Yesterday I participated in a consultation event organised by Bristol City Council. it was designed to start a debate locally about the revision of social housing allocations policy. My talk, which ranged rather more broadly than simply allocations policy, is a bit too long to include in a blog post, so I have bunged it on to Scribd. It can be accessed below. Continue Reading →
[On 10/01/13 I gave a brief overview of the context facing rented housing as part of an event called Housing Challenges in Exeter organised by Exeter City Council. This is the text to accompany my presentation.]
Our housing system faces significant pressures. Short term pressures generated by the fallout from the financial crisis have been overlaid upon longer term problems. These pressures are felt particularly acutely in the rented sectors. Difficulties accessing home ownership boost the demand for private and social renting. Social housing is only able to rehouse a relatively small proportion of those on the waiting list. Difficulties accessing social housing boost the demand for private renting. But in many areas the demand of private renting is such that there are access difficulties here too.
These are challenging times for those seeking to ensure populations are adequately housed.
The other key component of the context is cuts. Continue Reading →
A storm is heading our way. That’s the only conclusion you can sensibly draw from reading the second annual independent Homelessness Monitor, funded by Crisis and published this month.
Homelessness is a complex phenomenon, with its roots in the interaction of structural, social and individual factors. Broad economic and labour market trends can contribute to homelessness, but the housing market acts as the more direct driver. Social capital and individual resilience can reduce the risks of homelessness, while persistent structural weaknesses can slowly erode those personal protective factors and increase risks.
The English social safety net is conventionally seen as having a rather different structure to those of many other developed industrial countries. Our mainstream social security benefits are rather meagre by international standards, and their real value has been significantly eroded over the last couple of decades. But this is counterbalanced by a stronger housing safety net and stronger statutory homelessness provision for many types of household, although typically not for single people. It is the housing safety net, not the social security system, that breaks the link between low income and poor housing conditions. As a consequence, while the UK doesn’t do terribly well in terms of poverty rates, when looked at comparatively and cross-nationally it does rather better in terms of housing conditions.
This model is being severely challenged by the current Government’s austerity agenda. Continue Reading →
[Originally posted at Liberal Democrat Voice, 12/11/12]
Friday 9th November 2012 could well come to be seen as a landmark date in the history of English housing policy. A key change introduced by the Localism Act 2011 came into effect. The Liberal Democrats are part of the Government presiding over the change. Is it a change we can be proud of?
Local authorities can now discharge their statutory homelessness duty by allocating households a tenancy in the private rented sector rather than in social housing. This has been an option for years. But until now to pursue this route the local authority has had to secure agreement from the household concerned. The Localism Act removes this requirement. Households can be sent to a twelve month private sector tenancy without the local authority needing their agreement. This would constitute discharge of the homelessness duty.
Given the housing benefit cap introduced as part of the welfare reform agenda, local authorities in areas of high housing costs face a challenge. There are few, if any, properties in their local private sector that are affordable to homeless households.
So local authorities have been looking further afield to find properties at rents that will be affordable, given housing benefit restrictions. Homeless households could face relocating by hundreds of miles to secure suitable independent accommodation. London boroughs are reported to be in negotiations with authorities in areas including Birmingham, Nottingham, Manchester and Merthyr Tydfil. Continue Reading →
The publication of Statutory Instruments is not, if I’m absolutely honest, the sort of thing to which I pay much attention. However, this week The Homelessness (Suitability of Accommodation) (England) Order 2012 was published. It comes into effect early next month. And it is going to be of considerable significance.
Following the Localism Act local authorities are now allowed, for the first time, to discharge their homelessness duty into the private rented sector without the applicant’s consent. This change brought the Government under pressure to lay down some conditions regarding the nature of the accommodation that can be used for this purpose. And that’s what the SI does. Continue Reading →
Today is the second anniversary of this blog opening for business. Happy Birthday – Blorthday? No, that sounds awful – to me. Another year of offering a largely indifferent world some more or less coherent thoughts on a range of loosely related topics.
This landmark arrives at a time when the Liberal Democrat blogosphere is going through a period of reflection. This was triggered by Stephen Tall’s comments at the Liberal Democrat Voice Blog Of The Year awards at the Brighton conference. He made the point that things aren’t quite what they used to be, with a reduction in the number of active Liberal Democrat bloggers, and the enticements of alternative social media – primarily Twitter and Facebook – seemingly proving a distraction. Several prominent bloggers – including Jonathan Calder, Richard Morris and Neil Monnery – responded. The assessment that emerged was not, perhaps, quite as downbeat as Stephen’s initial comments might have been taken to suggest.
My view is that, for all their virtues, other social media cannot supersede blogging or, if they do, then something will be lost in the process. Continue Reading →
Last weekend the Observer ran with the story on welfare reform and homelessness. A senior civil servant at CLG had written to the Prime Minister warning that the Government’s proposed welfare reforms could result in – among other negative consequences – 40,000 additional homeless households (as I discussed here). This raised questions about a Government willing to ignore its own evidence and the accuracy or otherwise of Ministerial statements to Parliament. Subsequently Grant Shapps has dismissed the 40,000 figure because it was based upon “out of date” information and didn’t relate to current government policy. He also announced a £20m fund for integrating homelessness prevention services, rolling out a model that has worked in London to the rest of the country.
A leaked memo from Communities & Local Government exposed in today’s Observer has already generated considerable comment. The memo, written by a senior civil servant at the start of the year, sets out perfectly clearly not only that the Government’s welfare reforms ran the risk of making an additional 40,000 households homeless and reduce the number of new homes constructed, but also that – taking these knock-on effects into account – the “reforms” won’t save any money. On the contrary, they are likely to impose an increased burden on the public purse.
A lot of attention has focused upon the former point. It raises important questions about whether David Cameron misled Parliament in statements about the downside risks of the policy. The memo suggests that statements may have been made in Parliament that contradicted the best available evidence and advice to Ministers. The memo also gives some indication of what sort of costs the Prime Minister considers worth paying to drive this policy through. There is a callousness there that many will no doubt find extremely distasteful.
It has been asserted today that Mr Pickles has distanced himself from the memo and is fully behind the Government’s welfare reform agenda. I’d expect nothing less. Or more.
The suspicion of Government hypocrisy is bad enough, but I think it is the second component of the memo is more revealing. Continue Reading →
[Originally posted on Liberal Democrat Voice, 29/12/10]
Yesterday, I suggested that it would be valuable to piece together the housing policy jigsaw in order to reflect on the picture that emerges. Policy in this field speaks directly to our fundamental values -freedom, equality and community – and how they are to be reconciled. My aim today is to identify more fully the key pieces of the current policy jigsaw.
So what can we make of the way policy towards housing is developing?
The key proposals on social housing reform in the Local Decisions consultation paper were heavily trailed. Many are embodied in the Localism Bill. They have been discussed in a number of posts here at Liberal Democrat Voice (for example, here and here) and beyond. The proposals are being pushed towards the statute book with what appears unseemly haste (as I discuss further here). Continue Reading →
If you have a blog then you’ve probably got access to a host of usage statistics for your site, information on links to and from your blog, and the search terms that people used to lead them to your words of wisdom.
I’ve just noticed that someone found their way to this blog today by entering the following search terms:
losing home waiting for social security
That brought me up short. It was truly affecting. A clear sign of the times.
One can only speculate on the combination of circumstances, the concatenation of events, that placed someone in such a precarious position. And on the absence of accessible local help that led someone to search the web for assistance on such a serious matter.
I may well write about housing and housing policy – as I have recently here and here – but I feel distinctly inadequate in being completely unable to offer anything sensible to assist someone with such a pressing and enormously important problem. Continue Reading →
From the archives ...
[Originally posted on Liberal Democrat Voice, 22/02/11, and ranked most read post of the week]
Are the Liberal Democrats a party of untrammelled ideology – sorry,“principles” – or do ethics [...]
I think it’s more than 18 months since I last blogged about politics and Europe. But today I found myself almost agreeing with something Boris writes in his Daily Telegraph [...]
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