They couldn’t have
designed it better if they tried. Welfare reform and a lack of
genuinely affordable housing have combined to create the perfect
vehicle for driving people out of a secure home. No wonder
homelessness is rising
By Mark Cantrell
This article first appeared in the April/May edition of Housing
SOONER or later
something’s got to give; maybe it already is. Society’s
foundations are beginning to buckle under the strain of a housing
crisis compounded by welfare reform. Now the cracks are beginning to
show, if recent reports on rising homelessness are anything to go by.
But neither the housing
crisis, decades in the making, nor the more recent erosion of the
social safety net, result from the acts of some malign deity; both
are the product of human agency. Quite where conspiracy ends and
cock-up takes the upper hand (or is it the other way around?) is
anybody’s guess, but the sum total of policy for the best part of a
decade appears to have combined to create the perfect mechanism for
excluding more and more people from a secure home.
While those on moderate
incomes might ‘just about manage’ and somehow cling on, at least
for now, inevitably it’s those at the lower end of the income
spectrum who are in imminent danger of being priced out of a home –
if they haven’t already.
You’ll never fix the broken market without social housing
much-anticipated repair-plan for Britain’s broken housing market is
missing a critical part of the fix. It begs the question, do
ministers really want to solve the crisis – or just contain it to
By Mark Cantrell
This article first appeared in the February/March 2017 edition of Housing magazine
THEHousing White Paper
was billed as a “bold, radical vision” to fix Britain’s broken
housing market, but we’ve heard it all before. On the day, the
package that finally arrived hardly resonated with originality and it
left many feeling decidedly unconvinced.
The White Paper was
soon labelled “timid” and “vacuous”. Indeed, shadow housing
minister John Healey greeted its publication with an incredulous: “Is
Meanwhile, UK Business
Insider reported analysts at Barclays Bank were so unimpressed by
what they regarded as its lack of substance that they likened it to
“homeopathy”. Ouch, so “watered down” it’s not even snake
The Joseph Rowntree
Foundation has issued society with a challenge for the millennium
with its bold strategy to end poverty by 2030. But the organisation’s
vision will stand or fall on one critical element – a genuine and
joined-up solution to the housing crisis
By Mark Cantrell
First appeared in October/November 2016 Housing magazine
POVERTY: it’s as old
as human civilisation, so for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) to
call time on this most-ancient of ‘institutions’ is quite a bold
During those long
millennia of history, the issue of poverty and the poor has vexed
everyone from priests and prophets to revolutionaries and social
reformers; despite some nibbling around the edges, all they’ve
managed is some moral finger-pointing, or else a defeated shrug –
the poor will always be with us, as the refrain goes.
Not so, says the JRF.
In early September, the organisation launched a five-point
plan to tackle poverty in the UK within the space of a generation
(see below). In two linked publications – ‘UK Poverty: Causes,
Costs & Solutions’ and ‘We Can Solve Poverty In The UK’ –
the organisation has set out what it described as the most
comprehensive strategy of its kind.
All told, the documents
make the case that it is well within our capabilities to consign
poverty to the history books by 2030. Well, more or less. This is the
21st century, after all; an era born of a couple of centuries’
worth of profound social, cultural, technological and economic
advancement (give or take the odd hiccough or catastrophe along the
way), and this has bequeathed to us the material means for a
progressive approach to human affairs. It’s a question of whether
we’re willing to make the effort.
the business of providing homes, just like you
private rented sector has come in for some stick lately, but it’s
currently meeting housing needs other tenures are failing to address.
Changes to taxation, however, are threatening the business model and
undermining its ability to deliver, argue the two main trade bodies
skin is a must for private landlords, you might think, especially
given the private rented sector has taken a lot of flak lately, but
while criticisms can be rebuffed, it’s a little harder to fend off
attacks on one’s livelihood.
last 10-15 years, the sector has grown considerably; it has overtaken
social housing provision as the second largest tenure, and is chasing
on the heels of home ownership. But this shift in fortunes has not
come without a certain degree of vitriol aimed at private landlords.
this vitriol may be well deserved – no tenure is a paragon of
virtue, after all – but there is certainly a sense that private
renting is being used as something of a whipping boy for the faults
of others. Private landlords may not be under siege in quite the same
way, or intensity, as the social sector, but they’ve certainly come
New research has
claimed an indisputable link between the introduction of Universal
Credit and tenants getting behind in their rent. The implications for
landlords and tenants alike are significant, but it can be fixed –
if the Government is prepared to listen
By Mark Cantrell
This article first appeared in the AugustSeptember edition of Housing
IRONICALLY, for a
welfare benefit supposedly built to better support claimants into
work and out of poverty, Universal Credit isn’t quite up to speed
when it comes to dealing with some of the realities of life at the
bottom of the labour market – and this has implications for
Rent arrears is a
problem; not only is it a direct detriment to a landlord’s income
stream, but dealing with the issue is itself a further drain on
resources that could be deployed to other effect. What’s more, it
can indicate hardships taking root in the communities where they
operate for which there may be no immediate and direct solution to
hand – just a further strain on resources.
prompt some to accuse tenants in rent arrears of being feckless –
incompetent and irresponsible – when it comes to managing their
money. For sure, personal mismanagement is a real and present factor
in why some people fall behind with the rent, but it’s not the
entire story. The reasons for arrears can be many and varied, but
recently a further causal factor has been added to the mix, with the
publication of research that claims an indisputable link between rent
arrears and the introduction of Universal Credit.
Can housing save the economy from the Brexit blues?
collapse of David Cameron’s Government opened a Pandora’s Box for
Britain, but a window of opportunity for the social housing sector.
Can the new Prime Minister be persuaded there’s more to securing a
decent home than ownership alone? Well, some voices are willing to
First published in the August/September edition of Housing magazine
couple of months have seen a remarkable uprising against an orthodoxy
fervently embraced by Government, but while the ‘old order’ has
been swept away (kind of), the legacy of that discarded regime
remains a force to be reckoned with.
not talking about the Brexit vote, per se, though it certainly threw
things into some disarray. For politics junkies, the meltdown in the
country’s political leadership may have proved an entertaining
circus, but to sober policymakers urgently looking for a little,
well, leadership, it has been something of a sorry farce.
Conservatives sheathed the knives and regrouped first. Now – after
Theresa May’s root-and-branch Cabinet reshuffle – Government is
back in the business of governing. About time too, it might be said.
There’s likely a lot of trouble ahead.
With social housing in
decline there’s never been a greater need for councils to
strengthen their presence as landlords offering secure, low-cost
housing but Government policy threatens to snuff out their new
By Mark Cantrell
This article first appeared on the June/July edition of Housing magazine
IT'S been a bad year
for council landlords. The Government has come gunning for their
property, while their relationship with organisations long-regarded
as trusted partners turned decidedly Shakespearean over the matter of
extending right-to-buy to housing association tenants.
after all, are the ones expected to cough up the compensation
provided to housing associations for any sell-offs. The National
Housing Federation argued it simply did what had to be done to
safeguard its members’ independence – and it was up to councils
to fight their own battles – but it’s left a sour taste for many
a council chief.
Once shafted, twice
shy, they might say. That housing associations – whether,
individually, they wanted the “voluntary” deal or not – are now
locked into a Faustian Pact with Government, courtesy of the Housing
& Planning Act, does nothing to wash the taste away; nor, indeed,
the fact that housing associations as social landlords are themselves
facing existential turmoil.
landlords and buy-to-let investors are feeling rather aggrieved by
recent Government policies their representatives have called an
attack on the sector, but however hard-pressed they may be it’s not
like they’re social landlords
First published in the AprilMay 2016 edition of Housing magazine
BY now, it
ought to be fairly obvious that the current Government just doesn’t
like social landlords, but in the drive to push home ownership at all
costs it seems ministers have gone off private landlords too.
the private rental sector has found itself the brunt of policy
initiatives some regard as likely to be detrimental to its business –
landlord bodies have been quick to invoke the poor benighted tenants,
who it is said will ultimately lose out as a result of Government
Government has indeed been busy and it hasn’t yet quite marked the
first anniversary of last year’s surprise Conservative majority
win: first, the Chancellor of the Exchequer curtailed mortgage
interest relief for the buy-to-let sector in his 2015 Summer Budget.
Later, he followed through with a 3% increase in Stamp Duty Land Tax
(SDLT) for the purchase of additional homes in his Autumn Statement.
people buying a home to let should not be squeezing out families who
can’t afford a home to buy,” said George Osborne in his speech,
oiling the wheels of populism with a little of the moral opprobrium
normally reserved for social housing.
Reaper picks us off early, we’re all going to grow old, writes Mark Cantrell, so we need
to spare a thought to how we’ll live in those senior years to come.
But no matter how well-informed we are, second-guessing the future is
notoriously difficult; fertile ground, then, for a vivid imagination
This article first appeared in the February/March 2016 edition of Housing magazine
FUTUROLOGY is fraught with difficulties – we’re still waiting for those
flying cars (which is probably just as well) – but even if our
predictions amount to little more than science fiction, that hardly
makes it a frivolous pursuit. Tomorrow, after all, is an undiscovered
country we can’t afford to leave unexplored, especially when it
comes to coping with advancing age.
some things we know. Our society is growing older. There are already
more than 11 million people aged 65 or over in the UK and the number
of senior citizens are only forecast to grow. By 2033, it is
projected there will be 3.5 million extra older households in England
alone – 60 per cent more than exists today.
more, to add a further twist to an already bitter and cruel housing
crisis, there’s a serious shortage of housing suitable for an older
generation, whether that be the kind that provides care and support
to those that need it, more general retirement housing, or just
smaller properties suitable for older people to downsize to (thereby
freeing up larger homes for young families).
also add that, barring some kind of societal catastrophe, the future
of housing – for oldsters and youngsters alike – is going to
feature an array of smart technologies. Quite how that will shape up
is anybody’s guess, for all the hype – technology is notoriously
fast-moving and fickle.