Housing crisis – planning is not the key problem

Leave a comment

The Conservative government is now threatening supposedly ‘nimby’ local authorities with central government action if they don’t “build enough homes in their area”. Failure to meet the targets will, apparently, mean that councils will lose control of the right to decide where new houses are placed in their area. This is patently absurd since councils cannot control the number of homes built in their area, especially when they are not building any themselves. The whip hand in relation to development lies with the developers and builders who control the pace of building when they have planning permission. There has been ample experience in Swindon of central government overturning rejection of planning applications on the grounds that the council is not achieving their house building target. Yet it is the developers/builders who are controlling the pace of construction essentially to maximise their profits. Read on below or download a PDF here plannignetc More


“Borrowing to build” is no solution to the council housing shortage


Is lifting the “borrowing cap” for council Housing Revenue Accounts the solution for large scale new council house building?

Councils in England are building very few council homes. In the seven years from 2010-17 only 10,840 homes were built. This compares with 18,220 demolitions and 60,567 sold through Right to Buy (RTB). In the six years to 2016 council housing stock in England declined by 174,000. One suggested remedy for the shortage of council housing has been the proposal that councils should be allowed to “borrow to build”. The Local Government Association, Shadow Housing Minister John Healey, and others have recently repeated the call for the borrowing cap, set for each council in 2012, to either be eliminated or at least raised. John Healey suggested that this would enable councils to build “tens of thousands” of new council homes. What his evidence is for this we don’t know.

It’s our contention that only central government grant towards the cost of house building can provide the resources necessary to build new council housing on a scale sufficient to begin to tackle the housing shortage. Proposing that councils increase their debt takes no account of the financial crisis being faced by local authority Housing Revenue Accounts (HRAs). Read on below or download a PDF here  borrowing

Universal Credit: end the punitive regime

1 Comment

STCG’s call for people ‘transferring’ from existing benefits to Universal Credit to be paid their existing benefits until the UC claim has been processed, has been questioned on the grounds that those on ‘legacy benefits’ (the six benefits that will be subsumed into UC) are not transferring to UC yet. To understand what’s going on we have to get beyond the confusing vocabulary of the DWP. There is, it seems, a difference between ‘natural migration’ and ‘managed migration’. The latter will not take place until 2019 when all those in receipt of ‘legacy benefits’ will be transferred or ‘migrated’ onto UC. It currently only applies to ‘new claims’. Here’s where the bureaucratic language of the DWP obscures what is actually happening. It’s not just people who have never previously claimed benefits who are going onto UC. People are going from existing benefits onto UC now. (Read on below or download a PDF here january2018) More

Council housing sham

Leave a comment

This is a letter published in the Swindon Advertiser today.

In the lead up to the Great Leader’s conference speech we were told to expect, in the words of government Minister Damian Green, nothing less than “the rebirth of council housing”. An excited media was predicting “under the PM’s housing plan, ministers will join forces with housing associations to build hundreds of thousands of new homes” (The Sun).

However, instead of the hundreds of thousands we discovered that May’s “plan” might add up to 25,000 “affordable homes” over 5 years. That is, 5,000 a year. At that rate it would only take 240 years to produce enough homes for the 1.2 million households on the waiting lists, always assuming nobody else was added to the list in the meantime. More

Council Housing “rebirth”: the child is dead on delivery

1 Comment

This is an intial response to May’s announcement on housing, as we await more detail.

On the morning of Teresa May’s speech government Minister Damian Green announced that there would be a “rebirth of council housing”. Yet when she spluttered her way through the sppech it was clear that the child was sadly dead on delivery.

The money available for “affordable housing” was only £2 billion, compared to £10 billion for Help To Buy. According to a Tory Party press release the £2 billion “could” be used to produce 25,000 homes over 5 years. Even assuming these were all council homes 5,000 is a puny amount which would make little difference to the housing crisis. It would not replace those homes lost to RTB. Sales are running at more than 12,000 a year in England. Between 2010-2017 57,677 were sold off. In addition, from 2010-2016 there were 20,300 council homes demolished and only just over 10,000 built. Since 2010 there has been a decline in the number of council homes by 174,000. More

National Audit Office report on Homelessness highlights government failure


Local authorities have increased their spending on homelessness while simultaneously reducing spending on preventing it.”

A report by the National Audit Office, despite its diplomatic language, highlights the responsibility of the government for an increase in homelessness. The statistics are stark.

  • Since March 2011 there has been a 60% increase in the number of households living in temporary accommodation; up to 77,240 in March 2017.

  • An increase of 73% in the numbers of children in temporary accommodation to 120,540.

  • An 134% increase in rough sleepers since 2010.

  • Spending on temporary accommodation has increased by 39% in real terms since 2010/11.

But for the efforts of local authorities to prevent homelessness the situation would be even worse. The number of cases where local authorities “took positive action to prevent homelessness” increased by 63% from 2009/10 to 2016/17; up to 105,240. They have also helped 93,390 households to obtain alternative accommodation, an increase of 23% over 2009/10.

The NAO estimates that three quarters of the rise in the numbers of households in temporary accommodation is the result of an unprecedented increase in the proportion of households who qualified for temporary accommodation because an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) in the private rented sector was ended by a landlord. They now make up 32% of homelessness cases. The report states:

The end of an ASTs is the defining characteristic of the increase of homelessness that has occurred since 2010.” Read on below or download a PDF here naoreporthomelessness More

Housing Minister retreats on RTB sales?

Leave a comment

The magazine Inside Housing reports that Housing Minister Gavin Barwell has said that the Right to Buy policy ‘is only politically justifiable’ if the government is delivering replacement homes. At the Communities and Local Government Select Committee Barwell said he would reassess the rules on receipts because future government projections suggest that they will not be able to replace the homes sold.

I do want to look at the rules in relation to RTB receipts…because my own view is that RTB is a good thing but it’s only politically justifiable if I deliver a replacement.”

Barwell’s statement begs the question if housing stock sold is not being replaced then shouldn’t RTB sales be halted? This writer is in favour of RTB being ended. However, supporters of council housing should pick up on Barwell’s words and press their councils and their MPs to demand that if the Minister thinks RTB is unjustified unless sold homes are replaced, then councils should have the right to suspend sales if they cannot replace them. More

Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: