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Shadow housing minister launches independent review into the decline of home ownership

Week in Westminster

Published: 2 October 2015 | Author: Michelle Vosper

Housing featured heavily during the Labour party’s conference this week. In his speech to conference, shadow housing and planning minister John Healey launched and independent review into the decline of home ownership. The review headed by Taylor Wimpey chief exec Peter Redfern, will analyse the root causes of this decline and report on its findings and recommendations in the summer.

Mr Healey also highlighted a report published by the Smith Institute in his speech which suggests that with modest public investment we could be building 100,000 new council and housing association homes each year by 2020. The party subsequently voted to commit to a “public sector housebuilding programme” - including council housing - with proper security of tenure and genuinely affordable rents”. A vote by members at conference technically becomes party policy although leaders are free to disregard it.

And the shadow minister confirmed his party’s opposition to the government’s proposals to extend right to buy to housing association tenants, saying that the proposals are “unworkable and wrong”. Later in the week he tweeted a letter he has written to the HCA urging them to take a view on whether the deal offered by the National Housing Federation, which has given housing associations 6 working days (ending this Friday) to assess whether they will sign up to a voluntary deal, is considered sound.

In his keynote speech, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn stated that housing policy is a top priority. He referred to a number of issues on which we can assume the party will focus on – people being locked out of buying a home because of soaring house prices; a new council house building programme; tackling land-hoarding and speculation; lack of security for tenants in the private rented sector and  out of control private rents. Much of these themes were included in the Labour Party’s manifesto. However, Mr Corbyn announced that the party will be undertaking a fundamental review of all its housing policies to address these issues.

While Labour’s mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan pledge to make the contest for City Hall into a “referendum of London’s housing crisis”.

As for the new shadow chancellor John McDonnell, in his conference speech he announced reviews on the operation of the Treasury led by Sir Bob Kerslake, and another into the independence of the Bank of England. Mr McDonnell reassured conference that the party will guarantee the Bank’s independence, but will launch a debate on expanding its mandate to include new objectives for the Monetary Policy Committee including growth, employment and earnings. And the shadow minister has established an Economic Advisory Committee to advise on the development and implementation of the party’s economic policy.

Away from conference, there was an exchange of letters between the Bank of England governor and the chancellor on the help to buy mortgage guarantee scheme. Relaying the conclusions of an assessment of the scheme by the Financial Policy Committee, Mark Carney wrote “under the current market conditions…the scheme does not pose any material risks to wider underwriting standards in the mortgage market and household indebtedness.” He went on to say, “in light of the assessment of limited financial stability risks, the Committee does not see a case for changing the fee or the current setting of the house price cap on financial stability grounds at this point”.

Both the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and the Deregulation Act 2015 came into force on 1 October. The former replaces a number of laws in respect of business-to-consumer transactions, including unfair contract terms. And the latter includes provisions to prevent “revenge evictions”.

During the first stage 2 debate of the Renting Homes (Wales) Bill, the Welsh government announced that it will reverse its proposal to remove the six month legal protection from eviction for tenants. Under the current housing law, a landlord cannot make an order for possession until six months after a tenancy commences. The Bill did not originally replicate that legal provision.

The European Commission published its action plan for a Capital Markets Union setting out 20 key measures to achieve a single market for capital in Europe. A number of accompanying documents were also published, including a consultation on covered bonds, and a call for evidence on the EU regulatory framework for financial services. All of these documents have been published on the Commission’s website

And finally, just in time for the Conservative Party conference next week, Richmond Park MP Zac Goldsmith has been selected at the Conservative candidate for the 2016 London Mayoral election with 70.6% of the vote.