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This is News in Brief - a weekly round up of the latest news and events affecting the housing industry and communities in the Wakefield district and beyond.

NHS under pressure: how investment in housing can help

The NHS has hit the headlines again with reports of a growing crisis for accident and emergency departments across the country.  One of the critical factors in the current crisis is the delayed discharge of older people who are medically fit to go home but stuck because of the lack of care and support available.  
According to the latest NHS figures, more than 5,000 people in this situation were held in hospital in November 2014.  The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) believes that the problem is only going to increase as social care budgets have been cut by about 25%.  Meanwhile the National Audit Office found last year that 87% of the adult population lived in areas where need had to be substantial or critical to be eligible for help. 
Sarah Davis, Senior Policy and Practice Officer at the CIH said: “Investing in
long-term housing and care solutions is the only way forward for this crisis.  We want to see more investment shifted into valuable services that can help people find the right solutions for them and keep them living well and as independently as possible at home.”
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WDH says: The accident and emergency crisis has contributed to the widespread debate around health and housing in the lead up to the general election.  With the projected increase of older people, the topic of elderly care is becoming more important. 

To help, we continue to build lifetime homes as well as refurbishing our independent living schemes to ensure they meet the future needs of residents in the district.  In addition to this, we are continuously adapting homes where necessary.  We understand how important it is for elderly and vulnerable people to stay independent; our Care Link Telecare service currently supports over 15,000 people 24 hours a day every day of the year to remain in their own home. .

More than a million working households are in fuel poverty

According to a study by Policy Exchange, more than a million households cannot afford to heat their homes sufficiently even though a household member is in work, due to rising energy bills and inefficient housing.
The study found that fuel poverty has been made worse by rising energy bills and, despite improvements, the housing stock is still highly inefficient . Households in the least energy-efficient properties would have to spend an extra £1,700 a year to heat their homes to a comfortable level.
Policy Exchange said the problem was most severe in older detached homes, which are off the national grid and tend to be in rural areas.  They claim the government was spending less than half of what was required to make the affected homes energy efficient.
Author of the report, Richard Howard said: “Improving energy efficiency is clearly the most cost-effective way to tackle the problem.  Therefore we recommend the government refocuses its energy efficiency and fuel poverty spending on improving the nation’s inefficient housing stock, and recognises energy efficiency as a national infrastructure priority.”
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WDH says: Although the UK consumer price inflation has been falling and currently stands at 0.5%, the joint lowest figure recorded for 15 years, many are still feeling the pinch and struggling with their energy bills.  Wholesale energy costs have fallen by 30% in the last year.  As very few energy companies are passing this saving on to the consumer it is unlikely the number of households in fuel poverty will decrease.   
As well as working hard to improve the energy efficiency of our existing properties, our Sustainability Team is carrying out Winter Warmth surgeries providing advice on ways to reduce energy bills and information on how to receive free loft and cavity wall insulation to help people stay warm this winter.
Tenants and residents are also able to reduce the cost of their energy bills through our impartial energy switching comparison service, Switch and Save.
Mortgage rates at record lows as price war takes off

Average rates on two year fixed-rate and variable-rate loans are at record lows, according to Citi.  Some key home loan rates have fallen to their lowest ever levels as lenders battle for business and amid expectations that interest rates are not going to rise soon.
The analysis says the average rates on both a two year fixed-rate mortgage and a two year variable-rate home loan with a discount are now at record lows.  Lenders have been taking advantage of cheap funding driven by low inflation and expected delays in lifting interest rates.
Lenders have been taking advantage of cheap funding, which has been driven by low inflation and expected delays in increasing interest rates.  Barclays launched the lowest ever 10 year fixed-rate loan.  It allows borrowers with at least a 40% deposit or equivalent equity in their existing property to fix their rate at 2.99% until 2025.
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WDH says: The latest news on mortgage rates is welcome to first time buyers as this may allow them to get on to the property ladder.  It will also further stimulate the housing market which began to decline slightly in the last quarter of 2014.
Even with tighter restrictions now in place, 2014 was a very good year for first time buyers with numbers up by 22% to 236,500 according to the Halifax.  The Halifax attributes this increase to improved job prospects, the Help to Buy scheme and cheaper mortgage rates.
For those who may still struggle to get a full mortgage on a property due to their incomes or only have a small deposit, we continue to offer shared ownership properties.  Growing in popularity we have now sold 110 properties and currently have a selection of properties available throughout the district.
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