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Welfare Reform on the Web (September 2003): Social Housing - UK

THE DRAFT HOUSING BILL

Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Committee

London: TSO, 2003 (House of Commons papers, session 2002/03; HC751)

Committee welcomes the introduction of licensing of houses in multiple occupation, selective licensing of private landlords, and reform of the Right to Buy. Argues that the government should have gone further and introduced mandatory licensing for all houses in multiple occupation. All councils should have been given the discretionary power to license private landlords and the opportunity should have been taken to introduce a tenancy deposit scheme.

HOUSING, EQUALITY AND CHOICE

C. Holmes

London: Institute for Public Policy Research, 2003

Argues that housing has become the most extreme form of social inequality in Britain, and calls for radical reform to reduce this. The growth in inequality has been caused by a succession of different policies:

  • the replacement of older homes by high density flats;
  • the imbalance of suburban growth, dominated by housing for sale;
  • the resistance to building low cost housing, which has trapped poor people in inner city flats;
  • the regressive tax relief enjoyed by home owners;
  • the loss of good quality social rented homes through the "right to buy" scheme;
  • inadequate public investment in social rented housing.

In order to reduce these inequalities the author proposes:

  • higher rates of council tax on expensive properties;
  • abolition of council tax relief on second homes;
  • increasing stamp duty to quell house price inflation;
  • lowering the inheritance tax threshold;
  • giving council tenants more choice over where they live, partly by allowing local authorities to buy properties outside of their borders;
  • building 250,000 more affordable homes a year in Southern England.

(For comment see Times, Aug.28th 2003, p.22)

IMPROVING SOCIAL HOUSING THROUGH TRANSFER

Committee of Public Accounts

London: TSO, 2003 (House of Commons papers, session 2002/03; HC590)

Since 1988 around three quarters of a million homes have been transferred from local authorities to housing associations with the aim of improving their physical condition and offering better services to tenants. Report considers the cost and financial effects of transfers, the valuation of transferred properties and how far transfers have been in the interests of tenants. Concludes that:

  • the use of a standard model to calculate the transfer value of properties may have led to their under-valuation;
  • renovation through a housing association costs £1300 per property more than renovation by the local council;
  • transfers have led to home improvements, but nor necessarily to greater tenant choice;
  • local authorities should consider other options such as the use of PFI or arm's length management organisations (ALMOs).
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