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Welfare Reform on the Web (July 2011): Social housing - UK

'Every tenant matters'? The new governance of social housing in England

C. Victory and P. Malpass

Housing Studies, vol. 26, 2011, p.449-458

This article focuses on the implications of the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 for social housing. The reforms contained in the Act followed a series of reviews of aspects of housing policy between 2004 and 2007. The 2008 Act put in place a new organisational structure for the governance of social housing in England. Responsibility for funding of social housing was separated from the regulatory role, after more than 30 years during which they had been combined within the Housing Corporation. The changes were intended to introduce and promote a new culture. On the one hand they encouraged wider involvement of private, for-profit organisations in the production and management of social housing. On the other hand, the expressed intention was to develop a more consumer oriented approach to the regulation of social housing.

Home is where the heart aches

R. Mair

Learning Disability Today, July 2011, p. 18-19

Tightening eligibility criteria, diminishing local authority budgets, and changes to welfare benefits are making it harder for people with learning disabilities to get a house and live independently. More may be forced to live at home with parents or to move into shared housing. There is now interest among housing associations in putting together clusters of flats for people with learning disabilities as an alternative to residential care.

Homelessness on the rise as recession and cuts bite

P. Butler

The Guardian, June 10th 2011, p. 7

Homelessness is rising dramatically for the first time in years in the UK as the effects of the recession are felt, with recent increases in some areas of more than 50% in the numbers of people declaring themselves in need of housing, government figures find. The government data show that 26,400 people approached a local council for housing help in the first three months of 2011, a rise of 23% compared with the same period last year. Less than half of these applications were successful, triggering warnings of growing numbers of 'hidden' homeless - people forced to squat or sleep on friends' sofas after not qualifying for official help.

The Mortgage Rescue Scheme

National Audit Office

London: TSO, 2011 (House of Commons papers, session 2010/12; HC 1030)

This report considers the design, appraisal, implementation and management of the Mortgage Rescue Scheme (the Scheme) devised by the Department for Communities and Local Government (the Department). The Scheme aims to protect the most vulnerable households from the negative impacts of repossession and homelessness. Under the Scheme, a local authority assesses the household and refers them for independent money advice. Then, if the household is eligible and makes a successful application, a housing association (an independent, not-for-profit body providing housing to those in need) either:

  • makes an equity loan to the household (the 'shared equity' option)
  • purchases the home at near-market rate, with the former owner remaining in the house on an initial three-year shorthold tenancy (the 'mortgage-to-rent' option)

The report concludes that in the way it implemented and managed the Scheme, the Department has not delivered value for money. The Department did not adequately test the assumptions underpinning the Scheme's business case; misjudged the demand for different types of mortgage rescue; and did not take action early enough to improve the value obtained from public investment in the Scheme after realising its initial assumptions were wide of the mark. Recent changes to the Scheme should reduce the up-front cost to the taxpayer, but also risk reversing earlier efforts to secure national coverage. Overall, therefore, the Scheme could, and should, have been significantly better implemented and managed.

Not safe as houses

R. Shrubb

Mental Health Today, June 2011, p. 10-11

In the October 2010 spending review, the coalition government cut the Supporting People grant to local authorities. The previous administration had already removed its ring fence, allowing local authorities to spend the monies as they wished. The result has been inconsistent cuts across the country, leaving vulnerable people at risk of homelessness following the loss of their housing-related support.

Returning troops to jump the housing queue

A. Porter

Daily Telegraph, June 28th 2011, p. 10

Reports that the law will be changed to force local authorities to give troops returning from a war zone the highest possible priority for social housing. The proposal is a key part of the military covenant that will be enshrined in law by the coalition.

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