News bites 20 January 2017

Welcome to News Bites, a new feature designed to keep you up to date with the week's most important news from the housing sector and beyond. Please send any news items you spot, comments or feedback to communications@futureshg.co.uk.

Surge in UC tenants in arrears

The percentage of council tenants on Universal Credit in rent arrears has increased to a “critically high” 86% over the past year, sparking “extreme concern” among councils, says Inside Housing.

The National Federation of Arm’s-Length Management Organisations (NFA) and the Association of Retained Council Housing (ARCH), which together represent more than one million council homes in England, carried out annual research into Universal Credit claimants and found the percentage of council home tenants in receipt of Universal Credit who are in rent arrears has increased by seven percentage points – from 79% in March last year to 86%.

This compares with 39% of tenants in arrears who do not receive Universal Credit.

HCA to consider scrapping vfm self-assessments

The Homes & Communities Agency is considering scrapping the requirement for landlords to produce value for money self-assessments if it feels it can instead rely on common “metrics” to measure efficiency, Inside Housing reports.

The HCA is planning in April to launch a consultation on changes to its Value for Money Standard. These could include placing less of an emphasis on value for money self-assessments, which landlords have bene required to produce since 2013, or even removing the requirement to produce self-assessments altogether.

It is understood the regulator believes holding converstaions with boards and relying on widely agreed measures of efficiency could provide a clearer picture of an organisation’s performance on value for money than relying on self-assessments- under which the measurements used can differ greatly between different associations.

Britain to leave the single market - PM

Theresa May has said the UK "cannot possibly" remain within the European single market, as staying in it would mean "not leaving the EU at all".

The PM promised to push for the "freest possible trade" with European countries and warned the EU that to try to "punish" the UK would be "an act of calamitous self-harm". She also said Parliament would vote on the final deal that is agreed.

250,000 social homes lost by 2020

Almost 250,000 social rented homes could be sold or converted to other tenures by 2020, a stark estimate from the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) has revealed.

The CIH has estimated that between 2012 and 2020, 244,000 social rented homes could be lost due to landlords converting them into affordable rented properties – which have rents set at up to 80% of the market rate – or selling them under Right to Buy.

Terrie Alafat, chief executive of the CIH, said the loss of these homes as social rented properties would create “real hardship” for those most in need of housing. Ms Alafat has urged the government to increase the number of social rented homes or at least maintain them.

Housing 'scorecard' to be piloted

A new ‘sector scorecard’ with 15 indicators of efficiency will be piloted this year as housing associations continue to develop a definitive measure of association efficiency.

Inside Housing revealed a working group of associations had developed a series of common efficiency metrics, with buy-in from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), before Christmas.

More detail has now emerged of the group’s work, which will be piloted with the help of membership and benchmarking group Housemark over the coming year.

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