National HMO Network Conference

Last week John and I were very pleased to attend a conference held by National HMO Network at the London Fire Brigade Headquarters for their biannual conference. The line-up of guest speakers was great and included Nick Coombe from the Fire Safety Team at the London Fire Brigade, Andrew Boff – deputy chair of housing committee at the General London Assembly and Richard Tacagni, property licensing pro and ex-environmental health officer.

Nick did a presentation regarding the London’s fire safety plan, their achievements and key concerns. Particularly interesting was the brief look into the direction of future fire prevention technology including; automatic cooker shut off, audible reminders, GPS dementia tracking and increased use of fire proof materials in the production of home furnishings.

Andrew’s presentation addressed the demand on London’s housing sector, currently aiming to provide 49,000 houses annually in order to meet that demand. He discussed their need and desire to reach out to smaller developers in London. Regarding property licensing, the general opinion is that HMOs are a great way to provide homes for the bulging populace of the capital. Boff understood that despite HMO licensing being a noble aim, it needed properly funding so that the local authorities don’t end up with purely a list of good landlords. A sentiment shared by many landlords in London.

The presentation which I assume was the most highly anticipated was that of Richard Tacagni who talked about the expansion of the mandatory licensing scheme. Intentions to do so were first made publicly clear in October 2016 by Gavin Barwell, the then housing minister. On the 7th of February 2017, these plans were later confirmed in the housing white paper with a possible implementation date of the 1st of October 2017. Of course, with Barwell losing his seat in the constituency of Croydon, a new housing minister will need to be appointed. However, there is little evidence to suggest that these expansion plans won’t go ahead due to the government’s commitment to improve HMO and property regulations. Whether there will be a slight delay is yet to be seen.

The changes to Mandatory licensing could include the following;

-increased DBS criminal record checks of landlords/ladies

-removal of the three-storey rule

-conditions regarding refuse disposal

If your property has come under an additional licensing scheme but will later be brought under the scope of the extended mandatory scheme, it will be ‘passported’ up to a mandatory licence.

If you would like help regarding your property, give us a call today and we will see how we can help to ensure you have the right fire precautions in order to be granted a licence!

Housing White Paper

A Summary of the Key Points

The much awaited Housing White Paper was released yesterday, I had a quick skim of the main issues raised as was pleasantly surprised. The paper admits that action needs to be taken and rate of supply needs to be seriously amped up to meet growing demands. The paper states that ‘we need from 225,000 to 275,000 or more homes per year to keep up with population growth and start to tackle years of under-supply’.

There has been a notable shift in policy on housing since the departure of David Cameron and the Teresa May. The former championed Help-to-Buy ISAs, whilst the latter has admitted Britain is no longer a society of home owners – a desire famously set out by Thatcher in the 1980s. In line with this, the housing white paper has declared Britain’s housing market ‘broken’. Quite some admission, particularly given that it is the very title. Surprisingly though, given the PM’s admission, Cameron’s help to buy schemes will not be left by the wayside however there will be continued focus on the rental market too, with ambitions of speeding up the supply of rental homes over the coming years.

The paper acknowledged the significance of the rental market in the provision of housing. Recognising that more than four million households rent their home from a private landlord, nearly twice as many as 10 years ago. It also highlighted how an average couple who are tenants ‘send roughly half their salary’ to their landlord each month, making it ‘nigh on impossible’ for them to save for a deposit to buy their own property. Plans to ban estate agents from charging fees was also given a mention in terms of increasing affordability of renting.

So, what other plans are there to fix this broken housing market?

Well, they divide their mammoth task into four key areas; the right homes in the right places, building homes faster, diversifying the market and helping people now. Lets take a closer look into what they are trying to achieve.


The Right Homes for the Right Places

The paper has declared the right houses for the right places. They would like local authorities to take the responsibility to creating properly devised plans by 2018 which will allow the government to create a better picture of who needs what where. These plans must be sympathetic to the needs of each county meaning that areas with higher numbers of disabled or elderly people will need to have housing stock to match. Once their plans have been accepted in 2018, each local authority will be responsible for sticking to a yearly quota of new houses.

There are also plans also to simplify the means of finding out what land is available to be built on.

And not surprisingly, given the comeback of ex-lah property, there is to be more effort made in regenerating council estates.


Building Homes Faster

There are several planned initiatives that have been set out to increase the speed that homes are built. Most significantly the housing department want to boost the capacity of local authorities and increase their capacity to deliver. This is to include addressing the shortage in the construction workforce. There are initiatives planned to increase the transparency of data so that contractors are not held up unnecessarily. This is to include making sure that protected species are clearly licensed and registered with this information being easily accessible. Lastly, the commission has determined that they would like to find new ways to ensure that local authorities are keeping up with their housing targets.


Diversifying the Market

The white paper revealed that 60% of Britain’s housing stock is supplied by the same 10 large companies. Aims are to ‘diversify the market’ intend to encourage small and medium sized builders to grow using the Home Building Fund – a £3bn fund set aside to help smaller contractors and developers. (see:

There is to be more support directed towards custom-build homes, including allowing greater access to land and finances. This ties into another initiative set out under this heading which is to boost innovation and increase competition in the housing market by encouraging modern methods of construction.

Lastly, housing associations and local authorities are to be supported to build more homes.


Helping People Now

The housing white paper has declared that the Help to Buy and Starter Home initiatives launched by Cameron will receive continued support. Importantly, they have recognised the need to help people who have been priced out of the home ownership market. This was slightly unexpected given that it was only a week ago that May claimed Britain should see the benefits of renting over owning. It seemed almost, as if she was warning people that little more would be done to help people onto the ladder. However they have stated they will help people save for a deposit, buy with a smaller deposit or buy at 20% below the market price. Reassuring news for generation rent, I hope.



The white paper fails to take into consideration the ageing populace and the provision of suitable property for people with reduced mobility. The baby boomers are today, on average, in their early seventies. Meaning that we have a further two to three decades of high numbers of elderly. I would have thought this aspect would have been more sufficiently addressed.


Interest piece:  Prefabs as the modern housing solution

Modern prefabs the answer the Britain’s housing shortage?


Perhaps one of the most greatly impacting issues of modern day is the current housing shortage. It is a problem nearly all of us have to navigate at one point or the other. Currently, government ministers are considering alternatives to traditional notions of housing. One of the ideas put forward however, does not strike me as particularly ‘new’. I am talking about ‘modulars’ or prehabs as they were commonly known post WW2.

After reading an article in the Telegraph in October entitled  ‘Britain set for a new wave of prefabs to tackle housing crisis’

The article explained a recent and developing government interest in 21st century prefabs. Housing ministers are to take the line of encouraging banks to channel funding towards small businesses who can build houses off-site and then deliver the fully built homes to the intended site. This interest in pre-fabs – now known as modulars – has been born out of the ambitious government plans to deliver on its 200,000 new starter homes during this parliament.

The article instantaneously took my mind racing back to research I had undertaken as part of my undergraduate history degree; the post-war housing crisis in the 1950s. What curious little metal boxes I had thought when my eyes were met with their first image of the temporary housing. As I began reading further into their origins and intentions I became quite impressed.

In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, a government white paper suggested that between 3 and 4 million houses would need to be built in the first 10 to 12 years after the war. Pre-fabs were the temporary solution to the housing crisis in the aftermath of the war. There were several different types of prefabs, mainly either timber or steel framed. Developed under the Ministry of Works, prefabs employed systems of production used during wartime for the manufacture of weapons and artillery. Despite their temporality and cold aesthetic, pre-fabs offered shelter and protection to the masses and rather tellingly, were known as ‘palaces of the people’. They offered residents a well-designed interior comprising of kitchen with refrigerator, cooker and water boiler. A toilet with towel heater, a back boiler and a heating. The homes were a much welcome remedy to the housing crisis in the mid-forties.

Though pre-fabs were given a life expectancy of 10 years, many surpassed expectation and some are still in existence today. The updated versions, modulars, have been able to learn from the successes and failures of the prehab housing schemes with industry experts assuring that issues in quality are no longer a concern.

Most importantly, particularly in the eyes of a hard-pushed government of a demanding and under-housed populace, modulars can be put together in as little as 48 hours. Companies such as the Accord Group can put together a three-bedroom house in a day! Watch this space!