HQN Strategic Network News
Each week Jo Barratt and Emma Lindley, associates for The Strategic Network, go over the biggest and most relevant news stories, reports and publications of the past week for members, while providing their own analysis and comment.
For more expert analysis, briefings and best practice for those involved in policy, strategy and the private rented sector, be sure to join The Strategic Network. You can find out more here.
Week commencing 15 April 2019 – Prepared by Emma Lindley
Housing Minister unveils new guidance for local authorities to crack down on rogue landlords
Local authorities across the country are set to receive a new package of online support as part of the government’s commitment to give greater protection to tenants, and reform the private rented sector for the better.
The publication of two new guidance documents, one for local authority enforcement practitioners and another for tenants and landlords, signals the latest step in the government cracking down on the small minority of criminal landlords who exploit tenants for their own gains.
The new support includes an easy to navigate digital enforcement package with online learning modules for those officers who were unable to attend the national programme.
Labour considers house price inflation target for Bank of England
The Bank of England could be set a target for house price inflation under plans being explored by the Labour party, with tougher powers to restrict mortgage lending to close the gap between property prices and average incomes.
Under the proposals, the Bank could be mandated to guide house price growth within levels set by the government, in the same way that the central bank is handed a target to keep general inflation at around 2%.
Rather than using interest rates to achieve its aim, as is the case for general inflation, Labour is considering whether greater powers for the central bank’s financial policy committee, which is responsible for financial stability, could be used to curb house price growth by curtailing the availability of mortgages.
Labour’s exploration of the idea comes after the centre-left IPPR thinktank called for the Bank to be set a target of zero house price growth for about five years, then a rate of about 2% thereafter.
Extending Make a Stand to contractors
Since the Chartered Institute of Housing launched its Make a Stand campaign, more than 320 social landlords have signed up to support residents and staff experiencing the scourge of domestic abuse in less than one year.
In partnership with Women’s Aid and the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance, CIH have developed the new Make a Stand supporters’ pledge, aimed at organisations that work in or closely with the housing sector but don’t provide homes.
The supporters’ pledge is made up of three simple commitments:
- Make information about national and local domestic abuse support services available on your website and in other appropriate places so that they are easily accessible for staff, your members, customers or clients
- Put in place an HR policy, or amend an existing policy, to support members of staff who may be experiencing domestic abuse
- Appoint a champion at a senior level in your organisation to own the activity you are doing to support people experiencing domestic abuse and promote the campaign with your members, customers or clients.
London Mayor pledges £10m to boost delivery of council homes
Sadiq Khan has announced that local authorities will receive a share of his new £10m fund.
The London Mayor hopes that the Homebuilding Capacity Fund will help authorities to help deliver more council, social rented, and other genuinely affordable homes, and ease the pressure put on councils’ planning and development budgets after they were cut by 50%.
The money will help councils deliver the Mayor’s flagship ‘Building Council Homes for Londoners’ programme – the first City Hall programme dedicated specifically to council homebuilding.
Through this, the Mayor agreed plans last year worth more than £1bn with 27 London boroughs to start building 11,000 new council homes at social rent levels by 2022.
30 London local authorities will receive funding up to £650,000, intended to be used on building a new generation of council homes; building more homes, including social rented and other genuinely affordable homes, on small sites; developing masterplans in areas with growth potential; and planning for optimal density across new residential developments.
Church of England launches commission to find sites for affordable homes
The Church of England has launched a commission to identify ways it can help tackle the housing crisis, including building on its own land, as part of a promise by the Archbishop of Canterbury to make the most of the church’s “unique” position.
Academics, housing experts and theologians will meet over the next 18 months to examine how the Church of England can build on its own work in housing and contribute to the national debate, and suggested “using surplus church land for affordable housing” in the future.
A report produced to coincide with the commission’s launch on Tuesday set out ways in which the church was already using its land to build affordable homes by demolishing vicarages and disused church halls, but also suggested “using surplus church land for affordable housing” in the future.
The Church Commissioners, the body which manages the Church of England’s property assets and is separate from the newly launched commission, has already identified 60 sites for development covering around 6,600 acres of agricultural land. It has permission or is seeking permission for around 9,000 new homes, of which around 2,500 will be affordable.
The commission will examine key issues related to housing, church and community, and listen to people with direct experience of homelessness and insecure housing. It will also receive evidence from churches and dioceses with experience of tackling housing issues.
Read more… (registration required)
Local authority provision of housing (interim report)
The RTPI and National Planning Forum published ground breaking research on direct delivery of housing by local authorities in England in 2017. The RTPI has sponsored a second phase of the research, of which these are the Interim findings. These findings are based primarily on a desk survey of local authority activity, as well as a survey sent to every local authority in England. This report also includes an analysis of how various recent political and policy changes have impacted local authority provision of housing.
This Interim findings report is being published alongside a table providing information on the activities of every local authority in England. This time the survey has been expanded to include details of local authority company names, the years they were established where this is available and where the local authority has one or more Joint Vehicles (JVs). In all these cases, the 2019 survey has included weblinks so that those interested in learning about the activities of councils can access more detail. These weblinks include council reports and strategies and press links.
The next stage in this research is to consider the planning delivery issues in more detail. The final report will be published in early-Summer 2019. It will contain findings from interviews with local authority officers around England, as well as a number of case studies focusing on particular aspects of delivery for example social and affordable housing, design quality, and the provision of special needs housing.
Week commencing 8 April 2019 – Prepared by Jo Barrett
40% of Councils will struggle to meet rough sleeping targets
According to a survey of local authority chief executives, the New Local Government Network has claimed that government targets for rough sleeping will not be met. The NLGN Leadership Index found that:
- 41% of councils think they cannot eradicate rough sleeping by 2027
- 26% say they are unlikely or very unlikely to halve rough sleeping by 2022.
Focusing on predominantly urban (London and Metropolitan Boroughs) councils, the figures rise:
- 61% think they are unlikely to eradicate rough sleeping by 2027
- 38% saying they are unable to halve it by 2022.
These statistics will be of interest to the MHCLG whose Rough Sleeping Strategy aims to eradicate it by 2027. How is your organisation tackling rough sleeping? HQN have a pool of experts who can support you to develop a strategy to tackle it.
Homes England Land Hub
Homes England has released a list of land that is available for disposal. Staff will be interested to see what public sector land is available for development in their areas.
MHCLG Update Customer Leaflets
Updated leaflets have been released on service charges, buying your flat, and Right to Buy. These will be of interest to organisations displaying government publications.
Healthy Ageing in Wales
A Strategy for healthy Ageing in Wales has been released. This new strategy identifies several key priorities for the office of the Older People’s Commissioner including:
- End ageism and age discrimination
- Stop the abuse of older people
- Enable everyone to age well.
Growing complaints about new build
The BBC has reported on an increase in the number of defects in newly built homes. According to the Home Builders Federation own satisfaction surveys, there has been a rise in the number of customers reporting snags – from 93% in 2015 to 99% in 2018. A growing work stream for the new Housing Ombudsman!
Tackling poor conditions in the PRS
Poor housing management standards and unlicensed HMOs have been reported in the Guardian this week. Citing problems such as lack of tenancy agreements, faulty smoke alarms and insufficient security, the article cites Camden Council as having 132 successful prosecutions and use of the Rogue Landlord Database
ARLA launch Tenant Fees Act guidance
The Tenant Fees Act is in place to prohibit landlords and letting agents from asking tenants for certain payments to be made or certain other steps to be taken. ARLA has released guidance to help inform agents and landlords of their rights and obligations under the legislation. Separate guidance for tenants, landlords, letting agents and local authority enforcement officers can be found on the MHCLG’s website.
Week commencing 1 April 2019 – Prepared by Emma Lindley
Councils across the country will share over £46m to help get people off the streets and into accommodation.
- Investment totaling £46m allocated to 246 areas nationwide – providing an estimated 750 additional staff and over 2,600 new beds in total
- Funding will be used for additional staff and outreach and accommodation services
- This now means that over three-quarters of local authorities in England are covered by specialist Rough Sleeping Initiative (RSI) funding.
The money forms part of the government’s £100m Rough Sleeping Strategy and will be used to fund rough sleeping coordinator roles, add new or additional outreach services and extend existing or provide new temporary accommodation. This includes night shelters and hostel spaces. There is also an opportunity to provide housing-led solutions such as Housing First services.
Homelessness in Wales: October to December 2018
Statistics released by the Welsh Government show that:
- 2,649 households were threatened with homelessness within 56 days. This is the second highest figure (after the previous quarter) since the introduction of this legislation
- In over two-thirds of all cases (67%), homelessness was successfully prevented. The quarterly prevention rates have fluctuated within the 65% to 69% range since April 2017
- Almost 3,000 households were homeless and owed a duty to help secure accommodation. This is the highest number since the introduction of the new legislation
- Of these, 43% were successfully helped to find accommodation during the quarter. The quarterly success rates have fluctuated within the 40% to 43% range since April 2017
- 645 homeless households were unintentionally homeless and in priority need, the second highest figures since the introduction of the legislation
- Of these, 83% accepted an offer of settled suitable accommodation. This is the highest quarterly rate since June to September 2016
- The number of households in temporary accommodation was the second highest to date at 2,139 households. The private rented sector continued to be the main form of temporary accommodation used (38%)
- 270 households were in bed and breakfast accommodation. This was an increase of 58% on the previous year. Of these, 30 households were families with children compared with the 12 households recorded a year earlier.
Think tank demands PRS shake-up
The latest Housing Commission report by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) has highlighted the problems caused by short-term private tenancies for renting families and the difficulties private landlords face engaging with the housing justice system.
To bring the sector “up to date”, the CSJ is calling for a new Standard Tenancy with a four-year term to be introduced, mirroring the average tenancy length as recorded in the English Housing Survey of 4.1 years, with exemptions for specific markets such as student housing and holiday lets.
The CSJ is also calling for the abolition of Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, meaning families will “no longer suffer” from being evicted at two months’ notice without legitimate grounds being proved.
To replace Section 21, however, the CSJ proposes new rules equipping landlords with a range of legitimate grounds to gain possession of their properties during the fixed term, such as if they want to sell up or move in.
In the report, the CSJ also calls for better security for landlords who have been ‘let down’ by the housing justice system, supporting the creation of a specialist Housing Court to deal with housing cases more quickly and effectively.
Right to rent ‘a farce’ argue landlords
ONE of the government’s flagship immigration policies has been branded a farce after a court ruling that a landlord who seeks to repossess property where the Home Office tells them a tenant does not have the right to rent, is breaching equalities law.
Under the Right to Rent scheme landlords are responsible for checking the immigration status of their tenants with the prospect of prosecution if they know or have “reasonable cause to believe” that the property they are letting is occupied by someone who does not have a right to rent in the UK.
Where the Home Office identifies a tenant without the right to rent, they will issue a formal notice to the landlord who then uses this as the basis to repossess the property. In a judgement issued by the High Court it has ruled that this breaches the Equality Act on the basis that it amounts to “direct discrimination on the basis of nationality. Landlords who are forced to comply with the notice can be charged under the law as well as being at risk of a civil claim being made against them.
The Residential Landlords Association is writing to the Home Office to seek urgent changes to address what it is describing as a farcical situation.
Leasehold reform: Report Summary
This is a House of Commons Committee report, with recommendations to the government, the Competition and Markets Authority and the Law Commission.
The government has acknowledged that the leasehold system is not working in consumers’ best interests and needs to be reformed. Such calls have regained prominence in recent years with the revelation that some developers had imposed onerous—predominantly, 10 and 15-year doubling—ground rent terms in the leases of newbuild flats and houses, leaving some leaseholders unable to sell their properties or re-mortgage.
But these are not the only concerns. Campaigners for reform in the leasehold sector have also criticised high and opaque service charges and one-off bills, unfair permission charges, alleged mis-selling of leasehold properties by developers, imbalanced dispute mechanisms, inadequate advice services, and unreasonable costs to enfranchise or extend leases.
At the start of the inquiry, the Committee were particularly keen to explore the growing concerns relating to houses being sold on a leasehold basis, which they believe is an inappropriate tenure for houses and should cease. However, as the inquiry progressed, it became apparent to the Committee that many of these issues were also faced by leaseholders in flats, and their recommendations reflect this.
Housing insecurity and mental health: An evidence review
This report reviews the evidence into the relationship between housing insecurity and mental health. This project was carried out by the CaCHE team based at the University of Sheffield, in partnership with Mind Cymru. Whilst the evidence-base is international, the report considers this research literature in light of the Welsh context for housing and mental health services.
The evidence review is structured around three dimensions of housing insecurity: financial, spatial, and relational.
The key findings show that:
- The relationship between housing affordability and mental health is bi-directional – prior mental health predicts current housing outcomes, and housing affordability is associated with current health
- Comparative research highlights that the UK welfare framework offers some protection for those experiencing unaffordable housing. However, welfare reforms may have a negative impact
- Financial stressors such as being behind on mortgage payments or experiencing fuel payment difficulties also increase the risk of experiencing mental ill-health
- Evictions and foreclosures have an adverse effect on mental health, but wider insecurity of tenure and the prospect of being asked to move can also hinder people’s ability to feel settled in their home
- For others, the inability to move and to access other housing options is an important experience
- Poor mental health is a driver of relational insecurity, placing stresses on relationships, but can also be an outcome of challenging relationships
- The nature of shared housing may have particular implications for mental health, and access to forms of sharing may be influenced by stigmatisation and lack of awareness of mental health issues.
Housing affordability in England and Wales: 2018
- On average, full-time workers could expect to pay an estimated 7.8 times their annual workplace-based earnings on purchasing a home in England and Wales in 2018
- Housing affordability in England and Wales stayed at similar levels in 2018, following five years of decreasing affordability
- At the local level, London boroughs had the widest range of estimated housing affordability; more than three times the range of any other region
- Copeland, in the North West of England, remained the most affordable local authority in England and Wales in 2018; with average house prices being 2.5 times average workplace-based annual earnings
- Kensington and Chelsea remained the least affordable local authority in 2018, with average house prices being 44.5 times workplace-based average annual earnings
- There are 77 local authorities that became less affordable over the last five years (most were in London, the South East and the East of England); there were no local authorities in which affordability improved
- In 2018, newly-built dwellings were estimated to be significantly less affordable than existing dwellings.