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The landlords raking it in

Private rented accommodation accounts for around 4.2 million households – and in more than a third of these, the rent is paid in part or in full by the state. Private landlords were paid a total of £9.2bn in housing benefit in 2013-14.
Paul Kenny, GMB general secretary, said: “This research lifts the lid on the mainly secret payments to landlords who are the real winners from Britain’s welfare system. We see taxpayers’ cash subsidising buy-to-let empires with £9.2bn paid into private landlords’ bank accounts – much of it ending up in tax havens.”
Mohammed Tanveer Taj in Watford came out as the landlord making the most from housing benefit, with an income of more than £3.2m. Second on the list was an estate agency while third was the King family, who run Thorney Bay Park, a caravan site in Canvey Island, Essex, who received £1,924,226. The caravans were “like an igloo” in winter and local councillors dubbed them unsuitable for year-round use. UKIP’s housing spokesman Andrew Charalambo…

Co-ops Hopes

Work is set to begin which could transform this former potato farm in Lanarkshire's Douglas Valley, into Britain's first new garden city for nearly a century. Owenstown is named after the visionary philanthropist Robert Owen whose New Lanark model village, now a Unesco World Heritage Site, is close by. Owenstown, could one day be home to 5,000 co-operative pioneers drawn by the promise of living and working in a society that is being described as "a new international benchmark for utopian living".  It is hoped that the £500m project will eventually yield more than 4,000 jobs – helping revitalise an area ravaged by the decline of coal mining and other traditional industries.

One of the objectives of the town is to provide affordable housing, with the community founders hoping to offer high-quality, environmentally friendly homes – many built at a factory on site – at 60 per cent of the market value. Bill Nicol, the project director, said this would be achieved by ad…

The Rich Housing List

Indeed a housing crisis exists, particularly for the rich - a crisis of which country estate to buy. The magazine for the lairds and the squires, Country Life,  has advertised a number of desirable rural residencies in Scotland.

10,143-acre Cluny estate at Laggan, Invernessshire,  ‘offers over £7.5 million'. The house has three main reception rooms along with seven main bedrooms and five bathrooms. Eleven estate houses and cottages are used to house staff or could be developed as holiday lets.

Hoscote estate at Roberton, in the Borthwick Water valley in upper Teviotdale, nine miles south-west of Hawick, little more than an hour's drive from the Scottish capital, for which ‘offers over £2.95 million' are sought. As well as the refurbished nine-bedroom main house surrounded by  formal gardens, the estate includes five modernised houses and cottages, an in-hand livestock farm. It also offers a pheasant shoot, roe-deer stalking, duck-shooting and trout fishing on Borthwick Wa…

The Housing Shortage

Housing is probably the one basic need which, were it properly satisfied, would be the most conductive to good emotional and mental health. It is, surely, very pleasant and soothing to relax among pleasant and agreeable surroundings. The fact remains that such a happy situation only applies to the small to the small minority of the population who have the means to buy beautiful homes. Housing is one problem of capitalism which has been a constant source of difficulty and is part and parcel of working class life. Few members of our class escape some aspect of housing trouble. Whether it is the crisis of homelessness or overcrowding, or the stress involved in keeping a roof over our heads through paying rent or the mortgage.

It could be more than 20 years before enough new homes are built in Scotland to meet the country's projected needs. Scotland requires 21,230 new homes each year between 2011 and 2035 to meet a projected 21% increase in the population to 2.9 million by 2035.

Cou…

Ghost Town

37% of people buying property in the most expensive neighbourhoods of central London did not intend them to be primary residences.
"Belgravia is becoming a village with fewer people in it," said Alistair Boscawen, a local real estate agent. He works in "the nuts area" of London, as he put it, "where the house prices are bonkers" — anywhere from $7.5 million to $75 million. The buyers are super-wealthy foreigners. London is not the only city where the world's richest people leave their expensive properties vacant while they stay in their expensive properties someplace else; the same is true in parts of Manhattan.
Paul Dimoldenberg, leader of the Labour opposition in Westminster Council, said the situation had reached a tipping point. "They may live here for a fortnight in the summer, but for the rest of the year they're contributing nothing to the local economy. The spectre of new buildings where there are no lights on is a real problem.&qu…

a merry xmas?

Shelter Scotland has warned. that 5300 youngsters will wake up on Christmas Day in poor quality temporary accommodation with no prospect of a permament home.

 Shelter Scotland director Graeme Brown said: "It's easy to think of homelessness as single people sleeping rough. What people don't often consider is the rising numbers of families who, through no fault of their own, have lost their home and have no permanent roof over their heads. For people with children, sofa surfing with friends and family just isn't a realistic option and the temporary accommodation they are forced to stay in is often unsuitable and of poor quality."

Evicted to host football games

Ukrainian students are being forced out of their dormitories ahead of the the upcoming European Football Championship but will have to continue paying rent nonetheless. Student dormitory rooms at Taras Shevchenko University are to be rented out to football fans. A few may be allowed to stay, but only if they work for nothing.

With hundreds of thousands of football supporters expected, UEFA estimates 800,000 people, students must vacate their dormitories as a result. They are receiving no compensation nor have they been offered alternative housing. On the contrary they will have to continue paying our dorm fees. Even worse, students at Kiev's National Medical University: They have been asked to refurbish their rooms for the incoming guests -- and they have to shoulder the costs themselves.

Students have to continue paying their dormitory fees of around $16 a month, a significant burden for Ukrainian students who generally have to get by on less than €100 per month. Furthermore, it …

Hungry and Homeless in Scotland

According to the Office for National Statistics, food prices have risen by almost 5% in 12 months, but incomes have not kept pace. Anne Houston, chief executive of the charity Children 1st, warns that the number of people relying on handouts will rise as the economic situation worsens. She said: "One in five children in Scotland lives in poverty, which is unacceptable. As the cost of living rises, there is a real risk that more families could find themselves living in poverty."

The Trussell Trust, which runs the UK's only network of food banks, is helping to feed 6000 people in Scotland, and 129,000 people across the UK as a whole. Last year the Trussell Trust fed 2400 people in Dundee, 3362 in the Highlands and 375 people at its centre in Glasgow, which opened in December.

John Dickie, from the Children's Poverty Action Group in Scotland, said: "This is an indictment of government policy and shouldn't be seen as an alternative to the kind of national action …

More slums to come

Sri Lanka’s capital city Colombo is home to over 30 percent of the country’s population, one in every two people living in the Greater Colombo Area is a slum dweller.

Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital, is home to 34 percent of the country's population and is the fastest growing city in Asia – around 40 percent of those living in Dhaka are slum dwellers.

In India fully half the population of the capital, New Delhi, lives in slums, while the figure could be as high as 60 percent in glittering Mumbai. Nation-wide 93 million people are estimated to be living in slums.

Ming Zhang, the World Bank sector manager for Urban Water and Disaster Management for South Asia, predicted that the urban population in South Asia would double in the next 25 years. Already one in every four persons is categorised under ‘informal population’ or living in shanties or slums in the urban areas of the region

Regional experts and those from the World Bank agree that most of the problems faced by the cities are man…

a new year of debt

Hundred of thousands of Scots are spiralling into debt by turning to payday loan companies or other expensive providers of credit to keep a roof over their heads, a survey has found.

The number of people turning to the much-criticised operators, whose interest charges can quickly rack up to several hundred per cent, is approaching one million across the UK, while a further six million are using an overdraft, credit cards or other loans to keep a roof over their heads, according to housing campaigner Shelter.

Shelter Scotland spokesman Gordon MacRae said: "These findings are extremely worrying and show that millions of households are desperately struggling to keep their homes. Payday loans may seem like a quick fix to pay for housing costs but with interest rates of up to 4000% annually they are completely unsustainable and can quickly lead to snowballing debt, eviction, repossession and ultimately homelessness...Every two minutes someone in Britain faces the nightmare of losing the…

Housing Shortage?

Bank of Scotland research suggested about 105,000 homes in Scotland were not being used. This meant about one in 25 houses was empty.

Kristen Hubert, from Shelter Scotland, said: "The 100,000 figure used by the Bank of Scotland includes property that is only empty for a brief period, between tenants or owners. What is really important is those which are empty for longer, and that problem is really in the private sector."Shelter Scotland claimed there were 23,000 privately-owned empty homes.

Return to the slums

More than 1.4 million homes have failed to meet a key housing standard, new figures have revealed. In 2010 61% of houses, 1,014,000 in the private sector and 393,000 in the socially-rented sector, failed to meet the Scottish Housing Quality Standard.One-fifth of the stock in Scotland is now more than 90 years old, a third of the housing stock is more than 60 years old and a fifth of homes have been built in the last 30 years.

safe as houses?

House prices in Edinburgh and Glasgow have slumped in the past three months and are set to fall further.

The average price of a home in Edinburgh in the three months to the end of June was £219,530 - down 3.6 per cent from the same period last year. The average selling price of a flat in the Leith Walk and Easter Road area of the capital is now under £100,000 for the first time since 2006.

House prices in the west of Scotland have also tumbled. Prices were 2 per cent lower in the last quarter than in the same period last year, taking them back to 2006 levels. The average selling price of a home in Strathclyde is now £136,000, almost £3,000 lower than a year ago.

There were sharper falls elsewhere in east-central Scotland. The average price of a home in Midlothian in the last quarter was 10.8 per cent lower than a year ago, while the West Lothian average plummeted 9.5 per cent.

David Marshall, business analyst at ESPC explained "There are around 30 per cent more properties ava…

Doom and gloom

Despite record low interest rates, falling by more than one-fifth since in 2008 the cost of owning and running a home in the UK has risen over the last year.

Bank of Scotland research found that soaring gas, electricity and main-tenance costs were the main causes of the rise. It showed that the average annual cost associated with owning and running a home rose by 1.4%, or £116, from £8525 in March 2010 to £8641 in March 2011. Utility costs were up by £102 on average and maintenance costs by £33.

Bank of Scotland housing economist Suren Thiru said: “Household finances remain under pressure with the significant drop in mortgage payments since 2008 mostly offset by increases in other household bills. Rising utility bills have been a clear driver behind this, along with increases in maintenance costs. The current strain on household finances is particularly concerning at a time when earnings growth remains weak.”

Another study revealed over-50s are suffering a drop in their quality of life a…

losing homes

Repossession numbers began to rise again during the early part of 2011, jumping by 15%. A total of 9,100 properties were taken over by lenders during the three months to the end of March, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders.

The group has predicted that a total of 40,000 people will lose their homes this year, up from 36,300 in 2010, due to the squeeze on household incomes as a result of the combination of rising taxes and living costs and slow wage growth. Around 166,900 people were in arrears of at least 2.5% of their outstanding loan at the end of March.

Industry commentators have also warned that Government initiatives to help keep people in their homes may simply be delaying a spike in repossession numbers.

11 yr wait to buy a house

First-time buyers in Scotland face an 11-year struggle to break into the property market, with many more frozen out by low wages and high house prices, according to new research.
On average, Scots trying to get on to the property ladder will have to find a £21,000 deposit for their starter home, according to the Halifax. It means at least a decade of scrimping and saving to get a foot on the ladder. Someone earning the average Scottish wage of £25,350 and saving one-tenth of their take-home pay would need more than a decade to amass the down payment, while still paying rent.Overall, the average house price paid by a first-time buyer in the UK has more than doubled over the past decade, increasing by 102% from £68,644 in 2000 to £138,682 in 2010 – equivalent to a weekly increase of £135. With such high demands made of those looking to buy, the average age of a first-time buyer in 2010 was 29. But it estimated that the average age of first-time buyers without financial assist…

Families live in fear of losing home

More than half a million Scottish families are heading into winter weighed down by fears about keeping a roof over their heads, a new study has revealed.Research by Shelter showed thousands of people face serious problems trying to stay afloat.

The charity found that more than one in three homeowners are worried about keeping up mortgage payments, and one in six are already struggling to find the money each month.

“We know from the cases we see every day that it only takes one problem, like a bout of illness, or redundancy, to tip people over the edge and into a spiral of mounting debt and arrears.” Shelter Scotland director Graeme Brown said

One in every six mortgage holders across the UK was actively struggling to pay a mortgage.

scots blues

Sixty children are forced out of their homes in Scotland every day. The Sunday Herald can reveal that 22,000 young people each year have the roof pulled from over their heads by a state that simply cannot cope with the scale of our homelessness problem. Young families are disproportionately affected by homelessness, and nearly half of all homeless children are aged five or under.

While many might be tempted to dismiss homelessness as a problem for drug addicts and alcoholics. Shelter said that it is in fact far more wide-ranging than the public realises.“It’s hidden, and people don’t know the true scale,” said Jessie Crawford, author of the new report. “This is tens of thousands of children waking up every day in cold, damp, overcrowded homes, or with the uncertainty of being homeless, and not knowing whether they’re going to get somewhere to live."

One in every ten children – 128,000 in total – is living in fuel poverty, the report said, with their families struggling to heat thei…

Slums and Migrants

Govanhill sits between the Gorbals and Queens Park on the south side of Glasgow. It is a place of traditional tenements and has been home to various migrants for generations. The latest come from Eastern Europe's Roma community. It is estimated that about 2,000 to 3,000 have moved to this part of Glasgow.The BBC reports

A report by Oxfam into the Govanhill migrants found:

"On arrival, Roma without exception find themselves either without employment, or with a temporary 'position', and sharing small flats in conditions of extreme overcrowding and squalor. Having paid weekly 'fees' to 'gangmasters', Roma find they are unable to change their situation. Indeed, to break away from this exploitation puts them at extreme risk, not only of unemployment, but also homelessness and destitution in the absence of benefit entitlement."

EU migrants like the Roma are not entitled to housing benefits. They are also unlikely to satisfy the credit checks expected by…