A warning from history

The news that Manchester–based Trafford Housing Trust has taken on £275m of re-financing, partly in order to fund a new partnership with London and Quadrant housing trust (L&Q), is an interesting development for the social housing sector.

L&Q operates in London and the south-east and has no track record of activity elsewhere. Yet under this 50/50 deal, it will invest £80m to build 2,000 homes across the north.

This trans-regional partnership reflects a growing entrepreneurial commercial spirit among housing associations but comes with dangers attached. Continue reading

AirBnb and housing supply

‘Disruption’ is a favoured buzzword for some folk in housing. They laud companies like Amazon and Uber and yearn for the emergence of a new player to disrupt the housing industry. Of course, disruption can be bad or good, or both. Amazon provides a cheap and efficient service but it has put many small bookshops and other retailers out of business and has been accused of providing poor working conditions for staff.

Airbnb is the latest company to disrupt the world of property. So far, it has mostly impacted upon the hotel and holiday-let sectors, but it is starting to have an effect upon the wider letting market. Continue reading

Housing, immigration & Brexit

Four years ago I was brave (or foolish) enough to write a blog for Inside Housing on immigration. It was the most read and commented-on blog I’ve ever published, with more than 10,000 views and 504 comments, many hostile.

Read any story on housing in the national or regional press and I can guarantee that the readers’ comments section will be dominated by views on immigration. Simply put, these people believe “no immigrants, no housing problem”. Housing and immigration are joined at the hip in the minds of millions of voters, although few in our sector seem willing to accept this or to engage in debate with those who make the anti-immigrant, anti-housing case. Continue reading

Social housing ping-pong

“It’s déjà vu all over again”. Yogi Berra’s famous words came to me when I heard that the government planned to split the quango that funds and oversees social housing providers into separate investment and regulatory arms.

Investment and regulation have very different objectives, so it is important that those functions should be independent of one other, but this will be the third reorganisation in eight years – a period of political meddling that will have wasted millions of pounds.

For 44 years, between 1964 and 2008, housing associations were funded and regulated by the Housing Corporation, whose role became increasingly important during the 1980s, when council house-building was supposedly replaced by housing association development.

Continue reading