The Housing and Planning Bill returns to the House of Lords for Report stage today. This is the stage at which crucial votes are won or lost by the government. There’s five Report days between now and the end of April, covering the wide range of issues in the Bill.
Since October Shelter and our supporters have been working tirelessly with government and Parliamentarians to try and influence this Bill. There are some positive aspects of the Bill – on private renting and increasing private housebuilding – but we’ve raised concerns that the Bill poses a real threat to the future of genuinely affordable housing in England. In short, without safeguards it will significantly alter who the government helps: instead of helping everybody, money and resource will be redirected away from those on lower incomes to help those on higher incomes.
There have already been some important changes to the Bill since its introduction. The government have made a really vital move on electrical safety for which they deserve real credit – it’s something we’ve campaigned on for some time. And there were also some provisions that potentially improve the chances of affordable homes sold off in London being replaced.
But there is a long way to go.
Here are the three things we’ve focused our efforts on for Report stage, and which we think will make the biggest differences:
- Ensuring Starter Homes come in addition to genuinely affordable housing, not in place of it. Amendment 8 will ensure local authorities have flexibility to build new social housing alongside the government’s new ‘Starter Homes’. At present the government intends to force local authorities to, in effect, cut the building of social housing on new developments to deliver Starter Homes instead – but Starter Homes will not be affordable to people on low wages in 98% of the country, and will be out of reach for those on middle incomes in 58% of the country. We think it’s best for local authorities to decide how many Starter Homes are needed in their area. We have a full briefing here with more details. The vote on this will take place today.
- Ensuring replacement of council sales sold off. Amendments 64A will ensure that local authorities in ‘higher value’ areas have the power and funding to properly replace the large number of council homes they will be forced to auction off under the Bill. Given the poor record of replacing council homes sold off under Right to Buy, we are particularly keen the Bill gets this right. More information is in our briefing here. The vote on this will take place on Wednesday this week.In a rare and bold move, the Conservative-led LGA wrote a cross-party letter this weekend calling on the government to adopt this amendment.
- Securing the future of long-term council tenancies. Amendment 81 will remove changes designed to end secure tenancies being standard for new council tenants. Our briefing is here. The vote on this is due to take place on Wednesday 20th
All of these amendments are here, and have the support of independent Crossbenchers, as well as Labour and the Liberal Democrats. We also expect numerous Conservative Peers to speak in favour of them.
They would not wreck the overall shape of the government’s housing agenda, but would make a massive difference to the lives of the people we help through our services by protecting the supply (existing and future) of secure, genuinely affordable homes.
We will also be keeping a keen eye on how the debate plays out on PRS abandonment, rogue landlords and Pay to Stay.
This is really the first crunch stage in the passage of a Bill which could make profound and wide ranging changes to housing in England. Shelter will be pushing hard for practical changes to protect those on lower incomes, and will be sure to keep this blog updated as events unfold.
UPDATE: Amendment 8 on Starter Homes, the first of our priority amendments above, has passed this evening by 280 to 194 votes. This is a big win and an important signal to government from Peers that they need to think again.