Housing: the real big squeeze

The Shelter campaign that seems to have stuck in people’s minds the most in recent years was the one setting out what the cost of household goods would be if their prices had gone up at the same rate as house prices.

I most recently heard it mentioned by Planning Minister Nick Boles when he launched another new planning policy to encourage development.

We’ve re-run the analysis – a whole chicken would now cost £51.18, and the average weekly Read more

Is cash for communities enough to tackle NIMBYs?

It was with some gusto that Planning Minister Nick Boles launched the latest Government planning policy to incentivise new house building on Newsnight yesterday evening.

Agreeing with Shelter’s research findings that a key barrier in the planning system is often local opposition to new homes being built, Boles proposed that a proportion of money raised from the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) when new developments are approved would go directly to local community groups to spend on infrastructure.

In practice this … Read more

Right to Buy: has its moment passed?

Was the Right to Buy the most politically savvy housing policy in recent decades? It tapped into the public mood – shifting towards aspiration – and allowed a substantial number of low and middle income households to realise that aspiration very quickly by offering substantial discounts when they bought their home.

In just five years, more than a million people bought their council houses, my grandparents among them.

Whether or not you agree with the policy of selling off council … Read more

'Predistribution' and the Living Wage – or, why we have to cut housing costs

It’s Living Wage Week 2012. On Monday, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Greater London Authority announced the 2012 rates for London and outside of London – £8.55 and £7.45 respectively.

All help for low-income families to afford a home is welcome. But reading the coverage of the Living Wage announcements, I was struck by the assumption that all that is needed to make a life free of poverty possible is to raise wage rates.

The fact is, though, that … Read more

Our proposal: a better deal for renters

It’s not news to readers of this blog that we’re concerned about how private renting is working for people with no other options open to them.

Some 8.5 million people now rent from a private landlord – more than live in social housing. People on average incomes who would have been able to buy a home a decade ago will take a lot longer to realise that aspiration.

Over the last year we’ve looked at how renting is working – … Read more

Waiting too long for a stable home

It’s a sad reality that in Britain we get used to putting up with the impact the high cost of housing has on our lives.

We accept having to spend an hour getting to and from work every day as we can’t afford to live any closer to our jobs. We think of the family homes we grew up in with nostalgia rather than aspiration, accepting we are unlikely to live anywhere similar. We pay half our salaries to keep … Read more

Why does housing matter to our well-being?

When David Cameron announced last year there was to be a national measure of well-being the first thing that sprang to my mind was: ‘Surely your home must play an integral part in your overall happiness?’ Not a surprising comment from someone working at a housing charity campaigning for housing to be included in the measure, I hear you say. But the evidence stacks up too.

Last year Shelter commissioned the new economics foundation to carry out an exploratory study … Read more

To buy or not buy?

What with me leading Shelter’s policy work on the future of the private rented sector, it was a surprise to my colleagues when I told them I was buying a flat. ‘That’s it, you’re out of the private rented sector!’ was Toby’s response.

The thing is, I am fed up with renting. I hate the magnolia walls in my flat, the worn laminate floors, the slope in the kitchen that means the cooker is wonky and one side of … Read more

The mortgage headache continues

Today’s arrears and repossessions figures confirm that we’re in our fourth consecutive year of high levels of home repossessions. It’s a worrying sign of how difficult economic conditions are – and of just how precarious so many people’s finances are. Sadly, thousands of people losing their homes is only part of the story. There are more than 150,000 households in serious arrears, i.e. more than three months behind on their mortgage payments.

The overall number of people in serious arrears … 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

Tweaking housing taxation

Tax is always going to be a thorny issue. But start talking about it in relation to people’s home and you’re on doubly shaky ground. We have given much thought to housing taxation, finding much of it to be clunky and regressive, with sharp cliff edges between different levels, and the wealthy few paying disproportionately less tax than squeezed families.

Politicians know the system is broken, but have generally avoided talking about property taxes for fear of the political Read more