Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Labour claims government facing Housing Bill defeat

Labour is predicting between “eight and 12 defeats” for the government next month as peers round on its “disastrous” Housing and Planning Bill in the Lords.

The House of Lords is likely to reach report stage on the bill after Easter, with four days scheduled in for peers to debate and vote on the bill between 11 and 20 April.

Labour, the largest opposition party in the Lords, has now produced a list of 18 amendments which it will prioritise for these sessions – including a substantial watering down of Starter Homes plans, Pay to Stay and the end of secure tenancies.

It believes there is “disquiet” among Tory peers about some aspects of the bill, and is also confident of support from crossbenchers and the Liberal Democrats’ 100 peers.

John Healey, Labour’s shadow housing minister, said: “There is no conviction from anyone in the field that this is the bill to solve our housing issues.

“The measures it introduces are extraordinary and extreme. It is deeply anti-council, deeply anti-localist and entirely unbalanced.”

Its amendments, which it says it will either seek concessions on or press to a vote, would allow councils to decide how many Starter Homes are appropriate in a local area, and measures to ensure discounts are repaid.

On the Right to Buy extension, it will seek to ensure one-for-one replacements are in the same area as the sale, among other measures [see box].

It will also seek a sunrise clause to force the government back to seek approval for secondary legislation if further details are not announced, as revealed by Inside Housing last week.

On Pay to Stay it will seek to increase the thresholds where market rents kick in and will also oppose the end lifetime tenancies in council housing.

A senior Labour peer said: “What you will see is a series of quite profound government defeats. I would expect between eight and a dozen.

“This is a bill that’s in a mess, its disastorous. There is disquiet among Tory backbenchers… some cannot quite believe they are doing the things that are being proposed.”

If the bill is amended by the Lords, it will return to the House of Commons, with the government already facing a tight timescale to deliver some of its housing pledges.

Inside Housing has contacted senior crossbenchers and the Liberal Democrats, who will meet with Labour later today to discuss strategy, regarding their position.

The government has been contacted for comment.

The key Labour amendments

Starter Homes

·         Councils to decide proportion locally

·         Not to be built on rural excpetion sites

·         20% discount to be repaid if sold, reducing over a period of time

Right to Buy and high-value sales

·         One new home in the same area for each sale

·         Rural areas excluded

·         Government must provide funding for one-for-one replacement if necessary

·         Give local authorities to exclude properties if they can show high demand

·         Sunrise clause if no further details on Right to Buy

Pay to Stay

·         Threshold higher than current £30,000 outside and £40,000 in London

·         Taper of 10% so every pound earned above threshold, 10p extra rent

·         Voluntary for councils

End of lifetime tenancies

·         Exempt transferring tenants

·         Offer 10-year fixed term, with same conditions of review at the end and schools related exemption

·         Or delete clause altogether

Planning

·         Permission in principle to expire at same time as local plan to ensure no free hand for developers

·         Private companies to be barred from preparing planning applications

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