Swindon Council rent 2015-16

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Swindon Council is proposing to raise Council rents by 2.2% in 2015-16, 1% above the level of inflation. Under the government’s new guidance for ‘social rent’ Councils can raise the rent by the level of the Consumer Prices Index last September – 1.2% plus a maximum of 1%. In the presentation to tenants we were given three options: a 1.2% increase, 2.2% or 3.2%. According to officers they can raise rents above the maximum prescribed by the government because the ‘guidance’ isn’t binding. The government document actually says:

From April 2015 we expect local authorities to increase rents by no more than CPI (at September of the previous year) + 1 percentage point in any year.” More

Turning reality on its head – coalition statistical housing tricks

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The Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG), with the usual fanfare, has announced that “Housebuilding effort reaps real results”. We go from one coalition success to another, or so they would like us to think. We are told that the net supply of additional homes (in England) has “increased by 10%” from 2012-13 to 2013-14. Net supply adds the number of new homes built together with the gains or losses through conversion (e.g. a house into flats), changes of use (a shop into a house or flats) and subtracts homes demolished. The increase over the last year is announced to be “the highest percentage increase in 12 years” (see Table 1 below). From this you are expected to believe that the government’s housing strategy is a great success. The opposite is the case. They are turning reality on its head. In place of honest presentation of statistics the coalition’s shameless misrepresentation of the stats serves the purpose of obscuring the failure of their policy. Read the DCLG’s Housing Statistical Release of November 13th (for England) and their flimsy construction comes crashing down. (Download  a PDF here netsupply or read on below) More

Making the crisis of affordability worse – Swindon Council’s Draft Housing Strategy

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This is Swindon Tenants Campaign Group’s submission to Swindon Borough Council’s Housing Strategy consultation.

In March 2013 Swindon Council decided to begin a process of reviewing its housing strategy. In it’s ‘Housing Market Support’ document it said that a draft strategy would be brought back to the Cabinet “at the earliest opportunity in 2013.” It committed to organising a conference as part of this process.

The motion requests a conference be organised to address the issues contained within this report. It is intended that such a conference will form part of the consultation and evidence gathering stage of the Housing Strategy process.”

That at least offered the possibility of an open debate on how to tackle the housing crisis. Swindon Tenants Campaign Group (STCG) put forward a detailed response (“Tackling Swindon’s Housing Crisis”)1 to the ‘Housing Market Support’ document, in expectation of a consultation during 2013. However, we would have to wait 18 months for the document which finally went before the Cabinet meeting on September 10th 2014.

Any expectation of an open discussion has been dashed. The decision to delegate power to the Lead Member to decide what the Housing Strategy is, is grossly undemocratic. How can an individual be given power to decide such an important issue as a town’s Housing Strategy? The use of a Lead Member Decision Note is a quite conscious attempt to avoid a debate and a vote at the full Council meeting. Worse still, it avoids a debate in public where those suffering the consequences of the housing crisis can have their say. (Read on below or download a PDF here stcgresponse ) More

‘Democracy’ Swindon style: One Lead Member, one vote!

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At last Thursday’s Council meeting (November 6th) it was confirmed that the update of the town’s Housing Strategy would be determined by the Lead Member responsible for Housing. Labour and the Liberal Democrats opposed the decision but the Tories voted through the Minute confirming that the issue would not be debated and voted on by the full Council.

I had sent in a written question for the public question time at the Council meeting. I asked

Why is the town’s Housing Strategy not being decided by discussion and vote at the full Council? Why has the commitment made in March 2013, to organise a conference on Housing Strategy as part of the consultation process, not been honoured?”

I had asked these questions previously of David Renard by email and at a Cabinet meeting. They weren’t answered then. At the Council the questions remained unanswered for the third time. The Lead Member told us that she had been delegated the power to “sign off the draft after consultation”. This we already knew. Were any “significant issues to be raised, I would recommend that the item be referred back to cabinet.” Since she has power of decision herself, she alone will decide whether or not an issue is “significant”. More

Time to abandon the debased language of ‘affordability’

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This is courtesy of Red Brick blog. One of the many powerful contributions to the London Labour Housing Conference on October 25 came from Madeleine Davis of the Peabody Ex-Crown Tenants Campaign.

In her speech, she first outlined what happened to the rents of tenants who transferred from the Crown Estate to Peabody Trust in 2011. She then drew some general conclusions about housing costs for people living in ‘intermediate’ housing, and concluded by questioning the current use of the concept of affordability, which has become debased.

The campaign can be followed on Twitter @norentrises

By Madeleine Davis

Introduction

I represent a rather specific group of tenants, those whose homes were bought by the Peabody Trust in 2011 from the Crown Estate (the Queen’s property company). We live in around 1200 homes in four different areas of London – Victoria Park (boroughs of Hackney and Tower Hamlets), Millbank (Westminster), Cumberland Market near Regents Park (Camden) and Lee Green in Lewisham.

Peabody bought all four estates for a knockdown price of around £140 million, after a very widely publicised tenant campaign with cross-party political support forced the Crown Estate to drop its asking price from £250m and impose various conditions on the sale. More

Why is the Council frightened of an open discussion on the town’s housing crisis?

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Swindon Tenants Campaign Group condemns Swindon Council’s refusal hold an open and public debate on the acute housing crisis that the town faces. In March 2013 it said it would carry out a review of its Housing Strategy by the end of that year. It committed to organising a conference as part of the consultation process. However,

  • After dithering for a year it is rushing through an 8 week travesty of a consultation of which hardly anybody is aware.
  • It has reneged on its commitment to organise a conference where the issues could be publicly discussed.
  • The consultation is not even on its website list of current consultations.
  • It is trying to avoid a discussion and vote at a full Council meeting by handing power of decision to the Lead Member. Apparently one person alone will have the final say on what the Housing Strategy for the town will be.

The Council’s own Housing Advisory Forum passed a resolution which said that Housing Strategy should be determined by debate and vote at the full Council meeting and not by a single individual, whoever they were. More

Coalition Housing failure presented as a ‘success’

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According to Brandon Lewis, the latest Housing Minister, the new statistics for “affordable homes” is a “clear sign” of how the government’s long-term economic plan is working. Since April 2010 when the coalition government was cobbled together, 204,000 “affordable homes” have been provided. This is presented as if the total was the work of the coalition government. What he neglects to mention is that at least 60,000 of this figure was built with funding from the previous government’s ‘National Affordable Housing Programme 2008-11′. When the coalition’s “Affordable Homes Programme” kicked in the number dropped by around 18,000 per year for the last two years.

Even worse, the number of ‘social rent’ homes built has dropped by around two thirds since 2009-10, to only 10,840 in 2013-14. Even when you add the ill-named “affordable rent” (up to 80% of market rents) then we find that last year there were only 30,580 ‘social homes’ built, still below the numbers for 2009-10 and 2010-11. The stupidity of “affordable rent” is that it drives up the housing benefit bill. A recent Financial Times investigation discovered that 75% of people paying AR were on housing benefit, even higher than the 66% in ‘social housing’. More

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