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UK house prices pick up amid ‘subdued’ market

By | Residential Property

Values rise by 0.3% in November – but few predict rapid growth in short-term

House prices inched ahead in November but Brexit uncertainty has left the property market “relatively subdued” according to Nationwide building society.

The average UK home rose in price by 0.3% month-on-month, pushing the annual rate of inflation up to 1.9%, up from 1.6% the previous month. The average home now costs £214,044.

However in cash terms the average price of a home in the UK actually fell by nearly £500 on the month, but because of seasonal adjustments used by Nationwide, its index recorded a rise.

The direction of house prices will be heavily dependent on the outcome of the Brexit vote on 11 December and what emerges after that. Nationwide said that if the uncertainty lifted, then prices were likely to spring back.

Its chief economist, Robert Gardner, said: “If the uncertainty lifts in the months ahead and employment continues to rise, there is scope for activity to pick up through next year.

“The squeeze on household incomes is already moderating and policymakers have signalled that, if the economy performs as they expect, interest rates are only expected to rise at a modest pace and to a limited extent in the years ahead.”

But the Bank of England’s warning this week that house prices could tumble by 30% following a no-deal Brexit is already having an impact on the market, according to property experts.

Jonathan Hopper, managing director of Garrington Property Finders, said: “While the ‘armageddon’ scenarios run by Mr Carney will be brushed off by many as unlikely, they will further sober the thinking of over-optimistic sellers and cautious buyers.

“For now, his comments have served only to dial up the uncertainty – and the pattern of subdued business-as-usual continues.

“Despite the shortage of homes for sale, a steady stream of strategic buyers are pouncing on buying opportunities that may not be around if the market normalises in 2019.”

Nationwide highlighted how the supply of housing was improving after a decade in which Britain had not built sufficient housing for a growing population.

It said: “After falling by almost 60% in the wake of the financial crisis, there has been a significant pick-up in construction in recent years. New-build completions in England in 2017/18 reached 195,300, around 3% below 2007/08 levels.”

It added that once additional dwellings were counted – particularly from the wave of office-to-residential conversions, then housebuilding has virtually returned to peak 2007 levels. In total, 1.9m dwellings have been built in England since 2007, representing an 8.5% increase in the total stock of homes.

Source: The Guardian

Allied Healthcare to transfer care contracts

By | Social Housing

A major UK home care provider, offering support to 13,000 older and disabled people, is seeking to transfer or sell all its contracts to other providers.

Allied Healthcare was warned this month by the care regulator about its financial sustainability.

Since then, some local authorities have already taken steps to find new providers.

The company says it is working closely with councils to ensure there is no disruption to people’s care.

Allied Healthcare provides services such as preparing meals, washing and giving medication.

Last week, the Care Quality Commission, which regulates such services in England, issued a notice – warning that it had serious doubts about the future of the company.

It was the first time the regulator had issued such a notice about the financial sustainability of a social care provider.

‘Challenging environment’

The CQC said it was concerned about the viability of services run by Allied Healthcare from the end of November and was warning councils to make contingency plans.

It said the company had failed to provide adequate assurances regarding future funding and there was now a credible risk of disruption to services.

But a company spokesperson said on Friday that the CQC statement had “negatively impacted” the firm, led to some customers transferring care services to alternative providers, and disrupted staff retention and recruitment.

“These developments have intensified the impact of the challenging environment within which we operate and come immediately prior to the Christmas period, when pressures on care providers are at their highest.”

The company said it had to re-evaluate its long-term business plan and was exploring the sale or transition of services to alternative providers, including the transfer of staff.

The BBC understands it has now been able to extend its credit by three weeks from the end of November.

Graph on fees

Who’s to blame?

By Alison Holt, social affairs correspondent

The watchword coming from all involved – in what appears to be the demise of one of the UK’s largest providers of homecare – is reassurance.

Allied Healthcare, councils, the regulator and the government are focused on making sure vital care will continue as normal for the more than 13,000 people, who get visits from the company’s staff.

No one can afford to get that wrong. But once handovers have happened, serious questions will remain about the pressure on the care market. Earlier this year, Allied blamed low fees from local authorities for some of their financial woes.

Councils themselves warn of a £3.5 billion shortfall in funding for adult social care by 2025. And campaigners describe the care system as failing.

The government has promised a green paper on the long term funding of social care by the end of the year. Previous deadlines have been and gone, and with so much political turmoil, the fear is it will slip again.

But for many, the financial problems faced by Allied will have underlined just how much strain the care system is under right now.

‘Robust plans’

Andrea Sutcliffe, chief inspector of adult social care at the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said Allied Healthcare had had “every opportunity” to put together a plan for its future sustainability and “failed to do so”.

She said there had been a clear requirement for the CQC to issue the notice so local authorities could be informed about the “credible risk of service disruption to people’s care” and could make contingency plans.

Colin Angel, from the UK Home Care Association, said: “Reasonable arrangements to contract with prospective providers must be put in place swiftly.

“Fees for these services need to be set at rates which are financially sustainable for both the short and longer term. ”

The Local Government Association said it was working closely with the CQC, the Department of Health and social services to ensure continuity of care for people currently supported by Allied Healthcare.

Ian Hudspeth, of the LGA, said councils had “robust contingency plans in place”. And he added: “Councils are confident of ensuring care for people affected and are also focused on retaining the highly valued staff that deliver these services to help keep the transition in business ownership as smooth as possible.”

Source: BBC News UK

Today is Independence Day for the English social housing regulator

By | Social Housing

As the Regulator of Social Housing becomes independent today, Fiona MacGregor writes that it is essential to have a standalone, fee-funded regulator

Today is a big day for the Regulator of Social Housing, as we become an organisation in our own right.

This change in status brings into effect the conclusion of the tailored review of the Homes and Communities Agency, which began back in February 2016.

It has not been a quiet time for the regulator, or for the sector, in that period.

Among other things, the Welfare Reform and Work Act introduced rent reductions, which are now in their third year.

The roll-out of Universal Credit is building up pace, with increasing numbers of social housing tenants covered by the new regime.

Private registered providers were classified to the public sector and then re-classified as private sector bodies by the Office for National Statistics following the implementation of de-regulation measures, including the removal of the regulator’s consents powers.

Over that period, we have successfully introduced and refined our operating model, which includes the ‘in-depth assessment’ approach on which we continue to receive good feedback.

We have also recently seen the introduction of the housing administration regime although, as with our moratorium powers, our aim would be to identify and remedy issues before those powers need to be used.

Our recent experience with a number of cases that have been non-compliant has shown that although we will always be co-regulatory in our approach, we stand prepared to take decisive regulatory action when necessary.

Sadly, there has also been the tragic Grenfell Tower fire which is currently the subject of a public inquiry.

While we await the government’s response to the recommendations of the Hackitt Review, the events at Grenfell Tower have sparked a significant public debate, as well as a debate across the sector, about how best to meet the needs and aspirations of tenants.

Some of those questions are reflected in the government’s recently published Social Housing Green Paper, as well as in the call for evidenceon the Review of Social Housing Regulation.

We urge as many stakeholders as possible to respond to both of these consultations, and for landlords, to reflect the views of your tenants in doing so. You can only shape the debate if you participate.

The green paper consultation may lead to changes in the role and remit of the regulator.

We are confident that, as a standalone body, we will be able to adapt to further changes as they emerge. Indeed, one of our core values, developed by our staff, states “we are agile and react positively to change”.

In the meantime, however, we think it is a huge tribute to our staff that you will not have seen any diminution in focus in our current role, and in our effective regulation, as we have prepared ourselves to become standalone. Support for that role, and for the way we undertake it, was underlined in the results of our recent Stakeholder Survey.

Becoming standalone means changes for us, such as the Regulation Committee becoming the board of the Regulator of Social Housing.

But for the sector, and our stakeholders, we actually hope that you will see no change in the things that matter to you – effective and proportionate regulation.

There can be no doubt that the need for effective economic regulation remains, alongside an increased focus on providing good services to consumers, both of which were very much reflected in the prime minister’s recent speech to the National Housing Summit.

The changes we have seen in recent years, along with any to come, reinforce for us that it is essential to have a strong, standalone fee-funded regulator, in line with the findings of the tailored review.

Source: Inside Housing

People should be proud of their council house – Theresa May

By | Residential Property, Social Housing

People who live in council houses should be made to feel proud of their homes, Theresa May has said.

The PM announced £2bn to build new homes in England, in an attempt to remove the “stigma” of social housing.

Under the plan, housing associations, councils and other organisations will be able to bid for the money to spend on new projects, starting from 2022.

Labour said the announcement fell “far short” of what was needed for the social housing sector.

BBC home editor Mark Easton said the government hopes the money will allow local authorities and housing associations to build schemes that would otherwise seem too risky.

He said the sector’s calls to provide more confidence about future funding – so the 300,000 extra homes required in England each year can be built – had appeared to have been listened to.

Mrs May told a National Housing Federation summit in London: “Some residents feel marginalised and overlooked, and are ashamed to share the fact that their home belongs to a housing association or local authority.

“On the outside, many people in society – including too many politicians – continue to look down on social housing and, by extension, the people who call it their home.”

She will encourage housing associations to change how tenants and society view social housing.

“We should never see social housing as something that need simply be ‘good enough’, nor think that the people who live in it should be grateful for their safety net and expect no better,” she said.

“I want to see social housing that is so good people are proud to call it their home… our friends and neighbours who live in social housing are not second-rate citizens.”

In mixed developments, she said it should be impossible to tell the difference between full-price and affordable housing, which should not be “tucked away out of sight and out of mind”.

David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said the prime minister’s announcement was “extremely welcome”.

“This represents a total step change. For years, the way that money was allocated meant housing associations couldn’t be sure of long-term funding to build much-needed affordable housing,” he said.

He said that by changing the way the funding was allocated, ministers had given “long-term confidence and confirmed that we are trusted partners in solving the housing crisis, building new homes and communities”.

But shadow housing secretary John Healey said the reality was spending on new affordable homes had been “slashed” and the number of new social rented homes built last year “fell to the lowest level since records began”.

“If Conservative ministers are serious about fixing the housing crisis they should back Labour’s plans to build a million genuinely affordable homes, including the biggest council house-building programme for more than 30 years,” he said.

The English housing survey for 2016/17 reported that 3.9 million households – about nine million people – lived in the social rented sector, which was 17% of households in the country.

The funding covers the next spending review period, from 2021 through to 2028.

Downing Street said the money was separate to the £9bn of public funding put toward the existing affordable homes programme until 2022.

Source: BBC News

UK inflation hits six-month high of 2.7%

By | Residential Property

The UK inflation rate unexpectedly rose in August to 2.7%, the highest level in six months.

Economists had expected a Consumer Prices Index rate of 2.4%. The pound rose after the data was released by the Office for National Statistics.

Wages are still rising more than inflation, with data last week showing wages, excluding bonuses, grew by 2.9% in the three months to July.

Rising prices for recreational goods, transport and clothing drove the rise.

In July, CPI was 2.5%, which had been the first jump in the index since November.

Mike Hardie, head of inflation at the ONS, said: “Consumers paid more for theatre shows, sea fares and new season autumn clothing last month.

“However, mobile phone charges, and furniture and household goods had a downward effect on inflation.”


Prices rose less sharply for furniture, household goods and communications.

The year-on-year rise in CPI in August meant that inflation was narrowing the gap with wage increases, with economists waiting for the August earnings figures.

“Today’s inflation data show the rate of price growth accelerated in August, and may well prove to have exceeded total earnings growth in the same period. Unless UK workers can increase their productivity, this trend is likely to continue – squeezing living standards over the medium term,” said Alastair Neame, senior economist at the Centre for Economics and Business Research.

Sterling rose to $1.32 following the news, its highest level since July.

“The numbers reinforce expectations that policymakers will gently lift interest rates over the next couple of years,” said Ben Brettell, senior economist at Hargreaves Lansdown.

Theatre tickets

The Bank of England raised its key interest rate for only the second time in a decade last month. The current interest rate of 0.75% is the highest since March 2009.

It has also forecast that inflation will fall back to the target rate of 2% by 2020.

“The figures won’t come as welcome news to the Bank of England, though – they’ll be desperate to leave policy unchanged until we get some clarity over Brexit and won’t want to be forced into a rate rise by accelerating prices,” said Mr Brettell.

The CPI measure reached 3.1% in November 2017, when price rises were fuelled by the weakness in the pound following Brexit vote.

In August, the largest change in prices was in the cultural services sector, where theatre tickets rose, and also games, toys and hobbies, while prices for computer goods rose after falling a year ago.

Temporary rise

The ONS said transport costs as a component of inflation increased, largely because of rises in sea and air fares. Petrol prices, though, rose by 1.4 pence between July and August, less than the 1.8 pence rise of a year earlier.

The average price of clothing and footwear rose 3.1% between July and August, faster than the 2.4% a year before. While clothing prices usually rise between July and August, the ONS said women’s and children’s clothing drove the rise.

Howard Archer, chief economic adviser to the EY Item Club, said the fact that the inflation rise was fuelled by reaction and cultural goods meant it would be temporary.

“We would expect this to unwind in next month’s release,” Mr Archer said.

The Retail Prices Index (RPI), a separate measure of inflation, was 3.5% in August, up from 3.2% in July.

Source: BBC News

Prince William to launch landmark workplace mental health initiative on visit to Bristol

By | Social Housing

PRINCE William is set to launch a new workplace mental health initiative on Tuesday, which is designed to provide employers with improved access to tools and materials required to better support staff.

The Duke of Cambridge will unveil his Mental Health At Work project at an event in Bristol on Tuesday, which will include an online portal providing access to resources, training and information for managers in order to provide support for employees.

Prince William will visit Bristol’s Engine Shed, an innovation centre located in Bristol Temple Meads railway station, and will attend workshops demonstrating the online portal in action.

The initiative has been created in partnership between the Royal Foundation, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s charitable trust, and the mental health charity Mind.

Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, commented on the initiative, stating: “We know that employers want to do more and are starting to see mental health as a priority, but often don’t know where to start.

“The new online Mental Health At Work gateway will change that.

“Over the last few years employers have begun to take staff well-being more seriously and we know that many are doing great work around mental health in the workplace.

“Now is the time for a step change in how we think about mental health at work.”

The initiative will be open to all businesses, but will be particularly focused on small and medium sized organisations, which regularly struggle to access sufficient resources.

Alan Soady, head of media at the Federation of Small Businesses, commented on the issue to Sky News, stating: “For the small business employer without an HR department it’s important that they’re given help, support and guidance to allow them to do that for their staff and also look after their own well-being.”

Prince William will deliver a speech at the event, alongside Antonio Horta Osorio, the chief executive of Lloyds Bank, who will outline his own struggles in the workplace.

The Duke will also meet representatives from a number of organisations who have shown leadership in promoting and advancing mental health initiatives in the workplace.

The project will expand upon the Prince’s previous work on mental health as part of his Head Together campaign, which sought to end the stigma surrounding mental illness.

A survey conducted by Mind into wellbeing in the workplace revealed that almost half of the 44,000 people questioned had experienced poor mental health in their current roles.

However the research also revealed that only half of these individuals had talked to their employers about the issue.

This suggests that as many as one in four UK workers struggle in silence with issues including anxiety, stress and low moods, costing employers between £33-£42billion every year.



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