A weekly round-up of the most important headlines for housing professionals
This week began with a rather extraordinary story. A council housing cabinet member in Rochdale became threatened with homelessness after a drop in his income brought about by landing that role. When he sought help from his local housing association, Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH), he claimed that the call handler was patronising and unhelpful, leaving him “on the verge of crying”.
RBH said its homelessness team is “selfless, dedicated and hard-working” and that members operate in line with a contract agreed with the council and its allocation policy.
It was an unusual case – but one that highlights the many housing traumas experienced by people up and down the country every day, as well as the vital importance of the work of professionals right across the sector.
Are those traumas about to get worse, more frequent? Ministers have now confirmed that they will not extend the £20-a-week boost to Universal Credit beyond the end of September, a move which anti-poverty charities have warned could plunge hundreds of thousands into poverty. But it emerged this week that the government has not carried out an impact assessment into the move.
While we are on the subject of traumatic experiences – apologies, a little heavy for a sunny Friday afternoon, perhaps – freak flash floods hit London on Monday night. Housing association Notting Hill Genesis had to move around 60 residents affected into temporary accommodation.
As readers in other parts of the country will well know, this is but the latest in a series of such incidents over the past two years. As climate chaos rages, it feels unlikely there will be any let up.
Also on the same day, a housing association block in Ipswich was evacuated after a fire broke out. Cladding is not thought to have played a role and thankfully no one was hurt, but images from the scene were frightening.
Three people in particular will be especially eager to underscore the importance of housing professionals’ work, as this week the Chartered Institute of Housing unveiled the candidates for its 2021 vice-presidential election. Inside Housing has published a handy guide to the contenders.
Yesterday, we reported on the entry of a major new player to the social housing sector. CK Asset Holdings – a giant Hong Kong-based property investor, which also owns Greene King pubs – has been buying up homes and leasing them to housing associations as supported housing under a model criticised by the Regulator of Social Housing.
It is yet another example of the growing interest in the sector from those with some of the world’s deepest pockets. Savills research released this week found that for-profit social housing providers have the potential to deliver 130,000 new homes over the next five years, spending up to £23bn.
In other news, anti-corruption organisation Transparency International released a fascinating report which found that one in five donations to the Conservative Party in the past decade came from property-related companies, amounting to £57.8m.
It argued that the party has a “worrying dependence” on developers, which could prevent it from solving the housing crisis and providing more affordable housing. The Conservatives insisted that government policy is “in no way” influenced by political donations.
Among other interesting housing stories this week was London mayor Sadiq Khan’s announcement that he will use his affordable homes grant to let councils re-purchase homes sold under the Right to Buy.
There was also the news that The Guinness Partnership has followed a string of other large housing associations out of the Social Housing Pension Scheme.
And finally, there were yet more alarming revelations from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, where an expert warned that the gas contractor which caused compartmentation issues through its work at the block will have been one of many in the sector not to consider fire safety implications.
Nathaniel Barker, deputy news editor
Editor’s picks: five must-read stories
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