Lunchtime news Wednesday 26 September 2023

Nationwide‘s house price figures for September, released today, show house prices rose by 0.7 per cent in the month, defying rising mortgage costs and recent financial insecurities. Despite the increase, house price inflation over the last 12 months came down from 9.6 per cent to 9 per cent. Longer term, Nationwide said it expected there to be a slowdown in the growth of house prices.

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) released details of their investigation into payment protection insurance (PPI) and said that misselling was plaguing the industry. It accused some firms of duping consumers into buying the cover, failing to give clear information about the cost, or what the policy actually covered. As lenders add the cost of the cover to the loan, customers end up paying interest on the total figure, which can add up to a third to the cost – with some banks making as much as 70 per cent profit from selling them. However other critics of the system such as CAB and Which? accused the FSA of failing to quickly crackdown on the misselling during their two year investigation. A representative from Which? said: ‘We want the FSA to name and shame offending lenders so that people are aware of which companies are breaching the rules’.

In the States, the Securities and Exchange Commission is launching its own inquiry into whether credit rating agencies such as Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s were ‘unduly influenced’ by fees from Wall Street banks into awarding positive ratings to mortgage-backed securities. According to industry figures, about 25 per cent of sub-prime mortgages issued over the last two years in America were given a top AAA mark. Senior officials from the agencies are to appear before a Senate committee.

Ken Livingstone, London Mayor, used a keynote speech at the Labour Party conference in Bournemouth on Wednesday to accuse the Tory and Liberal-Democrat councils of blocking housing development in the capital because they fear they it will cost them votes in the May 2015 borough elections. Mr Livingstone singled out Southwark borough council which he said was dragging its feet over a housing development by not responding to planning applications and refusing to give up a share of council land. He plans on imposing his first borough council compulsory purchase order to push the development through: ‘Tory and Lib-Dem run councils are blocking the development of housing because they think it will alter the political complexion of their wards’.

And today, Mr Livingstone also outlined measures to increase the supply and choice of accessible homes in London. Two reports have been announced: one setting out targets of at least 10 per cent of new homes being either wheelchair accessible or easily adaptable for wheelchair use, and the other setting out what social landlords and other stakeholders need to do to ensure that deaf and disabled Londoners have information, access to and choice in housing to meet their specific needs.