Posts with tag: housing crisis solutions

Housing Crisis is Very Real, Insists Homelessness Charity

Published On: October 2, 2015 at 2:43 pm


Categories: Landlord News

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Earlier this week, Simon Jenkins wrote on The Guardian website that the housing crisis is not real and “there is no solution” to it.

Housing Crisis is Very Real, Insists Homelessness Charity

Housing Crisis is Very Real, Insists Homelessness Charity

He stated: “As in all political crises, there are tribal myths and economic realities. When the myths win, policy degenerates into chaos and counter-productivity.”

He then simply stated that one of the myths is, “That there is a housing ‘crisis’. There is none.”

Read more of the story here:

Now, the Chief Executive of homelessness charity Crisis, Jon Sparkes, has responded to the piece.

He begins: “Simon Jenkins is mistaken on a number of points. The housing crisis is very real: we see the worst effects of it everyday, and not just in London.

“Since 2010, all forms of homelessness in England have risen. Rough sleeping has increased by 55%, while thousands are forced to live in precarious and dangerous conditions just to keep a roof over their heads. If this isn’t a crisis, what is?”

He then addresses the private rental sector: “Private renting in England is failing to provide people with homes that are decent, safe, secure and affordable. Too many people are living in appalling conditions – almost a third of privately rented homes fail to meet the Government’s decent homes standard.

“Compared to other parts of western Europe, tenants in England have very little security. Many can be evicted from their homes with little notice and with no duty on the landlord to prove they are at fault.”

He insists: “With rising rents and severe cuts to housing benefit, the loss of a private rented home is now the leading cause of homelessness. This is unacceptable. Our politicians can and must do something about it.

“We need decisive action to make the private rented sector more accessible and affordable, along with radical solutions to tackle the severe shortage of affordable homes. At the same time, we must have a real safety net for anyone finding themselves in difficulty.”1 


YMCA Launches Accommodation Project for Homeless People

“While working out how to support homeless people back into employment, education and accommodation isn’t easy, one thing is certain,” says Denise Hatton. “We need to build more affordable homes.”

Hatton is the CEO and National Secretary of YMCA England, which is launching a new accommodation project for homeless people this week.

For decades, our governments have failed to build enough homes to meet demand. As a result, the cost of homeownership is now out of reach of many young people, including those leaving supported or temporary housing.

The current Government is determined to build 200,000 starter homes by 2020, but housing charity Shelter has found that families on an average income will be unable to afford these homes in 58% of local authorities and families on the new national living wage will be priced out in 98% of the country.

“Building more homes will help solve the housing and rental crises, only if they are affordable to those who need them most,” states Hatton.

Y:Cube is the new scheme from YMCA, launching in Mitcham, South London. The development includes 36 self-contained, one-bedroom flats, each with its own bathroom, living room and kitchen inside a 26 square metre unit.

“They are factory built off-site and installed for just £55,000 each,” explains Hatton.

The YMCA has created the scheme to provide “move-on homes” for young people who are ready to leave its accommodation, but cannot move into private rental sector housing due to high costs or lack of availability.

This is a situation that “we found that more than half of our residents in supported accommodation were facing earlier this year,” says Hatton.

Meanwhile, nine out of ten YMCAs have turned away a young person due to “capacity issues”.

Hatton argues the need for the new project: “For the charity to help as many young people as possible, it was essential we came up with an affordable model of housing for tenants to move into, freeing up YMCA places for other vulnerable young people.”

The weekly rent at the Y:Cube development is set at around £145. This is 65% of market rent in the area and soon, a single room in London will cost the same as renting a Y:Cube flat.

“Building high-quality accommodation at a lower cost and in a short timeframe was key for the development,” Hatton continues. “We are expecting the process from finished construction in the factory to the scheme being fully habitable to be completed in under five months.”

She adds: “These cheap, quick and high-quality homes are being seen as a smart investment and we are working on future projects with several local authorities and housing providers.

“They can be quickly assembled and easily relocated, offering flexibility to local authorities that may have land available for five to ten years or even longer.”

Hatton concludes: “We know Y:Cube alone will not be able to solve the housing crisis, but it will go some way to offering an alternative model of housing and, more importantly, an alternative model of thinking to politicians.

“Traditional approaches to resolving financial problems in the housing sector as well as ending the homelessness crisis have not worked.

“If we want to get serious about this issue, politicians need to start thinking and building outside the box.”1 


Will These Prefab Homes Solve the Housing Crisis?

Britain must build around 250,000 new homes per year to ease the severe housing shortage. However, just half of that are currently being built. One company thinks it has the answer to the housing crisis.

Bert & May, an interior design firm specialising in tiles and flooring, plans to sell portable outside boxes that can be big enough for two bedrooms, a bathroom and a kitchen.

Bert & May Spaces, which will launch its units next month at design show Decorex, will sell three types of prefabricated boxes. The smallest is a one-room box costing £25,000, another is a one-bedroom unit retailing from £75,000 and the most expensive is the two-bed option, at £150,000.

The boxes are made from timber, have double glazed windows and an eco-friendly green roof to cut energy costs.

Bert & May states that it has already had some pre-orders, including one from a family in Yorkshire looking for a granny annex.

Co-founder of the firm, Lee Thornley, explains the idea: “The nature of London property prices in particular makes moving house impossible. We want to prove prefabs can be cool – if you have spare land, why not have an extra bedroom? And you can take it with you if you do move.”1

He adds that prefabs are a cheaper alternative to extensions, as planning permission is not required for structures classed as mobile homes.

Thornley says he is already in talks with some local authorities about using the units to increase affordable housing, especially in parts of East London, where house prices have soared in the last few years.

Ealing Council is currently working with Mears and Snoozebox to set up temporary housing made from prefab units to minimise the use of bed and breakfasts for families needing emergency homes.

Although housing transactions are starting to slow, prices in some hotspots are still rising by up to 13% a year, due to a lack of supply. The Land Registry revealed that house prices in England and Wales increased by 4.6% in the year to July.


Bovis Homes on Why we Have a Housing Crisis

Published On: August 19, 2015 at 8:58 am


Categories: Landlord News

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Bovis Homes has confirmed all of our fears; Britain could never build the Government’s 200,000 annual house building target.

We’ve all heard the reasons – there aren’t enough builders or plumbers, planning permission is difficult to obtain, and the more we build, the pricier materials become.

Bovis named these factors, but also mentioned another: the lack of available finance for smaller firms.

Bovis Homes on Why we Have a Housing Crisis

Bovis Homes on Why we Have a Housing Crisis

The City is funding companies such as Bovis and Persimmon, but banks and Government-funded schemes are still demanding high interest rates and difficult terms for small, independent businesses. Without these firms, we cannot build the homes we need.

But it is unsurprising that lenders are wary, as it is just eight years since the last building bubble popped, costing them billions of pounds.

Also, they are aware that the more housing supply they fund, the more they reduce demand and prices.

This emphasises the problem with leaving the country’s complex housing demands to the free market.

Equally, the population requires more affordable housing, but investors prefer building high-end London apartments for the very rich.

Additionally, the City has not been approving of the slight increase in the amount of social homes that Bovis has built over the past six months. Its share price even dropped. But Bovis only built 345 social homes, against 1,079 private properties.

And if this is a low number, then consider how few private rental properties Bovis built, just 101, five less than the first half of last year. For a London and South East firm, where professionals into their 30s and 40s cannot afford a home, this is shocking.

And many new builds will be sold to buy-to-let investors, who increase their rents every year. This neither benefits tenants or the general economy. An influx of amateur landlords cannot be good for anyone.

But there is a different approach. Big pension funds, such as the Pru and L&G are searching for assets with fixed and guaranteed revenues over 50 years. They require this steady income to match what they have pledged to pay their customers in retirement.

They are the ideal buy-to-let landlords, offering long-term rental contracts fixed against inflation for decades.

Several projects of this type are coming to fruition. But progress is slow. House builders complain that the pension funds are requesting huge discounts that they will not offer – they can sell everything at full price to private buyers.

But this movement could be an answer. In the meantime, house building targets will still be missed, rents will still rise and families will have to suffer.


Britain Needs More Slums, Says Oxford Student

Published On: August 7, 2015 at 3:59 pm


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An Oxford student has faced criticism after saying the answer to the housing crisis is to build more slums.

Libertarian think-tank, the Adam Smith Institute, has defended the student’s proposals for favela-style homes after he was sent death threats on social media.

In a blog on the Adam Smith Institute’s website, Theo Clifford, a Philosophy, Politics and Economics student at Merton College, Oxford, suggested abolishing safety regulations to introduce slums in the UK for those who cannot afford a home.

Clifford, who describes himself as a “recovering Lib Dem” who hopes to become a “yuppie”, wrote: “Sweeping deregulation is the only way to provide Britain with the slums it is crying out for.”

Clifford won the Institute’s Young Writer on Liberty competition in the 18-21 age group.

He continued: “Britain has a sore lack of property slums. Government regulations designed to clamp down on cowboy landlords restrict people’s ability to choose the kind of accommodation in which they want to live.”

Clifford argues that communal living is appealing to young people, as he too is struggling to get onto the property ladder.

Britain Needs More Slums, Says Oxford Student

Britain Needs More Slums, Says Oxford Student

He added: “Housing should cater to a wide array of preferences. Some people might not feel like they need a bedroom space as large as the state expects, while others might not mind sharing a bathroom with another family if it means lower rents.”

He claimed that over-regulation is the cause of the housing crisis: “The market desperately wants to provide houses people can live in at prices they can afford – but in the eyes of local authorities, these houses are too small, or too tall, or the ceilings are too low, or the windows not energy efficient enough.”

After the piece was posted online, Clifford received a stream of online abuse. One critic tweeted Clifford, calling him a “wet behind the ears libertarian who’s never laid in bed listening to rats scuttling about his kitchen.”1 

Another exclaimed: “’Britain needs more assassinations of @Theo_Clifford’ is about as offensive as this blog.”1

A housing law solicitor told Clifford he is “but a child & yet to learn to distinguish immediate self interest from general social benefit.”1

Clifford replied to one opponent: “A cramped flat you can afford is better than the sprawling detached house you can’t.”

He then asked: “Wonder if my proposal for a #NationalNetflix is going to get me as many death threats as yesterday’s housing essay.”

However, he was defended by the Institute’s Deputy Director, Sam Bowman, who said: “People should attack us, not him. We can take it. Theo is making the point that disadvantaged people who are price-sensitive might prefer an energy efficient house or one with a small bedroom than none at all.”

Bowman continued: “The word slum is quite emotive. But it is what people would call these dwellings if they were allowed. Theo is asking people to think past what the word slum means to us and ask if our minimum building standards are too restrictive?”

Bowman described Clifford as “an extremely smart, reasonable and pleasant chap” who “is destined for great things.”1 

Clifford did not receive support from the South East London branch of anti-austerity group, the People’s Assembly, which tweeted: “No, Theo, the country doesn’t need more slums, but yes maybe less building regulation, something rad needed to kickstart supply.”1

The Adam Smith Institute helped with the intellectual foundation of Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative governments and promotes free market thinking.

Clifford has previous blogged on the Liberal Democrat Voice website, where he called for deregulation of Sunday trading laws – now Government policy – and defined Lib Dem economic policy as a “belief in the strength of the free market to provide long-run economic growth.”1


Are we Building in the Wrong Places?

Published On: August 5, 2015 at 3:51 pm


Categories: Landlord News

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It is well known that the UK is facing a serious housing crisis, fuelled by a lack of new homes. But are the homes we are building even in the right place?

The UK’s population is rising at an increasingly fast rate, but the level of house building has dropped recently. Two years ago, it even fell to a post-war low of 135,000.

It has been suggested that when homes are being built, they’re in the wrong places.

The following maps explain this idea:

The first map shows the rate of population growth in different parts of the UK. The darker the red, the more people.

The second map indicates the rate of house building in different locations around the country. The darker the red, the more homes being built.

This issue is worst in London, with the Greater London Authority (GLA) estimating that the capital needs between 49,000 and 62,000 new homes per year to keep up with demand.

However, the London Plan, the strategic planning team at the GLA, has set a target of only 42,000 a year. This was calculated based on how many it believes can be accommodated. Last year, the capital built around half of this, just 24,000.

Director of planning consultant Quod, Barney Stringer, who produced the data for the maps, expresses his concern: “There is an overall shortage of housing and not enough house building, and new homes are needed almost everywhere, but the high growth areas that need it most are not managing to provide new homes much faster than low growth areas.

“The really big planning question for the next few years is whether the districts around London can and will provide for any of the growth that London can’t accommodate. The maps show quite how little is being achieved at present.”1

But one of the biggest debates surrounding house building is the green belt.

When the Business Secretary, Sajid Javid, highlighted the Government’s plans to relax planning laws in a bid to drive up house building, he emphasised that the proposal would never breach green belt rules.

The green belt is the land surrounding towns and cities, which was reserved as building-free over 50 years ago.

However, ministers have recently released figures that indicate there is not enough brownfield land in the UK to accommodate the 300,000 homes that the country needs.

The Department for Communities and Local Government estimates that there is enough land for around 200,000 homes to be built on brownfield land.

Research by business group London First shows the huge opportunity that the green belt would offer to solve the UK’s housing crisis, compared to sticking to brownfield sites.

In total, urban areas of England cover just 9.9% of the total landmass and actual built areas just 4.2%. The green belt covers 12.4% of the total area of England.

London First, Stringer, academics and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) believe that the green belt should not be preserved forever.

The OECD says that the green belt is “a major obstacle to development around cities, where housing is often needed.”1

However, the Council for the Protection of Rural England argues that the green belt is to stop urban expansion.

Regardless of the solution, the two maps above reveal that when the UK does build, it’s in the wrong places.