What bloody housing crisis?

Three-bedroom homes are being condemned to demolition by housing associations because the coalition’s bedroom tax has made them too expensive for tenants to live in, the Observer can reveal.

Despite a national property shortage, providers of affordable homes are unable to find people who can meet the cost of living in a home with an extra bedroom and are, in some cases, planning demolitions. In Liverpool, one housing provider, Magenta Living, has admitted that “with changes to welfare benefits there is very little prospect of letting upper three-bedroom maisonettes in the current climate”.

In a letter to Alison McGovern, the Labour MP for Wirral South, Magenta says one such block of flats will be “emptied with a view to subsequent demolition” because of the inability to let them out, sell them or keep up with the costs of keeping them unlived in.

Coast and Country Housing, a housing association in north-east England that has 10,190 homes, has also reported a huge increase in the number of empty homes and announced that demolitions are now feasible.


If we’re
going to knock down houses simply because no one wants to live in them then it’s really very difficult to say that we’ve got a shortage of housing, isn’t it?

And if you want to claim instead that it’s all about people not being able to afford such housing then just stop and think for a moment. Haven’t these people ever heard of lowering the rent for fuck’s sake?

26 thoughts on “What bloody housing crisis?”

  1. It might be the humane thing to do to knock them down. Three bed houses? When I was oop north the housing associations used to buy such houses, nestled and conveniently hidden among private properties in salt of the earth working class neighbourhoods. And put their worst problem tenants in there, the ones that were completely incapable of living with other human beings (hence had to be removed from identifiably housing association developments). And then they would proceed to drag the neighbourhood down to their level. Thankyou housing associations.

  2. “The Observer can reveal…”
    …an act of sheer spite from those who think the state should pay for everything.

  3. The housing “crisis” is caused mainly by lots of people going to London. Empty homes in places like Liverpool and the North-East are therefore as much a symptom of the housing “crisis” as rising prices in London and the surrounding areas. But they have sod all to do with the ridiculous “bedroom tax”.

  4. I keep pointing out that these people are straight-up liars. The claim that people are being forced into hardship by the ‘bedroom tax’ is a lie; no-one will have to pay extra where, as in this case, there is no other demand.

    The HAs and councils are gleefully screwing their tenants in order to rake in extra funds from central government. Bunch of dishonest , murdering scumbags.

  5. “Haven’t these people ever heard of lowering the rent for fuck’s sake?”

    Doesn’t the ‘bedroom tax’ work by making the tenant pay a part of the rent, irrespective of what the rent actually is? Thus, if the tenant doesn’t have the cash to pay their bit, then lowering the rent might not make any difference?

    Eg.. Say I am a landlord and the rent is £500. The state says “there’s a spare room, so tenant needs to stump up £100 of that”. My tenant doesn’t have £100… but the house is worth nothing to me without HB tenants… so I should lower the rent to the £400 the state will pay, right? Well no.. because there’s still a spare room, and the state still wants a cut from my tenant… it’s down to £80 now, but my tenant doesn’t have that either.

    The principle behind the ‘bedroom tax’ is fine… but the execution is idiotic.

  6. The idea of a market is entirely alien to this bunch of the housing commissariate. Execution or exile for them is our only hope.

  7. The Thought Gang is correct – lowering the rent does no good when the payer is the state, and no matter what the rent they won’t pay all of it if there’s a spare* bedroom.

    It would have been much more sensible to say “If the council wants to move you to a smaller place, because they have people who need a larger place than you, then you can pay the difference to stay” – which would solve the same problem without making people’s lives a misery.

  8. It’s worth checking the board and management of Magenta Living; three Labour and one Tory councillors plus non-execs who all work in the public sector. I wonder if an industrious journo could turn up the Unite connections that I would seriously expect to find in what is a blatantly political “news” story. Can’t rent them? Then sell them and use the money to build more suitable properties elsewhere. Knocking them down is Stalinist scorched earth tactics

  9. Frances Coppola’s analysis is spot on, as I’m sure her Brahns recitals – she’s far too modest.
    Areas of housing over-supply exist perfectly compatibly in an era of chronic national shortage. Here around Merseyside we see this in relief. For ‘housing association on thwe Wirral’ think not of the Royal Liverpool Golf Club; think Birkenhead. Jack the Ripper wouldn’t walk the streets of Birkenhead after dark. Meanwhile up on the West Lancs coast the locals are desperately fighting off planning applications whilst other locals like me think ‘buy-to-let baby’.
    What does concern me me isn’t that there isn’t a market for these houses, full stop. It’s that the housing association cannot afford to maintain the properties to required standards AND break even now that the housing benefit is reduced (bedroom tax). Seems to me if the gov’t wants these standards, the gov’t should be prepared to pay for it.

  10. Ironman, Frances:
    You’re both right, I’m sure there’s a differential between Eaton Square and Birkenhead. But if you’ve made, as an individual, the wrong investment decision and you find your costs of maintainance higher than your rental yield what should you do?
    Sell it for a symbolic £1, or pay £20,000 for a bulldozer?
    As I say, sheer spite.

  11. Sell it for a symbolic £1, or pay £20,000 for a bulldozer?
    As I say, sheer spite.

    I have to agree with this point. You simply are not going to demolish a property because you can’t rent it out. And if you can’t rent it out and can’t afford to keep it empty then you sell it. It will have some value, even if that is a nominal amount, so yes it is spite – the Evil Tories made us knock down perfectly good houses because of their cruel and heartless attacks on the poor.

  12. “…the Evil Tories made us knock down perfectly good houses because of their cruel and heartless attacks on the poor.”

    Cast your minds back to the reign of NuLabour. Did not Prescott pause from ravishing his secretary to order the destruction of perfectly good houses for some EU-driven regional scheme?

    Did the ‘Guardian’ and ‘Indy’ weep and wail and rend their garments?

    U think not…

  13. 1. JuliaM

    Arnald is your secret love child isn’t he.

    2. Does anyone know, meaning actually, seriously know, why housing associations cannot just sell off homes that they cannot rent at a discount? Why must they, ignoring any dislike we may have for them, demolish homes they cannot rent at current rates?

  14. “Magenta Living” describes itself as “not for profit” and I assume a state sock puppet which explains why they would rather make a political point by knocking down houses than rent them out at lower prices.

  15. This time though I’m really asking people if they actually know the answer; I know already that we don’t like them.

  16. mitch,

    Converting spare rooms into bathrooms is something Magenta Living had looked at doing: Hundreds of Wirral homes could get ‘bedroom tax’ reprieve

    Whether they have or have not I don’t know but that story was only from August this year.

    Ironman,

    As best I can make out a registered housing association has to ask the regulator (Homes and Communities Agency) for consent to dispose of assets. There is a guidance document available on this page.

    If the Homes and Communities Agency won’t give consent then you can’t sell, though I’ve no idea whether that is the case here.

  17. @ Ironman
    Because some yobs will think that they are then justified in squatting in them.
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2478871/Squatters-Britains-expensive-council-house-hours-bought-auction-3MILLION.html
    The building had been empty for years because Labour-run Southwark was unwilling to spend a couple of £k (which would have been more than recouped from rent by now) to make it habitable. As soon as someone intends to make it habitable, squatters move in to stop them.

  18. @ Gareth
    The Thames Valley Housing association has over 30 pages of houses and flats available for sale (as “shared ownership” but I am tempted to supply No 2 son with the cash to make the upfront payment on one of the cheaper ones and later the balance to make it 100% his).

  19. The Thames Valley Housing association has over 30 pages of houses and flats available for sale (as “shared ownership”

    Maybe they’d have less of a backlog if they tried selling them at an actual market price that people could afford?

  20. dave,

    I keep pointing out that these people are straight-up liars. The claim that people are being forced into hardship by the ‘bedroom tax’ is a lie; no-one will have to pay extra where, as in this case, there is no other demand.

    Every household deemed to be under-occupying has to pay. It’s irrelevant whether there is more appropriately sized accommodation – that’s the problem.

    The HAs and councils are gleefully screwing their tenants in order to rake in extra funds from central government. Bunch of dishonest , murdering scumbags.

    Eh?

  21. john77,

    Shared ownership is not the same kind of disposal I meant. The regulations appear to make it straightforward to sell homes between associations, to the occupants/tenants or to local authorities but a bit more difficult to sell empty properties on the open market.

    Still, the associations knew what they were getting involved in at the time in return for a steady income stream.

    In the cases mentioned here I wonder if there is any kind of redevelopment fund or taxpayer backed guarantee on lending that might incentivise associations to empty out their properties and go for demolition and rebuilding rather than find ways to maximise occupancy rates.

  22. Razing the building allows you to keep the land. Selling for a nominal value does not. I would imagine this has some bearing on the decision.

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