New Clause 2 - Commonhold ownership

Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:45 am on 9th December 2021.

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“Within 60 days of the passage of this Act, the Secretary of State must publish an assessment of the impact of this Act on levels of commonhold ownership.”—(Mike Amesbury.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Mike Amesbury Mike Amesbury Shadow Minister (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 12:00 pm, 9th December 2021

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Our system of leasehold is unfair, unfit for purpose and a hangover from a time that should be consigned to history, as I have stated throughout the Committee and throughout the journey of the Bill. The best answer to fixing the issues with leasehold is to move to a system that most of the world moved to a long time ago. That system is commonhold.

Current levels of commonhold are very low, so the new clauses asks the Government to understand the impact the Bill will have on levels of commonhold. In the other place, the Minister claimed the Bill would level the playing field, and it would be useful to have that information once the Bill comes into force. This Minister will be aware, I hope, that the Mayor of London has committed to furthering commonhold and pledged in his manifesto to start further trials in our capital. Will the Minister tell us how much longer the rest of the country has to wait to learn what is the Government’s policy on increasing commonhold uptake beyond the claim made in the narrative about the Bill?

Will the Minister update the Committee on how the Commonhold Council is coming along, what progress is being made and when we can begin to expect concrete change to take place? Commonhold should be the default tenure; that is something hon. Members across the House have spoken about for a number of years, and this is a real opportunity to turbo-charge that change. I look forward to the Minister’s reply.

Photo of Eddie Hughes Eddie Hughes Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)

The hon. Gentleman’s new clause 2 would require the Government to produce an assessment of the legislation’s impact on the level of commonhold ownership. The impact assessment would have to be published within 60 days of the Act’s passage. However, as he said himself, the problem with commonhold in this country is that, despite its name, it is not a common tenure at all. Fewer than 20 developments have been created since the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002 Act came into force.

We want that to change. We want to see the benefits of freehold ownership extended to more homeowners. The change brought about through this legislation will help to create the conditions for more commonholds. It will level the playing field, as it will remove an incentive for developers to build leasehold rather than commonhold homes. However, we also need further to lay the groundwork for greater use of commonhold, which is why we have established the Commonhold Council—a partnership of industry, leaseholders and Government—to prepare consumers and the market for the widespread take-up of commonhold. It is also why we asked the Law Commission to recommend reforms to reinvigorate commonhold as a workable alternative to leasehold, for existing and for new homes. We are reviewing those proposals and will respond in due course.

The new clause looks at the interaction between the Bill and commonhold. We have of course considered that interplay, and believe that the Bill and our work to increase uptake of commonhold are consistent with our aim of more fairness and transparency for homeowners. The Bill and our commonhold reform programme are complementary and we do not believe it necessary to conduct a specific impact assessment as the new clause demands. As hon. Members will know, such exercises also take up considerable resources. I think we are all agreed that we should avoid delaying further leasehold reform, and I am afraid that would be the effect of the new clause.

The hon. Member for Weaver Vale asks about progress on the Commonhold Council. All I can say is that work is ongoing. I am sure the chair of the council, Lord Greenhalgh, will continue to push forward, and we will be publishing more information on its work early in the new year.

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman felt it necessary to table the new clause, but I hope he will consider withdrawing it.

Photo of Mike Amesbury Mike Amesbury Shadow Minister (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

I thank the Minister for his detailed response. It would be useful to have an update from the chair of the Commonhold Council for shadow Ministers, and to all members of the Committee. That would be appreciated. In the spirit of co-operation, it was important to table the new clause as part of the narrative and to get the detail on the record. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.