Originally posted on January 6 on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing
MPs staggered bleary eyed from the House of Commons at 2am last night without even getting to the most contentious parts of the Housing and Planning Bill.
Despite a series of obituaries for council housing and a ‘Kill the Bill’ protest outside, issues such as forced high-value sales, Pay to Stay and the voluntary Right to Buy will only be considered on day two of the report stage debate (set for next Tuesday, January 12).
Last night’s five-hour debate included starter homes, the regulation of housing associations, rogue landlords and the planning system. Opposition MPs complained that 65 pages of new clauses and amendments had been added at the last minute to a Bill that was only 145 pages long.
I blogged back in October that this a Bill written on the back of a fag packet and last night only confirmed that impression. The Bill also leaves a series of crucial decisions to be made by ministers by regulation later.
Nothing sums this up more than new clause 31 on planning obligations and affordable housing. This adds starter homes selling for up to £450,000 to the existing definition of affordable housing: homes for people whose needs are not adequately served by the market. However, it also adds that:
‘The Secretary of State may by regulations amend this section so as to modify the definition of “affordable housing”.’
Originally posted on November 30 on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing
Part 1 of this blog looked at the apparent winners and the big losers from George Osborne’s announcements last week. But there is one more group lurking on the edges of the playground, ostracised by virtually everyone. What happened to George’s well-heeled former chums should be a warning to everyone else.
Buy-to-let landlords and second home owners thought they had worked hard, done the right thing, bought a house and then another (and another). Contrary to what everyone said about them driving up house prices and destroying local communities, they thought they were providing desperately needed homes and helping pay for local services. They thought the Conservatives were on their side after they blocked a Labour tax rise on second homes in 2010 and kept buy to let out of European mortgage regulation in 2013.
They thought George was ‘one of us’. After all, he made £450,000 profit on his taxpayer-funded second home and rents out his main home for £10,000 a month while he lives in Downing Street. And they voted Conservative in May when those horrible Labour oiks planned rent regulation and a mansion tax.
Their thanks for all this? Sand kicked in their faces with cuts in tax relief in July and the Chinese Burn of hikes in stamp duty and capital gains tax in November. The fate of these entrepreneurs and investors turned enemies of aspiration should be a warning for all those who are currently part of the Osborne in-crowd.
Originally posted on November 11 on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing
So now it is official. Brandon Lewis has confirmed that ‘affordable’ means 80% of the market rate.
His statement at a Communities and Local Government Committee hearing on the Housing Bill confirms a direction of travel that has been clear ever since the creation of ‘affordable’ rent. Starter homes at a 20% discount to the full price now represent ‘affordable’ home ownership. Needless to say, neither is exactly affordable by any conventional definition of the word.
The minister’s statement came in this exchange with Labour MP Jo Cox:
Cox: Do you think there should be a statutory definition of affordability for both rent and purchase?’
Lewis: At the moment it’s 80% of the market value, whether to rent or purchase.
Cox: But there isn’t a statutory definition.
Lewis: Well, the definition of affordability… an affordable rent is 80% of market value and affordable purchase with starter homes it would effectively be 80% of market value.
Originally posted on November 3 on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing
As MPs debated the Housing and Planning Bill on Monday it was hard to escape the impression that the real action was elsewhere.
From the extension of the right to buy to the forced sale of council houses to starter homes, key discussions had either already happened or were still taking place outside the Commons chamber. Yes, talks behind the scenes are an inevitable part of any Bill, but far more so with this one than any other that I can remember. Yes, the Deal removes what would have been a key element in the legislation from parliamentary scrutiny but this is about more than just that.
That’s partly because this is a back of a fag packet Bill that sets out some general principles with the detail to be filled in later. We still know little more about how the sums will add up for paying housing association discounts from forced council sales than during the election campaign. And, as Alex Marsh points out in relation to Pay to Stay, there are whole chunks of the Bill that give the secretary of state the power to do pretty much whatever they like.
Originally posted on July 23 on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing
A new report aims to maximise Section 106 contributions to affordable housing but the government seems intent on moving in the opposite direction.
Rethinking Planning Obligations is the result of research for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation by a team from Oxford Brookes University and the University of East London. It notes a sharp fall in the contribution from Section 106 since the credit crunch: from 32,000 in 2006/07 (65% of all affordable homes) to 16,000 in 2012/13 (still significant but only 37% of the total). Contributions to affordable housing varied across case study areas from 2% to 87%.
The decline is partly the result of the housing market downturn: planning permissions agreed before 2007 with high proportions of affordable housing were not viable after the crunch and had to be renegotiated.
However, the government has also introduced a series of changes that make it easier for developers to argue down their contribution, and secretive viability assessments have become a key weapon. For detailed examples of how it works, see Oliver Wainwright’s story about Neo Bankside in The Guardian this week or The Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s story from May about Greenwich Peninsula.