News bites 10 February 2017

Welcome to News Bites, your update on the week's most important news from the housing sector and beyond. Please send any news items you spot, comments or feedback to

Details of Housing white paper revealed

The long-awaited Housing White Paper placed more emphasis on people who rent their homes.

Housing Minister Gavin Barwell said there would be minimum tenancies and more homes built for rent in a "change of tone" from previous Tory policy.

He said the government had not given up making home ownership available to all. Communities Secretary Sajid Javid also responded to the White Paper.

The White Paper received a mixed response from leaders in the housing sector.

The report was published as the National Housing Federation announced housing associations completed 37,600 homes in 2015/16.

Universal credit flaws fuelling debt & eviction

Thousands of benefit claimants are facing debt, rent arrears and eviction as a result of policy design flaws in universal credit, according to landlords and politicians, who are demanding an overhaul of the system, the Guardian reports.

They have warned that UC rules that require claimants to wait at least six weeks for a first benefit payment mean many are going without basic living essentials, forcing them to turn to food banks and loan sharks.

Ministers are being urged to slow down the national rollout and to increase support for vulnerable claimants who are struggling to cope with the demands of monthly payments and an increasingly online-only system.

Brexit four times worse for economy than thought - experts say

Britain’s departure from the European Union could cause output losses of as much as 9.5 per cent, according to new research by MIT economists.

Calculations using models that incorporate productivity measures show a negative impact on gross domestic product per capita of almost four times that of previous estimates, according to John Van Reenen, a professor of applied economics at the MIT Sloan School of Management who supported the campaign for the UK to remain in the EU.

That’s because increased costs of doing business with the rest of Europe - which accounts for about half of all UK trade - will mean lower levels of commerce and foreign investment, and thus lower average incomes in Britain, he said.

Councils at 'breaking point'

Some local authorities may be forced to declare technical insolvency in the next two years, experts have said, as councils struggle to weather the financial pressures caused by budget cuts and growing demand for social care, the Guardian reports.

A survey of councils in England and Wales by the Local Government Information Unit (LGIU) thinktank found that three-quarters had little or no confidence in the sustainability of local government finances and more than one in 10 believed they were in danger of failing to meet legal requirements to deliver core services.

The nervousness about finances was even more pronounced among councils with responsibility for delivering social care. They were much more likely to state that the financial squeeze would see a deterioration in the quality of services this year and that cuts would put them in breach of their statutory duties.

More than 40% of all councils anticipated making “cuts in frontline services, which will be evident to the public” – rising to 71% among social care authorities. More than half considered adult social care to be the most pressing issue, a figure that increases to 80% among social care authorities.

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