Select Committee on Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Written Evidence


Memorandum by the Whitefield Conservation Action Group (AH 88)

1.  THE POTENTIAL BENEFITS OF AND SCOPE TO PROMOTE GREATER HOMEOWNERSHIP

  1.1  The benefits of people owning their own home can only be a good thing, it promotes the familial security of them owning their own property, which in turn, gives them a stable environment, "grounds" them to an area that they want/wish to live in, fosters pride in their home and surroundings, and if work is available in the imminent location, gives them the freedom of financial security to plan for their future. It also strengthens the community, work places, environment and area in the long run and encourages trade and further work to this type of stable environment.

  1.2  The majority of owner-occupiers already exist within all the Pathfinder areas, the problem that has arisen now, is that Government, Pathfinders and Local Authorities are interfering with the natural elements of existing Communities and demolishing the homes that the people already own instead of building on what is already there. People want to live as and where they wish, not with Governments or by someone else's aspirations or dictates.

  1.3  The Pathfinders have gone into areas that should and could have been handled differently and have created a massive rip in the "human" fabric that Government say they want to help and maintain. By NOT helping to sustain existing Communities in their own homes, Local Authorities are enforcing a mass migration out of homeowner-occupied homes into the rented sector and changing the scope and scale of resident's lives and livelihoods to fit a Government "Dream"!

2.  THE EXTENT TO WHICH HOME PURCHASE TACKLES SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC INEQUALITIES AND REDUCES POVERTY

  2.1  The rented sector comprising of people in a position to have a more transient outlook with no fixed roots, many with no care for the neighbours, the property, the place or the peace . . . others still who have no option but to obtain a roof over their heads no matter where for many reasons, perhaps to shelter and safeguard their families, be near their work, or have an address to get work . . . or, in the case of Clearance/CPO's, no other option! The drawback in the rented sector is the worry that the landlords can end the tenancy at anytime, for any reason . . . and no one can stop them!

  2.2  If you take away owner-occupiers homes and not give them the TRUE home value (as Government say they should have, but which is not happening!) you are enforcing poverty on the people, for many it may be the only thing they own, taking away their pride and forcing them to move to other properties in other areas, where they do not want to live by their own choice, or affordability away from Community, family, shops, schools, work, etc they are being shunted around like cattle to other areas, where it will all start again, all to afford the Local Authorities and Construction Companies an area big enough for redevelopment of what they want and the biggest profit they can make . . . no one cares about the communities and it is not helping the people elevate themselves out of the "alleged" poverty Government say we are in!

  2.3  People want homes to live in, not just a property that may or may not realise a profit, they want somewhere to put down roots, we in England are not nomadic by lifestyle, We need to settle and grow, this Government by it's actions of introducing the dangling Gold Carrot of billions of pounds over our heads, has created a situation whereby no one wins . . . except the Local Authorities, Pathfinder, Construction Companies, and the Government!!!

  2.4  In all of this Select Committee Response, we have yet to see anything about propagating the work sector, industry, shops, factories, offices that will provide alongside the housing and communities the financial security to raise people out of "poverty," to purchase a house you have to have money, to have money you have to have work, to have work you need a house . . . ! It is no use refurbishing houses or building new without providing the infrastructure of Industry to go with it!

    —  . . . Home purchase tackles social inequalities . . . if this means outgoing, friendly, compatible and sustainable communities, then . . . yes . . . (but we already have this now without the intervention of Government and others!)

    —  . . . Home purchase tackles economic inequalities…this part of the question is a pre-supposition that people buy a property to get a profit back, the vast majority of people buying a Home, is to live in it, not to sell on . . . although they would expect the equity at a possible later date to justify buying another home elsewhere, should they need a bigger/smaller house . . . not everyone has the glint of gold in their eyes, which is what this question is inferring?

    —  . . . Home purchase tackles and reduces poverty . . . This part of the question does not make sense if you are talking financially? How can bricks and mortar reduce people's poverty? Self-respect, Emotional and Spiritual well-being, are things that people need and it is a basic law still in the Magna Carta that everyone has the right to a roof over their head, and the peace to enjoy it, and not have it taken away from them against their will . . . (and be given a pittance for the years they have spent making it a home,) which is what the Local Authorities, Pathfinders and Government are doing now!

3.  THE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL IMPACT OF CURRENT HOUSE PRICES

  3.1  This is a false market brought on by Government Projects and implemented by the Pathfinders and Councils! Because it has been forced, the economic impact is one of people struggling to buy a home!

  3.2  The current house prices at this time are killing the economy, and forcing people out of the market . . . and due to the fact that Government has instigated a "price hike" by again dangling the "Golden Carrot", Local Authorities, Pathfinders, RSL's and Speculators have done the rest by taking property off the market and boarding up the only form of housing that would give people the opportunity to get onto the ladder, or down-size to fit their needs!

  3.3  In all of the areas affected by Pathfinder, (prior to the HMRI,) very few landlords or RSL companies existed, (Speculators were none existent!) now it seems that you can't turn around without falling over them, and these are the very people that hold the Pathfinders and Local Authorities to ransom and eventually will kill any scheme anyone wants to put forward, these people/companies are in league with the local authorities and are conspiring to throw out tenants, board up properties and contribute to the Indices of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) as to the Low Demand and Abandonment housing figures which the Government is going off . . . seems Government has a step or three missing there, whereby the reason for abandonment and the "alleged" Low Demand is not qualified! Very few families want to rent, but have to do so to put a roof over their heads. They are obliged to rent because they have just lost their homes to looming Clearance/CPO's, or the landlord has terminated their tenancy agreement to board the properties up for a "hopeful killing".

  3.4  The people who are living in the homes that the councils want to acquire are not being offering the True Housing Market Value as Government say they are supposed to . . . if new housing is built, where are the people going to find the difference to purchase them, many will not be able to obtain a mortgage such as OAP's, those who are out of work, or sick, and no one wants to go from owning a home outright to one that they only own half of and have to maintain and be responsible for the other shared half! It is hardly "Shared Ownership" and certainly not fair . . . is it? Nor is it fair to force people into obtaining mortgages (if they can get one?) if they don't want or cannot afford one!

4.  THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN HOUSE PRICES AND HOUSING SUPPLY

  4.1  See the above three questions . . . they all pertain to this question . . . and those below . . . !

  4.2  By closing down the demand (by boarded up or demolishing housing now) you cut off the supply of perfectly good, solid, affordable, warm homes that people want and need, then the prices go up further . . . ! You figure it out!

  Whatever way you work the statistics, you fail to realise that the Victorian Terraces are the cheapest form of more than adequate housing in the British Isles! Not even Government can best that!

5.  OTHER FACTORS INFLUENCING THE AFFORDABILITY OF HOUSING FOR SALE INCLUDING CONSTRUCTION METHODS AND FISCAL MEASURES

  5.1  Negative factors influencing the affordability of housing for sale are Government, Pathfinders, Local Authorities, RSL's, Speculators, Construction Companies, Government Quango's such as English Partnerships, County Councils, CABE and others, who are throwing spanners into the works by jumping on the bandwagon wanting their way!

  5.2  Government fails to realise yet again, that what you come up with you expect us to live with your mistakes, at the end of the day you can put your hat and coat on and go home…we are left with the mess you leave behind, and let us tell you . . . this is one heck of a mess!

  5.3  Here in the North, we have superb, solid Victorian homes and other buildings that can be easily converted to work places that people do want to live and work in, all areas have environments that are unique to their own area that the communities identify as their own, they contain history and heritage and a sense of place and belonging . . . (taking that away from people, is to crush them under the Governments thumb by directives that has no structure, no clarity and certainly no strategy, except to go for land grabs and altered Planning Laws to fit . . . ) not very democratic, is it!

  5.4  Financial instance . . . A meeting of the Executive . . . of Blackburn Council on Thursday 15 September confirms that for one of their clearance areas the costs are; Clearance £7.5 million, Refurbishment £9 million . . . The difference? VAT . . . !VAT on refurbished property as opposed to none on new build is preposterous, this is a massive flaw in the Governments plans and needs immediate attention . . . it's a question of Government paying itself!

6.  THE SCALE OF THE GOVERNMENT'S PLANS TO BOOST HOUSING SUPPLY

  6.1  The Government is not boosting a housing supply within the North of England, in fact they are reducing the supply by about half of those demolished . . . at the same time they are stuffing as many houses into areas in the South that will overwhelm the whole infrastructure and cause untold chaos for years, nay decades to come.

  6.2  Government has said that it wants to even out the housing supply throughout the Kingdom. What is needed is a "steady" well structured, guaranteed . . . house building programme to try and keep pace with the current UK housing shortage, and it needs to be evenly spread. Why keep-promoting demolitions when you know deep down . . . it is not the answer—which is only one of the reasons why we are advocating renovation and repair rather than demolition. It makes no sense to shove everything to the bottom of the Country and leave nothing elsewhere. For what possible reason? This is definitely a flawed plan!

  6.3  The whole scheme is an uneven disaster that is about to happen, the Pathfinder Project is on too big a scale to do or get anything right. Too many quangos, agencies, companies, partnerships and trusts of all descriptions have their fingers in this to make a difference to the lives of the people except to make them poorer and put them through a living hell of not knowing what is to become of them or their livelyhoods!

  6.4  I think we need some new civil servants with some innovative ideas and who can think outside the box, instead of "Oh, lets demolish and start again—after all it's not our money we're wasting, just the taxpayer's!"

7.  THE RELATIVE IMPORTANCE OF INCREASING THE SUPPLY OF PRIVATE HOUSING AS OPPOSED TO SUBSIDISED HOUSING

  7.1  The majority of people want to own homes of their own, it is important to give the people what they want and to give them a sense of place, pride and responsibility of their home and environment. In Whitefield, rentals are few and temporary and generally used only as a stopgap until a house comes up for sale in the Ward! Subsidised housing would not work here either, houses in Whitefield are at a premium, as soon as an estate agents "for sale" sign goes up on a house, usually within five days, it is removed—sold!

  7.2  A broad brush sweep cannot be used as a general cure all, all areas will have to be assessed as to what will work or not, the balance will have to be close enough for it to work, the supply and demand will sort itself out.

8.  HOW THE PLANNING SYSTEM SHOULD RESPOND TO THE DEMAND FOR HOUSING FOR SALE

  8.1  Care will have be taken that the Planning System does not respond to plans submitted for "just any" housing because there "may be" a demand, house types are smaller these days than the ones being targeted for demolition and certainly don't have the character of the Victorian terraces, nor the solidity of them either!

  8.2  The planning system is there to regulate planning policies, protect Greenfield sites etc, which it doesn't always do. By altering the planning laws to fit Government schemes will open the floodgates for any and all private developers to build what they want, where they want . . . to the detriment of the Environment, Greenfield Sites and Historic Areas . . . who can argue then?

9.  THE SCALE OF HOUSING DEVELOPMENT REQUIRED TO INFLUENCE HOUSE PRICES AND THE IMPACT OF PROMOTING SUCH A PROGRAMME ON THE NATURAL AND HISTORICAL ENVIRONMENT AND INFRASTRUCTURE PROVISION

  9.1  The first part of this question ie: the scale of housing development required to influence house prices, seems to be based on an assumption that the house prices are not high enough, and that by building less than the dwellings proposed for demolition as replacements will sort out the problem? Whoever thought of that idea should be thrown out of office!

  9.2  What is happening is the fact that housing is being demolished to make way for road widening schemes, or academy's, and/or demolishing 1200 homes leaving massive open areas the sizes of two and three football pitches put together, with no housing new build in sight, this as far as I am aware is not within the HMRI "handbook" ( . . . correct me if I am wrong?) I was given to understand that if housing is taken away, then housing must replace it?

  9.3  The second part of the question ie: the impact of promoting such a programme on the natural and historical environment and infrastructure provision, by demolishing the Victorian terraces is a blatant destruction of our Northern Heritage and Environment and it will impact on this and us in a dreadful way

  9.4  Steady house refurbishment, (and a no demolition) programme here in the north with provisions for relocation of homeowners . . . from the South to the North and relocation grants for industry too, would fill our homes and buildings and retain the Character and Identity that is uniquely ours.

10.  THE REGIONAL DISPARITIES IN THE SUPPLY AND DEMAND FOR HOUSING AND HOW THEY MIGHT BE TACKLED

  10.1  Government say's, that there are too many houses in the North and not enough in the South, in case someone forgot to mention it, too much is happening in the South, which contains most of the Industry and is already grossly overcrowded . . . the North has the houses but is lacking in Industry and their workers! This needs evening up first before any demolition and new build occurs? . . . Stop making things happen in the South and move things to the North and Midlands, encourage businesses to move or new ones to set up . . . in the "alleged" low demand areas!

  10.2  Cut out the "middle man" ie the property speculators and if they buy, then they must move into the house within 3 months if not a big penalty needs to be imposed.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS

  The Governments intervention in the housing market is causing poverty! The market, even as far back as 1999-2000, was already on the rise before Government interfered.

  What should have happened naturally was a subtle inflation of house prices that people could and would have accepted and too, maintained their sales of one property for the purchase of the next, without bankrupting themselves or going into debt.

  When the Government "blindly" stepped in with assumptions based on an "academic paper exercise," that is years out of date, it has started something that is now out of control and this Country will feel the repercussions for decades to come.

  All Pathfinders…need to stop what they are doing now and re-assess the whole situation from start to finish; it needs a better structure, a more coherent plan, and better clarity in its outline.

  In fact it would be better to arrange for a member from each of the Pathfinder Areas Community Groups to discuss with the ODPM exactly what is required of those areas by the people themselves and not rely on second hand information, costly consultants and other peoples aspirations that are not ours?





 
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