Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start

I’m not one for New Year resolutions, they’re not worth the booze stained paper they’re written on. Whilst an arbitrary date might help some on the path to negating an annoying habit/chronic cake addiction, the reality is that most of us will fail to keep to those good intentions. Governments are not excluded from such foibles, especially when it comes to housing policy. Unfortunately, unlike the Konami games of old, you can’t just use a cheat code to solve a nation’s housing market problems. A pity really, given the way housing policy is currently heading we probably need all the ‘help’ we can get.

OK Time for Plan B

For all the positive vibes coming from the Barwell/Javid axis little has materially changed so far in May’s tenure as Prime Minister. The switch in rhetoric has been welcome, and you do genuinely get the feeling that Sajid Javid is sincere in his desire to improve the housing situation facing many in the UK. However rhetoric and reality have not quite met. At least not consistently. Indeed it seems at times that Mrs May is willing to do pretty much anything to help the housing crisis, apart from actually do things that will help on a practical level. Promises of a Britain that works for the many have so far fallen flat. That needs to change, sharpish.

Right to Buy, or at least its extension to Housing Associations, is seemingly getting kicked into the long grass (FYI check out Nick Atkin’s piece on why RTB has had its day here). Positive news over better regulation for parts of the PRS and the scrapping of lettings fees should help those renting. But policy and capital funding wise the Autumn Statement proved to largely be a bust. The vast majority of the £44bn earmarked for housing initiatives has been kept for demand side interventions. And of that all bar £15.3bn had already been announced.

A give away on Stamp Duty and a continuation of policies such as Help to Buy are not really what the doctor ordered. With Help to Buy being described by the Adam Smith Institute as being like throwing petrol onto a bonfire. Whilst the Stamp Duty cut is a great example of a policy that on the surface is great for individual households but is actually bollocks at the macro-economic level – a typical state of play for housing policy in the last 2 decades.

Elsewhere, although several million has been set aside to help with homelessness initiatives. Even here Theresa May has managed to piss me off. Her response at the last PMQs before Christmas showed just how little she understands the subject. She also showed that you can be right on a technicality, but utterly wrong on the bigger picture. Being homeless doesn’t necessarily mean you’re sleeping rough. But regardless, the lack of a safe, secure and affordable home has serious detrimental effects. Still, shout out to Theresa May’s researchers for finding the one technical point where the homelessness situation wasn’t total crap. But make no mistake, as a country we’ve been regressing alarmingly on this issue since 2010.

Here Comes the New Sound, Just Like the Old Sound

Since the clusterfuck that was the Brexit vote and subsequent change of personnel in Government I’ve been hoping for a significant departure, in practical terms, from the clueless/ideologically driven housing policy under Cameron et al. Sadly, some honourable mentions aside, what we’ve had so far is more of the same.  Plus ca change. Some improvements have been made, but it’s all a bit piecemeal.

Still, it could be worse, the Conservative Party’s attempt at revamping its social media presence is nothing short of alarming. Honestly, Activate is probably the shittest thing I’ve come across on social media since Mogg-Mentum. It sounds like the start of a fight on Robot Wars for fucks sake. Who are these clowns? Have they met real life people? One only hopes that Conservatives spend more time on fine tuning their housing policy in the upcoming Housing Green Paper than they have on their current social media engagement strategy. Otherwise we really are fucked.

As ever, you can find more of my stuff here and follow me on Twitter here.

Photo Credit – Emil Athanasiou (2015) Same Yet Different

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Every little helps…

Being the low level minion that I am I don’t tend to do much of the meet and greet malark. Most of my days involve spreadsheets, pivot tables and reams of data, so much so that the team I work in occasionally has the moniker “the Geek Squad”. We take it on the chin as the good banter it is.  Personally I largely attribute this nickname to the fact that we can competently use Microsoft Excel, or as others in the organisation seem to think of it, “black magic”. I’m not sure how I feel about the nickname because (A) I can talk to women without wetting myself and (B) I don’t know computer coding, I don’t play Dungeon & Dragons and I have certainly never messed around with Linux* so I don’t see myself as much of a geek.  I guess it is all a matter of perception.

This weekend saw me get away from my beloved Excel documents and brave the bright lights of outdoors. My ever patient and long suffering girlfriend dragged me out to help her and her netball team, Scarletts Netball Worcester, complete a Cyclothon for Asha Women’s Centre. I have to admit, my burning quads aside, that it was a lot of fun and helped to raise money for an organisation that can always use a bob or two.  As councils across the country continue to slash spending organisations like Asha, who deal with the vulnerable and those on the margins, are likely to feel the squeeze even more.  Fortunately it appears that Asha at least has a diverse set of funders and will carry on doing the good work that it has always done.

CyclothonSomeone else who appears to need some spare change is Iain ‘why always me’ Duncan Smith.  After claiming everything is tout sweet (again) the treasury seems a little jittery at signing off further funding for the beleaguered project.  I could make a joke about state dependency and government funding here but that would be too easy.  Cheap shots aside it is deeply worrying how much of train wreck Universal Credit has become.  And although the DWP expects its business case to be signed off soon it is all a bit of a mess.  Frankly I am bored with writing about the subject.  Reform of the welfare state is needed, and I do support Universal Credit in principle.  However many of the reforms are crude short-termist cost cutting measures that penalise the poor and vulnerable.  They are also highly unlikely to save the money they were projected to and place ever more burden on charities, local authorities and social landlords.  It is a Grade A balls up and those in power need to recognise it as such.

The gift that keeps on giving aside another interesting development was the announcement of infrastructure funding, largely scheduled for post 2015, for ‘the regions’.  Based on recommendations from Lord ‘right to buy’ Heseltine it is probably the closest we will come (i.e. not very) to an announcement of government funding for new housing before the next general election.  It is a welcome departure from a heavily London focused approach to sorting out our economy.  Though it remains to be seen what impact the funding will have and dollar for housing is (again) heavily focused on getting largely private developments up and running.  That being said the deals do appear to provide for a number of mixed tenure developments and frankly as long as more housing gets built I can’t complain too much.  A point I would make is that if you can fund projects to facilitate private housing developments, you can fund public housing.

A final point.  Some lovely chaps and chapesses at  are holding a day on the 15th July.   The idea is to get sponsored to fast & raise money for a related good cause.  You can follow their blog at ukhousingfast.wordpress.com to find out more, I would suggest looking at Michala Rudman and Rob Gurshon’s guest blogs they are as insightful as they are excellent.  

*For the uninitiated this is not some form of recreational substance but a free/open source operating system that requires a fair amount of technical skill and knowledge to use.