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Blog 7th December 2017

Thursday December 07, 14:00

Blog 7th December 2017

In this week’s blog, I refer to: the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, Housing Policy, the Local Government Association, the Local Housing Allowance, the Scottish Government, Eildon Housing, Webinars, Christian Lindner, Service Charges and Local Authority Housing Finance.

The ‘Tony Blair Institute for Global Change’ published an interesting report over the weekend entitled ‘Home Truths: A Progressive Vision of Housing Policy in the 21st Century'. In introducing the paper, Tony Blair said that:

“The Paper marks a departure in housing philosophy. Whilst we celebrate the virtues of home ownership, it is time to acknowledge that for many a flourishing rental sector is essential and housing needs are not always served by the focus on ownership to the exclusion of other forms of tenure.”

The report sets out what it calls a bold new progressive agenda for housing reform. It argues that many governments today are caught between the competing interests of different housing tenures; and that the result is timid policy that tinkers at the edge of the housing market. The goal of the report is to move past the gridlock to forge a new political consensus that balances the aspirations of renters and homeowners and builds a future of shared prosperity.

The report begins with the principles that it describes as follows:

“For decades, the goal of housing policy has been to boost homeownership. But the promise of these policies has recently given way to their pitfalls: levels of homeownership are at record lows, while levels of rental sector evictions are reaching record highs. Progressive housing policy must therefore be rooted in a broader set of principles: providing security for all tenures, promoting community between residents and newcomers, and guaranteeing macroeconomic stability against excessive property speculation.”

The report proposes five new policy ideas that it says would mean a bold and ambitious agenda to solve the housing crisis; and in doing so, resolve part of the underlying causes of political alienation and dissatisfaction with democracy. The proposals are:

  • To replace the outdated and discredited Council Tax with a Land Value Tax, building on the best practice from abroad and establishing a fairer and more rational system of property taxation.
  • Re-zoning upwards, outwards and inwards to expand the possibilities of more housing construction.
  • A new Sovereign Property Fund to support property acquisition by local councils for the express purpose of housing construction and rehabilitation.
  • A Rapid Transit Network to accompany the housing regeneration, which through rail, bus and cycle links joins central urban districts to peripheral zones and not only in London but across Britain.
  • A new Social Contract with rental sector tenants which extends the standard minimum tenancy to three years, limits rental inflation to the consumer price index over that time and provides stronger protections from eviction.

The report can be viewed on the ‘Tony Blair Institute for Global Change’ website at: https://institute.global/insight/renewing-centre/home-truths-progressive-vision-housing-policy-21st-century

The Local Government Association has also published an interesting report entitled: ‘Local Housing Allowance Survey: Final Report’. This survey looks at the effects of the freeze on local housing allowances (that determine the entitlement of private tenants to housing benefit and the housing element of universal credit). Regarding the future impact of the freeze if it is not lifted it found that:

  • 96% of respondents (68 councils) said homelessness would ‘increase’ if the freeze was not lifted up to 2020.
  • 94% of respondents (68 councils) said it would be ‘more difficult to meet the requirements’ of the new Homelessness Reduction Act if the freeze was not lifted up to 2020.
  • 68% of respondents (50 councils) said council budgets would ‘have to increase’ if the freeze was not lifted up to 2020.
  • 37% of respondents (27 councils) said there would be ‘less home building’ if the freeze was not lifted up to 2020.
  • 92% of respondents (67 councils) said lifting the freeze on local housing allowance rates, and better aligning them with rents, would help to reduce homelessness in their area.

Clearly the freeze is not helping with the housing crisis and I would agree with the Local Government Association that a review of the policy would be appropriate.

The report can be viewed on the Local Government Association website at: https://www.local.gov.uk/sites/default/files/documents/LGA%20Local%20Housing%20Allowance%20Survey%20Final%20Report.pdf

Eildon Housing Association and Hart Builders have signed an innovative partnership agreement that is supported with Scottish Government funding and will deliver at least 388 high quality new affordable homes across nine sites in the Borders. Handovers will commence in the spring of 2018 once the first houses at Sergeants Park in Newtown St Boswells are completed; after completion Eildon will have provided 115 new homes on this site. A key element of the Partnership is to work with local communities to create a legacy that goes beyond the provision of the new homes, as such Eildon and Hart Builders are working with the Borders College to explore training, employment and other community benefits that can be factored into the programme.

At AWICS we value feedback from our clients and from users of our website. This is for two reasons:

  • We actively seek feedback from clients so that we can evaluate what we are doing now and use the information to improve our services in future.
  • We like to have a dialogue with clients and users of our website so that we can understand their developing needs and provide services to meet them as part of a long-term commercial relationship.

We have therefore developed a series of surveys and questionnaires the latest of which covers webinars. The purpose of this questionnaire is to ask our clients and the users of our website about their training needs and how these could be met by attending webinars. It is only a short questionnaire and you can complete it anonymously if you wish. We will use the information to help us to plan our future webinars.

I would be very grateful to any reader of my blog who would like to complete this short questionnaire. To do so, please click here.

This week’s ‘thought for the day’ comes from Christian Lindner, the leader of the Free Democrats in Germany who withdrew from the coalition talks with the Christian Democrats saying that:

“It is better not to govern than to govern badly.”

Our next seminars are on:

  • All You Want to Know about Service Charges in Social Housing in Wales
  • All You Want to Know about Service Charges in Social Housing in England
  • All You Want to Know about Local Authority Housing Finance

For further information or to make a booking, please click here.

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