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Housing Bill regulations to be published after royal assent

Week in Westminster

Published: 11 March 2016 | Author: Michelle Vosper

Tensions in the House of Lords continue to run high as it became apparent that the detailed regulations for the Starter Homes and Right to Buy schemes will not be published until after the Housing Bill receives royal assentl, according to DCLG minister Baroness Williams of Trafford. Speaking during this week’s committee sessions on the Bill, the minister acknowledged peers’ disapproval of the government’s handling of this legislation, which was referred to as “a travesty of House of Lords scrutiny”.

This week’s probing amendments focussed on the parts of the Bill dealing with self-build and custom housebuilding, extending the right to buy to housing associations on a voluntary basis, the sale of homes in the social housing sector, and the high-value vacant property levy for local authorities.

During the deliberations, shadow housing spokesperson Lord Beecham noted recent media reports reporting an “impasse” between a number of lenders and the government over the Starter Homes discount period, which he referred to as “an extraordinary revelation”.

In an oral question earlier in the week, Lord Shipley asked the government for their definition of affordable housing. The minister Baroness Williams referred to the National Planning Policy Framework and the recent consultation on broadening the definition to expand the range of low-cost housing options for those wanting to buy their own homes.

Right to Buy was also the subject of a Public Accounts Committee hearing with the DCLG and others. The committee was interested in how the new policy fits with and complements existing housing policies, and attempt to get some clarity around the cost of the Right to Buy discounts, the definition of high value council homes, and the size of the levy on local authorities.

The Commons debated and approved the draft Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) Order 2016. This is the second order on the implementation of the EU Mortgage Credit Directive which comes into effect on 21 March 2016. The order “clarifies the regulatory status of a number of categories of loan entered into before April 2014. Specifically, it clarifies that the regulatory status of the loans depends on their regulatory status under the consumer credit regime before the transfer of regulatory oversight to the FCA.”  During the debate Labour spokesman Richard Burgon asked about the risk of misidentification in respect of the new category of consumer buy to let. Responding economic secretary Harriet Baldwin said that lenders and brokers will need a system to collect relevant information from the borrower, and that the industry has had a year to get these systems in place. The order will be considered by the House of Lords next week.

Labour’s mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan has launched his manifesto for London. Housing was at the top of his priority list, for which he pledged to “tackle the housing crisis, building thousands more homes for Londoners each year, setting an ambitious target of 50% of new homes being genuinely affordable, and getting a better deal for renters.”

Meanwhile, the London Housing Commission published its final report proposing a new deal to secure extra powers and resources for the London mayor and boroughs, and a programme of immediate actions to start to redress the housing crisis.

The date for the State Opening of Parliament and the Queen’s Speech was announced as Wednesday 18 May.

In Scotland new legislation introducing a tax supplement on the purchases of additional residential properties has been passed by the Scottish Parliament. Following its stage 3 debate, MSPs voted in favour of the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax Bill which will allow a 3% supplementary levy to be introduced on the purchase of second homes and buy-to-let properties over £40,000. The levy will take effect from 1 April 2016.