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Welfare Reform on the Web (April 2007): Social housing - UK

Ends and means: the future roles of social housing in England

J. Hills

London: Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, 2007 (CASE report; 34)

The author argues that there is an acute social housing shortage, resulting in high demand which cannot be met and which makes it more difficult to reform the system. Building more homes is only part of the solution as the availability of new lettings depends heavily on how existing stock is managed. Social housing remains the preserve of the poor, and is mainly inhabited by unemployed people dependent on welfare benefits. Moreover, social housing fails to satisfy its customers, with one in five tenants unhappy, more than in the private rented sector. Finally, tenants are insufficiently mobile, with few moving to get work or to buy in the private market. The report considers, but rejects, the idea of ending security of tenure, but suggests a more varied housing offer to new customers, including the promotion of low-cost home ownership. The central conclusion is that there needs to be a drive for the creation of mixed communities, especially on existing estates.

Know your REITs

S. Randall

Roof, Mar./Apr. 2007, p. 42-43

Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) were introduced in 2006 as a vehicle for encouraging institutions such as pension funds to invest in rented accommodation by offering tax breaks. There is an opportunity for registered social landlords to use residential REITs as a way of accessing institutional funding.

Put up, or get out

D. Crew

Roof, Mar./Apr. 2007, p.46-47

Under the 1988 Housing Act, if a private tenancy is not renewed after the first six months, it lapses into what is known as a "periodic tenancy". According to Section 21 of the Act, in such circumstances the landlord can repossess the property at any time, giving the tenant two months notice. Many unscrupulous landlords are exploiting section 21 of the Act and serving notice on tenants who make complaints to avoid the cost of repairs.

Sale or return

S. Nunn

Public Finance, Mar. 2nd-8th 2007, p. 24-25

With the average price of a house in the UK now eight times the average income, there is a growing demand for low-cost homes available through initiatives such as shared ownership schemes. At the same time, housing associations are anticipating a steep decline in the amount of government grants available to them for lower-cost housing projects. Many are responding to the challenge by effectively becoming social enterprises, using their reserves to build homes for private sale and ploughing the profits back into affordable housing developments.

Vexed appeal

S. Povey

Roof, Mar./Apr. 2007, p. 40

The European Court of Human Rights has found that reviews of negative housing benefit decisions by a panel consisting of councillors and employees of the local authority breaches the complainants' right to a fair hearing by an independent tribunal. This ruling calls into question the legality of reviews of introductory and demoted tenancies which are carried out by the local authority itself.

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