Published On: Wed, May 11th, 2016

Housing and planning Bill is “death knell” for social housing, says Shadow Housing Minister

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cieh_handh_conf_500pxThe Shadow Housing & Planning Minister has told delegates at a housing conference that the Housing and Planning Bill is the “death knell” for social housing in England. Ahead of the vote to approve the Bill, Rt Hon John Healey MP spoke at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health’s (CIEH) Annual Housing and Health Conference, which also featured Matt Allwright, presenter of BBC’s Rogue Traders.

John Healey MP told the audience that his principle task in parliament is to improve and oppose the worse parts of housing Bill. He commented that the Housing and Planning Bill was a “blinkered unbalanced bill” with the sole political purpose to talk about home ownership.

Believing that homes are a “place of safety” and not just a building, the Shadow Minister fears that if the Bill passes in its current state it will mean that by 2020 we will be further from the basic aim to provide safe decent and affordable accommodation.

John Healey said the Bill had three main problems. Councils would be forced to sale higher value homes that are vacant to the highest bidders in order to subside right to buy discounts for housing associations and extending “Right to Buy” will result in less properties being available for social rented homes.

He added that the Bill does include a clause on future planning applications, where 20% of new homes built will be reserved for starter homes. These homes will be 20% below market price and reserved for people under 40.

But John Healey MP said that this is problematic as the Government is “chocking off” councils ability to negotiate affordable homes with developers and starter homes will only benefit a small proportion of people.

For properties outside of London, the Shadow Minister said that a home worth Ј250k would require a deposit of Ј53,000 and an annual salary of Ј58,000.

John Healey MP said that the Bill will result in the loss of 180,000 social homes according to Shelter and also cited the Chartered Institute of Housing which predicts that by 2020 there will be a loss of a third of a million social homes.

According to John Healey MP, overall the Bill is storing up a lot of serious problems and will not tackle housing failures. He added that with no government funding to support rented social homes, the country would be unable to cater for vulnerable people, would increase homelessness and lead to longer waiting lists.

Delegates were told that this was the first time housing was made a shadow cabinet post and reflected the belief of the Labour Party’s leader that housing was an important issue.

John Healey MP praised housing officers and local authorities for their efforts to tackle poor housing and recognised that through the programme Rogue Traders, Matt Allwright had done more than many MPs to highlight the issue of rogue landlords and poor accommodation. 

At the conference, Matt Allwright spoke before the Shadow Minister and said that the rental sector had changed greatly over the past few years.

He said that problems with ‘rogue’ letting agents might be a precursor to worse problems and hopes that he can stop filming the programme when there is a fairer system.

Other speakers at the conference included Mark Andrews, Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the London Fire Brigade, who spoke about the fire service’s work to prevent fires in high risk sheltered accommodation. Housing officers from Islington and Amber Valley councils also shared their experiences in improving accommodation in the private rented sector.

Bob Mayho, Principal Policy Officer for the CIEH, said: “The vast majority of landlords provide safe, affordable and decent homes for their tenants. But there are a small number of property owners who let homes that are not fit for purpose, unfairly impacting the physical health and mental wellbeing of their tenants.

“The Shadow Minister raises an important point that the housing Bill will reduce social housing, which will invariably force vulnerable people into the already critically over-pressed private rented sector. This has serious implications for regional and national inequalities.”

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