The Property Market Monthly Fact File – December 2015

The property market fact file is a collection of data compiled each month by our Chartered Surveyors and the propertysurveying.co.uk team; collating survey data, statistics, trends and information from the property market. This aims to provide a single place where anyone with an interest in UK property can find the information they need.
To read the monthly fact file, click here.

Mortgage Market Update

Various sources are claiming that now is as good a time to buy a property as there has ever been, with interest rates low and the property market surging forward. We have compiled stats from various sources around the country to give you a complete view of the mortgage market, in case you are looking to invest…
To read the whole article, click here.

How to decorate your home this Christmas; whether it’s Downton Decor, Tudor Trimmings or Sixties-style

Whether you’re into mistletoe, paper chains or bright florescent lights, here is 400 years of English Christmas Decorations to influence your Christmas decor this year…
To read the whole article, click here.

The Property Market Monthly Fact File – November 2015

The property market fact file is a collection of data compiled each month by our Chartered Surveyors and the propertysurveying.co.uk team; collating survey data, statistics, trends and information from the property market. This aims to provide a single place where anyone with an interest in UK property can find the information they need.

To read the monthly fact file, click here.

Mortgage Market Update

Various sources are claiming that now is as good a time to buy a property as there has ever been, with interest rates low and the property market surging forward. We have compiled stats from various sources around the country to give you a complete view of the mortgage market, in case you are looking to invest…

To read the who le article, click here.

Higher earning tenants set to pay fairer rent under consultation proposals

Higher earning tenants that live in social housing, will find themselves paying a ‘fairer’ rent due to consultation proposals published by Housing Minister Brandon Lewis.

Currently, higher income social tenants benefit from tax payer-funded subsidies of up to £3,500 per year, but the new ‘pay to stay’ proposal will see households with a total annual income of over £40,000 in London, and £30,000 elsewhere, pay a rent at market or near market levels.

Under the proposal, social rents would increase as the tenant’s income increases above the threshold meaning that those in real need of the help continue to pay a subsidised rent, whilst those currently taking advantage of the subsidies are no longer able to.

Housing Minister, Brandon Lewis, explains:

“It’s not fair that other hard-working people are subsidising the lifestyles of higher-earners to the tune of £3,500 per year, when the money could be used to build more affordable homes.

’Pay to stay’ will ensure that those tenants on higher incomes who are living in social housing have a rent that reflects their ability to pay, while those who genuinely need support continue to receive it.”

The money saved from the removal of the subsidy will enable councils to contribute towards the government’s £12 billion of welfare savings. Housing associations will also be able to retain the additional income and use it to support their role in providing new housing.

The scheme, which is intended to come into effect as of April 2017, proposes that local authorities will be able to recover any reasonable administrative costs before they are required to return the additional income from increased rents to The Exchequer. Alternatively, as housing associations are expected to retain income they receive from higher rent payments, the policy sets out that they are expected to absorb the administrative costs.

At present more than 40,000 social rented tenants have a total annual income of over £50,000 and will therefore be affected by the new policy. A further 300,000 social tenants have incomes over £30,000.

BT 10.10.15

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Right to Buy scheme set to be extended after the government secures historic agreement

On the 7th October, David Cameron announced an historic new agreement with housing associations and the National Housing Federation that is set to extend the Right to Buy Scheme to 1.3 million more families.

The Prime Minister explains:

“Some people said this would be impossible and that housing associations would never stand for it. Today we have secured a deal with housing associations to give their tenants the Right to Buy their home…That will mean the first tenants can start to buy their homes from next year.”

The Right to Buy is a scheme that allows families in social properties to become homeowners, and has already helped around 2 million families realise their dreams since its introduction under Thatcher.

By recycling the funds raised by selling off the properties towards replacement affordable properties, this agreement sets out to not only increase home ownership but also help those who need a new affordable house, thus increasing overall housing supply.

Communities Secretary, Greg Clarke says:

“We’re determined to ensure that home ownership is seen as a reasonable aspiration for working people…Today’s historic agreement with housing associations and the National Housing Federation will extend that offer even more widely, while at the same time delivering thousands of new affordable homes across the country”

Under the new agreement, every housing association tenant would have the right to purchase a home at Right to Buy level discounts (subject to the Right to Buy eligibility requirements). It is assumed that housing associations would sell the tenant the property in which they currently live.

Compensation would then be paid to the Housing Association by the government to reflect the discount that was offered to the tenant. The sales receipt would be kept by the housing association so that they can reinvest towards the delivery of new homes.

Housing associations would use sales proceeds to deliver new supply and would have flexibility to replace rented homes with other tenures such as shared ownership.

Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation, David Orr said of the agreement:

“This is a great offer for housing association tenants. It is also a great offer for the country, as our proposal means homes sold will be replaced, delivering an overall increase in housing supply.

“This is an ambitious sector that last year built more than one in three of the country’s homes, matching each pound of taxpayers’ money with £6 of its own. We will build more.”

The Right to Buy is just one part of the Government’s wider programme to increase overall home ownership, with other schemes including the Help to Buy, Starter Homes, Right to Build and planning reforms to get more homes built on brownfield land.

It certainly seems as if there are enough schemes in place to address the mounting problems of home ownership and housing supply, but the question remains – how effective are they? Are they papering over the cracks, or providing a viable solution?

BT www.propertysurveying.co.uk 09.10.15

George Osborne announces plans to hand local councils the power to control business rates

Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester earlier this month, the Chancellor George Osborne has announced plans that will enable local councils to take full control of business rates.

At present, local councils keep up to 50% of the rates with the rest being sent to Westminster, who then redistributes them so that areas with fewer businesses do not miss out. Currently around £11.5 billion in business rates goes to Westminster, with around £9.4bn being redistributed in grants.

Described by the Chancellor as “the biggest transfer of power to our local government in living memory”, the plans will allow local councils to keep the rates that they collect from businesses as well as to set the level. It aims to provide local councils with the freedom to cut the tax, therefore encouraging companies to invest locally.

The plans, which will also allow areas with directly elected mayors to increase business rates if they invest the extra money into infrastructure schemes, has come under scrutiny from a number of critics.

Frances O’Grady, the Trade Union Congress General Secretary says:

“By devolving business rates without any national safeguards, regional inequalities will get wider. The communities that most need investment are often those with the weakest business revenue base”

Another critic, Shadow Home Secretary, Andy Burnham took to twitter:

“Big contradiction at heart of Osborne speech. Says wants to close North-South divide. But then announces taxation reform that will widen it.”

However, the Chancellor backs his plan by saying to councils:

“Attract a business, and you attract more money; regenerate a high street, and you’ll reap the benefits; grow your area, and you’ll grow your revenue too”,

He goes on to explain that the changes, which are due to be in place by 2020 would mean cities and communities will no longer have to go to the government with what he described as a “begging bowl”.

– – –

Following on from our article about Britain’s ‘Rising Star’ high streets, business rates are often cited as one of the greatest obstacles to high street vitality – particularly as online competitors have no such burden. It is interesting therefore, to see Mr Osborne finally putting the power to control rates in the hands of local government, though it remains to be seen whether councils will use it to bolster their beleaguered coffers or to incentivise business on their ailing high street.

BT www.propertysurveying.co.uk 10.10.15

Housing Group Becomes the First to Use Drones in the Housing Sector

Walsall Housing Group has become the first housing association in the country to secure permission from the Civil Aviation Authority to fly drones over their housing stock. Though other authorities have ruled out using the equipment for cost reasons, Walsall have stated that they estimate the cost savings to be around £20,000 a year.

drone closeupThe move has led to a debate over the legal ramifications, with particular regard to the Data Protection Act 1998. Whilst the legal obligations on domestic drone users are fairly light and essentially extend to a requirement to use them in a responsible way which protects the privacy of others, the requirements on commercial use are more stringent.

The Information Commissioners Office’s (ICO) CCTV Code of Practice provides that as drones are privacy intrusive, justifications for their use are imperative. As such, a company or housing association will ideally need to undertake a ‘privacy impact assessment’ or similar to determine whether drones are appropriate, or whether another method would minimise the privacy impact. This would operate in much the same way as a risk assessment.

The same Code also offers several additional recommendations to ensure compliance with Data Protection:

  • Any data captured should be securely stored
  • Recording should be limited only to the defined purpose
  • Retained data should only be kept for its stated use
  • Consider ‘privacy by design’ – eg. Methods or technologies which allow restricted views or a specific focus.
  • Data access should be restricted to only those who need it
  • Consider ways to provide fair processing information to those likely to be affected.

drone flying inspectionThe guidance from the ICO indicates that Housing Associations, and all other companies looking to integrate drones into their processes, should be aware of the data implications. Whilst HAs like Walsall Housing Group evidently see a cost advantage, that net benefit may in some cases be eroded by the additional administration costs of satisfying their information obligations.

www.propertysurveying.co.uk

SRJ 19.10.15