Right to Fail?

The government’s announcement that the Voluntary Right to Buy (VRTB) has been kicked into 2018 will be welcomed by most housing associations (although those who had made business plans assuming a certain level of receipts might be less than happy).

Readers of Inside Housing will recall the fierce debate that took place in September and October last year when the National Housing Federation (NHF) made its offer to then communities secretary Greg Clark.

One of the principal motivations for the offer was to avoid a statutory scheme that would lead the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to re-classify associations as public bodies, (in fact the ONS had already made that decision based on existing regulatory control of the sector). Continue reading

Redfern Reviewed

“Wanting to help boost ownership is in Labour’s DNA,” says John Healey in his introduction to the Redfern Review. Commissioned by Mr Healey himself, rather than the Labour Party, the report is a bit of a curate’s egg, with some excellent proposals but a number of key omissions. The report is nominally independent, although Peter Redfern, the chief executive of Taylor Wimpey, is a senior figure in an industry that has, in the view of many, played a major part in the housing crisis. More on this below.

Mr Redfern says English homeownership fell from 71% in 2003 to 63.5%t in 2014/15, and the decline has been steepest among Generation Rent. The report sets out a number of policy options for reversing this decline. It accepts that some government-subsidised homeownership products can be inflationary and calls for a savings culture among young people. Planning reform and a political consensus on long-term housing supply are among the solutions put forward. Continue reading

Is the Housing Act crumbling?

Regular readers will recall the fierce parliamentary battle over the Housing and Planning Act, which came into law this May. In the Lords, peers launched a raft of unsuccessful amendments to try to water down the “reforms” of social housing.

The final Act included pay to stay, requiring higher-paid council tenants to pay a higher rent, a “voluntary” right to buy for housing association tenants, with the discounts paid for by a forced sale of higher value council properties, and the end of lifetime tenancies for council tenants, to be replaced by fixed term tenancies.  Continue reading

Red Kensington?

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is not generally known as a hotbed of radical and progressive thinking. Yet its decision to reject plans to demolish the handsome William Sutton Estate sets an example that other, supposedly more progressive councils, would be well advised to follow.

To recap, the Sutton Estate, owned by Affinity Sutton, provided 462 flats for social rent in 15 blocks on a 1.5 hectare site. They were built in 1913 by William Sutton, a businessman turned philanthropist who had developed Britain’s first parcel delivery business. The blocks are in red brick with stone dressings in the Queen Anne style with mansard roofs and Georgian windows. There are shop units along the base of the blocks on Cale Street and Elystan Street. There are similarities to the Boundary Estate in Shoreditch or the nearby Millbank Estate. The estate represents an enclave of genuinely affordable housing within the multi-million pound neighbourhoods of Chelsea, something that is valued by its wealthy residents as you can see from the 354 objections to the plans.  Continue reading