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Welfare Reform on the Web (March 1999): Social Housing - UK

DON'T PANIC! JUST LEARN THE LESSONS OF THE PAST

R. Best
Roof, July/Aug 1998, p. 10-11

The rise in the number of empty council houses is a cause for concern, particularly when combined with the increase in turnover in the sector. Lessons to be learned include the inadvisability of building extra social housing in unpopular locations, the need to address the unpopularity of council housing, and the importance of concentrating resources on community regeneration.

HOUSING BENEFIT: TIME FOR REFORM

P. A. Kemp
York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 1998

Proposes paying tenants a housing allowance that would not necessarily cover their full rent, leaving them to find 10-20% of a local benchmark rent themselves. Tenants renting below the local benchmark would gain and those renting above it would lose unless they could find cheaper accommodation. Such a move would need matching reforms to council and housing association rents, which at present vary little according to the size, location or condition of the accommodation. This reform could be achieved by basing them on a percentage of the capital value of the dwelling.

HOUSING STRATEGIES FOR YOUTH

K. Folkard
London: Chartered Institute of Housing and Local Government Association, 1998

Argues that recent children's legislation has placed a corporate responsibility on social services towards young people in housing need. This provides a strong statutory foundation for social services and housing organisations to co-operate in joint planning, procedures and protocols, joint assessments and jointly agreed definitions of vulnerability and need. Also considers training issues and the need for acquisition of skills and employment which are essential for the transition to independent living from the point of view both of young people and housing organisations.

IMPROVING COUNCIL HOUSING: FINDING THE MONEY

Graham Moody Associates
London: Chartered Institute of Housing, 1998

Report examines seven options for the refurbishment of local authority housing. They range from allowing councils to borrow against the public sector borrowing requirement to two possible private finance approaches. The cheapest option would be for councils to set up "super voluntary competitive tendering" contracts in which private companies take over control of housing management, stock maintenance and improvement.

LOW COST HOME OWNERSHIP INITIATIVES IN THE UK

G. Bramley and J. Morgan
Housing Studies, vol. 13, no. 4, 1998, p. 567-586

The UK has treated owner occupation favourably in comparison with other tenures in terms of tax and subsidy. It has also encouraged the large scale transfer of public rented dwellings to home ownership, and has developed a variety of low cost home ownership schemes (LCHO) to assist people at the margins into owner occupation. Paper evaluates LCHO initiatives in terms of value for money, sustainability and potential demand. Suggests that LCHO may be seen as a more cost effective method of social housing provision than building new social rented dwellings.

PRICING PUBLIC HOUSING SERVICES: MIRRORING THE MARKET?

B. Walker and A. Marsh
Housing Studies, vol. 13, no. 4, 1998, p. 549-566

Paper concentrates on the issue of how relativities between the rents of different types of public dwelling are set. Local authorities in England have a legal obligation to incorporate a consideration of rent levels in the private sector into the process by which they set rents for their own dwellings. Argues that the private sector may not be efficient in their own terms, that their impact or tenants' choices are likely to be muted and possibly detrimental in terms of the welfare of individual tenants, and that the imposition of such relativities may have uncertain effects on both public expenditure and national economic performance more generally.

THE RISE AND FALL OF GREAT BRITISH CITIES

J. Harvey
Housing and Planning Review, vol.53, no.3, June/July 1998, p. 17-18

Argues that social housing-led regeneration is futile in areas where the underlying economy is weak. Spending large amounts of money on refurbishing council estates does very little in itself to bring prosperity to tenants of such estates. Approaches which combine resident control with access to new jobs and life skills are required.

TIME TO REVIEW THE RIGHT TO BUY

A. Murie
Housing, vol. 34, no. 5, June 1998, p. 40-41

Questions the continuing relevance of the "right to buy" policy which allowed tennants to buy their council house/flat at discount. Argues that discounts now form a major part of the subsidy to home ownership and distort housing choices. It may no longer be logical to sell public assets at below market prices, and the policy may inhibit the development of strategies needed for renewal and redevelopment of council housing.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS: HOUSING COSTS AND THE REFORM OF WELFARE BENEFITS

S. Wilcox
Housing and Planning Review, vol.53, no.3, June/July 1998, p. 6-8

Argues that for households with higher rents, the proposed Working Families Tax Credit will overlap with Housing Benefit much further up the income scale. Where the tax credit and housing benefit schemes overlap, households will face marginal deduction rates from gross earnings of 95% or more frequently 89% as the tax credit scheme will result in many more households coming off any dependency on council tax benefit. Options for resolving the problem include integration of housing benefit and tax credit, rent restraint, or minor improvements to the existing housing benefit scheme.

UNLOCKING THE BRICKS AND MORTAR

P. Nother
Housing, vol. 34, no.5, June 1998, p. 14

Reports that the private finance initiative looks set to play an increasingly important role in social housing, both new build and the regeneration of existing council stock.

THE WAY OUT FOR COUNCILS

G. Moody
Roof, July/Aug 1998, p. 17

Councils have to make a "local contribution to housing benefit" after receipt of housing subsidy now received only by a minority of authorities with high debts. The tax is paid by tenants not on housing benefit towards the rents of those who are, and will save the Treasury about £1.4 billion this year. This money could be used to finance £18 billion of borrowing for much-needed repairs.

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