minute requirement required by building regulations. Manufacturers claim they are working “as quickly as possible” to replace the doors, but have not even got a plan to do it yet.
Are Landlord apologies for failure “too unusual”?
Rooftop Housing’s Head of Communication and Marketing, John Rockley, ponders while writing for Inside Housing whether a local newspaper description of his organisation’s apology for bad service is really unusual, and if so, what it says about a relationship of trust between landlords and tenants. As the sector awaits the government’s response to the green paper – and regulatory reform – the question seems topical.
Read more… (registration required)