March 11, 2014
Council House building, Swindon Advertiser, Swindon Council, Swindon Tenants Campaign Group
Swindon Tenants Campaign Group Media Release March 9th 2014
Swindon Housing Strategy: a Council house building programme is needed to tackle the housing crisis
Swindon Tenants Campaign Group has produced a discussion document analysing Swindon’s housing crisis and how it can be tackled. It’s a response to the “Housing Market Support” document voted through by the Council last year. Swindon Borough Council will soon open up a consultation on updating its housing strategy. STCG has put forward a series of practical proposals. Read or dowload the document here stcghousingsubmission
According to the Council’s own estimate each year the town builds 800 too few “affordable homes”. That is, every year the shortage increases. However, its outline proposals in the “Housing Market Support” document fail to put forward proposals to tackle this shortage and provide genuinely affordable homes for rent. Swindon Tenants Campaign Group is proposing that the Council should
- Launch an annual Council house building programme, borrowing money from the Public Works Loan Board, which offers cheaper interest rates than the market, and using some of the money from the ‘New Homes Bonus’.
- Maintain Council rents for all Council homes rather than introducing the government’s “Affordable rent model” (up to 80% of market rates).
- Provide additional resources to enable Council staff to try to improve the quality of housing in the Private Rented Sector (PRS) in which over 30,000 people now live.
- Examine introducing licensing for all Houses in Multiple Occupation and selective licensing of other rented accommodation in the town.
- Campaign for a change in housing policy at the national level: for national subsidy for Council house building, and for ending to ‘Right to Buy’ which is responsible for the loss of badly needed homes from the Council stock. More
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