Lunchtime news Tuesday 22 July 2023

Iain Wright, junior housing minister, spoke out against criticism of the Housing and Regeneration Bill and the setting up of the Homes and Communities Agency, saying the agency was not a ‘centrally driven quango’ imposing ‘top down targets’. He also announced the establishment of new Community Land Trusts, that will own or control land for development. Mr Wright added that the name of the new social tenants’ watchdog had changed from Oftenant (Office for Tenants and Social Landlords) to Tenants Services Authority, saying that without exception he ‘failed to see anybody who liked the name’. The Bill was passed in the Lords with amendments and will now go to Royal Assent.

Statistics out from the National Housebuilding Council show that there was a significant drop in private sector housebuilding for the quarter to June 2015. The year on year decrease for the quarter was 51 per cent, while housing association registrations also fell 13 per cent in the year on year figures. Greater London was the only region to experience an increase in new home starts - increasing 8 per cent from the second quarter last year.

The cost of building a house that meets the highest environmental standards is up to 50 per cent greater than a conventional home. The figures, from the department for Communities and Local Government, estimate that the cost of meeting the highest code level ranges from £19,000 to £47,000 per unit, and is higher than building a zero carbon rated home due to the cost of meeting the thermal efficiency standard.

Meanwhile, the National Landlords Association is warning landlords of the risk of rent arrears if they do not carry out appropriate checks on prospective tenants. The NLA is encouraging landlords to make more checks, including the financial record and employment history of tenants. The NLA say that if a tenant fails to pay rent it could take up to six months to resolve, leaving the landlord out of pocket for half their rental income.

In the last week a number of lenders have started to reduce interest rates, dropping the average cost of a new, two-year fixed rate mortgage to below 7 per cent. Yesterday Barclays and Abbey National cut their rates, joining Halifax, Lloyds and Nationwide who cut their rates last week.

A former sub-prime mortgage lender is offering an 8 per cent discount to borrowers if they redeem their loans. The lender wants to get the loans off its books, but can’t find investors willing to buy them, so is making a cash-back offer to 400 customers. The company is also offering to waive its early redemption fee, and says that around 20 per cent of those offered the discount were expressing interest.

And finally a family is being threatened with eviction for keeping chickens in the backyard. The family keeps 25 birds and has been told by council officials that the chickens cannot be classed as pets and the family will be in breach of the tenancy agreement if they are not disposed of.