Housing: Hammond blames … well, it’s not clear

“… Hammond stated: “It is not acceptable to us [government] that so many fewer young Britons are able to own a home now than just 10 or 15 years ago. It is not acceptable to us that there are not enough properties to rent and that rents are sky high, and the answer is that we have to build more homes.” …”

http://www.publicfinance.co.uk/news/2017/11/hammond-pledges-action-housebuilding

Conservatives have been in control of housebuilding since 2010 – seven of those “10-15 years” Hammond talks about.

One of the first acts of the coalition was to put the major housebuilders in charge of re-writing planning policies. Their wishes became law in the National Planning Policy Framework – which people dubbed a “Developers’ Charter’ – and that continues to be the policy.

They also created “Help to Buy” for houses up to £600,000 – effectively handing subsidies to those same developers.

“Theresa May to renew ‘personal mission’ to fix broken housing market”

Summary:

Rhubarb … rhubarb … build more houses … rhubarb … build a Britain long journey … fit for the future … robust action …

Oh, just read it for yourself … if you think it will make any difference … sticking plaster on an amputation …

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/nov/15/theresa-may-conservatives-broken-housing-market-housebuilding-budget

“Beauty spots spoilt by rise in new homes”

“Scenic areas are being blighted by new housing, with the number of homes approved in protected landscapes doubling in five years, a study has found.

The Cotswolds and High Weald areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) are facing the greatest threat. Developers target the areas because new homes within them sell at a 30 per cent premium to homes outside.

The number of homes given planning permission in England’s 34 AONBs has risen by 82 per cent in five years, from 2,396 in 2012-13 to 4,369 in 2016-17, says research commissioned by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE). Applications for 12,741 homes in AONBs are pending.

The CPRE said the threat was not just from new homes on greenfield sites but the conversion of existing farm buildings into what it described as “mega-houses” for the very wealthy, who install high fences, CCTV, warning signs and automatic gates. The report said: “These urbanising elements can reduce public enjoyment and make the countryside much less welcoming.”

The CPRE said developers were “exploiting poorly defined and conflicting national planning policy” in order to build in AONBs.

The government’s planning guidelines state that “great weight should be given to conserving landscape and scenic beauty” in AONBs. This year’s Conservative manifesto vowed to build more homes but also to maintain the AONBs’ “existing strong protections”.

But guidelines state that major development can be permitted in the areas in “exceptional circumstances” and where it would be in the public interest. These terms are not clearly defined, creating loopholes for developers to exploit.

The CPRE said local councils were under pressure to find land for housing “irrespective of any constraints imposed by protected landscape policies”.

The report said there had been “a shift in the emphasis of planning practice from landscape protection to addressing the housing shortage”.

The CPRE urged the government to amend planning policy to include an explicit presumption against proposals for large housing developments in AONBs. It called for targets to be set in the long-promised 25-year environment plan to ensure that development did not damage landscape quality.

The Department for Communities and Local Government declined to respond directly to the CPRE’s recommendations.”

Source: The Times (pay wall)

Inquiry: Housing for older people Communities and Local Government Committee

The Communities and Local Government Committee is holding an inquiry on housing for older people. The Committee has set up this web forum to hear directly from older people about their experiences of moving home in later life. This will help us understand the challenges people face and help us to focus our inquiry on the key issues.

If you, or a family member, have recently moved home, are considering doing so, or have decided not to, we want to hear from you.

The web forum will be open until

Monday 27 November 2017.

If you would like to submit a comment but do not want it to be made public in this forum, please start your post with NOT FOR PUBLICATION.

Specifically, we are interested in your answers to any of following questions that apply to you:

Have you moved home recently or are you considering doing so?

If so, why?

Have you considered moving and then decided against it? What were the reasons for this?

Do you know where to obtain information and advice about moving? Have you ever sought this type of advice?

What are your experiences of obtaining finance to move?

Have you experience of adapting your home to make it more accessible?

How did you go about this and did you seek advice in doing so?

How do you feel your home affects your health and wellbeing?”

Have you experienced an improvement in your health and wellbeing as a result of moving?

…..”

http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/communities-and-local-government-committee/housing-for-older-people-online-forum/

“Overhaul stamp duty and build more bungalows to tackle housing crisis, says Treasury select committee chairman”

Are these people MAD?

Reduce stamp duty – keep developers in business.
Build expensive bungalows – keep developers in business.

BUILD MORE SOCIAL HOUSING – Benefit the “just about managing”

Any chance of this? Beggar all!

Stamp Duty must be overhauled in next week’s Budget to help young people get on property ladder, the chairman of the influential Commons’ Treasury Select Committee has said.

Nicky Morgan, a former Tory Cabinet minister, also called for new measures to encourage developers to build more bungalows for pensioners to move into and free up larger family homes.

New research from the Taxpayers’ Alliance, seen by The Telegraph, also warns that – without reform – the tax will be paid by nine of 10 home owners by the time of the next general election in May 2022.

Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, is under pressure to cut stamp duty to encourage more pensioners in large homes to move out and free them up for younger families.

The news came amid reports that Mr Hammond was looking at easing stamp duty bills for first time buyers.

Speaking to the Resolution Foundation thinktank, Ms Morgan said that she supported reform of stamp to encourage home owners to downsize to smaller properties.

She said: “We have got to go back to building housing stock that people are going to move into in later life – in the Midlands there is a desperate shortage of bungalows and suitable accommodation for older people.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/11/13/overhaul-stamp-duty-budget-build-bungalows-tackling-housing/

Local campaigner’s brilliant analysis of “development” in Devon

Georgina Allen is a local campaigner based in Totnes – suffering similar problems to East Devon. This has been published by the Campaign for Rural England (CPRE). For further information, see the South Devon Watch Facebook page

“The papers at the moment are full of grim warnings about the Green Belt. It is anticipated that seventy percent of new builds will be built within the Green Belt, very few of which are going to be affordable, none of which, I suspect are going to be well built or add anything to the landscape or to the lives of people who live there.

Our countryside is under threat is the general theme, but it is more than under threat, it is under attack. Already thousands of acres have been swallowed up by new mass developments. Little towns are consumed under the weight of great new estates, so often built without thought or reason other than to make money for distant shareholders.

This government has removed, as it loves to do, much of the restraint and red tape around the building industry. A few well placed lobbyists, the understanding that the ‘conservative’ part of the Conservative Party was on its way out and the housing plan was hatched. It’s all been very cleverly done.

The housing crisis was basically used as a smokescreen to hide the fact that the building industry was going to be used to prop up the economy. It’s a short term solution of course, not much of a solution at all really. It’s been used in so many other places and at the end fails, not until a lot of land has been ruined of course, but at least a few people make a lot of money.

We don’t have a shortage of homes, of course. What we have is a shortage of houses that people can actually buy. I was 35 when I bought my first house. The mortgage was three times that of my teacher’s salary. It was a stretch, but I coped and then, of course, house prices soared; my little house became a valuable asset and when I sold it, the price was above the reach of a similar teacher in my area.

This is the problem.

If the government actually wanted to solve the housing crisis, they would put money into social housing, control land value tax and limit the amount of housing that investors from overseas can buy. But of course they don’t. Osborne was caught on tape saying that he had no interest in social housing, – it only bred Labour supporters. At least that was honest. What isn’t honest is the way they’ve gone about building the myth of housing need to cover up the fact that they are lobbing enormous amounts of our money to the building industry.

I went to look at Canary Wharf recently. It’s still an impressive sight, all jostling, shiny towers, cranes everywhere, but a little investigation revealed that many of the new skyscrapers, the residential ones at least, are left empty. Investors come in right at the beginning, when the ink on the architectural drawings is still wet and buy the whole build, neglecting often to rent the new flats out – and why should they? If they are allowed to use our buildings as gold bricks, then it seems reasonable that they should keep the value of their investment high.

It makes sense to ensure that demand continues to outstrip supply and that the number of houses available to the public is limited. Thousands of new-builds are breaking the skyline in East London and yet this huge amount of building is yet to bring prices down. People move out of the centre because they can’t afford to live there and migrate to the outskirts, the outskirts get more expensive, so they move further out, dislodging the inhabitants there, who are moved even further out and so on and so on, the ripples continuing across the country. Our major cities are hollowed out and people live in areas they don’t necessarily want to be in, finding themselves dependent on their cars and transport to get them back to the place where they have a job.

By the time the ripples get to Devon, they’ve changed slightly.

These ripples are the people who have decided they no longer need to commute to the city. They discover they can buy two houses in Devon for the price of their one in the South East and realise that they can fund their retirement/break through a buy-to-let. This has been the pattern of movement around us in South Devon recently.

The new-builds, which were of course spun to seem as if they would solve our local housing issues, have often gone to people moving into the area. These builds come with all sorts of assurances as to improvements in infrastructure – anything over 14 houses is supposed to trigger money for healthcare, transport, leisure, – all sorts of things are promised. Local councillors talk grandly of new parks, new hospitals, but of course that doesn’t feed into the ultimate aim of all this building, which is to make money, so the government has cleverly inserted all sorts of get-out-of-jail free cards, which the developers are only too happy to take on.

Viability studies are the worst of these.

S106 monies are promised before the build at planning stage. The local council pauses, – they know that this new build on the edge of AONB will severely impact local roads, local services, destroy a farmer’s land, restrict access to a town, but they might well run the risk of being sued if they say no and at least afterwards they can point to all the lovely benefits – all that money coming in to improve the swimming pool, health care etc.

Planning permission is granted, work starts, ancient hedges are ripped up, protected trees are undermined, the wildlife disappears. Then a viability study is done. Ah, it appears that we won’t make enough profit if we build more than 10% of these houses as affordable, so here are our new plans. Also, sorry, but we have no money for S106s, as it proved a little more expensive than we realised to flatten this hill, so that money has gone too.

The council, hamstrung by the more than 40% overall cut to its budget and short of legal expertise and planners, has to agree. For example, we’re getting 1,200 houses around our little town of 8,000 and are yet to see the great improvements, any improvements in fact to our town’s infrastructure. There’s a need for housing we keep getting told. There’s a need for actual affordable housing and improvements to roads, we reply and are greeted by silence.

But the worst spin of all is the calculation of need. We need houses and to deny this is selfish and this is said across the political spectrum. So how is local need calculated?

Here in Devon, during devolution at least; local need was worked out by a group called the Local Enterprise Partnership, the LEP. These groups have evolved out of the old rural business development model and are in place across the country. Their primary role is to support business and investment in their region. and they are paid vast sums of money by the government to invest locally. So far, so good.

Just a quick look at their board. Our one at least seems to be made up almost entirely of property developers, arms manufacturers and the CEOs of major construction companies; almost all of the construction companies at work in the South West seem to be represented. Their conflict of interest declarations cover many pages. So these are the people who came up with the figures of housing need. The fact that they could benefit personally from having high figures here, does not seem to have been challenged in any meaningful way.

How did they come by the figures? They do not need to say, they are not an accountable organisation and the calculations behind these figures are not accessible to the general populace. There are three or so councillors on the board [our own Paul Diviani is one and he’s responsible for housing!]; they represent the democratic will of the people, the rest of their work is none of your business. The LEPs are not democratically elected, their meetings are held in secret, their minutes are concealed, their work is surrounded in mystery and yet they spend our money. They are funded with public money.

The audit office has criticised them, our councillors have criticised them, everyone does, but they are the creation of government and can take the criticism. The people on the board benefit directly from much of the building they do with the public purse. Their companies build the roads that lead to the new developments, their companies finance the new developments, their companies profit from the new business parks set up around the new developments. The conflicts of interest are so huge they seem to be forgotten about.

Newton Abbot is a case in point. Despite the fact that the population of Newton Abbot has hardly grown at all in the last five years, it was calculated by the LEP that the town housing stock would need to double in the next ten years.

I asked the head of Teignbridge planning – Why? The answer – Housing need. How was this calculated? Ah well, its a very complex process, which I personally do not fully understand. Ok, can you point me in the direction of someone who can explain? No. And that’s the typical response you get for any of this type of questioning.

The LEP was given a multi-million growth fund payment from the government. It’s widely understood by local councillors here that the 40% cut to council budgets has reappeared as payments to the LEP. Our council’s money has in part gone into financing a group we have no say over. £46 million of the growth fund money is going into the Newton Abbot expansion, despite the rejection of this plan by local residents. The money is going into widening the roads and building further access. Who is building the roads? Galliford Try. The CEO of Galliford Try is on the board of the LEP. Who made the decision to spend this money in Newton Abbot? The LEP. Who gave planning permission for this huge expansion into the green belt around Newton Abbot? The leader of the council led the decision. The leader of the council is on the board of the LEP.

I am not of course, saying that this is corrupt. It is not illegal, – it is happening the way it was intended by central government. These are the sweeteners to keep the building going. The government can say they’ve built new houses, – they point to these spurious housing need figures. The building industry is delighted of course, – they can build cut-price housing in the most desirable areas for the greatest returns. Local councils have been so starved of cash that the promise of new homes bonuses keep them pliable and if they complain, if doesn’t matter, they have no money to mount any type of challenge to development anyway.

The building trade and certain powerful councillors have formed alliances through the LEP, where they all profit through the public purse and can talk happily of growth and building. The only people left out of this equation are the people who actually need houses, local people, who are completely sidelined and ignored. Their wishes and needs are irrelevant.

The biggest loser though, of course, is our countryside, our most valuable resource. In survey after survey, the British people cite the NHS and the countryside as the most precious and valuable assets we have. Our countryside is invaluable really and to see it treated the way it is at the moment, for the profit of shareholders and government is sickening.”

Source: CPRE magazine

“Fewer social homes being built than at any time since Second World War, official figures reveal”

The article says the Government is concentrating on “affordable homes”. Affordability is calculated at offering a discount of 20% on the average price of other houses on a development. So, if the development has an average cost of £300,000 an affordable home (smaller and usually sited at the least attractive part of a development) would be £240,000. There is no such thing as a private “affordable rent”.

Social housing is built and controlled by councils or housing associations and rents are lower than in the private sector.

“Fewer social homes are being built than at any time since the Second World War, new official figures have revealed.

Government data shows just 5,380 new social homes were completed across England last year – down from 6,800 the previous year.

The number has plummeted from 39,560 in 2010/11 – the year the Conservatives came to power. …

… Responding to the latest figures, Labour said immediate action was needed. John Healey MP, the party’s Shadow Secretary of State for Housing, said: “After the Grenfell Tower fire Theresa May admitted the Conservatives haven’t given enough attention to social housing. These shocking figures show she was right.

“The number of new social rented homes being built is now at the lowest level on record, and the number of new low-cost homes to buy is at just half the level it was under Labour. After seven years of failure on housing the Chancellor must use the Budget to tackle the housing crisis.”

Housing and Planning Minister Alok Sharma said: “These latest figures show progress but we know there is more to do. That’s why we have increased the affordable homes budget to more than £9bn and introduced a wider range of measures to boost building more affordable homes, supporting the different needs of a wide range of people.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/fewer-social-homes-second-world-war-local-authorites-councils-housing-tenants-right-to-buy-a8047011.html