Doing something about housing

Modern HousingWhat to do about the housing crisis? It’s a question that, should you have been so inclined, you could have focused on throughout much of yesterday’s proceedings at Liberal Democrat Spring Conference.

A motion on the reform of planning policy was passed, unamended, during the morning’s official business. The motion was particularly critical of the role of the Planning Inspectorate and the Communities Secretary in overriding local democracy and aspirations.

The programme for the conference fringe offered you a near overdose of housing. The lunchtime fringe included a session on social housing jointly organised by CentreForum, The Fabian Society and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. On the – metaphorical – platform were Sir Michael Lyons, Tim Farron, and Kathleen Kelly of JRF. The session was packed.

The early evening fringe offered a session asking where new housing should be built, organised by the Green Liberal Democrats. Mid-evening allowed you to move on to consider private renting, in a session organised by ALDC, before finishing up with a reappearance of Tim Farron among those at a late evening session on Liberal Democrats in Housing – the future of the priced out.

I have to admit I didn’t manage to stay the course. I was feeling a bit too rough and had to have a very early night – not at all appropriate behaviour at conference, I realise, but I couldn’t do much about it.

What points would I draw from the sessions that I attended? [Read more...]

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Policy Unpacked #3 – Welfare reform and social housing

Policy Unpacked logoThe Coalition government has embarked on a wide-ranging and far-reaching programme of change to the UK welfare system. Several components of the agenda  have already been implemented. Some are still to come.  The Coalition is pursuing policies on welfare benefits, rents and social housing development that have potentially significant implications both for household poverty and the future of housing providers. [Read more...]

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Policy Unpacked #2 – Housing shortage and housing supply

Policy Unpacked logoThe issues of housing shortage and increasing housing supply feature prominently in current debates over how to deal with the UK housing crisis. Housing analysts often seek to place these urgent policy problems in the context of the longstanding issue of excess volatility in the UK housing market, and alongside an exploration of how we might make better use of the existing housing stock.

In this podcast I discuss a range of issues around housing supply with Ken Gibb, Professor of Housing Economics at the University of Glasgow and Director of Policy Scotland.  (Running time: 45′ 56″) [Read more...]

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Vince on “social housing”

6162309761_6e59bfde6d_nVince Cable made a substantial speech to the Royal Economic Society at the beginning of this week. The speech is worth reading in full because it represents one of the most thorough, thoughtful and wide-ranging perspectives on the economy that you are likely to hear from a front bench politician. Vince very clearly differentiates his position from that of the Conservatives on a whole host of points. He also, in my view, provides a more balanced assessment of the nature of economic policy under Coalition than you are likely to get from any member of the Quad. Vince does not pretend that the Coalition has adhered resolutely to plan A in the face of temptations to change course. Rather he acknowledges that things have not played out in the way that was anticipated in May 2010. He acknowledges that the recovery, though real, is not balanced and consequently places a welcome emphasis upon the continuing need to rebalance the economy and upon investment.

Vince identifies four major areas of policy action in pursuit of a sustainable, balanced recovery. These are “boosting the disposable income of low and middle earners; stimulating business investment (with the help of public investment); taking action, including through the industrial strategy, to tackle bottlenecks in skills, business finance, exports and UK supply chains; and building lots of new homes”. There is much that could be said about his thoughts under each of these headings, but my eye was inevitably drawn to his comments on housing. [Read more...]

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Bedroom tax … and beyond?

Boarded Up Council HouseWe are now beginning to get some insight into the fallout from the Government’s changes to the housing benefit underoccupation rules: the policy that Grant Shapps would like you to call the “spare room subsidy” but most people call the “bedroom tax”. It is a topic I’ve blogged about previously, including on the challenge of interpreting the evidence regarding what’s going on.

It is worth briefly reviewing the possible consequences of taking a group of people whose household incomes, after assistance from social security, are already at poverty levels and increasing the amount they are expected to pay for their housing from their own pocket. [Read more...]

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Can we, should we, de-residualise social housing?

ISA RC43 RoundtableAt the ISA RC43 Conference in Amsterdam last week I took part in a Roundtable discussion convened by Ken Gibb (Glasgow) on the possibilities of deresidualising social housing. I participated alongside Professors Ed Goetz (Minnesota), Rachel Bratt (Tufts) and Mike Darcy (Western Sydney).

This is what we were there to discuss:

In an age of mass home ownership, but one also characterized by an ageing society, public austerity, sovereign financial crises and other sources of anxiety and uncertainty, it may seem counter-intuitive to assert a case for a broader and stronger non-market housing sector. But on the other hand, these risks and uncertainties need to be insured against and one important way to do this is to provide adequate, secure affordable housing suitably embedded in the wider community, economy and housing system. The demand for and opportunities arising from ‘smart’ social housing may be substantial and enduring. After a brief introduction from the chair followed by three five minute contributions from the international round table, we will debate the future of social housing via a directed discussion from the chair involving the full participation of the audience (and not just the speakers). Key questions include:

• What are the standard scenarios about the future of social housing in your country? How plausible are these scenarios?
• What are the principal political, economic and social drivers shaping the scale, limits and ambition of social housing?
• Is the present crisis a threat and/or an opportunity for social housing?
• Do we see the sector playing a long term role in future mixed housing systems? If so, what will its key characteristics be? What risks must be overcome (and can they be dealt with)?

Below the fold you can find the text to go alongside my presentation. If you are a regular reader of this blog you will recognise some familiar themes, summarised for a primarily non-UK audience. But I (hope I) develop some of the arguments a bit further.

[Read more...]

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What went wrong? The rethinking of council housing

Here’s a curiosity. Today I came across a piece on council housing that I’d originally drafted back in 2006 as a chapter for a book. Unfortunately, the book never came into being, for a variety of reasons. The piece has been sitting, neglected, on a memory stick ever since.

It struck me that it would be a shame not to do something with it. No point leaving it in the cupboard even longer. The argument might be of some interest.

I have lightly edited the text so that it can be read as a freestanding piece of work. There are one or two places where subsequent policy change has altered the trajectory of the sector’s development, but I have resisted the urge to modify the substance of the argument. The piece reflects how I was thinking about the issue all those years ago.

You can read the whole thing below the fold. Just a warning, it’s written as a proper academic piece – with references and everything – not the sort of rather airy broad brush arguments that you normally encounter on this blog. :-) [Read more...]

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Housing ambition and disciplining the poor

Group Of People Lifting Weights In GymLast week The Independent published an article on an initiative by Yarlington Housing Group, down here in the South West. Yarlington have introduced Household Ambition Plans for their tenants. Such plans will not necessarily focus on ambitions related to housing, rather they could include losing weight or giving up smoking. And whether or not a households is offered another tenancy will depend on how well they meet their ambitions.

This development has generated considerable debate in the housing world.

My discussion of the issue roamed wide and long(ish) so I have put it into Scribd rather than just treating it as a blogpost. You can read it below.

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
[Read more...]

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Who is social housing for, and who should it be for?

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. [Read more...]

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Housing strategies in challenging times

[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.]

Building a StrategyOur 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. [Read more...]

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