Housing Crisis Up Ahead

08:11 Thursday 2nd August 2012
Peterborough Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: Earlier we revealed we couldn’t find any afffordable accommodation for someone living on housing benefit anywhere in the city. Let’s speak to Mick Leggett, Chief Executive of Cross Keys Homes. Mick, first of all, the last couple of days for me have been a real eye-opener. We’ve heard of people struggling to find a home, and when they have found somewhere it’s an absolute eye-sore they’re forced to live in. And the Council copying landlord lists from the internet. Is enough being done for people, do you think, that are on benefits in this city? This is 2012. I was absolutely horrified yesterday.
MICK LEGGETT: Well you’ve had me in a few times now, and I always say there’s a housing crisis. And it’s not been on people’s radar. I think you’re starting to see the beginning of what’s coming.Because there is just not enough housing out there. We’re doing our best. We’re building about 140 properties this year, 250 next year. But housing took the biggest cut in public sector cuts of 63% in building homes.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. That perfect storm of cutting housing and then cutting the money that people have got to find a home.
MICK LEGGETT: Yes. And the bottom line is if there’s not enough housing, it becomes more expensive to rent. There’s more people renting, because there’s a lot of people can’t sell their houses, so they’re reluctant landlords in some ways. They’ve moved somewhere else, and they’re renting their properties out. We should remind ourselves that there’s a lot of good landlords.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes, of course.
MICK LEGGETT: I’d like to think Cross Keys is as well.
PAUL STAINTON: But you wouldn’t rent a house out .. some of the pictures we put on our Facebook are absolutely disgusting. The guy’s having to live in one room because, a, you haven’t got the money to do the house up, and the landlord’s not interested.¬†And he’s clearly got nowhere to go.
MICK LEGGETT: No. It’s appalling really, if people are doing that. And it’s the problem of there not being enough accommodation, so people can get away with it. If there was a choice of accommodation, you wouldn’t choose it, would you? And if it was affordable to you, you’d find something better. And that’s the problem. And I think it’s only going to get more and more squeezed.
PAUL STAINTON: He said that was the best thing he could find. The other places he’d seen were even worse.
MICK LEGGETT: Yes. And it’s going to get worse, because housing benefits, under the Welfare Reform arrangement, are going to get lower and lower. And the way that the private sector rents are assessed, because it used to be 50% of the average rent, it’s now 30%, that used to go up monthly, but actually it’s only going up once a year now. So towards the end of the year, if private rents are going up, you’re going to afford less and less.
PAUL STAINTON: It seems like there are very few checks on private landlords now. You must be checked, surely.
MICK LEGGETT: It’s actually been lessened, because the Government came in, if you recall, and said we’re going to do away with lots of quangos. And I think to be honest, as an organisation that’s responsible, and most housing associations are, then I think it was probably a little over the top. There was a huge tick box arrangement. They’ve done away with that. But it is public money we’re receiving when we build these properties. So therefore it’s quite right that we are regulated in some ways. But a lot of it is about our culture and our values. We want to provide excellent services to people. But there are people out there, and I think it’s a minority, who don’t. And something needs to be done. But there are mechanisms to try and help people.