The housing crisis is going from bad to worse in many parts of the country. Action is desperately needed to make housing more affordable for people. We need to ensure we have enough homes in the right places, and that homes are sustainable and decent quality for people to live in.
I am leading a large team of Lib Dem peers who are fighting hard to amend the Housing and Planning Bill. We have serious concerns that the Bill will make things worse for people in need of affordable housing, will lead to an increase in homelessness, and will drive up the housing benefit bill.
So far we have put down 87 amendments to the Bill and we are piling on the pressure. The Government has decided to spend vast sums of money to increase home ownership for the lucky few who manage to get a Starter Home or buy a housing association home under Right to Buy, at the cost of providing homes for those who need a more affordable place to live. That includes the 1.6 million people on social housing waiting lists.
Here’s six things we’re fighting for:
- ‘Affordable housing’ must mean homes that are genuinely affordable. What the Government thinks is affordable is simply out of reach for many people.
- Councils should not be forced to sell off their council housing. They should have local discretion to manage their homes in the interest of local people.
- All homes sold off under the Right to Buy extension must be replaced, by building more of the same types of homes in the same area.
- Starter Homes should be for people who want and need to live in them, not bought by cash buyers or let out for profit. They should stay at a discounted price for future buyers too, not just their first owner.
- Tenants should have access to the Rogue Landlords database, so they can check out a future landlord before they move.
- Higher earning council tenants who are asked to ‘Pay to Stay’ should be earning a decent income before they’re charged more – a couple earning £15,000 each are not ‘high earners’.
There are many other issues we’re tackling, including giving communities a right of appeal on house building in their local area, and bringing back Zero Carbon Homes. There are some things we welcome, including measures to speed up planning processes. But overall, it merely tinkers round the edges when it comes to increasing the supply of new homes and it will have a devastating impact on affordability.
Tim Farron has said this Bill will cause the “death of social housing”. I fear that in ten years’ time, we will see this to be the case. We must do everything we can to fight this Bill now, before it’s too late.
* Baroness Cathy Bakewell is a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords