‘Right to buy’ – government robbery of Councils and Housing Associations

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With the Conservatives now in government alone, one of the key policies it will seek to implement is the extension of ‘right to buy’ to Housing Association homes. Quite how a government which masquerades as the defender of ‘freedom’ and ‘free enterprise’ envisages forcing private companies to sell their housing stock, at a big discount, is difficult to imagine.

If another party had said it would introduce ‘right to buy’ into the private rented sector the Tories and much of the media would have been outraged. They would have denounced such a policy as theft, or even worse, ‘socialism’. How can you force somebody to sell off their private property? they would no doubt have raged. More

Swindon tenant wins ‘bedroom tax’ appeal on room size

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Swindon Council has lost a case at a ‘First Tier-Tribunal Social Entitlement Chamber’ over the ‘bedroom tax’. A tenant challenged the Council over the size of a third bedroom. The judge upheld the tenants appeal against being charged for the ‘third bedroom’ under the government’s ‘under-occupation’ regulations.

The judge rejected the assertion of the Council that the size of the bedroom was of no relevance in determining that the regulations applied. The judge rejected the position of the Council which was more or less that if a landlord says it’s a three bedroom house then it is. In their own words

for Housing Benefit purposes where rooms are designated as bedrooms by the landlord, they should be treated as such for Housing Benefit purposes”.

The room is all of 3.9m square or 42 square feet. As a Council officer admitted she “anticipated that a single mattress would fit in the room but there would be little room for anything else”.

The Council has 28 days to appeal against the judgement, though any appeal would have to be based on point of law.

You can read the judgement and the take on it by Housing Advisor Joe Halewood at this link:

https://speye.wordpress.com/2015/05/05/ftt-judge-correctly-interprets-bedroom-tax-room-size-how-unusual-councils-take-note/

Unless the appeal is overturned then the tenant will have to be refunded for the money she has paid from the introduction of the regulations.

This judgement may, of course, have implications for other tenants.

Some questions to General Election Candidates

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From Swindon Tenants Campaign Group 

Swindon Tenants Campaign Group believes that the housing crisis which the town and the country faces, ought to be a prominent part of the debate around the General Election. As a means of trying to promote a discussion we are therefore asking the candidates some questions on the the housing crisis and how they think it should be resolved.  We will post the answers we receive.

  1. According to Swindon Council’s statistics each and every year in the town there are 800 too few “affordables homes” built than we need. In other words the housing situation is getting worse with each year. We have what MP Rob Buckland has described as “an acute social housing shortage”.

What do you think should be done to tackle the “acute social housing shortage” locally and nationally?

  1. In the last two years Swindon Council has lost 107 Council homes to ‘right to buy’. The Council’s building programme, under the coalition government’s “affordable homes programme” will only provide 67 additional homes over three years (100 new homes minus 33 at Sussex Square which have beena demolished), insufficient to replace those lost to ‘right to buy’. In addition Swindon Council was only able to keep around a quarter of the receipts for those homes sold under RTB. Nationally only one in seven homes sold under RTB is being replaced.

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Tories propose theft of ‘social housing’ to fund election bribe

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Swindon Tenants Campaign Group media release April 20th 2015

The Conservative election pledge to introduce ‘right to buy’ for Housing Association homes and to force Councils to sell ‘high value’ homes to pay towards the cost of it underlines the threat to the future of ‘social housing’ should the Tories manage to hang onto government.

It’s ironic that they are proposing to force Housing Associations, which are essentially private businesses (even if they are registered charities) to sell their homes. Imagine the furore in the media if another political party were proposing to force private owners who rent properties to sell them to their tenants. It would be denounced as socialism or class war. Even if the HA’s are given compensation (its not clear how much they will get) they will lose the revenue stream of rent lost by the sale of properties. Given that HA’s borrow money from commercial sources the loss of stock threatens their borrowing because it is based on an assessment of stock numbers, the value of stock and income from rents. If the compensation is less than the rental stream then the value of the stock will fall. More

Credit where credit’s due

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10/04/2015 By Nick Duxbury, Inside Housing

The government is taking credit for the achievements of social landlords when it makes its pre-election affordable housing boasts. Nick Duxbury explains why this matters and why Inside Housing’s campaign Housing Benefits campaign will set the record straight

We’ve invested £19.5bn in affordable housebuilding, with nearly 217,000 new affordable homes delivered since 2010,’ boasted housing minister Brandon Lewis, in a press release sent out to the nation’s media outlets on 18 February. And why not? After all, spending nearly £20bn of taxpayer’s cash on building affordable housing in an era of widespread cuts and austerity would be an unbelievable achievement. Were it true, that is.

Some 25 minutes later, the Department for Communities and Local Government issued a corrected release (after some prompting from Inside Housing) clarifying that there had been a ‘typo’. Instead Mr Lewis stated: ‘We’ve invested £19.5bn public and private funding in affordable housebuilding, with nearly 217,000 new affordable homes delivered since 2010’.

Spot the difference? Few outside the housing sector will have.

The clarified statement is true (insofar as a government can claim to invest private as well as public funding) – but it remains more than a little misleading. More

Government ends term with 55% rise in illegal B&B use

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26 March 2015 By Daniel Douglas, Inside Housing

The number of families in bed and breakfast for longer than six weeks as at 31 December 2014 was 55% higher than the year before, according to official statistics released today.

The latest Department for Communities and Local Government figures show 780 families were in B&Bs at the end of last year for six weeks or more compared with 500 at the end of the year before.

The stats show a total of 2,040 families were in bed and breakfast-style accommodation at the end of 2014, which was a 31% rise from 1,560 the year before. More

What Future for Council Housing?

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What future for Council Housing?

Council housing and the housing crisis

A book by Martin Wicks

Everybody knows there is a housing crisis. However, it is usually written about by academics or professionals who work in the housing sector. Tenant voices are rarely heard. What Future for Council Housing? is written by a Council tenant and reflects the work and ideas of Swindon Tenants Campaign Group which has successfully resisted the sell-off of our homes; managed to secure more money for their maintenance; and challenged the dominant policies responsible for the crisis. (Download a PDF here whatfuture or read on below) More

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