Lunchtime news Monday 5 November 2023

The National Trust is thinking of buying up green belt land to protect it from housing development. Chairman of the trust, Sir William Proby, claimed that 10,000 acres are at risk of development, and more than three square miles of greenbelt are lost each year as a result of regional development. Members of the National Trust will be asked if they should use some of their £350 million income to purchase land earmarked by the government for development of the three million new homes promised by Gordon Brown. Sir William said that the plans to build more homes were driven by ministers’ ‘obsession with economic growth’.

The government is expected to announce today that it will give local councils in England more control over providing affordable housing through shared home-ownership for key workers and first time buyers. The initiatives, called Local Housing Companies (LHCs) are being launched with 14 local authorities throughout England. They will offer up to 1,000 low-cost deals for new homes built on council land, which ministers hope could double the present figures of mixed community developments.

A soldier injured in Iraq was given 30 days to leave the army house in which he lived with his wife and three children. More than three years after suffering damage to his leg, Carl Tarry is still waiting for compensation, but just four weeks after being medically discharged from the army, he received a letter from the Ministry of Defence (MOD) stating that if he didn’t move out of his house by November 23, he would be liable for damages. He is unable to afford a mortgage or rent in the private rented sector until his compensation comes through. Spokespeople from the MOD said that the eviction letter had been sent in error and the family would not have to move out until January 2. They also said that Mr Tarry’s compensation claim was now being treated as a high priority.

A wave of foreclosures and evictions is sweeping the United States as the subprime market falters. One in five mortgages in the US is now subprime. And with 1.7 million foreclosures already in the first 8 months of this year, up to 2 million more families are expected to lose their homes over the next two years, as banks try to recoup some of their $1 trillion subprime debts. In Cleveland, Ohio, one of the worst areas hit, one in 10 homes are now vacant, and whole areas have been blighted by foreclosure and vandalism.

In answer to a parliamentary question on Friday, housing minister, Yvette Cooper, said that just 88 homes have been bought using Social Homebuy, the multi-million pound government scheme aimed at helping people onto the property ladder through buying a discounted stake in their homes. The scheme, launched in 2005 to help 120,000 households into low-cost home ownership, was described as ‘laughable’ and a ‘pretty pathetic pilot’ by the shadow housing minister, Grant Shapps.

And finally, if you’re renovating and looking to outdo the Jones’s, you could do worse than having a 15 foot section of stairs from the Eiffel Tower leading up to your loft. French auction house Drouot, is selling a 1,540-pound piece, part of the original pre-elevator stairs, on 19 November for an estimated £10,000.