Rallying call

If the political weather turns out to be even half as good as the winter sunshine at Land’s End today, then Homes for Britain is set fair for success.

A rare national housing event happening up the road from me was too good an opportunity to miss so I was there at lunchtime for an event to mark the start of a baton relay that will make its way through the South West by bus in time for the campaign rally in London on March 17.

Hosted by around 30 different housing associations, progress will be marked in different towns and cities along the way with events including snakes and ladders in Bristol and school children making model houses in Witney (David Cameron’s constituency). Regional events are also happening in the North East, North West and Yorkshire & the Humber.

The relay will reach London for March 17 for what is being billed as ‘the biggest housing rally for a generation’ at Methodist Central Hall in Westminster and that will be followed by a billboard campaign in April.

The housing problems of the South West will be highlighted along the way. As Simon Nunn, assistant director of external affairs at the National Housing Federation, told the Land’s End launch, house prices cost 11 times average earnings in Cornwall. You need earnings of £50,000 to buy an average home on an 80 per cent mortgage and £40,000 to buy a lower quartile home. Mean earnings are below £20,000.

Backing his call for action were representatives from housing associations and other organisations across the region, pictured here with the Betsy, the Routemaster bus that will make the trip to the capital:

IMG_0365

-> Read the rest of this post on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing


Own goals

Could housing hold the key to the Conservatives’ chances of winning the general election?

I’d assumed till now that the fact David Cameron made housing (or rather home ownership) one of his six priorities for speeches signalled no more than a desire to put aspiration at the heart of the Tory campaign. Mixing a few dubious claims about Help to Buy with some boasts about the Starter Home Initiative might mean some extra votes but housing would remain a secondary issue behind the economy, the NHS and immigration.

But two tweets this week by influential Conservative Tim Montgomerie made me wonder about this. Montgomerie is a Times columnist but that understates his influence in the party as the co-founder of the Centre for Social Justice, creator of the Conservative Home website and speechwriter for two Tory leaders.

-> Read the rest of this post on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing


Time loop

More than one MP compared Wednesday’s debate on the bedroom tax to Groundhog Day and it was not hard to see why.

Labour calls a debate that will not change anything but is designed to expose the Conservatives as callous and the Liberal Democrats as collaborators. The Conservatives (as personified by pictures of a laughing Iain Duncan Smith) duly live up to their billing. The Lib Dems accuse Labour of playing games but end up seeming to vote for something that they were against before they were in favour of it. We’ve been here many times before.

A Labour motion ‘that this House believes…the bedroom tax should be abolished with immediate effect’ was voted down by 298-266. A coalition amendment approved by 300-262 extols its record on cutting the welfare bill but also ‘notes’ that ‘the part of the coalition led by the deputy prime minister has proposed reforms to introduce other formal exemptions to the policy, including where claimants have not been made a reasonable alternative offer of accommodation’.

The net result of all that politics was that nothing much changed yesterday apart from UKIP’s Douglas Carswell voting against the policy he supported as a Conservative. But the sense of déjà vu hanging over the opposition day debate was about much more than just that. Here are some high (or low) lights:

-> Read the rest of this post on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing


Treating renters as imbeciles

In the last week parliament has had the chance to tackle two of the most glaring injustices for private tenants and flunked both of them.

After debates in the Lords on Monday and Commons on Friday, letting agents are free to carry on charging outrageous fees to tenants and landlords can continue to evict tenants in retaliation for complaining about unsafe conditions.

The last word on Friday afternoon went to one of the villains of the week proved to be ironically apt. ‘We must not treat the people who enter into these contracts as imbeciles,’ was the very last sentence uttered by Christopher Chope before the debate was terminated and he and Conservative backbench colleague Philip Davies completed their successful attempt to talk out the Tenancies (Reform) Bill.

Read the rest of this entry »


Property and the political elite

It’s now received wisdom, and a key part of UKIP’s appeal, that we are ruled by politicians who are out of touch with the concerns of ordinary people. How much of this is down to house prices?

Perceived divisions between politicians and voters are nothing new of course. Nor are accusations of champagne (or Islington/Hampstead) socialism and a huge gap between Labour leaders and their core vote. However, if these are US-style ‘culture wars’ over the politics of identity and national flags, they are being fought in the language of house prices, as shown only too clearly in this week’s Mail on Sunday story about the ‘Thornberry set’ and the North London ‘liberal elite’.

The issue was highlighted by last week’s tweet by Labour MP Emily Thornberry about a flag-festooned house in Rochester & Strood and then brought home by media coverage of its Sun-sponsored owner knocking on the door of her ‘£2 million house’ in Richmond Crescent in Islington. This street is iconic in New Labour circles because it’s where Tony and Cherie Blair lived immediately before they won the 1997 election. Former Islington council leader turned Labour MP and chair of the Public Accounts Committee Margaret Hodge still lives there. This is a street of seriously big North London houses but they weren’t always worth in the millions.

Read the rest of this entry »


The H word

Nick Clegg’s failure to mention housing in his leader’s speech feels like a suitably downbeat conclusion to the final party conference season before the election.

As I blogged earlier in the week, on paper the Lib Dems have the best housing policies of any of the mainstream parties. A target of 300,000 homes a year, a housing investment bank and powers for local authorities to suspend the right to buy will please most people reading this. A succession of MPs, including all three of Clegg’s potential successors, made all the right noises about housing on the conference floor and in countless fringe meetings.

So does it matter that Clegg failed to use the H word?

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


Paper tigers?

As so often before the Lib Dems look like going into the next election with the best housing policies. On paper anyway.

Admittedly the competition is not high given the caution from Labour and divisiveness and hints about the end of grant from the Conservatives. However, the policies emerging from the Lib Dem conference in Glasgow look like they’ve been tested on a focus group consisting of people who care about housing.

This morning the party passed a motion calling for 300,000 homes a year, a new deal for renters, a housing investment bank and new powers for local authorities and housing associations to build plus measures to secure land at lower prices and remove barriers to house price stability. That was promptly amended to include a new power for local authorities to suspend the right to buy.

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


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 219 other followers