Throughout 2013 residents in our Leeds North West constituency have rightly expressed their concern about the impact of possible new housing developments in the area.
Just like the Labour Party, residents recognise the need for new and particularly social housing but would prefer to see this happening on brownfield rather than greenfield sites. However, the Lib Dem/Tory government’s new national planning policy framework for housing requires the Council to look at all options including greenfield ones.
We’ve posted on all this before.
It continues to concern us.
But whilst most attention has been focused on new development, there are other housing issues that should give us all pause for thought.
The housing sector in our divided society is in a desperate state.
Rent or mortgage trouble:
At the turn of the new year Shelter, the housing charity, published its findings:
– That one in eleven Britons fear they will face rent or mortgage trouble in 2014;
– Families are the worst affected, with over 70% of rent or mortgage payers with children currently struggling or falling behind with their payments, compared to 63% of the general population;
– nearly one in five admit they’ve not opened post if they thought it was a bill or late payment reminder.
Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: ‘It’s a worrying sign of the times that so many are starting the New Year worried about how they’ll pay their rent or mortgage in 2014. Unless they get help, some of the families struggling now could face the very real prospect of losing their home this year.’
Further details of Shelter’s research here.
At the time of writing bank interest rates are at an all-time low and have been for a number of years. Many people will be crossing their fingers that when the interest rate rises their mortgage repayments will not go through the roof.
Many of the charities involved in housing predicted that the government’s policy of cutting housing benefit to some of Britain’s poorest households would have serious consequences.
They have been proven right.
During this first week of January, The Times and the Guardian both reported that one of the country’s largest landlords was serving eviction notices on those of their tenants who were in receipt of housing benefit. He announced he would no longer accept such tenants in the future. Fergus Wilson, who owns 1000 properties in Kent, is quoted as saying, “From what I can gather just about all other landlords have done the same. Our situation is that not one of our working tenants is in arrears – all those in arrears are on housing benefit.”
In a very disturbing comment Wilson added, “Single mothers on benefits have been displaced to the bottom of the pile; sympathy for this group is disappearing. There aren’t enough places for people to live.”
General coverage of housing issues such as this here.
The Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) reports that nearly 1 million vulnerable households, many of whom are in receipt of housing benefit, are now living in inadequate accommodation. In total, over 3 million vulnerable households are now living in the private rented sector.
The IPPR report says that privately rented properties are the most expensive and are in the worst condition. Over one third of privately rented homes fail to meet the Decent Homes standard. The report shows that the number of people living in privately rented accommodation and receiving housing benefit has risen by 900,000 in the last 10 years, as the role of local authorities as landlords has halved.
The Independent, which has seen the IPPR’s full report, writes:
“The figures, which are higher than ever, will fuel concerns that the largely unregulated, high-demand private rented sector is allowing landlords to get away with keeping their tenants in slum-like conditions without fear of penalty.”
Statistics on homelessness are notoriously difficult to compile. There are a number of reasons for this:
– the different nations of the UK record homelessness in different ways;
– homelessness is not just a simple matter of ‘sleeping rough’ but includes those who are in a legal sense ‘homeless’. However, local agencies reported 6,437 people slept rough in London alone throughout 2012/13 – a 62 per cent rise in two years
– those in hostels or staying with friends constitute the largest number of homeless people, but may not readily show up in statistics.
The Department for Communities and Local Government data published in 2012 showed that the number of households accepted as homeless by English local authorities steadily declined from 130,000 in 2003/4 to 40,000 2009/10. Since then the number has begun to increase again. According to the departments own data for England alone:
1. During the 2012/2013 financial year, there were 53,540 acceptances – an increase of 6% on the previous year;
2. On 31st March 2013 55,300 households (aka families) were in temporary accommodation – an increase of 10% on the previous year;
3. 8% of the above were in bed and breakfast accommodation (usually without breakfast!) – an increase of 8% on the previous year;
4. During the same year the proportion of households leaving temporary accommodation or other temporary arrangements fell from 12& to 9%.
In reading the above, you should bear in mind that a household usually means a family often of three or four people including children. You should also bear in mind that not all applications are accepted, as very strict criteria apply. Households rejected by those criteria might, however, still be in dire need of assistance.
Further information about homeless in the UK here.
Leeds is not immune from the nationwide housing problem.
Indeed in 2012/13 Labour controlled Leeds City Council spent just over £1m on providing emergency accommodation for the homeless, nearly twice the £540,000 of the previous year.
Leeds has a dire housing shortage with 15,000 on the Council’s waiting list.
Massive cuts imposed by the Lib Dem/Tory government make it very difficult for the Council to meet its statutory responsibilities.
Yet despite the cutbacks the Council has drawn up a three year investment plan to improve its housing stock and provide better services and facilities for those in need. The Council has set aside £56m that will be used, for example, to:
– bring empty properties back into use;
– remodel sheltered housing;
– improve fire safety in multi-storey blocks;
– adapt existing properties for disabled residents;
– improve kitchens and bathroom;
– upgrading inefficient heating boilers;
– improve security at the homes of domestic violence victims.
The latest report by Crisis: The National Charity for Single Homeless People claims that a staggering nine per cent of adults in England have at some time in their lives been homeless.
Crisis’s report states:
“Homelessness has risen for three consecutive years. The research identifies a housing ‘pressure cooker’, particularly in London and the South East. A lack of supply and rising housing costs, cuts to benefits and to services are combining to leave people already struggling to keep their heads above water at increased risk of homelessness. Those already homeless are being left even further away from help.”
This is a disgrace.
So too is chucking tenants out because they are on housing benefit, charging high rents for substandard properties or creating the conditions whereby increasing numbers of people are afraid for their domestic security.
However, this is the world that Cameron and Clegg and their cheerleaders – like Greg Mulholland – are creating for us. They cannot say they did not know the consequences of their policies – the evidence is clear to see!
Today [Wednesday] Labour put down a motion at Westminster
That this House notes that the Government has failed to tackle the acute housing shortage which is central to the cost of living crisis and over the last three years has presided over the lowest level of new homes built since the 1920s, with home ownership falling, rents at record highs and rising faster than wages and a record five million people in the queue for social housing; further notes that net housing supply under this Government has fallen to its lowest level since records began, and that affordable housing supply dropped in the last year by 26 per cent, homes built for social rent dropped to a 20-year low, while there has been a 104 per cent increase in in-work housing benefit claimants since 2009; believes that the Government should take action to tackle the housing shortage; and calls on the Government to boost housing supply by reforming the development industry and introducing measures to tackle landbanking,bringing forward plans to deliver a new generation of New Towns and Garden Cities and giving local authorities a new right to grow to deliver the homes their communities need.
The Coalition of Tories and LibDems combined to vote it down.
Mr Mulholland was in attendance. He voted with his Tory Coalition partners.
Britain Can Do Better Than This
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