Housing and Planning Bill 2015
On 13 October 2015, as part of what David Cameron described as a “national crusade to get homes built”, the government introduced to Parliament a New Housing and Planning Bill. The bill includes new powers to overrule councils which are reluctant to build homes, and enable Whitehall to engage with local communities directly to allocate land for new building and force housing schemes through the planning system.
The government suggested the Bill will be a key driver in creating opportunities for families to move from renting onto the property ladder. Whereas only 141,000 new homes were built in Britain in 2014, the government’s aim is to construct 1 million new homes by 2020, an average of 200,000 a year.
Measures in the bill include:
- New affordable Starter Homes. Councils will face a new legal duty to guarantee the provision of Starter Homes on all reasonably-sized new development sites which will then be offered to first-time buyers at a 20% discount on market prices.
- Pay to Stay. A measure to ensure social housing tenants on higher incomes pay according to their ability while continuing support for those on lower incomes.
- Automatic planning permission in principle on brownfield sites to bring forward more land to build new homes more quickly while protecting the green belt.
- Planning reforms to support small builders, placing a new duty on councils to help allocate land so that 200,000 custom and self-built homes can be built a year by 2020.
- Measures to tackle rogue landlords. Councils will have blacklisting powers over rogue landlords, as well as the ability to issue bans in extreme cases.
- Ensuring the sale of high-value council assets that can be used to help people into home ownership.
Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said, “As a one nation government we’re determined that anybody who works hard and aspires to own their own home has the opportunity to do so… the Housing Bill will allow us go even further by kick-starting a national crusade to get 1 million homes built by 2020. It truly is an historic moment that will help deliver the homes hard-working people rightly deserve, transforming generation rent into generation buy.”
The British Property Federation (BPF) welcomed the proposed measures but warned that the government should not become too focused on owner occupation. Chief Executive Melanie Leech said, “…homes for owner occupation are not the only option. The build to rent sector has the potential to deliver a huge number of additional homes and to drive up standards in the rental sector, and must not be disregarded in favour of homes for sale - there is room for both.”
John Healey, Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Member for Housing criticised the limited progress that had been made so far, saying, “…for years the Government have been promising action but haven’t delivered. This failure across the board has meant five years of higher rents, more homelessness, home-ownership falling every year, and the lowest rate of house-building since the 1920s.”
On 28 October 2015, the government published a Nationally significant infrastructure projects and housing briefing note providing further information on the nationally significant infrastructure planning clause of the Housing and Planning Bill 2015. Clause 107 allows an element of housing to be consented when development consent is granted for a nationally significant infrastructure project.
The Bill passed second reading on 2 November 2015, desipte strong opposition during a debate that lasted more than 6 hours.
Labour MP Helen Hayes said, “This Bill lacks any vision for planning, regarding it as simply a constraint to development... Through a multitude of different measures, including “in-principle” planning consent, the removal of the need for section 106 contributions from starter home developments and the provision for Secretary of State call-in of planning decisions, this bill will take power away from our local communities, while also removing vital checks on the quality and sustainability of development.”
In a surprise move just before Christmas 2015, the government introduced an amendment to the Housing and Planning Bill 2015 intended to allow pilots to test introducing competition in the processing (but not determination) of planning applications. For more information, see Pilots to test introducing competition in the planning process.
Opposition amendments to the Bill proposed during the report and third reading stages were unsuccessful and so in January 2016, it moved forward to the Lords.
In March 2016, despite criticism, the Bill completed its scrutiny in committee by the Lords and and progressed to report stage in the Upper Chamber in April were it suffered a number of defeats.
Amendments proposed by the Lords included:
- Restricting permission in principle to housing led schemes.
- Re-introducing zero carbon homes.
- Introducing a neighbourhood right of appeal.
- Giving councils the final say on the requirement for starter homes.
- Requiring replacement properties for those sold by councils to be of similar proportions to those sold.
However, these were rejected by the Commons, and following some 'ping pong' between the two Houses, the Bill received Royal Assent on 12 May 2016.
Lord Kerslake said, "In the end, any contest between this house and the other place will be an unequal one. That is as it should be: it is elected and we are not. However, that should not dissuade us from making our case clearly and forcefully on issues that really matter. In this case the matters involved matter a great deal. The underlying concerns about this bill have been about its fairness, its commitment to localism and its deliverability. Most of all it has been about whether it will deliver the additional houses of all types and tenures that this country so desperately needs."
On receiving Royal Assent, Housing and Planning Minister Brandon Lewis said: "Our landmark Housing and Planning Act will help anyone who aspires to own their own home achieve their dream. It will increase housing supply alongside home ownership building on the biggest affordable house building program since the 1970s. The act will contribute to transforming generation rent into generation buy, helping us towards achieving our ambition of delivering 1 million new homes."
See Housing and Planning Act 2016 for more information.
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