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Joint webchat with Conservative and Labour housing minister and shadow housing minister, MONDAY 2 MARCH 1pm

(159 Posts)

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RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 27-Feb-15 15:36:22

We're pleased to announce something a bit different to shake up your Monday lunchtime: a joint simultaneous webchat with the Conservative Housing and Planning Minister Brandon Lewis, and the Labour Shadow Housing Minister Emma Reynolds. They’ll be joining us live for an hour on Monday March 2 at 1pm.

We know that lots of MNers are interested in housing issues, so here's your opportunity to quiz Brandon and Emma about house-building, the Green Belt, planning restrictions, new towns, private landlords, rent levels, sustainable building, social and affordable housing, and their long-term plans for making supply meet demand - and anything else that catches your eye. How do the Conservatives and the Labour party plan to build and fund housing for the next generation - and what do they want to do about short-term housing issues? Now's your chance to find out.

Brandon Lewis MP is Minister of State for Housing and Planning. He was elected as the Conservative MP for Great Yarmouth in May 2010.

Emma Reynolds MP was elected as the Labour MP for Wolverhampton North East in May 2010. She is the Shadow Housing Minister attending Shadow Cabinet.

Please join us on Monday at 1pm. As ever, if you can’t make it then, please do leave your questions on this thread in advance. And (also as ever) please remember our webchat guidelines.

Thanks
MNHQ

MrsTawdry Fri 27-Feb-15 18:03:41

Thank you both for coming to Mumsnet. Can I ask what either of you think can be done to secure the future of the many families in insecure rentals today?

Long term tenancies are needed for families so they can stay in one community and have peace of mind...but landlords don't often want to be committed to them. Do you have any plans or thoughts about this?

bedunkalilt Fri 27-Feb-15 18:49:36

Hello Brandon and Emma Reynolds.

So many questions, I'll just have to hope others ask them...

To both parties, what plans do you have, if any, to better regulate the private rentals sector? Especially in terms of fees charged and the quality of housing. Too many properties are being let in my area that are of poor standard for high prices, demanding high non-refundable referencing and admin fees, renewal fees every year, inventory and check out fees, professional cleaning requirements on exit, and little to no help from landlords or their managing agents when problems arise.

I asked my MP this question last year, who forwarded my question to the relevant government department and the response was one of essentially 'business is business, we cant get involved'. Well, housing isn't just any old business, we are talking about people's homes here. I am hoping the government's stance may gave changed since then.

bedunkalilt Fri 27-Feb-15 18:50:52

Apologies, the 'Lewis' somehow got cut from Brandon Lewis.

turkeyboots Fri 27-Feb-15 19:18:21

Tell us your plans for improving the life of all of us who rent privately. From discriminating against tenants with children to evictions after requesting reasonable improvements, it's clear the sector needs regulation.

AMxx Fri 27-Feb-15 19:41:10

Brandon & Emma

I can't join the webcast unfortunately, but I would love your thoughts on my questions! This is a topic close to my heart, so please forgive my candor.

Some context first - I am a single Mum. I work circa 65-70 hours a week and have done since age 20. I live in the South East of England in an area of outstanding natural beauty. When My ex and I divorced I found myself unable to find housing I could afford. The extent of this was that even if ALL my childcare was free, I still could not afford a home. As a result my daughter and I live with my retired parents. Over the last 3 and half years the situation has remained the same. I have doubled my salary, taken on extra work (and lost all tax credits) - and I no nearer to being able to afford housing. There is no affordable housing available without my having to relocate to a new area and start again with my daughter. The latest local plan allocates NO affordable housing to be built in my area for the next planning phase. The rural enabler advises me that no exception sites are being considered (same for the last 3 years). Properties on the market in our area are circa 15-18 times my annual income - a mortgage is clearly unrealistic. Rental properties are very scarce and all of which have come on the market, bar one have been in excess of my full net monthly income. The one that was affordable, we rented however only for a few months as it was then sold. I would need to save the equivalent of 7 years net pay in order to get a mortgage today - assuming house prices would not increase at all. I contacted my MP (conservative) on this a year ago, and received what I can only describe as a very unsatisfactory reply.

My questions...

1. For those of us Single parent's who work full time and are not eligible for any housing benefit / help with housing and also do not earn sufficient to house themselves / work / pay for childcare- how do each of the parties propose to address this?

2. What do you propose to address the issue of ever inflating house prices? Is the UK considering revisiting tax legislation in order to prompt a re-calibration of the market similarly to how Japan addressed this issue some years ago? If not, what action is proposed to address the evident house price crisis.

3. What is proposed in order to make mortgages more accessible for those of us who do not earn salaries in line with market prices? The ''mortgage guarantee'' was pretty ineffective in enabling larger income multiples. Eligibility for the affordable housing provisions, is frankly a post code lottery and useless to anyone living in AONB - since building is resisted intensely and it does not go far enough to address the gap between income and house price.

4. Is any review proposed of tenancy legislation in the UK? Has the government considered that given the accessibility to the UK home purchase market is extremely restricted for many today - particularly 'middle' income families not eligible for housing benefit (although this hardly meets the need either), and therefore a transition to a more European model might help? - for example in the UK tenancy's are a landlord's game - a renter is at the mercy of the landlord in regards to their future security and stability since long term tenancies are not the norm. In France renting is more prolific since the law facilitates it.

5. Does the government recognize that reviewing the planning laws related to AONB might be essential? Net mitigation, ageing populations etc speak clearly to the necessity to income housing. Builders will not build where they cannot, as they will not build what they cannot sell - commercially this hinders the progress of increasing housing stock. The UK

6. Finally, whilst I recognize I am fortunate to have a family I can live with and was not forced to give up my job and rely on social housing (realistically my only other option), I had felt strongly that the right thing to do was to continue to work and accept I must provide alone for my child. There are days where I reflect and realize I have no future, no prospects, no independence since I am shackled by financial constraints tied with a ridiculously inflated housing market. Had I elected to give up work, then I would have my own council house, no daily childcare nightmares, be available to support my daughter, significantly less stress and quality of life. Given the intense emphasis placed by the government on the need to work and not rely on social benefits - can you please explain to me how you feel it pays to work in my circumstances?

I very much look forward to your comments and insight on the above.

stubbornstains Fri 27-Feb-15 20:07:37

AM, your questions are brilliant, intelligent and considered, and I hate to nitpick but.....

Had I elected to give up work, then I would have my own council house

You think? hmm. You'd probably be languishing somewhere in the middle of a 15 year waiting list, unless you'd elected to spend months in a horrible B&B to make your case more urgent. Sorry, but I think the perception that unemployed people are "given" social housing just like that, and are somehow privileged in this respect, is horribly divisive and damaging.

I will have a think and come back with my own list of questions soon...

HelenaDove Fri 27-Feb-15 21:34:39

Something NEEDS to be done about the heating companies who do the gas safety checks for landlords. They have a habit of wanting to do a call between 8am and 6pm then when they dont turn up they want you to wait in ANOTHER day and then send threatening letters accusing tenants of not letting them in when they didnt actually even turn up.

Or they STILL turn up to the original appointment after the tenant has changed it well in advance and AGAIN accuse the tenant of denying access when all the tenant did was change the appointments and the call centre assured lied that it had been changed!

Sending a threatening letter with information you know or believe to be false and/or which will cause distress is in breach of the Malicious Communications Act.

And this is happening in social housing as well as private lets!

Aerfen Fri 27-Feb-15 22:24:37

What are you going to do to ensure that British citizens get priority over newcomers for all forms of social housing including shared ownership?

There is an easy way to do this, even while abiding by EU rules and that is to make local residence and time on the waiting list the number one criterion, and not so called 'need'.

GwenaelleLaGourmande Fri 27-Feb-15 23:37:00

In France and Germany renting is, if not the norm, quite normal. And as tenants we are protected.

In France our leases are 3 years, rent increases sometimes with inflation (not had to deal with an increase personally) and the landlord has to give at least 3 months notice prior to the end of the lease, otherwise it goes on for another 3 years.

In Germany I believe it is even more generous to tenants.

Why can't that happen in the UK? Why is buying seen as the most important thing (when, in effect, banks become the landlords) and why are tenants, many with dependents, treated so badly? Kicked out on a whim?

My question is: which one of you will protect tenants the best?

HelenaDove Sat 28-Feb-15 00:30:12

YY Gwen There is no respect for tenants in this country.

wearenotinkansas Sat 28-Feb-15 01:09:16

Emma & Brandon

Britain is become a nation of have and have nots with respect to home ownership. With this in mind can you advise what each of your parties would do:

1. To allow local authorities to build more housing for social rental

2. To encourage/permit local authorities to act as developers of their assets in their own right, to allow them to use private house sale to cross-subsidise social housing, and allowing them to generate a profit which can be specifically ring fenced for new housing stock

3. To tax absentee non-dom private sector landlords, who are the main source of the over inflated housing market in London, and elsewhere i.e, so that foreign investors pay CGT on their investments on the same basis as UK tax payers

AlphaBravoHenryFoxtons Sat 28-Feb-15 16:05:47

Why do governments offer tax incentives to homeowners to encourage them to hoard housing wealth, when housing is in such short supply? Why not abolish principal residence relief so that gains made from housing are subject to CGT?

Abolishing principal residence relief would also stop all this nonsense flipping that goes on. I know the Tories have recently reduced the 36 month rule to 18 months so hats off to them for making some inroads into this nonsensical tax break. But why not abolish PPR altogether. It would help the young and those who've just got onto the housing ladder.

You need to do something to help young people and this would help!

AlphaBravoHenryFoxtons Sat 28-Feb-15 16:11:16

Btw France and the UK have very similar owner-occupier rates at 63% and 66% respectively (2102 figures).

andango Sat 28-Feb-15 16:59:53

As a would-be-first-time-buyer, can I first categorically state that the very last thing first time buyers want are any more opportunities to borrow more money, any more support for the housing market presented as 'support for first time buyers'. In my area, the second 'Help to Buy' was introduced, prices in my area leapt by over 100K overnight, meaning that previously incredibly overpriced housing was now completely and utterly out of reach. I will not vote for any government that persists in spending tax payers' money to bolster a ridiculously overpriced housing market any further.

To most renters, housing issues trump all other economic issues put together, as housing is our most expensive bill by a long way. So promises about fuel costs, university fees, childcare costs etc are all very nice, and a step in the right direction, but my vote will go to the party that will stop wasting taxpayers' money on keeping house prices artificially high and will give tenants rights today ie security of tenure, removal of letting fees and capped rents. So please set out your policies on:

1. How will you ensure rents are kept low/lowered as having a roof over one's head is an essential human right, not a luxury item.

2. How will you ensure security of tenure for tenants? All tenants - especially those with children - need to know that provided they pay their rent, they will be able to have a secure family home.

3. How will you remove fees for letting? - the tenant does not benefit from the references etc so should not be paying for them. In Scotland, it is illegal to charge these fees - this should be the case in England too.

4. How will you ensure buying a home is affordable at least for those on average incomes (I recognise it is unlikely that the poorest will be able to afford to buy their own homes)? Suggestions include: building loads more houses (100,000 is a drop in the ocean - how many more do you propose building)? , banning those from abroad buying UK properties, limiting property ownership so noone can own more than say 1 or 2 properties, prioritising homebuyers over BTL landlords in various ways, removing BTL tax advantages over owner occupiers, compulsory purchase of all empty properties after say 6 months, limiting amounts banks will lend to 3 X income and ensuring any BTL landlords can also afford mortgages out of income.

Thanks.

GwenaelleLaGourmande Sat 28-Feb-15 17:38:58

Alpha yes, but my point is I would much rather be a tenant in France than in the UK. It is more secure. And there is nothing abnormal about renting here, whereas in the UK buying a property is seen as The Goal and renting seen as a bad thing. (Have lost count of the number of times friends and family in the UK have asked when I plan on buying a house, whereas no-one comments here - I assume because private renting isn't necessarily as precarious over here as in the UK. Which is wrong. People shouldn't have to live at the mercy and whims of unscrupulous landlords - some of the stories on these boards alone are shocking)

bedunkalilt Sat 28-Feb-15 18:57:54

A lot of people have asked, and much better phrased, questions similar to mine, so can I bring up something else?

Housing benefit tenants. Housing benefit is making up, to an extent, for the lack of affordable housing. But there are two big issues with it (among many) - delays in assessment/reassessment and 'no DSS' advertised properties.

I have seen a lot of average (ie not high spec or recently renovated) properties, in cheaper areas and suitable for families, as being marketed to 'professional sharers only' and/or 'no DSS'. Bearing in mind that a lot of HB recipients also have jobs, what they lack is the ridiculous amount of money needed to cover the full rent - the language around benefits is far too negative and even a number of landlords and agents don't realise you can both work and receive benefits (I've witnessed this many times). Some landlords would let to HB recipients but their insurance or mortgage lender won't allow it - it's a business restricting the type of customer, but again, this is the business of homes , not simply housing.

In my local authority it takes 2-3 months for an initial assessment to be concluded, during which time the claimant should already be in the property. Reassessment takes a minimum of 6 weeks when circumstances change, and if a claimant has been overpaid during that period then they are sometimes invoiced and threatened with court action, instead of introducing a gradual payment plan/reduction of HB to cover the debt. If an error was made in the reassessment then the process starts all over again. If a claimant has been underpaid, it can take months to receive the difference. On leaving a property, the HB gets frozen until the local authority calculate the exact amount to pay and so the final payment typically comes one month after leaving the property. Among so many other issues with HB, all of this is happening to people who don't have the savings or income to cover shortfalls and are typically borrowing with overdrafts, credit cards or payday loans, incurring more costs or debt along the way.

frankie80 Sat 28-Feb-15 20:29:50

I'm very worried about dropping house values. My mother's house was valued at £240,000 3 years ago but a neighbours house (same house) is currently up for sale at £177,000, a drop in value of over £60,000 in just 3 years.

What will you do about this if you win in May?

andango Sat 28-Feb-15 20:45:36

frankie - what was it worth 10 years ago? Are house prices really 'dropping', nationally? That's certainly not what any house price statistics I've read say.

GwenaelleLaGourmande Sat 28-Feb-15 21:00:57

They advertise 'no dss' ??? Is that legal? angry

wonderstuff Sat 28-Feb-15 21:13:10

Some great questions, I really think housing is the number one issue at the moment, private renting is so insecure.

My question is this, I have a friend renting an old, cold house, she qualifies for the excellent scheme to insulate her home for free, would dearly like to take advantage of it, but her landlord refuses to sign the relevant paperwork, he isn't paying the heating bill so has no interest in it. Can anything be done to compel landlords to adequately insulate properties?

frankie80 Sat 28-Feb-15 21:39:12

andango - in many parts of the uk, particularly northern areas, its a problem

HugoBear Sat 28-Feb-15 22:43:30

I'd like the two of them to tell us why they think MPs can be trusted to come up with a fair solution to Britain's housing crisis when a third of them are private landlords (a figure that includes Brandon Lewis himself):

www.lettingagenttoday.co.uk/732-new-housing-minister-is-a-private-landlord

GaryShitpeas Sat 28-Feb-15 23:01:48

some brilliant questions so far

my questions are:

if house prices (and rent) are allowed to keep climbing as they have been (even slowly), there will end up a ticking time bomb of more and more people stuck in renting. most of these people will reach retirement age and still paying rent, and most of these will no longer be able to afford it (we haven't been able to save very much for retirement, see, what with spending 2/3rds of our goddam wages on rent every month for 40 years)

is there any kind of plan for this? as the country is skint, where exactly is the money going to come from in 20, 30, 40 years when generation rent are old? cos there is going to be an awful, awful lot of housing benefit needed!! or will everyone in rented just be completely screwed and end up on the streets hmm or workhouses

also RTB is still happening, I myself have been recently offered it....why are the sold houses still not being replaced? why is there such a reluctance to build social housing when it would slash the housing benefit bill?

DH and I are not low earners, we earn around 25k a year between us. we would struggle to afford a mortgage and probably wouldn't even be allowed one anyway. despite earning over 10k a year over the NMW. why is it allowed to have become so out of reach for normal people?

also agree that "help to buy" is simply a tool to bolster the housing market and keep it heading in the "right" hmm direction, it is absolute bullshit that its to help new home buyers, total and utter bullshit

I am part of a generation (under 40 ish) that just feels like we have been totally and utterly screwed.....There is so, sooooooo much anger and resentment around this subject, and you lot need to see this. a basic home is an essential and basic human need, why is home ownership fast becoming only for the elite?

bedunkalilt Sat 28-Feb-15 23:23:11

Gwenaelle It is very common around here, not sure if it's common across the UK but it's known enough for David Lammy to have written about it a couple of years back - he wondered if this was a new form of discrimination, where in years past people may have put up signs like 'no blacks' (excuse the example). As in my post for some it is down to their insurance or mortgage restrictions, but I know of many landlords/agents that say no purely out of preference - what I've heard most commonly is that benefits recipients are a risky bet with so many changes occurring in the benefits system, so they don't trust that they are good for the money. Some are open enough to admit a stereotype of benefits recipients - that they will not treat the property well.

When I wrote to my MP last year I included the issue of 'no DSS' in my question. The government's response was, in summary, that landlords can choose not to rent to benefits recipients as it's their business.

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