Lunchtime news Monday 19 May 2023

HHSE Scotland has warned that almost a third of Scottish homeowners with a mortgage have no savings or investments and are one pay packet away from a housing crisis. HHSE has been calling for big improvements to the safety net to support people with mortgage difficulties and other measures such as better recording of the numbers of repossessions.

Paragon thinks rents will rise between 10 and 11 per cent during the next two years, while house prices will fall by 20 per cent in the same time. As people are reluctant to buy homes while prices are falling, demand for rental properties has increased. And within the buy-to-let sector, investors are either no longer so keen to buy flats to rent out or are unable to gain a mortgage, so the number of rented properties is not expanding. Average rents have already increased 14 per cent to more than £1,000 over the last year.

And to reinforce this point, Cheltenham & Gloucester yesterday announced as from the close of business that it had withdrawn its entire range of home loans from the market, and would replace them with more expensive products. Most rates are expected to increase by 0.25 per cent.

According to an independent adviser to the prime minister on sustainable development, the 15 shortlisted eco-towns at the centre of the government’s housing plans risk increasing social division by diverting money and political will from improving existing towns and cities and may increase commuting time unless there were enough jobs created.

The Audit Commission, in its biennial fraud study in England, has found that record levels of benefits have been stolen or overpaid. The commission estimates that £140 million – a rise of 26 per cent since the previous audit and including £24 million in housing benefit – has been overpaid, and it accuses local authorities of not doing enough about it.

After a long legal battle, MPs have lost the right to keep details of their expenses secret after they decided not to challenge the decision. The Commons members’ estimate committee said it would publish claims of all 646 MPs’ expenses, including details of mortgage repayments, household bills, cleaning, repairs and rent relating to the controversial second homes allowance. The first lot of named MPs including David Cameron and Gordon Brown will be released on Friday.