Map reading

How should housing associations respond to the tantalising prospect of freedom? In uncharted territory you need something to guide you.

A report last week offers them the chance to buy out their historic grant at a discount and in return win substantial new freedoms over nominations, asset management and rents and the capacity to build many more homes.

The fact that it comes from Policy Exchange has been enough for many people to denounce it as privatisation and it may indeed be another big step towards that. However, this is not quite the free market fundamentalism we’ve come to expect from the think tank that brought us recommendations on selling expensive tenancies and the sale of all housing association homes. Many of the ideas in this report come from housing associations themselves and have been tested in polling of the chief executives and finance directors of 15 of the larger ones. As the contrasting reactions of the NHF and Placeshapers show, the report has sharply divided opinion but many of these proposals have support.

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Stuttering starts

Today’s penultimate housebuilding figures before the election will increase fears that the recovery is fading.

On the housing minister’s preferred measure (see the spin from Brandon Lewis on the previous figures), housing starts in the July to September quarter were down 10 per cent on the previous three months and up just 1 per cent on a year ago. This is the first quarter-on-quarter fall in starts over two years.

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


Housing 2040

Where are we heading on housing over the next 25 years? That’s the question posed by a new study – and the answer may make you may want to look away now.

The study for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) takes existing trends in the relationship between housing and poverty between 1991 and 2008 and projects how it will change up to 2040.

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


Social messages

Some good news for Housing Day: it seems more people say yes to new social housing than say yes to new homes in general.

A fascinating Ipsos MORI poll published this morning reveals that 58% of people support ‘more social housing being built in my local area’. That compares with 22% who oppose it.

That’s a surprisingly positive result in itself given the steady flow of negative media stereotypes. And the balance only falls slightly to 55:24 when social renters are excluded.

However, support is also significantly higher than the 47% saying yes to ‘more homes being built in your local area’ in a survey of public attitudes to housebuilding published by the DCLG in July. That was hailed by housing minister Brandon Lewis as evidence that ‘nimbyism is on the wane’ and he was right: between 2010 and 2013 opinion shifted from 46:28 opposition to new homes to 47:31 support.

So what’s going on?

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


Housing: where’s the plan?

A new book by the economist whose work first established the 250,000 homes a year benchmark has to be worth reading – especially when she’s not convinced it’s possible anymore.

Kate Barker’s seminal report on housing for the Blair government nailed the idea that the UK and especially England need to build houses at a much faster rate. A decade, and a separate study of planning, later and it still the ultimate source for targets of 200,000, 250,000 and even 300,000 homes a year to cope with demand and make up for the shortfall.

Now she’s back with Housing: Where’s the Plan, a short book setting out the housing challenge and potential solutions to it. With the new homes deficit rising by the year, she starts with a sober assessment of the possibilities.

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


Keeping it in the family

How would the government’s own policies fare under the new families test?

The test published by Iain Duncan Smith will apply to all new laws and policies ‘to make sure they support strong and stable families’. It follows a speech by David Cameron in August promising family impact assessments of all domestic policies as part of a wider speech about family-friendly policy.

As I blogged at the time, Cameron was careful to avoid giving the impression that he only meant traditional families. However, his speech exposed a huge gap between rhetoric and reality on everything from the benefit cap to the bedroom tax, out-of-area homelessness placements to the private rented sector and troubled families to wider welfare reform.

So who better to set out the detail than a secretary of state famed for his ability to believe he is right regardless of the inconvenient facts?

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


Double vision

Universal credit came under scrutiny on TV and radio last night and whether you look from above or below things are not looking good.

Dispatches on Channel 4 covered the problems from below by looking at the experience in Warrington, where the job centre was one of the first to pilot the new all-in-one benefit. We heard from a succession of people whose claims were delayed, or processed wrongly or were simply not told what was happening and from Golden Gates Housing Trust on the problems this has caused.

The pilots are of course only meant to cover the simplest cases. However, single people don’t necessarily stay single: Jay moved in with his girlfriend and baby and found himself in a nightmare of delayed payments and rent arrears. ‘Me, my partner and my child will be homeless and you just don’t know what’s going on,’ he said. Jay started off as a fan of universal credit but they survived on coffee and crisps until the problems were sorted out.

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


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