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Housing and Planning Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:28 pm on 2nd November 2015.

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Photo of Clive Betts Clive Betts Chair, Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, Chair, Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee 5:28 pm, 2nd November 2015

I shall begin with the aspects of the Bill with which I agree. There are some measures on the private rented sector that I can support, not least because the proposals on fixed penalty notices are an easier way to deal with landlords who are misbehaving in certain circumstances, and the rent repayment orders were recommendations of the Select Committee, as set out in its report during the last Parliament.

I am sorry that the Government have not gone further in dealing with the continuing problem of the very short tenures that most people in the private rented sector have or with the problem of the lack of resources of local authorities. The Government ought to consider allowing local authorities to keep fines that are levied on landlords, so as to help pay the cost of prosecuting those landlords who behave badly and bring the whole sector into disrepute. I hope that the Government will consider placing in the Bill a measure to ensure five-yearly checks on electrical safety in homes. The Government could achieve that very easily and it would help greatly.

On affordable housing, my great worry about the Bill is that if we are to achieve the 200,000 homes a year that the Government aspire to building—or the 250,000-plus homes that we really need—it can be done only through a serious long-term plan to build social housing for rent in this country. There has been a long-term decline in house building because that whole sector has diminished. What concerns me is that measures in the Bill will lead to the building of fewer houses at rents that people can afford, and that by the end of the current Parliament in 2020 there will be fewer homes to rent than there were in 2015.

Let us consider some of those measures. First, let us consider the right to buy. It is possible that some housing associations, if they chose—and it will be a choice—could replace properties on a like-for-like basis in their localities, although that would depend very much on their circumstances, but no information that I have seen, from Ministers or from anyone else, has persuaded me that local authorities have any chance of replacing the properties that they will have to sell off on a like-for-like basis in their localities. I am sure that the Select Committee will explore that issue further. It will be very interesting if Ministers are able to provide the Committee with evidence.

The starter home measures also present problems and challenges, because they do not propose the building of a single new home. Every starter home will be built in place of the affordable home that would otherwise be built under the current section 106 arrangements. In the last 10 years, nearly a quarter of a million homes have been built for housing associations as a result of section 106 agreements, but no more will be built during this Parliament. There will be starter homes costing up to £450,000, but a whole range of homes for affordable rents will not now be built.