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Trouble ahead for final stages of Housing Bill?

Week in Westminster

Published: 24 March 2016 | Author: Michelle Vosper

Parliament started the week in a state of high drama after Friday’s shock announcement of Iain Duncan-Smith’s resignation. Stephen Crabb was appointed work and pensions secretary and used his first speech in his new position to perform a U-turn on the controversial Personal Independence Payments cuts, and gave a commitment that government has no “further plans” to make any more cuts to the welfare budget. The U-turn and the resulting “black hole” in the chancellor’s Budget was the subject of much debate in both the Commons and the Lords, and during oral evidence sessions held by the Treasury committee.

The Housing and Planning Bill had its final committee stage debates in the House of Lords. The main parts of the Bill covered during these sessions included clauses relating to planning and compulsory purchase. According to a report by the BBC, the Bill is likely to face heavy opposition from a combination of Labour, LibDem and crossbenchers, during its report stage starting on 11 April. Amendments will be tabled covering  all the major elements of the bill: giving council’s control over the numbers and tenure type of starter homes; requiring a “one build for one sold” rule if social housing tenants are given the right to buy; safeguards for secure tenancies; duties on fitness for habitation, and changes to the planning system.

Meanwhile, as parliamentary scrutiny of this legislation reaches its final stages, the DCLG has just published its technical consultation on the regulations to support the Starter Homes clauses within the Bill. Responses are requested by 18 May.

The Lords Economic Affairs committee held its final public evidence session of its inquiry into the economics of the UK housing market by taking evidence from the housing minister Brandon Lewis and exchequer secretary to the Treasury Damian Hinds. Some of the committee’s questions covered issues such as the government’s aspiration for a million new homes; why the government is confident of a sharp increase in house building; whether housing policy should refocus on supply side measures; and whether the government has a preference for home ownership over other tenures.

In an oral question, Baroness Watkins of Tavistock asked the government whether under the shared ownership scheme, the property owner can let out a room to another person. She responded to the minister that grant-funded shared ownership leases do no allow subletting, other than in exceptional circumstances, to prevent any use for commercial gain.

A range of housing issues were also covered during this week’s Commons DCLG oral questions.

And written questions from Lord Horam on housing construction have also been answered. In particular, he asked for a breakdown on how the £20 billion on housing investment will be spent between various housing categories.

The deputy London mayor Richard Blakeway is reportedly set to replace Alex Morton at No 10 to advise David Cameron on housing policy.  

The Conservative’s mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith launched his housing manifesto. Mr Goldsmith has pledged to appoint a chief architect for London to help deliver his manifesto commitment to build 50,000 more homes a year. He has also given a commitment to help more Londoners on average salaries to get their first home, by amending the London Plan to ensure developers build a much wider range of home to support mixed communities.

And the final week of business took place at the Scottish Parliament, ahead of the Holyrood election on 5 May.