We're setting off around the country for the next few weeks as the party conference season begins. As part of our campaign to make housing the number one issue at next year's election, we're holding events at each of the three conferences, starting with Labour, whose members descend on Manchester this weekend.
Emma Reynolds, the shadow housing minister, is speaking at a fringe event we are hosting with Shout (Social Housing Under Threat) which asks what her party has to offer the country's 20 million renters.
The event - which will also hear from Alison Inman of Shout, John Healey MP, Sarah Hayward of Camden Council and Owen Jones - is open to anyone with a conference pass and starts at 6.30pm on Sunday. We've written a bit more on this in a guest blog for the Young Fabians.
There has been a flurry of bad news for renters over the past few days.
- According to Homelet, rents have risen by 8.2% in the past year.
- One in five Londoners has no disposable income at the end of the month, according to the Centre for London, which has coined the term "Endies" in their report, "Hollow Promise".
- Shelter has found that the Bank of Mum and Dad is shelling out £23,000 on average to help their kids into a home of their own.
- The National Housing Federation has found that a first time buyer today has to raise a deposit 10 times bigger than their parents would have - after taking inflation into account.
- And this morning, it's the turn of the Office for National Statistics to tell us that house prices have jumped 13.5% for first time buyers in the past year. That's another £5000 to find this past year alone - and the picture is even worse in London.
Politicians are waking up to the fact that the 9 million private renters being shut out of home ownership and social housing need a stable, decent and affordable home. Only last week the government announced its support for a Bill to end revenge evictions.
But we need to keep the pressure on - both to reform private renting and build more genuinely affordable homes. To do that we need your voice - so please sign up to the campaign.
London Assembly members voted this afternoon to back Generation Rent's Manifesto. This is a fantastic endorsement of the work we are doing from politicians in the heart of the country's housing crisis.
Two million people - a quarter of the London population - rents from a private landlord, and the unaffordability, poor conditions and insecurity of tenure are all high on the agenda. A poll from the Association of Residential Letting Agents today said that 43% of London's renters have had reservations about their landlord or letting agent on day one of their tenancy.
I don’t mind admitting that the thought of a TV programme presented by Matt Allwright (of Rogue Traders) and based upon lifting the lid on the work of UK housing officers filled me with dread. Would ‘The Housing Enforcers’ be the ‘Benefits Street’ of the private rented sector? Who would Mr Allwright be directing his anger towards? Would a motorbike be involved? However, after the first episode, I feel rather more positive. Instead of simply cataloguing a whole list of tenant failings (my fear), this programme endeavoured to take a balanced and somewhat broad approach to the issue of how sometimes the places people live in are just not up to scratch.
Tomorrow lunchtime is deadline for the Housing Open Data Challenge. http://www.nesta.org.uk/housing-open-data-challenge
The process for entering the challenge is
- Sign up to Collabfinder (this requires having a facebook account) http://collabfinder.com/groups/housing-open-data-challenge
- Create a project in Collabfinder
3 finalist teams get £5,000 to build a proof of concept. The winning team gets £40,000 to build it.
Entrants don’t originally have to be in a team – they can enter as an individual - and if they lack any tech skills for example, we’ll help network them with potentially useful team members. This report has some free ideas in it too if anyone wants to take them forward.
Do you know who might be interested into applying? Incidentally, I’m neither a judge nor entrant in this competition – I’m a sort of cheerleader.
Director, Generation Rent
Melsonby sub-postmistress Diana Garbutt was found dead in her home in March 2010. Her husband Robin was arrested three weeks later and was subsequently found guilty of her murder.
Unoccupied since the crime, the only shop in the North Yorkshire village, along with its attached living quarters, has now been sold on at a knock down price.
Today was marked by the signing of a new contract at work. As well as being my first contract for a long time without a specified end date, it brings with it the promise of a modest, but extremely welcome increase in salary. Welcome since over the last five years I have noted that the combination of taking care of a family, paying for an appropriately sized privately rented house, whilst commuting by train to work has meant that the money I’ve had available after all the bills have been paid, has been shrinking year on year.
It seems I’m not the only one and indeed my situation has been much more comfortable than that of others. The Resolution Foundation recently published research which shines the spotlight on that sector of the UK population who spend over half of their disposable income on ongoing housing costs: the so-called 'housing pinched'. Their findings are significant and depressing. Data relating to 2011-12 shows that 1.6 million households were 'housing pinched'. Of those just under 1 million households (that’s 2.2 million people) were in work. To put this into perspective, in 2012 the Resolution Foundation reports that the average household spent £60 on each of the following: food, non-alcoholic drinks, transport, recreation & leisure. The ‘housing pinched’ on average had £60 a week left for absolutely everything.
Is house price inflation starting to slow? Across the whole market, it would seem so, with the Office for National Statistics finding inflation fell from 10.4% in May to 10.2% in June. That is still well above anything that's remotely healthy - and house prices were already historically expensive, even after the 2008 crash.
But first time buyers have it particularly bad. If you want to buy a house, prices are now 12 percent higher than they were a year ago (in May inflation was running at 11.3%). For people who already own a house and want to move, they are seeing a slowdown - from 10% to 9.5%.
At Generation Rent, we've listened to lots of experts who have analysed the housing crisis and have come to a conclusion. The principle problem is that you can't just buy or rent a home, you have to pay for an investment too. Some people say the problem is supply - and that's true - but the supply problem exists because of the inability to supply homes that people need without charging them a high price because of a potential future investment return.
And so we've been looking at how you can decouple the investment value of a home for an investor from its utility value to the person living there. And we came up with this. Britain needs a second housing market. A bubble-free housing market for people who only want a home, sitting neatly alongside a free market for those people who want an investment.
And it turns out this could be implemented cheaply and easily and that it will save taxpayers money. We've made a short presentation here and written a paper, Buying out of the bubble.
So we're calling for a secondary, bubble-free housing market - and we need your support to get politicians to adopt it and implement it. Join Generation Rent today (it's free) and help us campaign for real, effective solutions to the housing crisis.
Last month Ofgem launched their ‘Be An Energy Shopper’ campaign to encourage tenants to switch energy suppliers when they can make savings and to overcome the hurdles that many may see perceive in the switching process.