Beyond belief

So is it time to celebrate the rise in housing benefit claims by people in work as a reflection of the government’s success in getting people off benefits?

That was the claim made by Iain Duncan Smith at work and pensions questions yesterday as he answered Labour jibes about the soaring numbers of working households now dependent on state help with their rent.

The work and pensions secretary told Labour’s Emma Lewell-Buck:

‘The figure the hon. Lady did not give is that out-of-work housing benefit claims are falling, and that is because people who were claiming it are now going into work. That means that they are earning more money, which means that the likelihood of their being in poverty is far less. I wonder whether the hon. Lady would like to get up sometime and congratulate us on getting more people back to work and spending less on housing benefit as a result.’

-> Read the rest of this post on Inside Edge, my blog for Inside Housing

 


About time

Sellafield. Parental help. Mortgages lasting 40 years. Welcome to housing affordability in the 21st century.

Exhibit one is a survey by the TUC comparing median house prices and earnings in local authority areas across England. It finds that Copeland in Cumbria, home of the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing facility, is the only one that is easily affordable on less than three times earnings. Nowhere in southern England is affordable at less than five times earnings.

Exhibit two is an opinion poll of parents conducted by the National Housing Federation. It finds that 81 per cent of parents are worried about the impact of rising house prices on the next generation, 69 per cent think their children will not be able to buy without their financial support and 25 per cent are already saving for their children’s first home.

-> Read the rest of this post on Inside Edge, my blog for Inside Housing


Hard sell

As sales pass 20,000, what’s been the impact of England’s ‘reinviograted’ right to buy so far?

Figures released by the DCLG last week show 20,027 sales since April 2012, when the maximum discount was increased to £75,000. This followed David Cameron’s Conservative Party conference speech in October 2011, when he said the proceeds would be reinvested in new affordable homes.

The government continues to introduce extra sales incentives. These include a new maximum discount for London of £100,000 from April 2013, £100 million to improve access to mortgage finance plus right to buy sales agents, annual inflation uprating of discounts and an increase in the maximum percentage discount on a house. Finally, the Deregulation Bill will reduce the qualifying period from five years as a tenant to three once it completes remaining stages in the Lords and gets Royal Assent.

That’s the context. But what are the numbers? And what about the wider impacts warned about by critics? Here’s an assessment so far:

-> Read the rest of this post on Inside Edge, my blog for Inside Housing


Scottish independence: what’s the question?

It seems simple enough. Should Scotland be an independent country? Yes or No? Except that is not simple at all.

With less than a month to go until the referendum, the debate seems to be hung up on issues of detail that cannot possibly be settled until the negotiations that would follow a Yes vote. Ahead of the second debate between Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling this evening, the BBC identifies five unresolved questions: the currency, oil, border controls, the EU and Trident.

For me the questions seem much more fundamental, and much more numerous, than that. This is the perspective of a non-Scot who does not have a vote or any special insight. But here’s what a recent stay in Edinburgh (with Yes-supporting friends) got me thinking:

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Falling short

Today’s housebuilding figures show welcome progress but four years after taking power the coalition is still many miles away from matching its bold promises.

The good news is that starts in the second quarter (April to June) of 2014 were up 18 per cent on a year ago. Completions are up 7 per cent on the same basis. The UK as a whole is also identified as the housing market with the fastest growth in starts in 2013 in a report by Deloitte Real Estate.

But as everyone is pointing out today the 114,590 homes completed over the last 12 months is still less than half the benchmark of 250,000 that we need to meet demand. Even when the 137,620 starts over the last year feed through into completions we will still be well short.

-> Read the rest of this post on Inside Edge, my blog for Inside Housing


Crisis? Quelle crise?

The French housing market is ‘in meltdown’ after housing starts plunged to the crisis level of double what we are managing on this side of the Channel.

President Francois Hollande reconvenes his Cabinet today after returning from holiday with ministers working on a recovery package topped by measures to stimulate the construction industry.

Syria rather than housebuilding may be the reason why David Cameron cut short his holiday in Cornwall but the economic mood here could hardly be more different. House prices are up 10.2 per cent in the last year and ministers claim that their ‘long-term economic plan is getting Britain building again’.

There are no prizes for guessing which of the two countries saw 306,654 housing starts in the year to June and which will be lucky to manage 160,000 over the same period.

-> Read the rest of this post on Inside Edge, my blog for Inside Housing


Mind the gaps

Spot the gaps between rhetoric and reality in the speech by David Cameron about family-friendly policies.

The prime minister spoke on Monday about how he will put families at the centre of new domestic policy-making. He asked three questions on this, none of which are directly housing issues but all of which touch on housing: How can we help families come together? How can we help families stay together? And how can we help troubled families and those children who don’t even have families?

Cameron also promised to introduce a family test as part of the impact assessment of all domestic government policies. That has to be good news even if the government has a track record of ignoring inconvenient evidence from impact assessments. However, it also prompts the obvious question of how existing government policies would fare under the test.

Read the rest of this post on Inside Edge, my blog for Inside Housing


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