successful lobby for army houses

james armstrong james36armstrong at
Wed Jun 18 22:52:30 BST 2008

Nick Cowan has successfully lobbied for housing for ex army people. he was in H of C to-day.
here is his report 

The Housing Campaign summary 
I started the housing campaign back on the 1st November 2004.  I was informed that due to being placed on the Y List and the out come more than likely being a Medical Discharge, I would have to start thinking about civilian life.  My main thought was housing for my family then the operations and rehab and last but not least my future employment.  The housing problem turned out to be the biggest hurdle, due to the current homelessness legislation “local connection rule” for armed forces personnel and their families.  My first letter was to my MP, one of many letters to be written over the next three years.  The reply I got wasn’t helpful and only reinforced the discrimination that had been going on since 1978, when the legislation was first passed as law.  I soon found it obvious that this issue needed addressing, as there were a couple of thousand future service personnel and their families affected by this law, none more so than my own family.
I then started to contact as many people as possible. The first people I spoke to were the JSHAO (Joint Services Housing Advice Office), but they could only offer advice on buying or the MoD housing nomination schemes, (of which there where none in our area).  I then wrote to Tony Blair PM to ask what he was going to do about a law that discriminated against Members of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces when seeking housing on their return to civilian life.  (In fact I wrote to him 5 times). All replies were very curt to say the least and the replies from the ODPM, just stated that it was up to local authorities on how they managed their social housing stock.  
On the 25th November 2005 as a Colour Sergeant on the Y List, I went to 10 Downing Street to petition the government about this disgraceful legislation. The Royal British Legion was working hard to give as much support as possible towards the campaign and my local TV station covered the story.  The answer they got from the ODPM was “personnel and their families that leave the forces will be helped with temporary accommodation but it was up to local authorities on how they prioritised service leavers and their families, in relation to local connection” or words to that affect.. .
I then wrote to the Colonel and Chief, Her Majesty, at Buckingham Palace . The reply I got back gave me hope. In the letter it was stated that John Prescott, DPM, and John Reid, the Minister for the Armed Forces, would be asked to look into the legislation and its effect on service personnel. Mr Prescott and Mr Reid both moved jobs two weeks later.  
I now started to contact the Church of England and MEP’s in Brussels .  The MEP’s were a complete waste of time and were completely un-interested in the rights of serving soldiers and their families. The church however was very interested and started to ask questions about the legislation. The Church of England at Lambeth Palace , wrote to me several times as well as many other dioceses within the UK . 
The British Armed Forces Federation had just started up and when I went to its launch in London , I got to meet the late Lord Garden Ex-RAF.  We had been in contact for a couple of months and his support was great. 
The very same day the BAFF (British Armed Forces Federation) launch, I got to see Mrs Nadine Dorries, my MP for Mid Beds. Nadine had been working very hard to get cross party support for an amendment to the Homelessness Legislation, Local Connection rule.  This was the beginning of EDM 288 with 233 MPs from across the House of Commons showing support. This led directly to the Government’s commitment to remove the "local connection" injustice, as part of the housing legislation changes in the Housing and Regeneration Bill now going through Parliament.
It wouldn’t be correct of me not to thank my MP and her team in London as well as all BAFF Members, The Royal British Legion and all those people on over 13 website forums who signed the 10 Downing St. petition and wrote to their MPs.  It was all our hard work that has made this a successful campaign.  Thank you.
Nick Cowan (Hitback)
This is a brief outline to a Forces Mortgage System. 
I  have mentioned the Mortgage system to you before, However, I've been giving it some more thought.  There would require to be an increase in the Long Service Advance of Pay (LSAP) from 8.5K to 16K or 20K. 
The mortgage could be run whilst serving. When the service personnel and their family are discharged from the forces, the repayments continue through the same lender (MoD Building Society to be formed from the profit shared agreement with Annington Home Plc)? at the same rate they were paying when serving. If National Interest Rates go lower, then the MoD must change theirs to reflect the discount system for Her Majesty's Armed Forces.

a. 0 To 4 Years served no fixed rate attainable 
b. 5 To 10 Years served fixed rate of 5%?
c. 11 To 15 Years served fixed rate at 4.5%?
d 16 To 34 Years served fixed rate at 4%?

As people increase with time served they move into the next bracket so from (a) into (b) on the begining of the fifth year of service etc etc. 
On leaving the forces your fixed rate would stay at the band you left (b.c.d.).
Those service personnel that already have a mortgage should be permitted to join the scheme. The same should be permitted for veterans.

I believe this has several benefits for serving personnel as well as the government / MoD. There would be more military personnel buying property, and they would stay in longer to get the band discounts and then their 22 years pension. (Retention) There's also a selling point here for recruiting, and the recruits in training. The last point is the super garrison. The infastructure of such places will be down to our military personnel and their families, the government would require less military homes and more civilian properties, as I'm sure if this system was put in place most military personnel would jump at it. There would be the LSAP 16K to 20K and the band system of a fixed rate until they have served more time and then they get more discount.
If those that have bought a property wish to rent it out, they must go through the lender ( MoD Building society)? The property owner wouldn't be permitted any unearned income from the scheme, so all extra money would go in three directions. 
1. Towards paying of the mortgage 20%. 2. Repairs to the let property 20%. 3. Finally the Lender would take their share of the profits 60%. All this would have to be agreed before the system is put in place. These figures are only a guide.
Nick Cowan (Hitback)

Nick has been lobbying MPs today on behalf of soldiers and ex soldiers housing.
Here is his latest report.

R1 Ten per cent of the sites  for planned houses in eco-towns be set aside for would-be self occupiers/ self builders conforming to  design critieria for vernacular low impact houses.

R2        Support action for a  dedicated planning category for self occupied self build houses conforming to  vernacular designs and given planning preference.
(Barker, recommends (11),'additional routes for developers…developments differ
in .. nature.'.)

R3  Support Barker recommendation 26 to "use tax measures to extract windfall gains"
- We say  taxes on monopolist landbankers to be paid in land not in cash and the land held by  community land trusts and leased on (not sold off ) for s-o, s-b vernacular houses

R4  Instigate now  a  major research project into the  potential of self build with a reference to sb in other European countries .(The research which should have been conducted by the Barker review team.) Areas of research to cover include present  land availability for s-b, present planning practice re s-b, freeing land from plc's existing landbanks (see Barker IR p 81), The detailed build cost via s-b and cost comparisons, market v s-b., devising schemes to encourage skill learning and workforce  participation  using the incentive of occupying a self build house.
   ( consult 'Chapter  7' for planning guidance)

R5 Liaise with CABE , RTPI and TCPA to draw up design and material codes for s-o s-b vernacular houses tailored to each location.

R6 Liaise with  the Arts Council to develop a programme promoting the artisan artform - 'building  vernacular houses to local designs meeting diverse needs, using available local materials.'

R7 Devise a model Community Land Trust held site, with  leasing arrangements to self builder /occupiers including equitable arrangements  for subsequent re-sale of s-b houses.

R8  Plan in detail  provision for local food production located within close proximity to each e-t.
The  Community Farm concept is already gaining wide acceptance  and would be appropriate.
e.g.  local food production in Havana, Cuba is commended, see  film "Power in the Community"

R9  Rosie Boycott (ex ed. Independent on Sunday )  supports the s-b initiative and commends  the mayor's initiative in Chicago achieving  2 million square yards of city roof gardens.
Nick Cowan campaigner for ex soldiers' housing supports s-b as suitable for army people.

R10  Fund a road show , budget £50,000 over  three years, touring county fairs, agricultural shows and music festivals canvassing land for CLT self builders and promoting the genre

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