Shadow housing minister, Grant Shapps, has complied a report showing that the number of homeless children in England has increased 128 per cent since Labour came to power, and now stands at more than 130,000. Mr Shapps said the rise highlighted the ‘dismal record of the government’. However a spokesperson for the Department of Communities and Local Government said it had lifted 1.4 million children out of bad housing and ‘want to raise this to well over two million by the end of the decade’.
The December house price index from Rightmove.co.uk today showed that house prices have decreased 3.2 per cent in the past month. Rightmove said that many homeowners cut prices in a bid to sell before 14 December, the deadline for the introduction of home information packs on all house sales.
A report out by the Bank of England showed nearly a million families are struggling to pay off their mortgages, while a further 1.8 million said they had hit problems ‘at least occasionally’, as annual mortgage repayments topped £3.6 billion. The poll shows that almost half of the families facing higher repayments had cut back spending on everyday items; nearly 10 per cent had been forced to borrow more or extend their mortgages; and another 10 per cent had taken on a second job or work overtime to make ends meet. The proportion of households paying more than 20 per cent of their gross salary on mortgages and debt repayments is now higher than it was in 1991.
To add to the problem, many lenders are dragging their feet over passing on of the Bank of England quarter point interest rate cut announced last week. Personal finance website moneyfacts.co.uk has found that a number of lenders have yet to announce any cut – including HSBC, Northern Rock and Yorkshire Building Society; while seven have made reductions less than the Bank’s 0.25 per cent.
And finally, councils have been condemned for allowing ‘swathes of mediocre housing’ across the UK as a result of pressure to get new developments built. Former chief planning inspector, Chris Shepley, said that some applications are ‘bloody awful’, while the Royal Town Planning Institute has warned that the quality of new housing is likely to deteriorate further as the grounds on which town planners can object are curbed: ‘There are real incentives there to build lots of houses but no incentives for quality’.