“100,000 low-cost homes have had rents hiked since 2012”

“Labour has unveiled plans to stem the loss of low-cost homes as new analysis reveals more than 100,000 social homes have been converted into a more expensive type of property in the last six years alone.

The party said it would scrap a policy introduced by the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government in 2012 that forces housing associations and local councils to raise rents by an average of 40 per cent by converting social homes into “affordable homes”.

The announcement is the second to come out of Labour’s review into the future of social housing, which is likely to report in the coming weeks.

It comes as analysis seen by The Independent revealed the huge loss of social homes largely as a result of a change made by the coalition. …

While social rents are generally around 40 per cent of market value, affordable homes can cost up to 80 per cent of market rents, prompting criticism that in many parts of country they are out of the reach of people on ordinary incomes. …

The coalition made the conversion of low-cost social homes into affordable homes a key plank of its housing policy.

An official document from 2011 explaining the Government’s approach said: “The conversion of existing stock to affordable rent is a crucial element in generating additional financial capacity and it is anticipated that it will be integral to the offer that providers bring forward as part of their proposals for funding new supply.”

The change was made despite the Government’s own impact assessment making it clear that forcing the conversion of social housing into affordable housing would result in “greater costs to Government through increases in housing benefit”, although this was forecast to be offset by cuts to housing spending. …

At the same time as the change was made, Government funding for new social housing was ended entirely and instead diverted to fund “affordable” homes.

As a result, the number of new, Government-funded social homes has plummeted by 97 per year since 2010, with just 1,102 new homes completed last year – funded via existing programmes set up before 2010. …

About 102,000 homes have been converted since 2012, while around 60,000 have been sold to tenants under Right to Buy.

Only around 50,000 new social homes have been built in that time – the vast majority funded by housing associations. …”


“How Bristol is standing up to developers”

East Devon developers do not disclose their viability agreements – EDDC thinks they should remain confidential because they contain “commercially sensitive information” yet Bristol disagrees and publishes theirs.

Baker Estates in Honiton have been allowed to reduce the number of affordable properties, using such a confidential document.

“Last autumn, campaigners scored an unprecedented victory. The target was “viability assessments”: dossiers produced by housing developers to justify the amount of affordable housing – or lack thereof – in their developments, and which are frequently used during the construction process to shrug off previous commitments.

“Developers were saying, ‘We can’t afford to put 30-40% affordable housing in here,’ to make the profits they are legally entitled to,” says Louise Herbert, spokesperson for Bristol-born tenants union Acorn. “But all of their numbers – how much they projected to sell the houses for, how much they bought the land for – were redacted.”

Acorn, along with the Bristol Cable media co-operative, campaigned for the full release of these files. Following a public outcry, the council voted to make the viability assessments public.

Now, Herbert says, the public can examine these assessments themselves, and make sure that more affordable housing is built in their areas.

In response, Andrew Whitaker, planning director at the Home Builders Federation (HBF), argues that those without formal training “may feel that the figures set out in such assessments are ‘too high’ or ‘too low’ and make representations and decisions accordingly, rather than based on the evidence.”

For now, it’s too soon to tell if publishing the viability assessments has achieved change in Bristol. But it’s a small step that could point the way for cities such as London, where viability assessments remain pervasive, or Manchester, where in contravention of the city’s own guidelines, none of the nearly 15,000 planned new developments have any provision for affordable housing.

Bristol’s mayor, Marvin Rees, believes that it sends a signal to developers: “We’re a great city to do business in – but we want the right kind of money.”

Councillor Paul Smith agrees. “Housing can’t be left to the market if you want to meet the housing needs of the whole city,” he says. “There are 500 families in temporary accommodation, 100 people sleeping rough on the streets, huge numbers who are inadequately housed, and people living in poor-quality, high-rent accommodation.”…


May desperately tries to claw back housing votes her government has lost

“Theresa May will hit out at the “perverse incentive” of housing industry bonus structures paying out millions of pounds to chief executives as a result of company profits rather than the number of homes built.

The prime minister will make the comments as she unveils a series of measures, previously outlined in the government’s housing white paper, to rewrite the rules on planning in an attempt to boost the speed of housebuilding and ease prices.

She will call the “national housing crisis” one of the biggest barriers to social mobility and argue that she “cannot bring about the kind of society I want to see” without tackling it.

May, who wants to make housing her number one domestic priority, will say she expects “developers to do their duty to Britain and build the homes our country needs”.

Under the plans:

Local authorities will be able to take into account how quickly a developer builds on a site before issuing future planning permission.
Independent inspectors will be given the power to take over decision-making in local areas if “nimby councils” fail to publish housing plans quickly enough.
Staff working for councils and hospitals will be given priority when public land is sold off.
Homeowners will be able to add two storeys to existing properties.
The prime minister will tell the national planning conference in London that developers must play their part too. “The bonuses paid to the heads of some of our biggest developers are based not on the number of homes they build but on their profits or share price,” she will say.

“In a market where lower supply equals higher prices that creates a perverse incentive, one that does not encourage them to build the homes we need.” [Duh – we told her that in 2010 when developers wrote their own rules]

The comments come after a decision to pay the chief executive of housebuilder Persimmon a £110m bonus was widely criticised, with some describing it as “corporate looting”. Jeff Fairburn collected the first £50m worth of shares on New Year’s Eve, while 140 members of senior staff were also in line for more than £500m, with more than 80 receiving in excess of £1m.

While the government cannot force a change in bonus structures, May will hope to pile pressure on companies. [While taking their donations to the Conservative Party and meeting them privately]

Areas where action can be taken include “allowing councils to take a developer’s previous rate of build-out into account when deciding whether to grant planning permission”, May will say.

May will argue that the aim is to improve affordability so that more people can achieve the dream of home ownership.

“I still vividly remember the first home I shared with my husband, Philip. Not only our pictures on the walls and our books on the shelves, but the security that came from knowing we couldn’t be asked to move on at short notice,” she will say.

But she will admit that in much of the country millions who ought to own cannot do so, and prices are being pushed upwards.

“The result is a vicious circle from which most people can only escape with help from the bank of Mum and Dad. If you’re not lucky enough to have such support, the door to home ownership is all too often locked and barred.”

Polly Neate, the chief executive of the housing charity Shelter, said the planning system was not delivering and welcomed the move, but said the evidence would be in the building figures. “It appears the government is waking up to the scale of our housing emergency and the critical need for action which is urgent and bold,” she said.

Steve Turner from the Home Builders Federation said: “We welcome measures to speed up the planning system and stimulate all parts of the market from starter to retirement homes. The industry has delivered big increases in recent years and is committed to working with government to go further and match supply to need.”

However, the shadow housing secretary argued that May should be embarrassed to be “fronting up these feeble measures first announced a year ago”.

“After eight years of failure on housing it’s clear her government has got no plan to fix the housing crisis,” John Healey said.

One industry expert questioned whether linking planning permissions to former build-out rates was workable. He pointed out that permissions were attached to the location, not a particular developer, and many were held by landowners or promoters who would then sell on the site to a housing company.

May will promise to retain protections for the green belt, saying boundaries can only be changed if every “other reasonable option” for places to build needed homes had been explored. Downing Street pointed out that only 10% of England has been built on and only 13% is covered by green belt. But Mark Littlewood, Director General at the Institute of Economic Affairs said the commitment to the Green belt meant the proposals fell “at the first hurdle”.

“I want to see planning permissions going to people who are actually going to build houses, not just sit on land and watch its value rise. Where councils are allocating sufficient land for the homes people need, our new planning rulebook will stop developers building on large sites that aren’t allocated in the plan – something that’s not fair on residents who agree to a plan only to see it ignored.”


EDDC, the property consultant and Premier Inns – a worrying menage-a-trois?

From East Devon Alliance Facebook page:

“Look who’s coming to advise our Council: Item 7 on Overview agenda, March 13th.

Do we trust these people? Public can attend the meeting”

Anyone recall a few years ago, Tesco was flavour of the month? Now it seems to be Premier Inns.

Oh, and JLL was the company that chose Moirai as the lead developer for the first ill-fated stab at seafront development in Exmouth!


The blurb that goes with this agenda item says:

“Matters for Debate 7 JLL presentation – Commercial Property Investment for Local Authorities JLL is a leading professional services firm that specializes in real estate and investment management. A Fortune 500 company, JLL helps real estate owners, occupiers and investors achieve their business ambitions.

Presenting Team John Kinsey, National Director John Kinsey joined the practice in November 2003 and has over 30 years of experience within the property markets throughout the South West. He has considerable experience in out-of-town leisure and retail developments along with High Street A3 developments. He is the representative for Whitbread Plc for their Premier Inn hotel chain throughout the South West. He has advised a number of local authorities on key project work and regeneration schemes. Simon Bennett, National Director Simon joined Jones Lang LaSalle in October 1995. He has 22 years’ experience within the Investment Department, specialising in the disposal and acquisition of a variety of properties across the whole of the South West. His clients are a wide range of institutional, local authority, property companies and private investors, together with a number of charity clients. Recent clients include CBRE Global Investors, AEW, IO Group, Standard Life and Mayfair Capital. David Roberts, Director A Director in JLL’s Planning and Development Team with a focus on the preparation and implementation of effective estate strategies for a range of public sector clients. David also currently works on a significant number of commercial and residential regeneration projects across the South West. His specialist skills include concept development, masterplanning, options appraisal, viability analysis, due diligence, business planning and estate strategy, implementation strategy, development partner procurement, agency and funding support.

Presentation JLL will be presenting and discussing with the council the recent drive by local authorities to enter into the commercial investment market and how this is being used for both income generation and regeneration projects.

They will present a number of case studies and also discuss case studies where local authorities have used their covenant to enable regeneration and investment opportunities.“

“Persimmon increases freehold sales after Government pressure”

Persimmon – whose boss got a £110 million bonus. And note the headline doesn’5 say “stops” leasehold sales of houses … Why isn’t this illegal?

“Persimmon has upped the number of homes it is selling freehold in a sign it is bowing to Government pressure over the sale of leasehold properties.

The company is understood to have changed its sales tactics on a number of sites where it is currently developing homes after concerns were raised about the potential for third party firms to buy up tranches of freeholds, and the high cost of ground rents.

Homes being sold at a development in Melksham, Wiltshire, where a four bedroom house is available for £234,995, are now being offered freehold, where previously only a leasehold sale had been available. Other sites in Penrith, Crewe, Crawley and Bracknell are also now being marketed for freehold sales.

Persimmon, which builds around 15,000 new homes each year, has come under fire for selling houses on leasehold terms to then hold onto the freehold for future sale as an extra source of income. Some leasehold homeowners found themselves on punitive terms with rapidly increasing ground rents and extra charges, or facing spiralling costs to buy the freehold at a later date. There are around 1.4 million leasehold households in the UK in total. …”


Another toothless tiger – a rented housing “watchdog”

Owl says: more money to be spent on another useless quango. Can you imagine the correspondence? Instead of a long-running battle with a landlord, it will be an everlasting problem with a taxpayer-funded quango, which could go something like this:

I live in a flat with no heating, my landlord refuses to fix it.
Rate your heating and explain your problem in as technical way as possible, on this 20 page form. (end of week 1)
I don’t have any heating, I can’t get more technical than that, I’m not a plumber or electrician.
We cannot process your complaint unless you fill in the form and have it certified by a plumber or electrician. (end of week 4)
(You fill in the form as best you can).
Sorry, you did not include information about the warranty and the plumber you engaged said he could not provide more information without a full inspection. (end of week 8)
I don’t have the warranty, my landlord has it and won’t let me see it, it’s my landlord’s responsibility to engage and pay for an inspection
Sorry, we can’t help you if you do not have a copy of the warranty and a copy of the inspection report from your landlord (end of week 12)
So what do I do now – I have no heating, I’ve paid for a plumber’s visit out of my own pocket and my landlord refuses to give me a copy of the warranty and refuses to call a plumber? (week 16]
Email: Thank you for using our service. Please rate our service on the attached questionnaire: was it
brilliant or
outrageously, miraculously wonderful?

“HOUSEHOLDERS will soon be spared long-running battles with rogue landlords and builders to get their homes repaired.

A new watchdog will be appointed to adjudicate in disputes over damp walls, broken boilers and crumbling plasterwork.

The government appointed housing ombudsman will have sweeping powers to resolve disagreements between dissatisfied residents and landlords or builders.

He will also be encouraged to name and shame dodgy housing or repair providers.

It will be a lifeline for millions of tenants or home-owners locked in long-running rows over everything from outstanding repairs to cracks in new-build homes. …”

Housing Secretary Sajid Javid will today launch an eight-week consultation on the precise role of the new official.”


“Firms on Caribbean island chain own 23,000 UK properties”

[The article says £1.5 billion of property is owned by these companies in the south-west of England]

“A quarter of property in England and Wales owned by overseas firms is held by entities registered in the British Virgin Islands, BBC analysis has found.

The Caribbean archipelago is the official home of companies that own 23,000 properties – more than any other country.

They are owned by 11,700 firms registered in the overseas territory.
The finding emerged from BBC analysis conducted of Land Registry data on overseas property ownership.

The research found there are around 97,000 properties in England and Wales held by overseas firms, as of January 2018. It adds to concerns that companies registered in British-controlled tax havens have been used to avoid tax.

Close behind the British Virgin Islands (BVI), which has a population of just 30,600, are Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.

Of the properties owned by overseas companies in England and Wales, two thirds are registered to firms in the British Virgin Islands, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.

Many foreign UK property owners are also officially headquartered in Hong Kong, Panama and Ireland.

The analysis provides a new picture of ownership of property by overseas companies in England and Wales following a decision last November to make the database public and free to access.

It found:
Close to half (44%) of all properties owned by overseas companies in England and Wales are located in London

More than one in ten (11,500) properties owned by overseas companies in England and Wales are located in the City of Westminster

More than 6,000 properties owned by foreign companies are in the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

The government of the British Virgin Islands said it was incorrect to label the country as a tax haven.

It said that there were many practical reasons why UK properties might be owned by companies incorporated in the BVI. It argued that BVI companies can bring together multiple investors and owners, which is useful for big commercial property deals that have investors in more than one country.
The BVI also said that it shared “necessary information” including ownership details with relevant authorities. …”