Housing | The Guardian

Latest news and features from theguardian.com, the world's leading liberal voice

22/09/2017 12:00 AM
All the places I’ll never live: an art space

If you’re a member of generation rent, could a three-bed flat at the Barbican Centre be the answer to your dreams of a future adorned with art?

Three things are certain in life: death, taxes and black mould in the bathroom. The latter is something my ex-flatmate Alex and I argued about. The mould was growing and, despite my concerns that soon it would develop eyes and watch us while we showered, Alex was adamant we should leave it alone.

“The amount of money we give that useless landlord,” he insisted, “I am not spending a penny to fix what he should.”

Related: Generation rent: why I’ll never live in a massive open-plan apartment

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21/09/2017 11:35 PM
How much do you spend on housing compared to your grandparents?

We’d like to hear from young people and their grandparents about their experiences of housing

Millennials are spending three times more of their income on housing than their grandparents, says a study launched by former Conservative minister David Willetts.

18-36 year olds are typically spending over a third of their post-tax income on rent or about 12% on mortgages, compared with 5%-10% of income spent by their grandparents in the 1960s and 1970s.

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21/09/2017 10:00 PM
Mystery in Salt Lake City: where have hundreds of homeless people gone?

Following a police operation, even officers seem puzzled by the whereabouts of hundreds of people who lived around a downtown emergency shelter

The streets around Salt Lake City’s downtown emergency shelter have long been home to hundreds of homeless people. In recent weeks, though, nearly all seem to have vanished following a police operation. Local residents are mystified as to where they’ve gone.

The Salt Lake City police chief, Mike Brown, said he had visited parks and the Jordan river, which threads its way to the Great Salt Lake and has homeless camps dotted along its banks, but he hadn’t seen an influx from downtown. Sgt Brandon Shearer has been up in a police helicopter looking for camps and seemed equally perplexed when asked where the people had gone. “I don’t know,” he said. “That’s a good question.”

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21/09/2017 06:51 PM
Social housing: haunted by Grenfell, hemmed in by cuts, left in limbo

Warm words for social housing providers from communities secretary Sajid Javid can’t make up for a lack of a coherent housing policy

When housing association leaders met in Birmingham this week, the sun shone, but a metaphorical pall of smoke hung over every session. No-one can ignore the the burnt-out shell of Grenfell Tower, 125 miles south.

It is not yet clear how the terrible events of 14 June are going to change this government’s housing policy. Since 2010, all government effort has been aimed at encouraging home ownership. Social housing – properly affordable homes for rent – has been actively discouraged.

Related: Look at Grenfell and recall when social housing was beloved | Deborah Orr

Related: Decent homes for all… Has the social housing dream died?

Related: Social housing crisis can no longer be ignored, says housing chief

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21/09/2017 05:00 PM
Loosen Britain’s green belt. It is stunting our young people | Jonn Elledge

With demand for properties now urgent, protecting so much land is a luxury Britain can no longer afford

Where I grew up, on the Essex fringe of London, there’s a street that was never finished. The numbering of Goodwood Avenue, Hornchurch, begins at around 350 but before it reaches 200 the road just stops. Beyond, there’s nothing but marshy fields stretching out to the Thames, four miles away.

This particular estate was begun in the 1930s when the capital was still expanding. But it was left unfinished after the second world war, when preventing sprawl was the order of the day. The creation of the metropolitan green belt fixed the boundaries of London as wherever the suburbs happened to stop. So Goodwood Avenue stops midway at an unconvincing simulacrum of countryside that’s hemmed in by homes on three sides. There are two tube stations within a mile, yet despite the housing shortage, there’s no building on this land. Not because it’s unsuitable; simply because nobody’s ever built there.

'The simple, depressing truth is that most people who own homes in the suburbs don’t want those suburbs to expand'

Related: Green belt is more likely to be wasteland than a slice of countryside

The good news is that we really don’t need much green belt land to fix this

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21/09/2017 02:00 AM
New figures reveal scale of controversial leasehold homes

DCLG estimates that 1.4m houses and 2.9m flats have been sold with such contracts as government considers ban on new sales by developers

The number of leasehold houses in England is significantly higher than previously estimated, according to new government figures released before an expected ban on future sales by developers.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said there were 1.4m leasehold houses in England in 2015-16, compared with the previous estimate of 1.2m in 2014-15, following a change in methodology to include socially rented properties.

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20/09/2017 06:50 AM
The Tories can’t fix the debt crisis: their doctrine caused it | Owen Jones
Thatcherites said they would set us free. Then they created a society less able to pay its way, more dependent on ever-rising credit

Britain’s current economic system is not scarred by insecurity. It is based on insecurity. The insecurity that defines the lives of millions of people does not represent a flaw in the system. It is the system.

From the late 1970s, the ideological rationale of the Thatcherite experiment was that British citizens had become mollycoddled by the state, by collectivism, by welfarism, by socialism, by trade unions. By making people less secure – or less dependent, as the Thatcherites would have it – they would work harder and aspire more. Put someone on a treadmill, and they have to run.

Related: The UK's debt crisis – in figures

The proliferation of zero-hours contracts, bogus self-employment, temporary and agency contracts define modern work.

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20/09/2017 01:52 AM
London council finds 35 men living in one three-bedroom house

Brent council says it is cracking down on exploitative landlords after shocking case in which every room was filled with mattresses

A raid on a three-bedroom house in north-west London has found 35 men living in rooms full of mattresses.

The discovery was made on Winchester Avenue, Queensbury, at about 6am on Tuesday following complaints from neighbours, Brent council said. The men, all of eastern European origin, had piled bedding in every room except bathrooms, with one mattress even laid out under a canopy in the back garden.

Related: Half of landlords in one London borough fail to declare rental income

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19/09/2017 06:30 PM
Why are housing association flats lying empty when Grenfell survivors need them?

Properties owned by Kensington and Chelsea housing associations are being earmarked for redevelopment rather than providing much-needed homes

In the heart of Chelsea, not far from Kings Road, more than 150 social housing flats stand empty on an estate set up over a century ago by the philanthropist William Sutton to house “the poor of London and other towns”. The four red-brick blocks, part of the Sutton estate, are at the centre of a long-running battle between local residents and England’s largest housing association, Clarion Group. This dispute has intensified in the aftermath of the Grenfell fire in the same borough.

Clarion, which owns the Edwardian estate, believes the flats in four red-brick mansion blocks are no longer fit for purpose. It wants to demolish the entire estate of 462 flats, spread across 15 blocks, and rebuild 343 flats with 237 for social rent and 106 for sale on the private market, some with multimillion-pound price tags. Last November, the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea rejected the application to demolish the Edwardian estate because it did not include enough replacement social housing. But the day before the Grenfell fire, the government’s planning inspectorate received an appeal against the refusal from the housing association, signalling its intention to press ahead with the lucrative development. A public inquiry into the appeal is due to start in May 2018.

Related: The Grenfell residents still living in hotels: ‘This is no normal life’

Related: Why has our national housing regulator been silent on Grenfell? | Kevin Long

Related: Justice for Hillsborough took 28 years. The Grenfell families can't wait that long | Seraphima Kennedy

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19/09/2017 06:13 PM
Supported housing: getting people back onto their own feet | Kim Thomas

Their work is crucial, but supported housing providers are feeling anxious about the future

Residents of London’s Acorn House are all recovering addicts who were previously homeless. The house has 16 individual bedrooms, with a communal kitchen, dining and living areas, but – perhaps more importantly – the residents, who are all men, receive one-to-one counselling to tackle their addiction problems.

Steve Coles, chief of Spitalfields Crypt Trust, which runs Acorn House, says the men are also offered a daytime recovery programme that includes everything from IT skills and cooking classes, to gardening, woodwork, language and physical exercise courses. After six to nine months, residents can progress from Acorn House to one of the trust’s shared houses, which act as a stepping-stone to full independent living.

Related: Plan for changes to supported housing is recklessly short | Zhan McIntyre

Related: Supported housing is a vital lifeline. So why is it being cut? | David Orr

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19/09/2017 11:01 AM
Millennials spend three times more of income on housing than grandparents

David Willetts warns of ‘housing catastrophe’ as he launches study that lays bare intergenerational inequality

Millennials are spending three times more of their income on housing than their grandparents yet are often living in worse accommodation, says a study launched by former Conservative minister David Willetts that warns of a “housing catastrophe”.

The generation currently aged 18-36 are typically spending over a third of their post-tax income on rent or about 12% on mortgages, compared with 5%-10% of income spent by their grandparents in the 1960s and 1970s. Despite spending more, young people today are more likely to live in overcrowded and smaller spaces, and face longer journeys to work – commuting for the equivalent of three days a year more than their parents.

Related: Britain's 21st-century housing catastrophe bears an eerie resemblance to my childhood

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19/09/2017 03:52 AM
Britain's 21st-century housing catastrophe bears an eerie resemblance to my childhood

In the 1920s, Harry Leslie Smith was shunted from one cold, dirty, overcrowded hovel to the next, fleeing by night when his father could no longer pay the rent. Nearly a century on, little has changed for many working-class families

On my many recent trips across Britain, I’ve seen on a few occasions families being put into the street by a bailiff, which is not surprising because in 2015 there were 15,000 such occurrences.

When it comes to housing, we have moved beyond crisis in 21st-century Britain and snuggled up to catastrophe. Low wages, along with curtailed government benefits, have made more than 82,000 tenants two months in arrears on their rent. It’s worse for universal-credit tenants: three in four of them are in serious arrears for their lodgings.

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18/09/2017 07:05 PM
After Grenfell, there is an opportunity to fix the UK's broken housing system | Dawn Foster

Many social housing tenants hope the Grenfell Tower disaster might bring real change and get their voices heard

On the morning of 14 June, the images of Grenfell Tower shocked the world. Swiftly, it seemed, the public became aware of hitherto niche aspects of the housing sector, from council outsourcing and external cladding to tenant management organisations. But will the disaster lead to real change in the way residents are treated?

Jenny Osbourne, chief executive of the Tenant Participation Advisory Service, a membership group that brings together tenants, community workers and landlords to get residents’ voices heard within housing associations, believes progress is being made. “We’re seeing a shift – the voices of tenants are finally being listened to, particularly in matters of safety and regulation,” she says. “I am hopeful that landlords will reassess their relationships with their tenants and the wider community.”

Related: The Grenfell inquiry opens but no one expects justice to be easily won I Dawn Foster

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18/09/2017 06:22 PM
Sajid Javid should let councils tackle rogue landlords | Robin Wales & John Healey

In Newham, the council’s licensing scheme for private landlords has uncovered abuses and exploitation. So why isn’t the government interested?

A mother with a baby charged £350 a month in rent for living in a shed, a family with two children charged £700 a month for a property condemned as dangerous, and a former council house overcrowded and cockroach-infested, with tenants being charged equally grotesque rents.
These are just some of the abuses and outright exploitation that Newham council’s private rented licensing scheme has uncovered. Yet it could be cancelled by the government later this year if communities secretary Sajid Javid decides not to renew the scheme.

The signs are not good. The government has already turned down an application from Redbridge council for a similar licensing scheme and former housing minister Gavin Barwell, now the prime minister’s chief of staff, has declared these common-sense schemes “misjudged and nonsensical”.

Related: Social housing crisis can no longer be ignored, says housing chief

Related: Half of landlords in one London borough fail to declare rental income

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18/09/2017 11:01 AM
Social housing crisis can no longer be ignored, says housing chief

David Orr says Grenfell Tower fire highlighted neglect of sector government must urgently make money available

The government must act urgently to address a lack of new social housing, and the Grenfell Tower fire shows this is a crisis that can no longer be ignored, according to the head of the organisation representing housing associations.

In a speech to the conference of the National Housing Federation, David Orr will say it is “absurd” that the government is spending less on social housing now than in the 1990s while paying increasing sums to private landlords via housing benefit.

Related: Sajid Javid should give councils free reign to tackle rogue landlords | Robin Wales & John Healey

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18/09/2017 05:49 AM
An ornithology of tedious colleagues | Letters
Work colleagues | Mary Wollstonecraft | Social housing | Standardised tests | Religious pop

Apropos recent letters about meetings and their effectiveness (Letters, 18 September), I compiled the following ornithology during a particularly tedious occasion. It suggests various species, frequently observable. They are: the red-necked table-thumper; the incorrigible rambler; the inveterate conclusion-jumper; the dismal doubter; the backward harker; the procedural plodder; the uncontrollable joker; the time-insensitive blatherer. I wonder what further species readers would suggest?
Roy Evans
Harpenden, Hertfordshire

• I was pleased to see Jess Phillips (G2, 13 September) calling for a statue of Mary Wollstonecraft. Local people have been campaigning to have a statue erected at Newington Green where she lived, ran her pioneering school for girls and worshipped at the Unitarian chapel. See www.maryonthegreen.org.
Richard Kirkwood

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17/09/2017 10:53 PM
What's it like to work in property sales in the UK?

If you’re an estate agent, or work in property sales, we’d like you to share your thoughts and experiences of the UK housing market

Properties in London have registered their biggest annual fall in a decade, amidst reports that the UK housing market is running out of steam.

According to Rightmove, asking prices in the capital have dropped by £18,000 in the space of a month with the average asking price of a home in Kensington and Chelsea plummeting by more than £300,000 between August and September.

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17/09/2017 05:00 PM
No place like home – in pictures

No Place Like Home is a photography and audio project by London-based photographer Jonathan Donovan.

Each story explores what it is like to live in London, and asks what constitutes a home in this febrile environment.

Exhibition from 16 - 22 September at Platform Southwark, London SE1 8BS

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16/09/2017 11:05 AM
Revealed: universal credit sends rent arrears soaring

Housing chiefs’ warning on effect of flagship Tory welfare reform

Ministers are coming under intense pressure to put the brakes on the government’s flagship welfare reform programme, following damning new evidence that it is leaving thousands of low-paid workers unable to pay their rent and at risk of homelessness.

Related: The Observer view on the rollout of universal credit | Observer editorial

Related: Universal credit rollout should be delayed as it is 'failing too many people'

Related: Universal credit has caused untold hardship. But the worst is yet to come | Frances Ryan

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16/09/2017 11:05 AM
We had dealt with homelessness. Why has it now returned? | Lynsey Hanley

The failure by the Tories to tackle the severe housing shortage is part of an ideology to target the vulnerable

One night in 1967, Ronnie Hughes, then a 12-year-old boy who lived with his family on a new estate at the edge of Liverpool, was allowed to stay up late to watch Cathy Come Home, Ken Loach’s TV film about homelessness in modern Britain.

Watching it changed Ronnie’s life, as it did many others who were shocked into action. On leaving school, he became a housing officer and has worked to provide good housing for people who need it ever since. Now, through the social enterprise Coming Home, he brings empty homes in Liverpool back into use for secure tenancies at low rents.

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