Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Housing crisis deepens in East of England

piece Written bySINEAD HOLLAND http://www.hertsandessexobserver.co.uk/News/Bishops-Stortford/New-report-reveals-housing-benefit-woe-of-working-families-in-East-20131210064812.htm?utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=twitterfeed FPRIVATE "TYPE=PICT;ALT=" "A NEW report by the National Housing Federation (NHF) shows that more working people in the East of England are being forced to ask for help with housing costs to keep a roof over their heads. In the region there has been a 96 per cent increase in those with jobs claiming housing benefit since 2009 – the fourth highest rise in claims across the country. Adding to the strain for people in the East of England, private rents and house prices are expected to rise by 49.5% and almost 34% respectively by 2020, which could result in further severe financial consequences for the taxpayer. Nationally, an extra 310 working people a day – one every five minutes – have asked for help with housing costs to keep the roof over their heads since 2009. Every day this has added £1.7m to the annual housing benefit bill. The report, Home Truths, found that: • England needs 240,000 new homes a year to meet demand, but housebuilding numbers are falling. In 2012-13 107,000 new homes were built, 11 per cent less than in 2009. • Currently rents take up an average of half of people’s disposable income, but in a decade’s time that figure will have risen to 57%. • Nationally, house prices will increase by 35% by 2020, leaving a huge swathe of the population locked out of home ownership for life. • The number of employed housing benefit claimants is up 104% since 2009. As a result, Government spending on housing benefit has risen to £24bn, but most of this money is going to private landlords rather than building the new homes which would stem rising housing costs. Claire Astbury, East of England external affairs manager for the NHF, said: "We hear a lot about ‘making work pay’, but a decent job won’t even cover the cost of a home in many parts of the East of England, and with rising rents and house prices the situation looks set to get even worse. “Nationally, billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money is wasted, lining the pockets of private landlords, when it could be better spent building more homes people can afford. Relying on the private rented sector so heavily is a costly sticking plaster rather than a solution. “In towns and cities pulling away from the recession, the dysfunctional housing market is burning the fingers of many people. “Hard-working families are spending more and more of their income on a home and many could be forced to move – away from jobs, schools and relatives. “We need to address the problems of the housing market now, before another generation is left locked out and reliant on taxpayers to keep the roof over their head.” The latest survey by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has confirmed the pressures on the region's housing market, with expectations for house price growth hitting an 11-year high in November as the amount of homes coming onto the East's market once again fell well short of rapidly rising buyer demand. In all, 48% more chartered surveyors in the region predict prices to continue their upward trend rather than fall back over the coming three months. This is the highest reading since June 2002. Last month also saw prices pick up sharply as a net balance of 54% more respondents reported price growth. Meanwhile, although a lack of stock on the market remains a big challenge, buyer interest in the region is continuing to rise. Last month, a net balance of 46% more surveyors reported that new buyer enquiries had risen. RICS East of England spokesman Jan Hÿtch said: "It’s no secret that the housing market is on the way up, with price and sales expectations on the rise across the region. “The Bank of England’s recent decision to withdraw the Funding for Lending scheme – which allows banks to borrow more cheaply and pass the benefits on to mortgage applicants – could well have some impact on the number of people able to purchase a home, although the improvement in wholesale and retail funding markets may mean the impact on mortgages is relatively limited. “One thing we are very concerned about, however, is the lack of both new and existing homes coming onto the market. “As the Chancellor pointed out last week, housebuilding is on the up, but it is rising nowhere near quickly enough to make up the shortfall that has built up in recent years."

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