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The Housing and Planning Bill passes second reading

Week in Westminster

Published: 6 November 2015 | Author: Michelle Vosper

There was huge interest in the second reading of the Housing and Planning Bill, with some 55 MPs registering their desire to speak during the debate. There were not surprisingly mixed reactions to the Bill, depending on the party of the MP concerned. While welcoming the proposals to tackle rogue landlords and letting agents, the Labour Party is not supportive of any of the other measures contained in the Bill. There was much concern amongst London MPs on the affordability of starter homes in the Capital. In respect of the right to buy for housing associations, Conservative prospective mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith confirmed that he will attempt to amend the Bill to require government to give a binding guarantee in London that in addition to replacing housing association homes, at least two low-cost homes are built for every single high-value home sold.

The Bill has now been submitted to the Housing and Planning Bill committee for scrutiny. The committee has requested written evidence from stakeholders ideally by 9 November, in advance of their first oral evidence session on 10 November. Committee stage for the Bill will need to be brought to a close by 10 December at the latest.

In an unexpected move, the Office for National Statistics has announced that housing associations should have been classified as public rather then private bodies since 2008, as a result of regulatory requirements imposed by the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008. In a written statement, the communities secretary confirmed that “reclassification makes no material changes to the operation of housing associations, does not nationalise housing associations and the government has not plans to impose new controls on the sector”. He went on to say that as part of the agreement with the sector on right to buy, the government had committed to developing deregulatory measures with a view to delivering them through the Housing and Planning Bill and aims to return housing associations to the private sector in the future.

Meanwhile, the Commons CLG committee took oral evidence from three housing associations on right to buy to the sector, all of which had differing views on the scheme. The scheme was also the subject of a raft of parliamentary questions in both Houses this week.

The Lords economic affairs committee has launched a new inquiry into the economics of the UK housing market. The committee is calling for written evidence by 27 December on subjects such as the effectiveness of government schemes on housing affordability, tax measures that could improve housing supply and affordability, the impact of stamp duty reforms, views on whether the decline in home ownership and rise in private rental will continue.

MPs debated the subject of prefabricated housing. Conservative MP Damian Collins introduced the debate to explore whether modern methods of off-site construction and manufacture and on-site assembly could provide an answer to the country’s need for housing supply. In his response, the housing minister Brandon Lewis gave his support for this type of construction saying that the durability of homes go “way beyond 60 years” and “makes these homes very viable for mortgage lending”.

The new Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Regulated Activities)(Amendment)(No3) Order 2015 has now been approved by both Houses and published.

Following a Commons Treasury committee hearing with the Competition and Markets Authority on its retail banking review, the committee chair Andrew Tyrie has written to the Authority calling on it to review the government’s proposed new bank tax. Mr Tyrie expresses concern that the charge could act as a barrier to entering the market.

The future of UK banking and the government’s stake in the Royal Bank of Scotland was the subject of a Commons backbench business debate.

The Scottish government is increasing its funding for its Open Market Shared Equity Scheme which helps eligible first-time buyers by £10 million, bring the total funding to £80 million for 2015/16.

And the National Assembly for Wales has approved the draft Code of Practice for Landlords and Agents licensed under the Housing (Wales) Act 2014.