Originally posted on May 9 on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing
The May elections have a common theme when it comes to housing: can the winners really do what they say?
From Sadiq Khan to Marvin Rees, from Nicola Sturgeon to Carwyn Jones and from council leaders all over England to the voters of St Ives, winning the elections last week was the easy bit. The hard work starts now.
I’ll start with the poll closest to me: the referendum in St Ives on a Neighbourhood Plan that will ban the building of new second homes that has brought national attention.
More than 80% of residents supported the plan last Thursday and it’s impossible not to sympathise. Around a quarter of the homes in St Ives are either second homes or holiday lets and the problem is even worse in other Cornish communities. That does not just price out locals it also means a lack of year-round residents that makes it hard to sustain vital services and infrastructure.
Originally posted on April 12 on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing
Otto von Bismarck famously said that laws are like sausages: it is better not to see how they are made.
One exception to the Iron Chancellor’s dictum could be the way that the UK House of Lords takes the distasteful raw ingredients of legislation and improves it with new recipes.
That was certainly the case on the first day of the report stage of the Housing and Planning Bill on Monday, which saw the government twice suffer major defeats and also make a significant concession on starter homes.
As the Bill now stands, this ‘cuckoo in the nest’ of affordable housing (as Lord Best memorably called it at the committee stage) has been cut down to size a bit: the discount will be repayable over 20 years rather than eight; and local authorities will have the flexibility to decide on local needs rather than targeting virtually all section 106 contributions as starter homes. The government also accepted another amendment that will exempt rural exceptions sites from the starter home requirement.
Ministers had already moved slightly on the discount period: the Bill originally said that starter home buyers would be able to sell without repaying any of the 20% discount after five years but a consultation proposes extending that to eight years with the discount tapering away over that period.
Originally posted on March 7 on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing
Campaigners gather in the capital city for a pre-election rally to call for decisive action on the housing crisis. Sound familiar?
But this is not Homes for Britain or London and it’s no longer March 2015. Instead this happened on Friday in Cardiff and it’s Homes for Wales.
The campaigns are clearly related – both are aimed at all the political parties, both are supported by a coalition of housing associations and other housing organisations – but there are differences too.
The Homes for Britain rally happened in a big hall with speakers from the housing world and beyond and from all the main political parties. For all the energy and enthusiasm of the day, it left itself open to the accusation that this was just another example of the sector gathering to congratulate itself about how wonderful it is.
In contrast, campaigners for Homes for Wales gathered on the steps of the Senedd Building in Cardiff Bay for speeches before marching through the streets of the capital for a rally in the heart of the pedestrianised city centre. For a couple of hours, shoppers could watch video messages from the political parties, Welsh celebrities such as Michael Sheen and people with personal experience of the housing crisis. Up to 700 people took part and it was the first housing march that anyone could remember in Wales. For more about the campaign see this piece by Kevin Howell.
Originally published on March 1 on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing
For a piece of legislation that’s already faced hours of scrutiny from MPs and peers, there are still gaping holes at the heart of a Housing and Planning Bill that started life on the back of a fag packet and hasn’t moved much beyond it in several important respects.
Opposition demands for more detail about legislation are nothing new of course, but I’ve argued before that the lack of clarity here is deliberate in a bill that is designed to allow the government to do what it wants in future. To take one example, after stretching the definition of ‘affordable’ to breaking point to include £450,000 Starter Homes, the bill adds that the secretary of state ‘may by regulations amend this section so as to modify the definition of affordable housing’.
Many of the gaps were highlighted in the Commons late last year. The last two months have brought little further detail but now it’s crunch time: as peers debate a series of amendments, ministers are bound to come under increased pressures to say exactly what they mean.