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Confusion reigns over housing policies

Patrick Mooney, News Editor

While politicians were playing games of poker during the general election campaign, outbidding each other for the amount of new houses they would commit the country to building, they paid precious little attention to just about every other aspect of housing policy. Such diverse topics as homelessness, future rent policies, regulation of the private rented sector, right to buy and many other issues barely featured in the campaign rhetoric. Which is all a bit surprising. When you do even the most basic maths, you realise that while one million new homes could house upto three million people, this figure is dwarfed by the numbers affected by poor housing conditions, benefit cuts and weak regulation across Britain today. Perhaps the people who wrote the manifestos should have looked at the election campaign run by Andy Burnham, when he became the Mayor of Greater Manchester. Instead we have no clear outcome and huge uncertainty over future government direction on housing, austerity and welfare policies.

What now for PRS? Meanwhile, councils and mayors across the UK are implementing new rules and mechanisms for improving housing in the private rented sector, while establishing on-line registers of landlords. They have tired of waiting for Westminster to come up with suitable or appropriate regulations. These are welcome developments for current and would-be renters and the many respectable landlords who want to provide a decent home in return for a reasonable rent. Former housing minister Gavin Barwell was a popular figure but appeared to lose credibility when he announced during campaigning that new social housing would be let at the so-called affordable rents, close to market rents and out of the reach of many on low incomes. Social and private landlords want greater rent setting flexibility, not less! Returning to the politicians and their games of numbers, it was noticeable they gave little thought to how the new homes would be built or who by.

Labour shortages It’s not only land that is in short supply, we face a huge shortage of skilled labour. Tens of thousands of Poles and other Eastern European workers have left these shores since the Brexit vote. Many of them worked in construction. Nearly 12 per cent of the 2.1 million construction workers in the UK come from abroad, mainly from the EU. According to RICS, a hard Brexit could see an exodus of more than 175,000 EU workers. This is on top of the estimated 60,000 already leaving the building trade each year. This is not a good starting place from which to fix a broken housing market. Increasing the supply of factory built homes could make a huge contribution, but we do not have sufficient capacity to fulfill demand. So in many respects it’s surprising that our politicians are not trying harder to make better use of the country’s existing housing and to fill the 200,000 long term empty homes. With Brexit talks in a precarious position, I wonder how easy any of us will find it in the coming months to get hold of a decent plumber, electrician, carpenter or bricklayer – Polish or otherwise.

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Patrick Mooney



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On the cover... The July issue of Housing Management & Maintenance features Dujardin Mews © Mark Hadden

Dujardin Mews is the first directly-delivered social housing scheme by Enfield Council in more than three decades. It provides replacement homes to some of the residents of the nearby Alma Estate, which is due to be demolished as part of the council’s estate renewal programme. Dujardin Mews has won two prestigious awards and Enfield Council was praised for “their willingness to invest in quality.”


Mews Enfield Council’s first directly developed social housing scheme in over 30 years sets a benchmark for future regeneration work. See report inside

Read the report on page 25.

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