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:

Read the rest of this entry »


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


Feeling the pinch

Mark Simmonds is not getting much sympathy after claiming that MPs’ expenses make it ‘intolerable’ to live in London but has he also revealed a deeper truth about our housing system?

The MP for Boston and Skegness resigned as a minister on Monday and will leave parliament at the next election after claiming that he can’t find anywhere to rent in the capital on his £35,000 a year housing allowance.

Simmonds and his family do not exactly sound like they are among the ‘housing pinched’. These are the 1.6 million households identified in a report by the Resolution Foundation as spending more than 50 per cent of their net household income (after tax and benefits) on their rent or mortgage.

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


Housing benefit and the coalition

What has happened to housing benefit in the four years since the government inherited a system it claimed was ‘out of control’?

New housing benefit statistics published this week cover the period up to May 2014. They reflect not just successive government cuts but a changing pattern of claims and changing tenure over the last four years. Here are five things that struck me:

1) The housing benefit bill continues to grow despite all of the coalition’s reforms. The May 2014 figures show just under five million claims for an average of £92.69 a week, a total of £24.0 billion. That compares with £20.8 billion in May 2010 (4.8 million claims averaging £84.20 a week).

The coalition never claimed that its reforms would reduce the total bill, just that they would reduce the rate of growth from previous forecasts. The bill has grown by 15.4 per cent over the last four years. However, the annual increase has slowed from 6.2 per cent in 2010/11 to 1.3 per cent in 2013/14.

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


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