6 things we’re fighting for on the Housing Bill

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.

Terraced housing

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:

  1. ‘Affordable housing’ must mean homes that are genuinely affordable. What the Government thinks is affordable is simply out of reach for many people.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Tenants should have access to the Rogue Landlords database, so they can check out a future landlord before they move.
  6. 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

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10 Comments

  • James Hardy 1st Mar '16 - 6:52pm

    > 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.

    I think we need to give the councils some flexibility here. There is a woeful lack of one-bedroom properties as for many years only two bedroom properties were built due to them being considered flexible as it could be used a couple or a small family. With the bedroom tax, now couples would want to be in a one bedroom property. I think a replacement of two two-bed flats with three one bed flats for instance would be perfectly acceptable.

    Also maybe there are places in a district where there is an unmet demand for council housing, it is not unreasonable that if there is an area with a surplus, a replacement could be build where there is demand.

    I understand the aim, i.e. not to “cleanse” an area of social housing, but surely we can come up with some kind of framework that allows decisions to me made locally, rather than diktats from central government

  • Peter Davies 1st Mar '16 - 10:00pm

    Doesn’t No. 3 rather contradict No. 2. If local authorities want to replace homes they sell off with more suitable ones, it should be their call.

  • James, the reason housing associations build two bed, not one, bed is that there is very little cost difference. Think about the utilities, kitchens, bathrooms, circulation space. Why not just build the same as now but leave out the wall between the two bedrooms. Then, when bureaucrats drop petty rules the walls can be put back.

  • I agree but just wish your 6 points had been our doctrine when negotiating our coalition…..
    Right to Buy is a licence to make money for the buyer (or, more often, their offspring). It was a cynical Thatcher ploy to win votes and has been the MAIN reason for escalating house prices and the housing shortage…
    Your 2) and 3) are linked…How can a council build new homes when long standing tenants have an automatic right (if moved into such homes) to buy at less than cost?

    The myth of ‘affordable housing’ would be a joke if only it wasn’t so serious…In the 1940s/50s a ‘broke nation’ was able to house a population in ‘prefabs and quick builds’…Modern such homes are luxurious compared to those of that era and can be erected even quicker…Our housing problem is worse than then but, unlike then. what is lacking is the will…

  • Jane Richards 3rd Mar '16 - 3:02am

    LibDems should be fighting for 7 things. They are ignoring the devastating impact the clauses ending succession for current periodic tenancies, and of making all new tenancies short term ones will have on tenants. Social mobility & life chances will suffer considerably from these clauses, people will feel even more excluded, more demoralised, and they will be shifted from one property to another as landlords will keep changing which properties they want at higher rents, market or near market in response to shifts in local market rents, gentrification, etc. They will be very vulnerable indeed to HA ‘revenge evictions’ and ‘revenge housing-you-in-a-dump moves’, which some HAs have done a lot of in the past, and will now be able to get away with again.

  • Tony Greaves 3rd Mar '16 - 8:55pm

    I rather think we are working (with lots of other people around the House) on quite a lot of things. But we need to focus a bit on the things we lead on and join in with others on things they lead on. But this Bill is a shambles. We are used to some Bills we don’t agree with very much. We are also used to some Bills that are technically very poor – badly written, lacking lots of detail, just a mess. This Bill is both. Two days in committee this week (committee of the whole House) on just the Starter Homes chapter, which is a complete shambles.

  • I have been a council tenant for 29 years earn £40,000 a year as a midwife and take home 2,300 and live in London increasing my rent to market rent would mean over 300% increase in my rent I could be charged up to £2000 a month in rent which I cannot afford. At 53 after working all my life I face the very real prospect of becoming homeless in 2017 and the thought terrifies me. I feel this is the Government finding yet another way of forcing people out of their secure tenancies. I cannot buy my home of 29 years yet this government provides discounts to buy but won’t allow me to live in my home. It cannot be right that this government can increase council tenants rents to market rates when the reason the market rates are so high is due to government policy. Builders will never build more would reduce their profits.

  • What about the agent of change principle? An amendment is down to mitigate some of the impacts of the Coalitions damaging Permitted Development Right which allows offices to be turned into residential accommodation and therefore causing problems for nearby cultural buildings which are then susceptible to closure.

  • We have been social tenants for over 22yrs including with a HA in SE London for the last 15yrs and are desperately hoping to buy our house. With a household income of £25000pa gross (£1500pcm net) working for the NHS we would never be able to afford a mortgage for a 1 bed flat let alone a 3 bed home. We are shortly to receive an inheritance which would not be enough to buy a 3 bed home normally but may just enable us to buy our rented home with the RTB discount and live rent/mortgage free which in turn will let us live without claiming benefits. We won’t be rich but at least we will be supporting ourselves without benefits.
    I understand the worry about social housing shortage but if we stay tenants the house is still unavailable for another family for perhaps 40+ years. Using our purchase money to build another property in the area for another family would be more beneficial to the shortage. I think the right-to-buy extension is a good thing as long as new HA properties are built.
    However the real truth is that most social tenants in London won’t be able to buy their home anyway as the cost will be too high to get a mortgage even after the discount. Who would give a mortgage to someone with no savings and on benefit anyway? Many low income families are stuck with annual rising social rents which in turn leads to more housing benefit claims and no spare income to save. They have no way of escaping the system.

  • Neil Sandison 7th Mar '16 - 6:13pm

    Some housing association tenants in non charitable housing stock already have a right to buy and have done so for many years .The homes provided by 100% grant back in the 60s and 70s and mostly refurbished existing properties with charitable status are the ones most at risk .They used to qualify for a transferable discount to buy on the open market called the tenant incentive scheme it worked very well.
    The rational thing to do is to fund right to buy out of the homes bonus good to encourage councils to build starter homes ,good to keep council social housing stock available for those in genuine housing need.
    Stay to pay is a sick joke and we should have nothing to do with it .If tenants could afford to purchase which is unlikely at these or significantly increased levels anyone with half a brain cell would take up the right to buy with a discount and avoid government snoopers or councils getting to know what they have got in their pay packet.

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