Recent News

Landlords in talks to give tenants free internet

Social landlords are in talks with internet service providers in a bid to arrange free online access for tenants ahead of the introduction of universal credit.

From October 2013, a range of benefits will begin to be merged into one monthly payment, administered by a central IT system. This has led to concerns that tenants without internet access may struggle to manage their claims as the government expects most claims to be made online. 

Full council tax to be introduced on void properties

The largest local authority in the UK has announced that it plans to charge full council tax on empty properties from next April.

Birmingham City Council, like other local authorities, currently allows a ‘council tax free’ period of six months for empty properties, and an exemption of 12 months on properties undergoing structural repair. 

Private rents hit yet another record high

Rents have risen for a fifth consecutive month to reach a new record high of £734 a month.

LSL, reporting on the August market, said that average rents were up 1.2% on July, hitting new peaks in five regions – London, the South-East, East of England, North-West, and Yorkshire & the Humber.  

50% increase in households renting privately in five years

The number of households renting privately has increased by nearly 50% in just five years, according to a new report, which estimates that an additional £57bn funding will be needed per year if the sector is to provide the homes needed to meet demand.

The Jones Lang LaSalle report, however, notes the positive moves by Government - through the Montague Review and changes to the Real Estate Investment Trust structures - to reduce the barriers to institutional investment in the sector. 

Universal credit to exclude supported housing costs

Homelessness charities have welcomed a decision by the Department for Work and Pensions to exclude supported accommodation from universal credit.

Charities had raised concerns that universal credit, which combines a number of benefits including housing benefit from 2013, would not take into account the extra costs of providing supported housing. Under the current system, an ‘exempt accommodation rule’ means the extra cost of managing accommodation for a vulnerable person is taken into account. 

Government 'running out of ideas on welfare reform'

Reports the Government is set to freeze working age benefits - by ending the automatic annual increase in line with inflation - would almost certainly weaken the living standards of low-income families and suggests it is "running out of ideas on welfare reform".

That's the verdict from think tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), which suggests that a further £4 billion could be saved in 2016-17 if all working-age benefits - including jobseeker's allowance and housing benefit - were frozen from 2014-15. 

Councils urged to train tenants in financial management

A unique social housing survey has found landlords can helps tenants save around £40 per month by offering one-to-one financial skills training.

Analysis of the training involving 150 tenants over nine-months and launched today by national charity Citizens Advice found 71% of tenant learners reported higher financial confidence – compared with just 13% of a comparison group. 

Cyber security biggest challenge for universal credit

Cyberfraud and identity theft pose the most serious threat to the implementation of the government's welfare reforms, a government minister said as he outlined potential problems facing the project during the final months of development.

Lord Freud, parliamentary under-secretary of state for welfare reform, said online security was a risk to the introduction of the universal credit. The department was focusing on identity and potential cyberfraud to make sure the system was "utterly robust". Security systems developed by banks were being adopted, and the government was in talks with Amazon to learn from its online security measures, he said. 

DWP confirms 'bridge payments' for Universal Credit claimants

Welfare reform minister Lord Freud says benefit claimants used to being paid fortnightly will be able to opt in for an advance payment to bridge them on to the monthly system of Universal Credit.

Universal Credit will be rolled out over four years from October 2013 and will see claimants receive a single monthly payment in arrears in replace of six income-related benefits, including housing benefit, tax credits etc. 

Online decision tool could save Universal Credit

Families should be able to ‘opt in’ to an online budgeting tool under the new Universal Credit, which allows them to determine the direction and frequency of benefit payments, according to a think tank.

The Social Market Foundation (SMF) report 'Sink or Swim' warns Universal Credit is at risk of “backfiring” and shows that the changes - including monthly payments and housing benefit paid to claimants in the social rented sector from next October - will leave many households struggling to cope.

DWP urged to subsidise new bank accounts for Universal Credit

The Government should create a set of standards for ‘Budget Accounts’ (jam jars) – which safeguard rental income for housing associations – allowing financial providers to deliver them for tenants in return for initial subsidies.

That’s the conclusion of an in-depth report, commissioned by the National Housing Federation (NHF), into the banking products needed by social housing tenants for Universal Credit. 

Universal credit - Labour MP warns of 'disaster'

The government's flagship welfare reform programme is heading for "disaster", its "poverty czar" Frank Field has warned.

Writing in The Guardian, the Labour MP says Universal Credit will not simplify benefits as planned and will instead "rot the soul" of the low paid. 

Charity has concerns welfare reform is increasing homelessness

Charity Homeless Link is concerned that welfare reform could be driving an increase in homelessness - as new figures show an alarming rise in cases of people losing their homes.

The charity was responding to government statistics that show 12,860 people were accepted as homeless in 2012's second quarter - a 9% rise on the same period in 2011. 

Homelessness rises 27% in London

London has seen a 27% rise in people accepted as homeless, with the problem far worse in the capital than in the rest of the country, according to homelessness charity Crisis.

One in four people declared homeless in England in 2012's second quarter were in London. Rough sleeping is also on the increase, with a massive 43% rise in 2011/12 over the previous 12 months.  

A London council is helping tenants to open credit union accounts

A north London council is opening credit union accounts for all new tenants as part of a move to minimise the impact of welfare reform.

Catherine West, Labour leader of Islington Council, speaking before a Department of Work and Pensions select committee this morning, said: ‘Every time we sign up a new tenant in council housing we give them a credit union account even though they may not know what it is at the time. 

Mark Prisk MP has been appointed new housing minister

Business minister Mark Prisk, MP for Hertford and Stortford, has been appointed the new housing minister following Grant Shapps' promotion to the cabinet as Tory co-chair.

Mr Prisk - a chartered surveyor by profession - is currently a minister for Business and Enterprise in the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) - a position he has held since 2010. 

Private landlords show interest in energy efficiency scheme

A National Landlords Association survey of its members has found 63 per cent are aware of the green deal, and 56 per cent are thinking of using the scheme.

Under the green deal, which launches next month, landlords and homeowners will be able to get work done to improve the energy efficiency of their home without paying up front. They will then pay back the cost of the work, with interest, using the money saved from fuel bills.