Category Archives: Housing

NEF: putting tenants back at the heart of social housing policy

Joe Beswick writes: “At the New Economics Foundation, we’re working with resident-led groups across the country proposing detailed, costed plans for affordable housing projects on public land – such as StART Haringey.  It takes courage, resources and imagination to see tenants and communities as the real agents of regeneration, and ensure that what gets built responds to community needs, instead of ignoring them. But that is exactly what needs to happen. If we learnt anything from the Grenfell tragedy, it was that for too long, social housing tenants’ voices have been ignored. Residents knew the tower was unsafe – but nobody listened to them. Lightly edited extracts from Joe’s article follow. The full text may be read here.

Earlier this week the leader of the Labour Party made a real commitment to increasing tenant power. His promise to give social housing tenants a ballot on the decision to regenerate their estate would be an important first step in putting tenants back at the heart of social housing policy.

So-called consultations have, in effect, made decisions about what happens to people’s homes behind closed doors, without meaningful input from residents. Some regeneration schemes, like the Heygate Estate in Southwark, have seen the numbers of affordable social rent homes plummet, with only 82 of the 2,704 new homes built available at social rent levels.

An excellent article in the Financial Times is cited: “I in London, as has been widely reported, the current models of estate regeneration already lead to a large net loss of social rented homes, with regeneration often actually making the housing crisis worse:

Local authorities and housing associations should offer increased access to information and clear options for regeneration – something which has so often been lacking in recent schemes. They would need to ‘win over’ their tenants in order to succeed in the ballot.

But community control over regeneration can work. On many estates undergoing regeneration, residents have created their own ‘people’s plans – innovative regeneration schemes which put residents in control and deliver net increases in social housing. For instance the residents of the Waterton and Elgin Community Homes estates in Westminster, which are entirely tenant controlled, are undertaking a major regeneration scheme, adding 43 affordable homes to Westminster’s housing stock.

For social landlords to be able to work with tenants to deliver regeneration which consistently meets the needs of the community, they will be need to empowered, reskilled and resourced – for example, by lifting the borrowing cap which so often forces local authorities into unsatisfactory regeneration partnerships with private developers, to the exclusion of tenants.

Mr Beswick concludes: “expanding the power and control of tenants must not be restricted simply to regeneration. To begin to fix our broken housing system, tenants and local communities need to be genuinely empowered in areas where for too long they have had too little control. This would include giving tenants greater involvement in the day-to-day management of their estates, to end the ‘them-vs-us’ relationship between social tenants and their landlords which has become so common. It would also include putting the needs of local communities at the heart of decision-making over what gets built in the local area, especially on public land”.

 

 

 

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Shrinking cities  

Margaret Okole writes: “At the last meeting of the New Economics Forum, we talked about population movements. Some were of the view that megacities grow inexorably larger, but London seems to be proving otherwise. This article in the Guardian suggests that it is actually shrinking slightly”.

The article referred readers to Yorkshire Building Society research, which shows that with a continuing affordability crisis in London, popular destinations, such as Lewes and Exeter, have become increasingly affordable. The findings, based on official earnings figures and Land Registry data for house prices in 356 local authority areas, come as the number of people leaving London is at a five-year high, with net outward migration of 93,300 people in the year to June 2016, 80% higher than five years earlier.

She ends: “I think Government policy has a big influence on whether people move and there’s nothing inevitable about it. It would be interesting to compare population movements within different European countries and the reasons for them”. 

A New Delhi contact, Devinder Sharma, points to the influence of an international institution – the World Bank – referring to a ‘60s/’70s directive which has so far eluded online detection. He deplores the apparent desire of his government to see people in rural areas migrate to towns and cities. However he referred to Michael Lipton, professor of political science, who draws on WB publications in focussing on this theme Lipton M. ‘Why poor people stay poor: urban bias in world development.'(Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1977). Many neoliberal publications propose this migration to free land for ‘development’ or ranch style farming – food for export.

A search revealed frequent use of the term ‘shrinking cities’. A Financial Times columnist focusses on cities in the ‘rust-belt’to whom Donald Trump appealed in his election campaign.

“The most common reason is deindustrialisation. Shrinking cities in developed economies are concentrated in a handful of areas across the globe, such as the American rust belt and the German industrial heartland. These places were some of the first to industrialise in the world, but have struggled in the past few decades to work out what comes next after manufacturing and industrial jobs have moved elsewhere”.

But a research article by Manuel Wolff and Thorsten Wiechmann, Urban growth and decline: Europe’s shrinking cities in a comparative perspective 1990–2010 (March 2017) reveals that 20% of European cities experienced shrinkage between 1990 and 2010, whereas 883 cities have faced recent shrinkage.

Three causes of urban decline – economic, social and demographic change

At COST CIRES Conference (University of Amsterdam) Stephen Platt’s presentation: Causes of Urban Shrinkage: an overview of European cities, was based on his earlier 2004 paper. He highlighted three principal widespread structural causes of urban decline – economic, social and demographic change.

  • Demographic – fertility rate, population aging, decreasing size of households
  • Economic – different cycles, de-industrialisation, globalisation, dispersion of commercial activities, macro-economic trends, industry/agricultural decline, energy prices and development of wages
  • Social/Cultural – Status, lifestyle, skills, education, employment, standards of living, migration, households, housing prices, public welfare, quality of life, and social changes
  • Environmental – Climate change, rural environment, landscape aesthetics / degradation • Policy/Politics – taxes, regulations and planning.
  • Suburbanisation, re-urbanisation, sprawl, counter-urbanisation – however these may not be actually causes of shrinkage but resulting from spatial processes of many of the causes listed above.

Secondary outcomes, for example the migration of young or highly skilled individuals, poorer service provision, regional specialisation or house price differentials, may exacerbate or contribute to further shrinkage.

WMNEG’s Andrew Lydon has frequently pointed out how many prosperous and heavily populated cities are on the coast and Platt adds that climate change may also come to play an increasingly role in migration, but that to date environmental factors are not a significant cause of shrinkage.

 

 

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Marc Stears, New Economics Foundation – an extract

Marc Stears: webmaster@neweconomics.org writes:

We are six weeks away from a general election. Politicians always say elections are important. But this time, their usual talk of “the most important vote for a generation” is absolutely right.

This election is about power, and about Brexit. It’s about the right to shape Britain’s relationship with the EU and the rest of the world.

But it is also about the right to try to shape our country’s future at home. Because the way Britain works right now is simply not accepted by millions of people.

People yearn to gain some purchase on the places where they live, and the forces which shape their lives. People want control over what matters to them – their work, their homes and families. 

At the New Economics Foundation, we are fighting for real control. That means:

* Building power in our workplaces, where new technology is combining with the old power of capital.

* Real choice over where we get to live, in the face of a vicious housing market which continues to deny so many of us a decent, affordable home.

* Revitalised local communities, which are so often overlooked by top-down efforts at regeneration.

* Fair access to essential services like energy, rather than allowing six giant companies to dictate terms to everyone.

* A reformed financial system, so that banks can start to serve the public interest and not just their own.

 

 

 

 

NEF’s Laurie MacFarlane lists five Budget omissions

 

In the latest New Economics Foundation mailing there is a useful summary of these five omissions. One question asked by MacFarlane* is “What about the housing crisis?”

The Chancellor failed to mention housing even once, despite the fact that we are in the grip of a serious and escalating housing crisis. One of the things fuelling that crisis is the fact that the government is insisting on selling off public land rather than using it to help deliver more genuinely affordable housing.

At the current rtate, the new homes target on sold-off public land will not be met until 2032, 12 years laer than promised. And the majority of homes being built on the land sold are out of reach for most people — only one in five will be classified as ‘affordable’. Even this figure is optimistic as it uses the government’s own widely criticised definition of affordability. If the government ended the public land fire sale they could use that land to partner with local authorities, small developers and communities themselves to deliver the more affordable homes people need.

According to the latest Nationwide House Price statistics, as most people cannot afford to buy now even with a mortgage, cash buyers such as second homeowners and buy to let landlords are propping up the market. Things are getting worse for people left at the mercy of this failing market. The Chancellor could have put a stop to the fire sale of public land yesterday, but instead he acted as if there were no housing crisis all.

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*Laurie MacFarlane is an economist whose work focuses on reforming the financial sector and the economy to align with long term interests of society. Before joining NEF he was Head of Analysis at the Water Industry Commission for Scotland, an economic regulator which ensures that water customers receive value for money and led a small team of economists undertaking economic and financial analysis and engaging with industry stakeholders. He also spent one year in the Markets and Economics division at Ofwat, where he worked on establishing the recent water company price determinations. He has worked closely with Common Weal, a progressive Scottish think tank which aims to promote a new vision for economic, social and cultural development in Scotland and has a particular interest in analysing the links between UK housing crisis, the finance system and inequality.

Read more here: http://action.neweconomics.org/people/entry/laurie-macfarlane

 

 

 

Urban rental housing co-op built on Welsh brownfield site

rhyl

West Rhyl Housing Co-operative is Wales’s first urban rental housing co-op, formed by North Wales Housing, West Rhyl Community Land Trust and Wales Co-operative Centre, was funded by the Welsh Government and North Wales Housing and completed in January.

Anwyl, a local construction company, built the £1.4m housing scheme, in Abbey Street at the heart of Rhyl’s west end, overlooking the Gerddi Heulwen green space (above), which opened last year.The Afallon housing co-operative consists of seven new terraced three-bedroom family homes with gardens, built on the small brownfield site. The commercial premises on the site have been renovated, providing a community shop and bakery on the ground floor with four flats above.

afallon-co-opLocal families have moved into these affordable family homes built to a high specification and Code 4 standard of energy efficiency. People who currently live or work in Rhyl or surrounding areas were eligible to become tenants and members of the housing co-op. They are involved in managing their properties and will have a voice on future plans and projects in the area.

Wales is still building social housing and is about to abolish the right to buy. Its homelessness prevention legislation in 2015 is working well; the charity Crisis reports that though the number of households accepted as homeless in the last quarter of 2015 rose by 6% in England to 14,470. Kate Murray of the Guardian adds that in Wales the number fell by some 67% to 405 in the same period.

Those who remember our colleague Pat Conaty, now living in Wales, will be interested to hear that he has had a hand in the venture via his work with community land trusts and the co-operative sector.

Click on this link for information about other new co-operative housing projects in Glasgow, New Hampshire, South Lanarkshire and Rochdale, and about the February government white paper which includes an earlier proposal for a new £60m community housing fund in areas ‘affected by second-home ownership’ to support community-led housing projects and help local groups to deliver affordable housing aimed at first-time buyers.

 

 

 

 

Community Land Trusts

There are signs of a growing interest in initiatives long advocated by the New Economics Foundation: local currencies, housing co-operatives and credit unions. See footnote with links.

As more people feel the impact of the housing crisis some are solving their own housing problems. Martina Lees reports:

  • there are about 169,000 co-operatives that let tenants democratically control their homes,
  • more than 100 self-help housing projects are bringing empty homes back into use,
  • over 50 cohousing groups of private homes that share facilities
  • and 170 Community Land Trusts (CLTs) in England and Wales

The latest news noted relates to CLTs, half of which have been set up in the past two years. Together they have built almost 700 affordable homes, with another 2,300 on the way by 2020.

clt-wessex-passivhaus

Christow CLT: passivhaus buildings (more here)

Though all these initiatives are on a small scale at present, the Building and Social Housing Foundation (BSHF) is working to make community-led housing mainstream. Two examples:

Lavenham’s CLT bought a derelict storage depot for £1 from Suffolk County Council, which is granting planning on the condition that all 18 homes are for low rent or shared ownership.

clt-cornwall

Above: a development by one of several CLTs set up in Cornwall which has seen its young people leaving because of lack of affordable housing. In Rock, St Minver CLT paid a local farmer only £120,000 for the land where it built its first 12 homes – all sold at 31.3% of market rates to help younger people stay in an area where holiday homes have caused prices to soar. Cornwall council would not have given permission for the farmer to sell on the open market.

At the University of Salford, working with Community Finance Solutions, Pat Conaty – formerly of this parish – has been developing a national Community Land Trusts training programme that has been running courses since March 2011 for new groups and local authorities.

He believes that Community Land Trusts offer a community led ‘bottom-up’ approach to housing issues and creative, ecological developments.

Those who want to learn more should follow these links:

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FOOTNOTE:

Housing co-ops:

https://concernedcooperators.wordpress.com/2014/08/22/grassroots-co-operatives-come-to-the-fo

http://www.radicalroutes.org.uk/

https://concernedcooperators.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/400/

Google reveals more in London, Glasgow, Sheffield, Coventry, Edinburgh

Local currencies

https://brixtonpound.org/

http://www.totnespound.org/

http://www.exeterpound.org.uk/

http://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/stroud-pound.asp

Latest credit union

https://antidotecounteragent.wordpress.com/2016/01/04/tynedale-community-bank-is-launched/

Community land trusts – see links above