This coming Tuesday will see the second part of the report session in parliament on the Housing and Planning Bill, which readers of our last update will know is a massive attack on social housing and on affordable housing generally. We are asking everyone who reads this to email their MP and urge them to make sure that they attend the debate and ask questions, and put forward the many concerns regarding the effects of this Bill.
The campaign group Defend Council Housing has produced a briefing about the effects of the Bill – click here to read it. Some of the main points are
- The Bill will do nothing to solve the housing crisis – in fact, it will massively reduce the availability of genuinely affordable housing.
- It will increase the profits of corporate developers by allowing them to build publicly-subsidised “starter homes” rather than socially rented homes. “Starter homes” at a 20% discount will still be unaffordable for households on low-to-average incomes, but those who can afford to buy will be free to sell them on at market prices after five years, enabling them to profit at the public expense.
- The Bill extends the “right to buy” to housing association tenants, who will again be free to sell on their homes at market prices. This measure will only benefit the better-off tenants, with even the discounted prices being out of reach for most, and the discounts coming directly at the expense of those most in housing need. The discount will be paid for by forcing Councils to sell of their high-value housing stock as it becomes empty. This means the loss of two social-rented homes for every new right-to-buy property, and there is no likelihood of the lost stock being replaced by new-build.
- The sell-off of council housing stock will be pushed forward by ending secure tenancies for new council tenants, including those who have been decanted to make room for redevelopment, or who take up a new tenancy through the waiting-list because they need to move due to a change in circumstances. As well as causing insecurity for families, this will mean the loss of stable support networks as people are forced to move, and take away people’s incentive to care for their homes and neighbourhoods.
- Means-testing of rents: council tenants with a total household income of £30 000pa or more (£40 000 in London) will be subjected to a huge rent increase, paying at or near the “market rate”, ie rates for private rentals – in effect, a punishment for low-income households trying to increase their earnings! As well as being unaffordable for many, this will mean huge problems for people who are insecurely employed or on a variable income (eg self-employed or on variable-hours contracts).
- The means-testing of rents and the compulsory review of new tenancies after 2 to 5 years means the end of the right to privacy regarding income or household circumstances – eg by information-sharing between the Inland Revenue and the housing provider.
The Housing and Planning Bill is being pushed through with hardly any public debate. It has received next-to-no coverage in the media, and important parts of the Bill (eg the end of secure tenancies) are in amendments introduced when it was already too late for concerned individuals and organisations to submit evidence at the “committee stage”.
The first part of the report session in parliament was held late at night on Tuesday, and with little opportunity for MPs to read up on the amendments and comments which had been put in over the Christmas break. We need to make sure that our MPs attend the next session, this coming Tuesday, that they are up to speed with the implications of the Bill and that they know their constituents expect them to fight it tooth and nail.
You can find details of how to contact your MP here
We’ll be keeping you up to date with the campaign in our region – in the meantime, thank-you all for your support!