Category Archives: housing

Affordable homes – now with free flooding

As the recent floods have shown, you don’t have to have a house on a floodplain to be flooded, but it helps an awful lot. Because people tend to be averse to losing valued possessions and living in a B&B for months, the Environment Agency advises people not to build on floodplains. However, floodplains are generally cheap to buy, and because they are flat they are cheap to build on, so provide nice cheap housing for the masses (even if those masses will get wet on a regular basis).

Now the government has come out in direct contradiction to the Environment Agency, and said it is fine to build on floodplains, as long as the people who live there are told about the risk. As a result about half of all flagship “affordable” homes are planned to be built on floodplains. When the only houses people can buy are on a floodplain, warning them that they are going to flood and pretending that’s good enough is pure evil. It’s a bit like telling someone that there’s a real risk to health from asbestos, and by the way the only job available is in the asbestos crushing factory.

The government claims to be doing something about this – it will launch an insurance scheme later this year, called FloodRe which will insure older flood risk properties at a low price. But while this scheme is great for those with a riverside mansion, it excludes leasehold flats and homes that are let, as well as all of the new “affordable” homes. Not ideal for the poor then. Mwhahaha.

Like most other measures that aren’t actually flood prevention, the scheme simply amounts to a taxpayer funded subsidy to house builders. In fact a recent report calculated that we are all subsidising builders by two to six percent, simply to have them build homes that will be regularly flooded. Which possibly isn’t what everyone wants.

We should all be more Christian, like Cameron

David Cameron released a Christmas message, in which he encourages us all to think about the great Christian values that make our country strong.

Immigration

The bible claims (Matthew 2:13) that when Jesus was a baby, his family fled to Egypt to avoid the persecution of Herod, who was killing all baby boys. There’s a bit of a lack of detail, but we assume that the Pharaohs didn’t try to demonize them for their own political gain. How does that compare to the UK?

With no apparent sense of irony, Cameron also remarks on how lucky we are to be secure with our families around us, while millions of refugees are spending a harsh winter in makeshift camps across the middle east. That comes in the same week as the news that we have housed just 1000 refugees so far. Compare that to Germany, who are buckling under the weight of nearly a million refugees, and you start to wonder just what happened to our Christian values.

The poor

The bible tells us that Jesus had pretty strong opinions about the poor – basically that we should be nice to the poor. For example, in Mark 10:21 he told a rich man “go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven”.

In contrast, Iain Duncan Smith agrees that the poorest working families will be worse off by £1600 next year thanks to his benefits cuts, and suggests that they all just go out and work an extra 200 hours to make up for it. Not exactly the rich looking after the poor.

The sick

Again the bible tells us that Jesus was generally sympathetic towards the sick. Admittedly 1st century medicine was a little basic, so praying was just about the best that was on offer, but it seems to have been pretty effective, with Jesus curing leprosy, blindness and other sicknesses at a rate otherwise unheard of in pre-antibiotic times.

The UK record on health is not doing so well. Funding is being slashed by £18bn, and junior doctors are being screwed for every penny possible. Waiting lists are up, and health is down.

Anyone unlucky enough to become long term sick is also in trouble, with strong evidence that government cuts in disability benefits causing increasing levels of hardship and suicide.

Tax collectors

Jesus really wasn’t a fan of tax collectors. Luke in particular vilifies them as the worst kind of sinner. The main gripe is when the tax collected is unfair, and then goes to the rich.

One of the most evil Tory taxes is the bedroom tax, where people who are deemed to have too many rooms have their benefits docked. It doesn’t matter if the person is disabled and the room is for a 24 hour carer to sleep in – they get docked anyway. Last week the government admitted that the tax was resulting in people going without food just to make ends meet.

Other tax news recently had George Osborne propose a 93% tax rate for the poorest. The richest by contrast had their tax rate cut to 45% by the Tories.

Happy Christmas

It’s pretty evident that the government has been looking to the bible for inspiration. Jesus spelled out a great list of evil things, and the government seems to be uptaking them all with great gusto. Mwhahaha!

Safe housing? An unnecessary burden on landlords

More and more UK families are living in rented accommodation, and while plenty of that is high quality housing, some unscrupulous landlords are more than happy to have tenants living in slum conditions. According to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, 740,000 households in England live in privately rented homes that present a severe threat to tenants’ health. In total 16% of private rented accommodation was found to be physically unsafe. And people are paying £5.6bn a year to rent these properties, of which £1.3bn comes from taxpayers in the form of housing benefit.

At the moment it is very difficult for tenants to do anything about rogue landlords – a shortage of low cost accommodation makes it difficult to move house, and the legal options are complex and convoluted, not to mention out of reach to most individuals thanks to the new court fees. To help redress this, Labour MP Karen Buck proposed a bill which would require homes to be fit for human habitation. The response? Philip Davies, Tory MP and private landlord said that keeping a house fit for human occupation would be “a huge burden on landlords”.

Mr. Davies also said that “it is very difficult to keep tabs on all the things that are expected of you”. The Tory MP wants landlords to be able to invest their money in houses and simply take the profits from it without the troublesome burden of taking responsibility for providing a safe service. While other businesses should have an obligation to not put people in danger, ones that Tory MPs personally own should be exempt. Mwhahaha.

Affordable housing isn’t

Housing in the UK is more unaffordable than ever. This is due to a number of factors. One of the biggest reasons is that stricter lending rules introduced after that financial crisis mean that a much larger deposit is required than in the past – 17% is the average at the moment – and that affordability tests are reducing the size of mortgage that people can get. Another reason is that right-to-buy and buy-to-let mortgages have reduced the stock of housing at the lower end of the market, driving up prices. At the end of the 80s, 9% of people were in private rented accommodation, and 23% in social accommodation. Fast forward to today, and we find that 19% of people are in private rented accommodation, and 17% in social accommodation. That increase is huge, but even worse, there is a massive generation gap hidden in those figures – over half of 20-39 year olds are in rented accommodation.

Clearly someone is making money out of this. As house prices go up, so do mortgages, and with them bank profits. Older people who already own their houses stand to make a fortune if they downsize. Landlords are making a killing. Basically, traditional Tory voters are winning, while other people are losing. So what is the Government going to do about this? Well, thankfully their response is truly evil. They are forcing housing associations to sell off their stock cheap (to ultimately create more private landlords), and they are dropping the requirement to create low rent social housing, replacing it with unaffordable “starter homes” which will be beyond the reach of people on the average wage – in London you need to earn £76,957 to buy one, and £50,226 in the rest of the country, putting you in the top 4% and 10% of earners respectively. Mwahaha.

Shelter have put together an excellent analysis of the policy, and looked at where people on the new National Living Wage can buy a Starter Home. Good news if you wanted to move to Hull, Barrow-in-Furness or Southport, but if not, look forward to spending the rest of your life paying high rent to a private landlord.

Right to buy, but not to rent

One of the bribes that the Conservatives made before the election was to extend the right-to-buy scheme to people in housing association properties. Right-to-buy is a scheme where people renting social housing for 5 years get the option to buy their house at a pretty significant discount. Nice for anyone who can get it, but it has been shown to often turn council house tenants in to private landlords, increasing the cost to councils as they subsequently pay housing benefit to those private landlords on the very properties that the councils used to own. Opposition parties are not particularly happy about extending the scheme to the 1.2 million housing association properties, but the government has come to an unofficial agreement with housing associations. An unofficial agreement means that the liability doesn’t become part of the national debt (an accounting cheat, since it is now a genuine liability), and also without legislation it doesn’t go for debate in parliament.

So how is this going to be funded? Housing associations are private businesses which currently make a nice profit from renting out their housing, allowing them to pay hundreds of thousands of pounds to their chief executives. They can’t be realistically expected to give all of their housing stock away for significantly less than market price without compensation. If we are bribing voters with cut price houses, the money has to come from somewhere. Well, the government has decided that local councils should pick up the bill. They won’t be getting extra money for that of course – they will do this by being forced to sell off council housing to raise money. That’s right – council housing will be sold off to pay for giving away housing association homes at a cut price. Not only will there be less housing association housing, there will be less council housing. The net effect is more people renting from private landlords at higher rents, costing the taxpayer more in housing benefit. Every person in the country will pay the price. Mwhahaha.

Worst hit will be London. Shelter have calculated that in parts of London, the government policy will force councils to sell off 97% of their housing stock. This is because councils will be told to sell all housing over a certain price, which in London is almost all council houses. At last, councils will stop providing social housing, and we can increase the profits of the private sector. Mwahahaha.