Boom, bust and the West Wing

Toby’s been referencing Dickens in his recent blog post, so here goes with another policy lovers favourite cultural reference; the West Wing. The fictional US leader President Jed Bartlet was renowned for his economic expertise and prudence. But looking back now, he was, like most other people, somewhat optimistic about the state of the economy and about housing in particular. “Home-ownership levels are higher than they’ve ever been!” he would merrily retort at critics of his policies.

Sadly, the state … Read more

Will the NPPF deliver on affordable housing?

Today the Government finally published the detail of its new National Planning Policy Framework. It is a welcome recognition by the government that we need more homes, and building more homes is good for the economy.

During the messy row over the draft version, Shelter called for the framework to bring about the delivery of homes in the right places, of the right type and at the right price to alleviate housing need. So will it deliver genuinely affordable … Read more

A simpler benefits system – unless you're a social tenant

One of the Welfare Reform Act’s intentions, and one Shelter was happy to support, was a pledge to simplify the benefits system. In light of this it is surprising that one particular measure was allowed to survive the bill unscathed, despite being overturned twice by the Lords.

The Act will cut housing benefit for council and housing association tenants if they are judged to be occupying a larger property than they need. The definition of this is incredibly strict … Read more

Into the mainstream: property taxation on the agenda

A key (and much trailed) feature of the Chancellor’s budget today was the introduction of higher stamp duty rates for properties worth more than £2 million. Let’s call it ‘mansion tax lite’. The coalition will also be clamping down on stamp duty avoidance, raising stamp duty even higher for foreign owners of high value homes, and consulting on an annual tax of 15% for certain ‘non-natural persons’ buying mansions. (Non-natural persons is a bit of a funny phrase, … Read more

NewBuy: what’s the alternative?

As the hype around the government’s NewBuy scheme rumbles on, it’s worth pausing for a moment to contemplate why owning a home is such a national obsession, and consequently, why politicians always look to home ownership when they want to deliver a package that plays to the aspirations of Middle England.

To my mind, the real question is: what is the alternative to owning a home? For an increasing number of middle-income families their only option is to rent … Read more

Homelessness rise - shocking or predictable?

Yesterday’s homelessness statistics have confirmed what Shelter’s advisers have reported – more and more people are approaching their council for assistance because they can’t find anywhere affordable to live. Nationwide, the number of households accepted as entitled to assistance increased by 18 per cent last quarter compared to the same time the previous year. London has seen the sharpest increase in homelessness: a 36 per cent rise. But as this handy Guardian map shows it isn’t the only homelessness … Read more

Making sense of welfare reform - what does it mean?

Today the Welfare Reform Bill receives Royal Assent, almost 21 months since its measures were announced in the June 2010 Emergency Budget. Throughout, our top priority has been to ensure that housing benefit retained a link to the rents people actually pay. The power itself was buried in the middle of the bill as an opaque clause that gave the Secretary of State sweeping powers to change the way housing benefit is calculated.

Currently Local Housing Allowance – the housing … Read more

Victorian housing enjoys a renaissance

There’s a lot of neo-Victorianism around housing at the moment. It’s not just the Dickens bicentenary – although that has encouraged just about everyone to lever cheap literary references into the most improbable places.

The latest Survey of English Housing confirms that housing is trending towards the Victorian situation of more private renting and less homeownership. More and more families are now raising children in privately rented homes – something which almost died out in the late twentieth century. … Read more

Reflecting on the Welfare Reform Bill

The Welfare Reform Bill finally broke its parliamentary impasse this week, as peers failed to wrestle additional concessions out of the Government to protect tenants in social housing. Of all bills this parliamentary session, only those to enact fixed term parliaments and radically re-shape constituencies have caused more dispute; proof of both parliament’s love of introspection and the extent of opposition created by the bill.

The bill is one of the Government’s flagship pieces of legislation and the public – … Read more