Shifting underoccupiers

There is little doubt that we are facing significant problems in the housing market. Most obviously, problems of access and affordability. And there is little doubt that we must be heading towards a housing statement from the Government. Reports from think tanks and lobby groups – each trying to exert some influence over the direction of policy – are appearing with alarming regularity. Last week it was the turn of the little-known Intergenerational Foundation to produce a report called Hoarding of Housing. The report received quite a lot of media coverage. As far as I could tell most of it was negative. That seems to me both fair and unfair. Read more of this post

Boosting housing supply

[Originally posted on Liberal Democrat Voice, 05/10/11]

The Conservatives’ proposal to resuscitate the Right to Buy through increasing discounts appears to be an attempt to bask in some of Mrs Thatcher’s reflected glory. Unlike the 1980s version, though, Mr Cameron and Mr Shapps are emphasizing that each property sold will be matched with a newly built property at “affordable” rent. This is an attempt to head off criticisms that the Right to Buy reduces the supply of “social” housing. So, it would appear, this initiative could lead to a net increase in the housing stock.

Of course, things are never as they first appear. Read more of this post

The rethinking of social housing

If you’re not careful you can lose sight of quite how far housing policy has travelled in a relatively short space of time. Some of the fixed points in the housing policy debate have been destabilised. Grant Shapps talks of radical change and the need to disturb the “lazy consensus” in housing policy. I would agree that there has been a considerable degree of consensus. But I don’t think it was a product of laziness.

Making sense of what is happening, while it is happening, is no easy task. Read more of this post

Housing associations and new policy-induced risks

The Coalition government has well and truly disrupted the trajectory of social housing policy in England. That is partly a product of austerity, but also a product of seeking to implement different ideas on tenure and funding that have been brewing for some while. Current initiatives will no doubt open up new opportunities, but they will be accompanied by new risks. How this will play out is by no means clear. I have discussed the broad scope of the changes previously, starting here. The net impact could well be to the considerable disadvantage of vulnerable households. Read more of this post

The housing policy jigsaw – a picture begins to emerge?

[Originally posted on Liberal Democrat Voice, 30/12/10]

In yesterday’s post I set out key policy developments affecting housing. So what can we discern about the current government’s approach to housing?

For a start there is a continuing emphasis upon choice. This is particularly clear when discussing how to encourage underoccupying social renters to move. The CLG rhetoric is of increasing choice and making choices easier to realise. They neglect to cross-refer to the DWP proposals to cut the housing benefit of any social renter deemed to be seriously underoccupying. The approach isn’t all “carrot”. Read more of this post

The housing policy jigsaw – identifying the pieces

[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). Read more of this post

Why the unseemly haste on housing reform?

Earlier today my good friend Dave over at Nearly Legal, in a post about the Localism bill, put his finger on something that had been troubling me. Something strange and unusual is definitely afoot.

It is only a couple of weeks since the social housing reform consultation paper Local Decisions was launched on an unsuspecting world (I discussed it here). And yet yesterday we have the Localism Bill which embodies most of the key ideas in the consultation paper (CP). But hang on a minute, the consultation doesn’t close until mid-January. Many people haven’t got over the shock of the CP yet, let alone submitted a formal response. So there could be a tidal wave of criticism about to crash over the bows of Communities and Local Government. One would like to think that the government might be open to reviewing the wisdom of its strategy in the light of professional and public opinion. That is, after all, the point of running a consultation.

But clearly we are kidding ourselves. I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore, legislatively speaking. Read more of this post

A fairer future or no future for social housing?

We’ve now had a few days to come to terms with the content of Local Decisions: a fairer future for social housing, the Coalition government’s consultation paper (CP) on social housing reform. The response has varied from the broadly positive to the outright condemnatory. In prefacing his comments on the CP last week Dave over at Nearly Legal was moved to invoke the term “cataclysmic”. He’s a chap with a good grasp of these matters. So I have been reflecting on whether I’d assess the proposals in similarly vivid terms.

Underpinning the need for reform, from the Coalition’s perspective, is a perception that there is unprecedented demand for social housing and those who currently benefit from access to it are not necessarily those who most “need” it. Waiting lists for social housing have increased dramatically over the last decade to close to 2 million and there are many thousands of tenants living in overcrowded accommodation. Yet at the same time there are hundreds of thousands of tenants “under-occupying” social housing properties – living in properties with more bedrooms than they are deemed to “need”. So the Coalition argues that something has to change to realise more fully the potential of this national asset. Read more of this post

Disposing of that pesky homelessness problem

[Originally posted on Liberal Democrat Voice, 11/11/10]

It was entirely predictable. The opening moves in a game that could see another hard-won component of the welfare state undermined have now been played.

It may have been predictable, but it is no less distasteful for all that. Read more of this post

Spinning the death of affordable housing

[Originally posted on Liberal Democrat Voice, 03/11/10]

At the heart of politics lie battles over meaning. In an uncertain world there is plenty of scope to contest the definition of problems and the perceived effectiveness of solutions. Under Labour we came to think of agenda management as “spin”, and to condemn it. But the Blairites were simply the most egregious and effective exponents of the political arts. All politicians face decisions about the message and how one would ideally like it interpreted.

This seems particularly pertinent in relation to current discussions about affordable housing. We’re seeing the government providing some creative readings of what is on offer. Read more of this post