Archives for category: Housing

Proposals for Brummie Bonds were first put forward by former Greenpeace economist Colin Hines at the end of 2004 (Birmingham Post – Comment: 5.2.04), at the end of 2004 by then Conservative council leader Mike Whitby mentioned here, advocated in the Stirrer (2008) and frequently by John Clancy (right), before he became Labour council leader (most eloquently in 2011).

Clancy acts, 2017

Professor David Bailey (Aston Business School, Birmingham) welcomed the news that the City has found a new way to finance house-building – John Clancy’s first issue of Brummie Bonds (more detail here):

“The City Council is already building more new council houses than any other local authority in the country – with the Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust building 30% of all new homes in the city last year. But that’s still not enough and using Brummie Bonds to raise £45m to help finance more house building is welcome news. Clancy has talked of Brummie Bonds opening up new funding streams to deliver a “step change” in building homes”.

The Council has stated that the interest rate it will pay on the Brummie Bonds is actually lower than that charged by the Public Works Loan Board (or PWLB – a government body that provides loans to local authorities mainly for capital projects).

Pensions and life assurance specialists Phoenix Life, which employs around 600 people in Wythall, has agreed to invest in a ‘Brummie Bond’ and there is the prospect of other investors coming in. The West Midlands Local Government Pension Fund and other union and business pension funds could take up future issues.

Hines goes further, seeing municipal bonds as a safe haven for ‘People’s Pensions’ – just as when, following the Housing Act of 1919, the London County Council and other local borough councils began to sell housing bonds to the public to raise money for public housing. schemes. He also advocates that, in due course, such bonds would also fund the retrofitting of houses and clean modes of transport.

As Professor Bailey ends: “Hats off to Birmingham City Council for pulling this off. A “confident act of local economic self-determination”? Yes”.

 

 

 

bb

An emboldened Conservative government would indeed be good news for ‘Strong and Stable’ funeral directors, as:

  • air pollution continues unabated,
  • the health service deteriorates,
  • the incidence of adult depression and mental illness in children grows apace
  • ‘moral fibre’ rots: latest indication:10,000 Britons signed up to one of the world’s largest paedophile internet networks
  • and others are debt-ridden due to the daily onslaught of consumerist advertising,
  • sedated by inane, often BBC-provided TV quiz shows
  • or led astray by a violent TV/online diet.

Tom Young says May’s ‘Strong and Stable Government’: (is) More Than a Tagline – indeed it is and a Conservative stabilisation unit would, in future, see an increasingly  heavy workload.

New claimants with a disability have just been hit by a £30 a week cut in benefits to save the government £1bn over four years even though their living costs are higher because of the need for assisted travel, hospital appointments, extra heating, etc., and they are likely to take far longer to find a job.

A Hall Green friend who intends to vote Labour writes of his issue with the Labour message: “it remains too rooted in struggle and injustice, and not enough in giving people a reason to vote if they don’t suffer or struggle”.

But many well-placed voters are deeply concerned when seeing others in difficulties. And a far larger swathe of the population is struggling than he seems to think:

  • graduates in formerly secure jobs are being made redundant,
  • people in their twenties and twenties now see no option but to live with their parents,
  • many people are suffering from urban air pollution and miserable traffic congestion,
  • education cuts will affect their children as the Public Accounts Committee has warned,
  • in some areas people in need of healthcare are affected by a declining NHS service.
  • mental illness, no doubt in part due to one of more of these factors, is rising rapidly in both children and adults.

Professor Prem Sikka sees the positive, constructive Labour message; U.K. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn plans:

  • to raise corporation tax by more than a third over the next three years and plough the £6bn proceeds into schools and universities,
  • restore maintenance grants for the poorest students,
  • abolish university tuition fees
  • guarantee that five, six and seven-year olds will not be taught in classes of more than 30.
  • creating a National Education Service to equip Britain’s workers for the post-Brexit economy,
  • extend free adult education to allow workers to upgrade their skills,
  • raise the cap on NHS wages, and
  • to build up to a million new homes, many of them council houses.

If ‘the sums don’t add up’, a standard Conservative knee-jerk reaction:

Withdraw subsidies from fossil fuel & nuclear companies and arms exporters, jettison HS2 and redirect investment to improving rail and waterway transport links.

Sikka rightly ends: People are our biggest asset and only they can build a nation. We have a choice: Tax cuts for the rich or investment in our future to enable people to realise their potential.

 

 

 

 

 

So says George Monbiot in the Guardian. He trounces Blairite MPs who, disloyal to their elected leader and helping to grant Theresa May a mandate, ‘tolerated anything the Labour party did under Blair’:

They “proclaim disenchantment now that it calls for the protection of the poor, the containment of the rich and the peaceful resolution of conflict.

The popularity of Corbyn’s recent policy announcements leads Monbiot to believe he has a chance, albeit slight, of turning this around. His pledge to raise the minimum wage to £10 an hour is supported by 71% of people, according to a ComRes poll; raising the top rate of tax is endorsed by 62%.

He cites Labour’s 10 pledges, placed some time ago on another website, which could – incorporated in its manifesto – appeal to almost everyone. They promote the theme of security:

secure employment rights,

secure access to housing,

secure public services,

a secure living world.

Compare this with the attitude of the major funder of the Brexit campaign, billionaire Peter Hargreaves: ‘Insecurity is fantastic’.

Those who question Corbyn’s lack of experience and competence should remember where more ‘credible’ politicians led us:

  • Blair’s powers of persuasion led to the Iraq war.
  • Gordon Brown’s reputation for prudence blinded people to the financial disaster he was helping to engineer, through the confidence he vested in the banks.
  • Cameron’s smooth assurance caused the greatest national crisis since the second world war.
  • May’s calculating tenacity is likely to exacerbate it.

A progressive alliance/tactical voting?

Much advice follows; the most congenial is that Labour should embrace the offer of a tactical alliance with other parties:

“The Greens have already stood aside in Ealing Central and Acton, to help the Labour MP there defend her seat. Labour should reciprocate by withdrawing from Caroline Lucas’s constituency of Brighton Pavilion. Such deals could be made all over the country: and as the thinktank Compass shows, they enhance the chances of knocking the Tories out of government . . .”

Monbiot ends:

“The choice before us is as follows: a party that, through strong leadership and iron discipline, allows three million children to go hungry while hedge fund bosses stash their money in the Caribbean, and a party that hopes, however untidily, to make this a kinder, more equal, more inclusive nation I will vote Labour on 8 June . . . I urge you to do the same”.

 

 

 

Comments on an FT article by Philip Stephens 

No policies? Every time I see Jeremy Corbyn being interviewed or giving speeches he is addressing these very issues and more.

“Who can worry about housing, schools or transport, let alone the mundane aspirations of Middle England, ahead of the great liberation struggles.” I don’t know where Philip Stephens has been but every time I see Jeremy Corbyn being interviewed or giving speeches he is addressing these very issues and more.

I would suggest he and the Labour party have lost the working-class vote thanks to the previous Blair government being non representative of them.  Remember Mandelson talking about being: ” Intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich as long as they pay their taxes…?” Corbyn has also suffered very badly by the press.  Mrs May has profited by Cameron’s mistake and badly handled Remain campaign and we are now at the mercy of this unelected PM and her party… (see also JC policy docs here)

Philip Stephens creates a narrative that doesn’t fit the facts. Corbyn has delivered effective attacks on the Government on welfare, the NHS and housing, some producing small U-turns.

He also travelled up and down the country campaigning to Remain. The problem was he and the Labour Party failed to breakthrough the media ignoring their campaign and focussing (in terms of the Remain argument) exclusively on the pathetic and useless official Remain campaign. Jeremy has been democratically elected twice to be leader. His record should in no way be considered dismal. He has consistently delivered his honestly and long-held beliefs.

Rubbish analysis as per usual although the historical throwback is well put.

Corbyn does care about housing, education, schools, middle england, under invested regions (it was Corbyn who was talking about a migrant impact fund), transition to Green energy.

Corbyn far-left? Inaccurate and “un-FT”. Corbyn seems to be a middle of the road socialist, at least by normal European standards.

Far-left policies include abolishing private healthcare, private education, the monarchy, making all third-level education free, nationalising banks and railways and a number of other things, some of which would probably be quite good for the country.

As it is, Corbyn seems to be a middle of the road socialist, at least by normal European standards. Far-left European politicians would include Vladimir Lenin, Rosa Luxembourg, Alexander Lukashenko and any number of dictatorial 1980s Communist party secretaries in Warsaw Pact-era eastern Europe. Jeremy Corbyn is quite clearly not in that zone unless one is a swivel-eyed Daily Mail reader.

A question: When Brexit is done and May is left standing there blinking vaguely and surrounded by the wreckage of the economy where will the Conservative Party be in the eyes of the electorate?

Its reputation for sound economic management will have been trashed along with the economic damage it has just imposed on the country so who wins?

Philip you are doing the FT (and its readers) a signal disservice by misunderstanding Corbyn and the Labour left.

Copeland was never likely to vote for an anti nuclear Labour Party – and well you know that. The wonder is that the Labour Party nearly won the seat despite being clearly antagonistic to the existence of the region’s biggest employer. WE, the subscribers to the FT, expect objective reporting that enables good decision making.

Corbyn and labour can’t win at the moment, if they go to the middle and ignore the democratisation of their party they will lose, if they stay a democratic left party the boomers and those with assets won’t vote for them as they fear socialism

Meanwhile the millennials and future generations bear the brunt of public debt created privately, and shareholder capitalism which is a race to the bottom, generation rent, and the absurd 40% of income rent costs in areas where there are plentiful jobs and opportunity epitomises the modern day surplus extraction and misery of those who have not lived among the golden age of capitalism, add tuition fees, stagnating public services (NHS), erosion of employment rights and you can see why Corbyn is confident among that 20% (of which I’m a part, ha ha ha, how funny he’s so inept ha ha ha lets all laugh at corbyn because there are so many other alternatives out there that are SO much better).

The Tories will continue their irrational, economically illiterate policy that is not running the country into the ground but causing growing social issues, and new social actors will emerge from the post 2008 age eventually tipping the balance towards something more corbyn-esque. Until then it will be the same old, same old.

Corbyn’s crackpot policies are simply outrageous! Spending a little more on the NHS and primary school education?  Providing a bit more affordable housing in the midst of a housing crisis? 

Failing to asset strip the public infrastructure? Rowing back a bit on the vast, exploitative Sports Direct-ification of the British economy?  Why, this is simply unpatriotic! How “radical” – somebody stop this crazed moderate, centre-left European-style social democrat Corbyn before my taxes end up a little bit higher and the proles end up with a slightly better quality of life!

God forbid that poorer people should ever have slightly better quality of life. Who knows where that might end? It’s better not to give people hope. It just encourages them to think. 

I agree.  Britain’s low wage, low skill, low investment, low productivity economy would be severely jeopardised by the dangerous, radical policies of Jeremy Corbyn. Sure, he’s languishing in the polls now, but the proles are a fickle lot and cannot be trusted to consistently vote for their own impoverishment. What if Corbyn dons a Union Jack leotard and starts leaping up to belt out a few verses of ‘God Save The Queen’ with gusto on the next campaign trail, waving a couple of flags about like the dickens.  Why, the proles might even be duped by this charade into voting him into office! This would leave us all at the mercy of an outbreak of half-decent working and housing conditions for the proles at any time.  This simply would not do, too much has already been invested by the Conservatives in their cooption of UKIP’s policy platform!

There was no money left. The Tories have just borrowed billions. The crash will be spectacular.

This article is high in the running for one of the worst I have read in the FT in years.  We are in the end times of Neo-Liberalism, an experiment where maybe 20% did very well, and 80% were massively left behind.

Corbyn, Trump, Brexit are consequences of a system that has failed, and a financial system that collapsed in 2008, never a crisis always a collapse.  Stevens has no understanding of the why’s of brexit or the rise of Corbyn.  The left-right paradigm is dead.  I could not find one sentence in this article that is not total ideological nonsense.

If Jeremy has got under the skin of Philip Stephens so badly he must be doing something right.

Most Labour MPs and most journalists hate Corbyn as if he were the devil.  He represents the one pole of the process of polarisation caused by the 2007-9 Great Recession and the continuing crisis of world capitalism.

Let there be no mistake. The reason Philip Stephens is so horrified is because if his buddies amongst the old Labour MPs who are career politicians, were instead people of principle and socialists, then the Labour Party would be challenging for power.

The lesson of our era is the fluidity and rapidity of change. If Corbyn is right, (and I think there is lots of evidence to back him up), if he can be seen to be a leader of masses on protests and demonstrations, this will sharply polarise politics and this may match a simultaneous collapse in Tory support.  The Labour MPs who are resigning and trying to oust Corbyn again with their endless press briefings against him are part of a deliberate coup attempt. This time a sort of coup by water torture. They will fail again. The only major criticism one can make of Corbyn is he is too soft on these saboteurs. There are times when a sword must be wielded.

The worrying thing about this analysis is, his policies weren’t even that far left, they were definitely more central than Thatcher’s. Yet the FT reports this as if he’s Lenin/Kim Jung Un etc. His biggest failing for the press is he wants a meritocracy and for companies which require state support (through the use of tax credits to prop up salaries and increase profits and bonuses) to not pay dividends, which is effectively the Government paying the rich in an indirect way. Yes he has his failings, as does everyone, but generally speaking a lot of his economic policies would work fairly well at creating a long term balanced economy.

Corbyn, and his anointed heir, need to show there is an alternative to the Conservative Creed. Perhaps he needs to lose an election to clear out the MPs who are undermining him.

Perhaps this will result in his own political demise. But if he has a suitable succession plan in place then his success will come after he is gone. With the LabouraTory MPs planked off the sinking ship, seats will be freed for real Labour candidates for the subsequent election.

Facetious commentary. Corbyn has inherited a mess of a party with crumbling membership and totally out of touch MPs.

Time and time again polls have shown that the public want a ring fenced NHS, working railways and better care for the elderly, sick and disabled. To finance that he has stated that he will increase funding to the HMRC so that it can go after companies that are not paying their taxes (last year’s estimated unpaid tax was £34 Billion) which is probably why this article has been written in the style it has.

People want the state to intervene if something isn’t working. The current level of income disparity is something that is directly affecting the world by creating the perfect soil for fascism. Yet no other political leader wants to do anything about it (since it will affect their careers after being an MP). 

Versus the CIA and capitalism he is the best chance we have of having a fair society

As Steve Beauchampé writes in the Birmingham Press and Political Concern, generations of an elite have ruled this nation (with a few intermissions) for as long as anyone can remember, due to a rigged electoral system.

Their dual achievements:

  • comfortable tax arrangements for the few, a political/corporate nexus which ensures highly paid and nominal duties for all in the inner circle
  • vast military expenditure bestowed on the arms industry, as rising numbers of the population survive in relative poverty, wait in hospital corridors, receive a sub-standard education and depend on handouts to eke out their existence.

Direction of travel

Beauchampé:(The) economy is increasingly kept afloat by the economic support of China . . . The modern high-rise residential blocks that have sprung up throughout the capital may give the impression of a modern, flourishing economy, but look closely and you will see that many are all but empty, whilst homelessness and a reliance on subsistence level housing grows . . . “He notes that surveillance is at an historic high with spy cameras, and even microphones installed in many public places -describing the state’s ability to track the population and follow their activities and conversations as ‘frightening’. . .

The elite stranglehold could be broken

OB’s editor agrees with many that electoral reform is a priority for beneficial change – but even under the rigged ‘first past the post’ system, if the weary mass of people (Brenda of Bristol)  saw the true situation they would vote for the candidate with a credible track record who would be most likely to work for the common good.

 

 

 

 

Its message: the greatest need is for affordable rented housing in urban areas. Any solution to Britain’s housing crisis must include a bigger contribution from the public sector. Rather than coercive measures, the focus should be on enabling local authorities and housing associations that wish to build social housing.

Shame is poured on George Osborne’s ‘massive’ reduction of Housing Associations’ capability to invest in new housing with a 1% rent reduction per annum for 5 years: “Social housing rents are already at a large discount to private landlord rents, so this ill-advised move in one go, reduced the capital raising capability of Housing Associations”.

The FT thinks that local authorities should be allowed to:

  • set planning fees,
  • to levy taxes on idle land when developers fail to use planning permissions
  • and, crucially, to borrow in order to fund their own social housing developments.

There is a great deal that can still be done by making better use of brownfield sites and releasing public land for development. An annual tax should be levied on undeveloped land that has residential planning permission but has not been developed whether publicly-owned, or land owned privately, by companies, NGOs or agencies.

Mixed developments are being built, income from sales invested in social housing

At the end of March, Birmingham’s council newsletter reported on the completion of 251 ‘quality’ homes in Erdington. There is a mixture of social housing and houses for sale, for a range of family sizes – from one to five bedroom properties.  The income gained from houses sold from this latest development will be reinvested into the council’s housing stock of social housing. News of other social and affordable new housing in the city may be read here. Today we are reminded that a four year programme has been set up to enlist smaller housebuilders to use smaller plots of land.

Birmingham City Council won Social Housing Provider of the Year’ at the Insider Residential Property Awards in 2016. This highlighted the work of the Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust (BMHT, currently the largest provider of affordable homes per annum in the Midlands with projects in Nechells, Sutton Coldfield and Ladywood. In 2015, BMHT also won the Public Sector Award at the Urban Design Awards for its Newtown redevelopment (See architect Joe Holyoak’s article – one photo above.).

BMHT celebrated the completion of its 2,000 home milestone in March – a culmination of 1,125 homes built for rent and almost 900 built for sale since the council launched the BMHT programme.  The council plans to build around 1,800 further new homes for rent and market sale between now and 2020 in order to close the city’s housing gap.

 

The Planner reported last year that 73 Councils in England are now piloting the new brownfield registers in an attempt to bring forward derelict and underused land for new homes. Dudley’s register may be seen here.

The Government’s brownfield land register project is intended to help to bring forward previously developed land for new homes and fulfil its pledge to get planning permission in place on 90% of suitable brownfield sites for housing.  

Leeds City Council’s website records that it has put together a pilot register of suitable sites able to accommodate 5 or more dwellings or be at least 0.25 hectares in size, with the capacity for building 20,000 new homes. Details, with a map of 84 sites in the six separate zones, are published on the Council’s Open Data platform Data Mill North

Developments include the Climate Innovation District at Low Fold, which will offer 312 zero-carbon apartments, and mixed tenure communities, including local authority-owned housing such as East Bank (Saxton Gardens).

Councillor Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council, said: “Leeds has one of the fastest growing economies and workforces in the UK with 140,000 people working in the city centre alone. Transforming our brownfield sites into these attractive communities supports regeneration, continued economic growth and public services, helping to avoid the problems that some cities have faced of low levels of occupation of the city centre at weekends.

The authority is looking to work in partnership with the private sector with funding models including pump priming, patient investments and grant funding, as well as looking at ways it can underwrite risk.

Councillor John Clancy, leader of Birmingham City Council. “By expanding our partnership working and targeting funding to revive brownfield sites, either by financing infrastructure or supporting individual schemes, we can give developers and investors the confidence to get to work and provide badly needed homes.”

Since 2012, the council has been developing new homes on the estate – a brownfield site – where a clearance programme of poor quality housing has been ongoing for a period of years.  Rebranded as Abbey Fields, one of three schemes being undertaken as part of the council’s Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust programme. The first phases of the redevelopment are now completed providing 141 new family homes. Of these 76 were for outright sale and 65 for social rent as new council homes. Income generated by the sale of these homes will be reinvested into the council’s own housing stock.

A new four year programme will see small and medium sized house builders working for Birmingham City Council’s house building arm – Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust. It was launched on 22nd March at Birmingham’s Council House.

 

 

 

 

The West Midlands New Economic Group’s blog gives a link to a useful summary of these five omissions and focusses on one question asked by MacFarlane*: “What about the housing crisis?”

The Chancellor failed to mention housing even once, despite the fact that we are in the grip of a serious and escalating housing crisis. One of the things fuelling that crisis is the fact that the government is insisting on selling off public land rather than using it to help deliver more genuinely affordable housing.

At the current rate, the new homes target on sold-off public land will not be met until 2032, 12 years laer than promised. And the majority of homes being built on the land sold are out of reach for most people — only one in five will be classified as ‘affordable’. Even this figure is optimistic as it uses the government’s own widely criticised definition of affordability. If the government ended the public land fire sale they could use that land to partner with local authorities, small developers and communities themselves to deliver the more affordable homes people need.

According to the latest Nationwide House Price statistics, as most people cannot afford to buy now even with a mortgage, cash buyers such as second homeowners and buy to let landlords are propping up the market. Things are getting worse for people left at the mercy of this failing market. The Chancellor could have put a stop to the fire sale of public land yesterday, but instead he acted as if there were no housing crisis all.

*

*Laurie MacFarlane is an economist whose work focuses on reforming the financial sector and the economy to align with long term interests of society. Before joining NEF he was Head of Analysis at the Water Industry Commission for Scotland, an economic regulator which ensures that water customers receive value for money and led a small team of economists undertaking economic and financial analysis and engaging with industry stakeholders. He also spent one year in the Markets and Economics division at Ofwat, where he worked on establishing the recent water company price determinations. He has worked closely with Common Weal, a progressive Scottish think tank which aims to promote a new vision for economic, social and cultural development in Scotland and has a particular interest in analysing the links between UK housing crisis, the finance system and inequality.

Read more here: http://action.neweconomics

 

 

 

A link was sent today by a Bournville reader and followed by Cllr John Clancy’s message: “I know we have to do more to deliver the houses our citizens desperately need and deserve. This is an absolute priority for me and the cabinet. We are already building at a scale unheard of for decades and delivering the housing this city needs.

wake-green-prefabsValued homes: Grade 2 listed Phoenix prefabs in Wake Green Road, Moseley

The reader’s link led to an article by Reuter’s  Astrid Zweynert. After a brief account of post-war prefab building, she writes: “Faced with a chronic, new housing shortage, Britain is once more embracing prefabrication as it struggles to meet its promise to build a million homes in England by 2020. In a major policy announcement last month, the government said it supported off-site construction, promised financial support for prefabs and to make public land available for “modular schemes”, as they are known now”.

An online search will reveal many expensive and stylish prefabricated houses and fewer low cost models – but such options do exist. Building Design highlighted three prefabricated solutions to the housing crisis in 2016.

urbansplas_prefab-660

The first design (above), by Urban Splash, was one of the new range of low-cost prefabricated housing solutions being ‘rolled out’ across the country with the potential to help tackle Britain’s affordable housing crisis.

 

 

 

Long after the high quality housing programme initiated by Mayor Ken Livingstone – monuments to socialism at its best (see specifications in Chapter 2 here) – we read that homelessness is soaring in the capital as “immaculate houses in central London lie empty, used as assets in buy-to-leave schemes and three quarters of luxury new builds were snapped up by foreign investors last year”.

Birmingham’s Labour-led City Council won ‘Social Housing Provider of the Year’ at the Insider Residential Property Awards 2016 for the work done by the Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust (BMHT) programme, citing recent projects in Nechells, Sutton Coldfield and Ladywood. The city was also a finalist in the 2016 APSE (Association for Public Service Excellence) housing sector award. Last year BMHT won the Public Sector Award at the Urban Design Awards for its Newtown redevelopment.

bmht-2-small-heath

Small Heath, 2015

Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust (BMHT), set up in January 2009 to lead the development of the Council’s new build housing programme, is currently the largest provider of affordable homes per annum in the Midlands.

BMHT completed its 2,000 home in March – 1,125 homes for rent and almost 900 for sale. More than 200 homes for rent are currently under construction on 17 sites and the council is to build around 1,800 further new homes for rent and market sale between now and 2020.

It was good to hear commonsense from the Shadow Secretary of State for Housing and Planning John Healey on Radio 4 recently

john_healey_cihHe deplored the spending of £2.3bn a year on housing benefit going to private landlords renting out sub-standard homes: “The last Labour government brought in the decent homes standard for council and housing association homes, the next Labour government will make it a national mission to end unsafe and sub-standard private rented housing.” When he visited new council-built homes in Birmingham, Councillor John Clancy told him: “Building housing here and now is our first priority. The Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust is building houses in the hundreds and I’m absolutely determined that the city as a whole must now move towards building thousands”. In a recent Birmingham Newsroom post, John Clancy said:

“We now need the Housing Minister to emphasise that local government’s role should include the provision of new social housing as well as providing homes for private rental, and that the Government is serious about affordable home ownership”.

Endnotes:

In June the Mail reported that the city council has set up a £4.6 million fund to buy empty homes and make them fit for use.

According to a council report, more than 5,000 private homes in Birmingham have been empty for more than six months and of those 1,900 have been empty for three years. In many cases they have overgrown gardens, with litter, graffiti and broken windows blighting their neighbourhoods.

Further afield came news of an Irish initiative:

About 12% of Co Louth’s residential stock is vacant and during 2016 the council placed CPOs on 26 houses in Dundalk and purchased the units for between €30,000 and €40,000 each, spending a further €60,000 on each unit to bring them back into use.

In January an FT editorial recommended a bigger contribution from the public sector. To this end local authorities should be enabled to:

  • set planning fees,
  • levy taxes on idle land
  • borrow in order to fund social housing developments,
  • make better use of brownfield sites
  • and release public land for development.

It ended: “Shame then that Osborne reduced massively Housing Associations capability to invest in new housing with a 1% rent reduction pa for 5 years”.