Originally posted on September 29 on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing
Gavin Barwell told the NHF conference last week that he’s spent his first two months as housing minister asking everyone one simple question: ‘Why don’t we build enough homes in this country?’
It’s a good question that instantly made me think that he should ask one of his predecessors in the housing and planning job. I’m in the middle of reading Nick Raynsford’s new book Substance not Spin. After 43 years of experience as a campaigner and minister it’s subtitled ‘an insider’s view of success and failure in government’.
Any book from (for my money) one of the best housing ministers we’ve had during that time is going to be well worth reading. However, the title of one chapter in particular chimes exactly with what Barwell was talking about: ‘Why can’t we build enough homes?’
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 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.