March 6, 2014
Rents, Swindon Advertiser, Swindon Council, Swindon Tenants Campaign Group
This is a letter to the Swindon Adveriser in response to a letter from Councillor Russell Holland on the 3.7% Council rent increase for this year. Rumours that tenants have been queuing up at Euclid St to thank Councillors for the above inflation rent increase have, apparently been denied by the Council.
To read Russell Holland’s letter (“Rent increase is for the best”) you would imagine that the only people to oppose an above inflation rent increase for Council tenants, in the words of his crude amalgam, were “the Labour Party and Martin Wicks”. What he neglected to tell readers was that the proposal for a rent increase “no higher than inflation” came from tenants. Swindon Tenants Campaign Group and Swindon Tenants Voice both supported an inflation level increase, as indeed did the Council’s very own Housing Advisory Forum. More
February 23, 2014
Private rented homes, Safety
This is a letter to the Swindon Advertiser
Smoke Alarms and safety in the Private Rented Sector
The recent report in the Advertiser of the death in a fire in a privately rented flat in Rodbourne (“Alarm might have saved woman’s life”) highlights the issue of safety in the private rented sector (PRS). Unfortunately the flat in question did not have a smoke alarm. The inquest determined that it was an “accidental death” but the Coroner made the point that if a smoke alarm had been fitted the life of the woman might have been saved.
No doubt many people will have wondered, is the fitting of such alarms not a legal obligation in the PRS? In fact as long ago as 1991 a law was introduced which made smoke alarms a legal requirement in properties built from 1992. Yet 22 years later it is still not a legal requirement for buildings in the PRS built before then (except in the case of Homes in Multiple Occupation). More
February 21, 2014
Swindon Tenants Campaign Group submission to the Labour Party Lyons Housing Review
Download a PDF here stcgsubmissiontolyonsreview
The “Call for Evidence” for an “independent Housing Commission” says that to assist Labour’s ambition to build 200,000 new homes a year by the end of it’s first Parliament in government, a Housing Commission chaired by Sir Michael Lyons has been asked to draw up “a road map that will set out the changes to housing and planning policies and practice to deliver the new homes and communities we need”. Lyons is seeking evidence “on the structural barriers to, and solutions for, bringing about a step change in housebuilding”. He is, apparently particularly focused on a number of “key issues”. Here we deal with some of them and then look at Labour’s policy during it’s last period in office.
February 7, 2014
"Affordable Housing", Swindon Council, Swindon Tenants Campaign Group
Download a PDF of this article here nobid
Swindon Borough Council will shortly have to decide on whether or not to apply for grant from the Homes and Communities Agency under the coalition government’s “affordable homes programme”. The decision is especially important as the government is imposing a number of conditions on housing providers applying for grant. To make an application a Council will have to agree, at the very least, to:
- convert existing stock from Council rents to “affordable rent” (AR), i.e. up to 80% of private rent
- sell off void stock (when a tenant dies or leaves a property and it is empty)
A bid will have to say exactly how many conversions will be made and how many properties will be sold. In addition Councils may be able to turn voids into part-ownership homes and build new properties for sale on the market. They may also include surpluses from the Housing Revenue Account in their bids. More
February 3, 2014
"Affordable Housing", Coalition government
You can download a PDF of this here ahp2briefing
The government Prospectus for the second round of it’s “affordable homes programme” has recently been published. Councils and Housing Associations will be able to bid for grant from the Homes and Communities Agency in order to build new homes. The first round of grants, for 2011-15, was based on a massive reduction of grant, from £60,000 (in the previous government’s programme) to an expected £20,000 per property built. As a result the providers had to accept that they would have to raise a much greater proportion of the money necessary, in the form of converting ‘social rent’ homes to the “affordable rent model”, up to 80% of private rents (See “What is the “affordable rent model?” and “More evidence of the need for “affordable rent to be abandoned”), and increased borrowing. The second round was expected to provide even less grant, estimated at around £17,000 per property. In fact the Prospectus says that there will be no specific grant per property.
January 24, 2014
Rents, Swindon Advertiser
This is a recent letter printed in the Swindon Adver letters page, which makes some important points.
I am sick of the readers who use your website to display their ignorance about council house rents.
Council houses are not subsidised by the taxpayers. By law, all the costs are charged to a separate Housing Revenue Account and must be fully covered by the rents charged. Bearing in mind there are still many houses in Swindon Borough Council‘s property porfolio that were built for less than £1,500, it’s easy to see why an average weekly rent of £80 might be sufficient to cover all the costs.
However, rent allowances or rent rebates are payable to anyone on a low income living in either private rented accommodation, housing association properties or council housing. Many of those claiming help with their rent in Swindon are actually in work; it’s just that their wages are not sufficient to pay their rent or to keep pace with rent increases.
These allowances and rebates are fully funded by the taxpayers and because private rents are higher than council rents the allowances to private tenants are disproportionately more costly. So we taxpayers are not subsidising council houses, but are we subsidising employers who pay pittance wages, or landlords who charge rents their tenants can’t afford.
Don Reeve, Okus Road, Swindon
January 7, 2014
"Right to Buy", Coalition government, Swindon Advertiser, Swindon Tenants Campaign Group
This is a letter to the Swindon Advertiser
Obviously the coalition government thinks that there are not enough Council homes being sold off. They are raising the discount rate under their ‘right to buy’ scheme (RTB) for Council houses to 70%. They originally said that there would be a ‘one for one replacement’ of those homes sold off. This was always an empty promise. Last year there were 40 homes sold in Swindon, to the value of £3,735,000. With the discount the receipts were only £1,830,320. Yet when the government had finished robbing us of our money the Council ended up with only £450,000.
Rod Bluh was right when he complained about centralisation in Westminster under the cloak of ‘localism’. The government does not even allow us to spend these receipts as we see fit. It is imposing
two conditions on their use. In order to be able to spend this puny amount the Council has to agree that only 30% of the cost of each house will be paid for by RTB receipts. So it would have to find 70% of the cost from its own resources or from borrowing. In order to be able to use the £
450,000 they would have to find £
1,050,000 extra. Tenants will pay for this from their rent. More