Originally published on May 9 on my blog for Inside Housing.
Since May 1999, when the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly met for the first time, devolution has evolved at a different pace in each country and the Barnett formula has given Holyrood more resources than Cardiff Bay.
Politically, the Scottish Parliament was run by Labour with Lib Dem support for its first eight years before the SNP won power in 2007 and then an overall majority in 2011 and the No vote in the independence referendum. The Welsh Assembly has been run by Labour for the last 20 years, though it has needed the support of either the Lib Dems or Plaid Cymru along the way.
However, it was the election of a Conservative-led coalition government at Westminster in 2010 that led to a new phase for the devolved administrations.
For a while, all they had to do to be progressive on housing was nothing – refusing to follow the English swing away from social rent and towards the market created a clear divide.
Both have still had to cope with the impacts of austerity and benefit cuts largely imposed from London, although Scotland has used its extra resources to mitigate the bedroom tax and has been able to make some tweaks to universal credit.
In the areas that they can control, the devolved administrations have tended to devise policy in partnership with the sector, as exemplified by the ambitious target for affordable and social homes in Scotland and the independent review of affordable housing supply published in Wales last week.
But it is in legislation that a really distinctive approach to housing has emerged and it is one that I’d argue has created a new dynamic in housing policy across the wider UK too. Read the rest of this entry »
Blimey. If it plays out as billed, the government’s consultation on ending no-fault evictions and introducing open-ended tenancies for private renters represents the quickest change in housing policy that I can remember.
I say ‘if’ because this is still only a consultation, because ministers have form for claiming rather more in press releases than turns out to be the case when the detail is published and because Theresa May could be succeeded within weeks by a new, more right-wing prime minister who could dump the whole thing.
One more caveat is that I am only talking about England. The first minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, pledged to end no-fault evictions on Saturday and so narrowly avoided the embarrassment of Welsh Labour lagging behind the English Tories on tenants’ rights.
Scotland has already abolished Section 33 (its version of 21) and introduced a new tenancy system in December 2017 that could become the model for the other UK nations.
In England, and taking it at face value, this announcement is a stunning victory for campaigners that takes May’s Conservatives to the left not just of where Ed Miliband was at the 2015 general election but also of what Jeremy Corbyn argued at the 2017 election. It was only later that year that the Labour leader committed to ending Section 21.
Last year the government consulted on its own plan for three-year tenancies but did not commit to making them mandatory – this was only one of three options alongside education and financial incentives for landlords.