Housing – not just a crisis of quantity

We will never reverse the low quality of the housing stock now being built in this country, until we confront the issues that caused it and are continuing to encourage it.

  1. Right to Buy – Since it’s introduction in 1980 by Margaret Thatcher’s government, Right to Buy has removed over 2 million social housing units from the system. Those in the most desirable areas, such as central London and the towns and villages of the Home Counties will never be replaced like for like, because the land is no longer available.  Even were any existing non-residential sites become available, given the open market value of housing in high demand areas, the private sector will always ensure that it outbid the local council. The Homes and Communities Agency, funded by DCLG, would be equally hard pressed to compete given its relatively limited budget for such uses.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/aug/26/right-to-buy-margaret-thatcher-david-cameron-housing-crisis

The impact of this loss of affordable housing has forced ordinary, working class people further and further out to the edges of our large urban areas, in virtually every area of the country.

  1. Buy to Rent – this triggered a major building programme, which in turn encouraged the developers to produce a large number of lower quality off the shelf housing units, to fill the ever increasing deficit created by the RTB policy.

How many landlord properties are there currently in the market?

Landlords – the stats

– The number of landlords in the UK increased by 7% to reach 1.75 million in 2013-2014

  • In 2014, two million private landlords owned and let five million properties in the UK (Paragon)

Tenants – the stats

– In 2014-2015, 19% of households – equivalent to 4.3 million – were renting privately (English Housing Survey)

– The number of private tenants in England reached 3.84 million in 2011-2012 (English Housing Survey)

– Some 59% of 20 to 39 year-olds in England will be privately renting by 2025 (PwC)

– In 2015 there were 5.4 million households in the UK’s PRS, a number which will grow to 7.2 million by 2025 (PwC)

– In 2015 the PRS accounted for 22% of all UK households (ResPublica)

(homelet.co.uk/letting-agents/news/article/how-many-landlords-and-tenants-are-there-in-the-uk)

  1. Help to Buy – combined with the difficulties experienced by first time buyers in obtaining finance from the normal sources, has seem public money, that should have been spent on replacing the depleted social housing stock, sucked out of the system and placed straight into the pockets of the landowners and developers who are already applying a stranglehold on housing supply via their strategic land holdings and failure to follow through on extant planning permissions.

Even worse, the rules for getting money from the scheme have now been made so lax that, according to the government’s own survey, thousands of those who have used it, didn’t actually need to and could have purchased their own home without financial help from the taxpayer.

The government now plans to compound this, by placing a further £10 billion within their reach, while putting only £2 billion into replacing our severely depleted social housing stock.

The current proposed government funding of £2billion for affordable housing and a further £10billion to extend the Help to Buy scheme, is completely upside down and will simply continue the current lack of supply and lack of delivery we are experiencing.

Social Housing waiting lists

In 2016 there were over 1.2m on council house waiting lists.  This figure is actually down on previous numbers, because of what some might suggest is an attempt by central government to use local government as a way of covering up their failings.  By requiring a tightening up of the criteria for eligibility, tens of thousands of those previously entitled to be listed, have simply disappeared.  These families and of course single under 25’s, have been forced into the hands of what can be an over-priced and sub-standard private sector rented housing market, where security of tenure virtually non-existent and standard of accommodation often a lottery.

https://www.theguardian.com/housing-network/2016/may/12/council-waiting-lists-shrinking-more-need-homes

By 2021, a quarter of the British population will be in rented accommodation.  Much of it private and with potentially many of these tenants struggling to meet the ever increasing rent bill.

https://www.theguardian.com/money/2017/jun/12/one-in-four-households-in-britain-will-rent-privately-by-end-of-2021-says-report

Unless government allows councils to begin and then sustain a major council house building programme, the quantity of housing will always be squeezed by a profit driven market.  Not only will this continue the opportunities for exploitation of tenants, it will also ensure that developers are able to build to the lowest standards, safe in the knowledge that, no matter what they build, it will always be a sellers market.

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No Housebuilding Announcement on ‘Housing Day’ shows something being held back for Budget

Hammond means there’s no money from me, when he says there’s no silver bullet.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Guardian – the Avo on Toast Millennials Meme comes from some stupid remarks from an Australian politician.

Held back – probably because May is still dithering about it so Javid had nothing to announce bar a headine grabbing theme.

Jaivi’ds s speech in Bristol came shortly after Theresa May visited a social housing estate in north London, as part of a concerted government push on the issue ahead of next week’s budget.vid had tough words for “baby boomers who have long since paid off their own mortgage” who believed there was no need to build more homes, saying they were “living in a different world”.

Such people argue that “affordability is only a problem for millennials that spend too much on nights out and smashed avocados,” Javid said, adding: “It’s nonsense. They’re not facing up to the reality of modern daily life and have no understanding of the modern market.”

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Osborne made a mess now they’re letting another b****y accountant screw with the planning system – again!

I know that in modern times the Budget has become far more than just the chief account reading out the end of year figures and the countries spending and revenue raising plans for the next year.

However, this practice of having the chief bean-counter make announcements about yet further changes to the planning system, clearly designed to avoid spending any government money at any cost, is really grating.

For starters, this is not a subject area one would associate with Philip Hammond – anymore than I would with Sajid Javid come to that.  Secondly, putting everything into the hands of developers and the private sector, when this is supposedly a top priority for government, seems to be both disingenuous and a betrayal of those in desperate need of affordable market housing.

This desperation to avoid giving local government its rightful role in leading the campaign to get Britain building houses again, is also a betrayal of those who can’t even aspire to step onto the first rung of the home ownership ladder.

Allowing houses and blocks of flats to be increased in height, would seem to offer little opportunity to deliver a meaningful increase in additional housing units.  It will however do exactly that for the bank balances of those who own suitable properties in high demand areas.  Although, it might suit a single, unattached person, is the newly added top floor, plonked on top of an outdated housing block, really the first home a young couple aspires to?

Copied from Sunday Telegraph 11 November 2017

POLITICS
Hammond considers ‘build up, not out’ planning proposal
Budget measure may allow developers to raise height of homes without needing permission
By Edward Malnick, Whitehall Editor
DEVELOPERS and homeowners would be allowed to extend the height of properties without planning permission, under plans being considered for the Budget by the Chancellor.
Philip Hammond is weighing up proposals to relax planning laws to enable houses and blocks of flats to be raised to the height of the tallest building or tree in the same area without the cost or delay of seeking council approval.
The “build up, not out” plan, which is backed by several former ministers, together with David Cameron’s ex-policy chief, is being pushed by MPs as a way to help solve the housing crisis without building on greenfield land.
It mirrors similar proposals originally made by Sajid Javid, the Communities Secretary, and George Osborne, Mr Hammond’s predecessor, for homes in London, and offers a solution to an impasse between the Treasury and No 10 over proposals by the Chancellor to relax rules restricting construction on the green belt. A housing White Paper published by Mr Javid in February proposed to “offer scope to extend buildings upwards in urban areas by making good use of the ‘airspace’ above them”.

The plan now being considered by Mr Hammond would involve extending the “permitted development” scheme under which Parliament grants a general planning permission for ­certain types of work, meaning specific approval is not required from local ­authorities each time.
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Under Mr Cameron, permitted ­development rights were created to make it easier to convert buildings from one use into another and extend existing homes.
The plan to extend those rights to those seeking to build upwards are understood to have been put forward to Mr Hammond last month by John Penrose, a former heritage minister, and have since drawn support from MPs including Nick Boles, the former planning minister, Mark Prisk, a former housing minister, and Sir Oliver Letwin, who was David Cameron’s head of policy.
The proposals would mean that an owner could extend the height of their building to match that of the tallest building in its “block”, in urban areas, or to the height of mature local trees. MPs supporting the plan say that the restrictions would ensure that the policy simply led to higher mansion blocks, terraces and mews housing, rather than skyscrapers and giant tower blocks.
They point out that some of the most expensive and attractive areas of London are full of four or five-storey ­terraces, compared to single, double, or triple storey buildings elsewhere.
Mr Penrose said the move would help regenerate “tired or run-down” town and city centres, and head off the pressure from developers to build on greenfield sites.
“This will unlock huge numbers of new urban housebuilding sites and create mansion blocks, Georgian terraces and mews houses rather than controversial sky-high tower blocks.”
Mr Boles is to outline a similar proposal tomorrow in the latest chapter of his book setting out proposals to ­improve the economy.
“It is very good way of assuring people that we’re doing our damnedest to make use of already developed land,” he said. Sir Oliver said: “There’s quite a lot of evidence now that the steps we took a while back to create permitted development for those trying to switch use from commercial to residential use have proved effective in enlarging the number of homes available and improving high streets which were languishing. This seems to me to be an extension of that same thought.
“There is quite a lot of land in the country that is occupied by very low-rise dwellings where it would make it aesthetically quite ­uncontroversial to raise the height up to the level of ­the adjoining buildings or trees around them.”

Some insight into what could await many of us, unless they find a cure for this most cruel of diseases

As well as showing us that the everyday world is an extremely terrifying place for those suffering from Dementia, this article makes reference to some interesting research on an even wider issue.

Apparently, those of the age of 75 require twice the lighting levels of younger people and four times of that required by those in their twenties. The reason why this is of particular interest to me at the moment, is because I’ve just responded to a resident on a lighting issue.

The gentleman was, along with other issues, was raising the potential for using special lighting in our toilets and in particular our disabled toilets. These lights are designed to make it extremely difficult for those wishing to use intravenous drugs, because the blue lighting makes veins virtually impossible to see under the skin of the addict.

Unfortunately, these anti-drug lights produce a cold and stark atmosphere and wash all colour from the surroundings. It’s hardly surprising then, that when the Environmental Services team installed these anti-drug lights in our disabled toilets, a number of users complained.

I don’t know if all, or indeed any of those who raised concerns were over 75, but I suspect that at least some were. Even if they weren’t, I think most of us law abiding citizens would find a public toilet, bathed in a cold, harsh blue light, a very unwelcoming place to visit, let alone spend time doing something very personal in.

Fields of homes for people, or fields of grass for those that already have homes?

COMMENT
October 30 2017, 12:01am, The Times
Either build on fields or cut immigration
Matt Ridley
It is absurd for people to insist that swathes of green land remain untouched when our population continues to rise

The Office for National Statistics says it expects Britain’s population to grow slightly more slowly than it thought three years ago, partly because of lower immigration after Brexit and partly because of slowing increases in life expectancy. But it still forecasts the figure to pass 70 million in a little more than ten years from now. That is not necessarily a bad thing, unless we remain as reluctant to build new houses, roads, schools and hospitals as we currently are. Britain can thrive as a dense city-state, a big Singapore, but not if it hates development. Openness to immigration and antipathy to building cannot both persist.
The ONS may be wrong, of course. In 1965 it expected that there would be 76 million Britons by 2000. Then the birth rate collapsed and immigration slowed, so by 1994 the statisticians were expecting a population of just over 60 million and falling by 2020. Ten years later they were back to projecting an acceleration upwards and by 2014 they predicted 74 million by 2039 and rising. The forecasts of demographers are little better than those of soothsayers gazing at the entrails of chickens.
Still, we are adding about half a million people a year, most of which is from net immigration and the higher birth rate of immigrants. Of the 1,447 people that Britain added every day in the 12 months to the end of June last year, roughly 529 were births minus deaths, 518 were net arrivals from the European Union, and 537 net arrivals from elsewhere, minus 137 departing British citizens. Given such a flow, our unemployment rate of 4.3 per cent and employment rate of 75.1 per cent are remarkable, if not miraculous. We are one of the world’s great workplaces, which, of course, is why people come.
A recent paper from the think tank Civitas, Britain’s Demographic Challenge: The implications of the UK’s rapidly increasing population, by Lord (Robin) Hodgson makes the point that we are not facing up to the implications of the rate of population expansion. He takes the previous ONS projections for four similar-sized towns — Dundee, Norwich, Stockton-on-Tees and Guildford — and calculates how much land must be built on to accommodate the expected increase in population to 2039. Taking into account not just housing, but roads, shops, offices, schools and such, he arrives at the conclusion that Guildford and Norwich will need to build on at least 65 acres every year, Stockton 55 and Dundee 40. That’s several fields a year.
Britain is already more densely populated than France, Italy and Germany but only in the southeast and the northwest of England do we begin to approach the population density of the Netherlands. Yet Schiphol airport has six runways, to Heathrow’s two, Dutch roads are far less congested, and the price of a flat outside a city centre is almost 30 per cent lower than in Britain. What are we doing wrong?

Though a densely populated country, Britain is not in any sense running out of land. Only about 7 per cent of the land area is classified as urban, rising to almost 11 per cent in England. But of that 11 per cent a great deal is still not concrete: gardens, parks, water and so forth. So the actual paved-over percentage, even just in England, is about 2.27 per cent according to the National Ecosystem Assessment in 2012, and more like 1 per cent for Britain as a whole. This is why a flight over southern England, let alone the Pennines, gives a very different impression from a car journey through the ribbon development along the roads: there is vastly more farmland and woodland (13 per cent of Britain and rising) than concrete.
Yet every time somebody wants to build a bypass, or housing development, let alone a runway, there is fury from NIMBYs and their lobby groups. Green belts, national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and other designations, together with planning delays and inquiries, constrain and increase the price of every attempt to provide the annual half a million extra Britons with houses, roads and schools.
What is more, I am guessing that the very people who rail against building development are more often than not the people who are most enthusiastic about immigration. The educated and wealthy tend to dominate nimbyism and also to dominate the argument for more immigration, whether out of admirable compassion for refugees or for good economic reasons. Whereas the people who most object to immigration, the urban working class, on the whole tend not to join the protest groups that oppose development. I am not taking sides here, just pointing out an irony.
There is no escape route in saying you are in favour of development but only on derelict or unused urban land. It is fanciful to think that the demands of the rising population can be met from “brownfield” sites alone. Fields and woods will have to go too. A recent paper by John Myers (founder of the group London Yes In My Back Yard) for the Adam Smith Institute, called Yimby: how to end the housing crisis, boost the economy and win more votes, recommends sensible reforms to get people behind sensitive development, mainly by giving streets and parishes control over their destinies. He estimates that a building boom to deliver more housing could raise GDP per capita by a gigantic 25-30 per cent.
Environmentalists were once more honest about this. It is often forgotten just how right-wing the roots of the environmental movement are, especially on population and immigration. Take the book that more than any other defined the birth of the environmental movement as a political force in Britain. It was called A Blueprint for Survival and it began life as a special issue of The Ecologist magazine in 1972. Signed by the great and the good of the green movement and written by Edward Goldsmith, it sold 750,000 copies. It called on the world’s governments to “declare their commitment to ending population growth; this commitment should also include an end to immigration”.
This is misanthropic, and unrealistic, but at least they had the courage of their convictions. They wanted to save the world, or the country, from (other) people, so they wanted fewer people. Those of us, and at least partly I include myself here, who like the preservation of all green spaces but also like welcoming immigrants should surely recognise that we are being hypocritical. We cannot have both.
@mattwridley

Is Europe destined to repeat past mistakes because of EU’s hunger for power?

 


Copied from editorial comments Sunday Telegraph 29 October 2017

Not so much, ‘We told you so’, but rather a suggestion that, by seeking to impose heavy handed control from the centre, on any group of people with their own clear and separate identities, it will inevitability lead to some form of rebellion.

How such a rebellion, whatever it’s form, is responded to, is not only key to regaining the loyalty of the rebels, if that’s a possibility, it’s also key to the longterm credibility of those seeking to impose their will, in the eyes of those watching from the sidelines.

Spanish crisis shows 
UK is on right path
Ever since the EU referendum, opponents of Brexit have called it reckless, even suicidal. But the events in Catalonia prove how rational Brexit actually is. We are leaving behind a chaotic EU that is blind to its problems and incapable of fixing them, and while Brexit is undoubtedly a monumental decision that has to be handled extremely carefully, the crises on the continent are far greater by comparison.
The Remainer narrative is that everything on the other side of the Channel is okay. The economic picture has improved in the short-term thanks to the European Central Bank’s easy money policy. But structurally the continent remains in crisis and its politics veers to extremes. The Czech Republic has elected an anti-corruption businessman who is under investigation for financial irregularities. Hungary and Poland are in revolt. Two Italian regions have voted for enlarged autonomy. Austria may well be governed by a coalition that includes nationalists. And Germany’s far-Right won 94 seats in the Bundestag.
Spain is at the epicentre of Europe’s crisis of identity. Catalonia’s declaration of independence caps a violent history of regional nationalism that British politicians of Left and Right have tried and failed to explain in terms relevant to our own country. In fact, the stark contrast between how the UK is handling the Scottish nationalists and how Madrid has mishandled the Catalonians illustrates the wide gulf between Britain’s tradition of small government versus the authoritarianism found across much of the continent. London prefers diplomacy and democracy. Madrid’s force backfired horribly, and if it thinks that will resolve this disaster then it is likely to be mistaken.
The EU looks on, impotent – knowing that Catalonia won’t be the last region to make this leap into the unknown. The nationalist genie is out of the bottle and no amount of coercion, condescension or feigned ignorance will make it go away. Brexit is not Europe’s biggest problem. Under the present circumstances, given that all we are asking for is to depart on good terms and trade to mutual benefit, the EU would be wise to keep Britain onside and conclude a deal as swiftly as possible.

Inside story on Falklands landings and it’s tragic losses

Copied from Daily Telegraph letters page 28 October 2017

Falklands landings
SIR – As the two commanders responsible for planning and carrying out the amphibious landings on the Falklands in 1982, the only point on which we agree with Dr Mark Campbell-Roddis (Letters, October 27) concerns retaining HMS Ocean.
He suggests that the right way to land troops in 1982 would have been by helicopter inland and on a smaller scale under air cover. We considered this approach, but rejected it on the grounds that we did not have air superiority, or enough helicopters to land enough troops and their supporting artillery in sufficient strength, in the time required, to fight off counter-attacks by the Argentine army. The only way to achieve a quick enough build-up was by landing craft.
The landings were opposed on the ground by very few enemy troops. The main opposition came from the Argentine air force. Had we attempted major helicopter moves in daylight, the Argentine fighters would have had a turkey shoot among our helicopters. Our landing was in a relatively narrow creek with very little loss on the first day, despite our escorts being armed for the open ocean and not for action close inshore.
The tragedy of the Welsh Guards at Fitzroy (not Bluff Cove) was caused by the chaotic deployment to the South Atlantic of 5th Infantry Brigade, with insufficient logistic support or staff. Their move could only be supported by sea. The Argentine air force was fortunate in that the low cloud lifted in the west just in time. The landing was not opposed by ground troops. The sinking of the container ship Atlantic Conveyor with three Chinooks and eight Wessex helicopters did not help.
The major factor that “armchair warriors” usually forget is logistics. You cannot hope to defeat an army equipped with artillery by landing a few troops with sandwiches in their pockets and what ammunition they can carry, unsupported by artillery. It takes 50 medium helicopter sorties to move a battery of six light guns and sufficient ammunition for one battle.
Michael Clapp
Commander, Amphibious Task Group, Falklands 1982
Julian Thompson
Commander, 3 Commando Brigade, Falklands 1982