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Welfare Reform on the Web (February 2008): Social housing - UK

Assessing the success of the sale of social housing in the UK

G.A. Jones

Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, vol. 29, 2007, p. 135-150

UK governments since the 1980s have encouraged individual home ownership and moved away from social housing provision. This article reviews various initiatives aimed at increasing home ownership, including the Right to Buy and a range of shared ownership schemes. These policies have succeeded in increasing the number of owner occupiers, but have also led to a decline in investment in social housing. The sale of social housing has also contributed to the process of residualisation of the sector, which has increasingly been used to house only the poorest families. At the individual level, some former tenants have acquired some capital wealth from buying their homes at a discount, but others have found themselves in debt and with a property which they cannot sell.

Barriers and gaps in current housing provision for drug and alcohol users

M. Duffin

Housing, Care and Support, vol. 10, Nov. 2007, p. 4-8

This article focuses on the housing needs of drug and alcohol users based on feedback from a consultation with service users. It outlines some of the barriers users face in accessing hostel accommodation, permanent social housing, and private tenancies. It points to the effectiveness of floating support schemes in helping addicts sustain tenancies, and to the importance of partnership working between the housing and drug treatment sectors for the provision of integrated support.

Campaign trail

D. Crew

Roof, Jan./Feb 2008, p. 46

The author has been campaigning against retaliatory evictions by private landlords of tenants who have complained about conditions or attempted to enforce their rights to have repairs carried out.

Companies house

T. Moross

Roof, Jan./Feb 2008, p. 47

This article explains the positive role that large corporate landlords have played in providing good quality rented accommodation at the lower end of the market. Most corporate landlords are interested in stable tenants who will stay longer than a year, but are wary of letting to benefits claimants, largely because of administrative problems with the housing benefit system.

Fit for purpose? Options for the future of the private rented sector

E. Jones

Shelter, 2007

The paper argues that there are four key issues facing the private rented sector: accessibility, including the affordability and availability of accommodation for marginalised groups, security of tenure, housing conditions and the landlord-tenant relationship. In order to improve access it calls for Housing Benefit reform and the expansion of rent deposit schemes. In order to improve security of tenure, it proposes the introduction of 'intermediate tenancies' lasting three to five years, along the lines of the Irish Residential Tenancies Act 2004. In order to improve housing conditions, it suggests voluntary adherence by landlords to a single code of practice, but does not say how rogue landlords could be persuaded to sign up to it. Finally it calls for improvements in the landlord-tenant relationship through education and better communication.

(For comment see Roof, Jan./Feb. 2008, p. 38-39)

Joint working: reality or rhetoric in housing the mentally vulnerable?

N. Glover-Thomas

Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, vol.29, 2007, p. 217-231

This article examines the problem of the effective implementation of collaborative working between organisations aimed at ensuring that mentally vulnerable people remain stably housed. Mentally vulnerable people may not be accepted by local authorities as statutorily homeless if they have abandoned a tenancy and are classed as intentionally homeless. Increasing reliance is then placed on charitable or other specialist housing bodies to fill gaps in state provision for this group. Mentally vulnerable people have the best chance of living successfully in the community if they receive housing support that is fully integrated with health and social care. This study of organisations and individuals working in the field shows that current housing provision for the mentally vulnerable relies too much on a system of ad hoc joint working where few protocols to aid communication and collaboration exist. At the policy level, too much emphasis is placed on inter-organisational joint working. This often ignores the need to develop more formalised frameworks for inter-professional communication and joint working.

Let it grow

R. Donnell

Roof, Jan./Feb. 2008, p. 14

Calls for government to put in place incentives for professional corporate landlords committed to providing a good service to tenants to enter the private rented sector. The present expansion of the sector has been fuelled by individuals aiming to make a quick profit out of buy-to-let properties.

Life in the loophole

L. Simpson

Roof, Jan./Feb 2008, p. 23-25

Blocks of privately owned flats can descend into squalor because responsibility for maintenance and improvements is split between leaseholders, freeholders and managing agents. The repair and decoration of individual flats are the responsibility of the leaseholder, while the freeholder and his managing agent are responsible for the common parts (hallways, stairs, lifts and gardens). Leaseholders out to make a quick profit sub-let their flats to private tenants and oppose improvements. On the other hand, some unscrupulous managing agents do not clean or maintain the common parts properly. Freeholders have minimal involvement and often live abroad.

Partnership in securing supported housing for those in drug treatment

K. Davies and C. Kelly

Housing, Care and Support, vol. 10, Nov. 2007, p. 9-14

This article is a study of how Nottinghamshire Drug and Alcohol Action Team, working in partnership with Supporting People commissioners, used Drug Intervention Programme monies to secure supported housing for drug-using offenders who were fast-tracked into treatment by their involvement with the criminal justice system.

Power shift

K. Wilby

Roof, Jan./Feb. 2008, p. 15

The balance of power between landlords and tenants in the private rented sector is now skewed in favour of the landlord. Assured short hold tenancies prevalent in the sector offer only six months security of tenure, retaliatory evictions, where tenants who try to enforce their rights are turned out, are common, and properties are often poorly maintained. The author calls for more private tenants' rights groups to be set up.

Rental revival

S. Wilcox

Roof, Jan./Feb. 2008, p. 33-35

After a century of decline, private rented housing is increasing, fuelled by the growth in buy-to-let mortgages. The supply of private rented accommodation in England has grown from just over 2 million dwellings in 2000 to just over 2.5 million in 2006. Higher levels of mobility have led to over half of all households who moved in 2006 going into the private rented sector. The increase in the availability of properties has slowed the rise in private rents, which have only kept pace with earnings. Private renting has become increasingly attractive compared to the cost of buying.

Research into the financial benefits of the Supporting People Programme

T. Ashton and D. Turl

Department for Communities and Local Government, 2008

Supporting People funds housing support to help vulnerable people live independently in the community. This report, based on 2004/05 figures, shows that 1.55bn invested through the Supporting People programme, plus associated housing, social care and benefit costs of 820m, had saved the state 2.77bn. Most of the savings came from reduced residential care packages, with other savings from reduced crime, health costs and homelessness.

Taking the strain

T. Marshall

Roof, Jan./Feb. 2008, p.28-29

Tenants in buy-to-let properties are increasingly subject to harassment and threats of eviction as small-scale amateur landlords come under pressure from high mortgage rates. Only about half of buy-to-let properties are placed in the hands of professional letting agents. The remainder are managed directly by landlords who lack professionalism and have little knowledge of, or respect for, tenants' rights.

View from the bottom

J. Rugg

Roof, Jan./Feb. 2008, p. 30-32

Reports results of research into the predicament of low-income households renting properties at the bottom end of the private market. Tenancies broke down because of problems with repairs, criminal behaviour, including racial harassment, by landlords, and rent arrears which built up when the tenant fell sick or became unemployed. On the other hand, many tenants had problems with mental health or addictions and ended up renting slum properties as they would not have presented well to a respectable landlord seeking a new tenant.

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