Lords propose sweeping Housing Bill changes

 

3 February 2016 4:56 pm | By Pete Apps (Inside Housing)

 

Peers have unveiled plans to block the controversial imposition of Starter Homes, Pay to Stay, the extended Right to Buy and the end to lifetime tenancies.

More than 100 amendments to the Housing and Planning Bill from Labour, Liberal Democrat and crossbench peers targeting all the key reforms in the bill were published today.

Both Labour and Liberal Democrat peers have tabled amendments to entirely strike out provisions which would end lifetime tenancies in council housing, and force councils to sell high value properties (see box: Key amendments).

The Liberal Democrats have also moved to strike out Pay to Stay, while Labour has put forward amendments to substantially water down the policy. As currently drafted, it would see council tenants with a household income of more than £30,000 (£40,000 in London) charged market rents.  

There are also significant amendments from both parties to the Right to Buy extension to housing associations. Labour is demanding replacement properties of the same tenure in the same location, while the Liberal Democrats say a replacement should be identified before a sale is made.

On Starter Homes, which are sold at 80% of market value, both parties have tabled amendments to prevent them being forced on local authorities and protect the discounts.

 It is understood Labour, Liberal Democrat and crossbench peers, including the former head of the civil service and Peabody chair Bob Kerslake, will meet over the coming weeks to decide which amendments to push to a vote.

 Due to the tight Parliamentary time scale, the bill is only likely to have three-and-a-half days in report stage in the Lords, leaving space for roughly 10 votes.

Should Labour, Liberal Democrat and a significant number of cross-bench peers unite, they can outnumber the Conservatives in the upper chamber and force the bill back down to the Commons.

Committee stage in the Lords begins next Tuesday, with seven days scheduled throughout February. Report stage, when the voting takes place, is due in March.

 

HOUSING AND PLANNING BILL: KEY LORD’S AMENDMENTS

Starter Homes

 Labour

·         Require sale at price affordable to household on median local income, defined by the local housing authority, with the discounts to remain in perpetuity (rather than 20% of market value for five years)

·         To be offered to buyers who live or work locally

·         Remove local authority duty to promote Starter Homes, if at the expense of other types of affordable housing

·         Exempt new supported housing, hostel and build to rent developments from duty to promote Starter Homes

Lord Kerslake (cross bench)

·         Exempt regeneration schemes from Starter Homes requirements

Liberal Democrats

·         ·Make discount last in perpetuity

·         Local authorities have duty to promote all forms of affordable housing

 

Right to Buy extension

 

Labour

·         Exclude supported housing, key worker housing, units that form part of major regeneration scheme, rural settlements, homes built for charitable purposes or through s106, cooperative housing, ALMOS and alms houses

·         Replacements must be of the same tenure and in the same local authority area as a condition of grant to compensate for discounts

·         Homes sold must not be turned to buy-to-let for 10 years

Lib Dems

·         Remove section introducing the Right to Buy from the bill entirely, and replace it with a new clause which only allows a sale once an exact replacement has been identified and communicated to the regulator

 

Forced sale of council housing

 

Labour

·         Allow councils to keep cash to replace homes and repay debt before making payment to Treasury

·         Give councils the power to define high value, and restrict it from applying to more than 10% of stock

·         Cannot define a home as high value if its sale would not pay for a replacement

·         Exclude regeneration schemes and supported housing

Lib Dems

·         Allow councils to deduct cost of a replacement home before repaying to Treasury

·         Exclude properties built or renovated within the last two years

Labour and Lib Dems

·         As well as the amendments, both parties have reserved the right to oppose these clauses entirely

 

Pay to Stay

 Labour

·         Exempt OAPs, disabled tenants, those on zero hour or seasonal contracts, families with members on ESA, in receipt of care or carer, those in supported housing, those on housing benefit

·         Take into account local affordability and the need to promote mixed communities when setting criteria

·         Introduce a taper into the system, one year’s notice, transitional protection arrangements. Only apply to tenancies post April 2011

·         “High income” should be set with reference to the top quartile of local incomes

Lib Dems

·         Remove Pay to Stay from the bill entirely

 

Lifetime tenancies removal

 Labour and Lib Dems

·         Strike out from bill entirely

 

Other

Labour

 ·       Extend housing ombudsman services to cover the Private Rented Sector

Labour and Lib Dems

·         Introduce a fitness for human habitation test for private rented housing.