Thursday, 24 April 2014

Reforms to halt construction of larger homes

A provider has warned that a raft of reforms to social housing could stop housing associations building four-bedroom homes.

Brian Johnson, chief executive of Moat Homes, told delegates at the Liberal Democrat conference that his association’s forward development programme contains no four-bedroom homes.

Mr Johnson said a combination of the high rents available to housing associations under the affordable rent regime and housing benefit caps have led ‘many, many’ social landlords to strip out larger properties from their plans. ‘They don’t work under affordable rent,’ he said.

Speaking at a fringe session at the conference, Are we still in it together?, Mr Johnson called for better relations between the Communities and Local Government department and the Department for Work and Pensions.

He warned that proposals by the DWP to pay the housing element of the new universal credit to tenants rather than landlords would cut housing association build programmes by 20 per cent.

‘A pilot that was done with direct payment of benefits suggested the amount of debt that residents were in would double,’ he said. ‘If that happens that will knock through to our forward build programme and reduce it by at least 20 per cent.

‘I would ask the government is this philosophical principle really worth a 20 per cent reduction in social housing new build capacity?’

He also suggested wider reforms to housing benefit are unworkable.

‘From April 2013, working families will be paid housing benefit on the basis of the size of home they are entitled to not the house they occupy,’ he said.

‘What that means for us is that 10 per cent of residents would need to move home in the next 18 months and because the [welfare reform] bill is proceeding slowly through all the various stages I can’t even talk to my residents about it because I suspect it might change. So in reality they will probably have 12 months to move.

‘Let’s suppose I could wave a magic wand and suddenly shift that 10 per cent to the most appropriate sized homes.

‘I’d be so short of one bed properties that I would have to develop just one bed properties for the next two years just to make up that gap. I suspect this could have extremely serious political consequences.’

Readers' comments (15)

  • F451

    How insidious that the very group to be most effected by the cap to benefit payments will be forced into the clutches of the private sector if they are to access the larger homes that they need. Social housing providers must be enabled to provide larger homes if we are to free these families from benefit dependency, without starving them onto the streets.

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  • Rick Campbell

    F451 --- that is the Coalition Government of the T parties (T as in Tory and T as in Turncoat) idea of 'fair'.

    Their policies are not worth the paper they are written on.

    As an aside what is the supposed spontaneous burning point of paper?

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  • Rick Campbell

    "I just want someone to hear what I have to say. And maybe if I talk long enough, it'll make sense." Ray Bradbury.

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  • Jack Daniels

    Rick, F451 - let me help you guys read between the lines on this one:

    Why would the Govt want to give money aimed at service providers to the service users instead? Answer - to artificially stimulate the economy. That's right. More money for users to spend on businesses and more money for businesses to chase leading to more money being earned by lenders through interest charges and late payments etc.

    As for the impact on the size of affordable homes in the future, well the Govt doesn't really care about that because the last thing they want is for people who need affordable homes to breed like rabbits producing feral offspring which the Govt has to spend extra money on by way of more policing and legal activities to contain them. They would much rather leave the larger households to people who can afford them because then these people will also be able to afford a good future for their offspring too and not leave them out to dry for 'Big Society' to deal with.

    I have more on this subject matter, but I will only upset the applecart and the last thing I want is the cart to be late arriving at the cider factory...

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  • F451

    As ever Rick is so quick he's on fire - but I wonder who else knows the answer to such a burning question.

    Now it appears that the house of cards is living up to it's name - so now its time to show that card is simply thick paper!

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  • Rick Campbell

    The only thick thing around here today is me.

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  • Rick Campbell

    But, C233, no doubt there are thicker than me elsewhere on IH -- and, where's that nice Mr Shapps?

    No doubt, we'll have more than our fair share of him when it's his mob's turn to hog (pun intended) the column inches?

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  • Have smaller families - particularly immigrant families - the earth is overpopulated and the U.K is overpopulated/has a housing shortage.

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  • Rick Campbell - you will be heard on quality - not quantity.

    Jack Daniels started talking sense but without concluding his thoughts. And why should government not try to manage user behaviours to fit in with what it can afford - gone are the bad old days when government (I am not naming names) threw money at problems and doubled them.

    Demand for free/subsidised housing is infinite if there were no cut off points or disincentives for people to start being responsible.

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  • F451

    Venk - please let the rest of us know where the free housing is.

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