This Commons Library briefing paper provides background and comment on the Housing and Planning Bill 2015-16. The Bill was presented on 13 October 2015 and is scheduled to receive its Second Reading on 2 November 2015.Jump to full report >>
On publication of the Housing and Planning Bill the Government said it would kick-start a “national crusade to get 1 million homes built by 2020” and transform “generation rent into generation buy.” The supply-side measures in the Bill are primarily focused on speeding up the planning system with the aim of delivering more housing. There is also a clear focus on home ownership, with measures to facilitate the building of Starter Homes; self/custom build housing; and the extension of the Right to Buy to housing association tenants following a voluntary agreement with the National Housing Federation (NHF).
Part 1 of the Bill puts into legislation the Government’s commitment to provide a number of Starter Homes for first-time buyers under the age of 40. Starter Homes would be sold at a discount of at least 20% of the market value. Specifically, the Bill puts a general duty on all planning authorities to promote the supply of Starter Homes, and provides a specific duty, which will be fleshed out in later regulations, to require a certain number or proportion of Starter Homes on site. The general response has been largely positive. Concerns have been expressed however, about the impact on the number of affordable rented homes developed, whether the 20% discount would be deliverable, whether these homes would be genuinely affordable and about how this policy would interact with other planning policies on housing provision.
Chapter 2 of Part 1 adds to and amends the Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015, which requires local authorities to keep a register of people seeking to acquire land to build or commission their own home. The Bill specifically requires local authorities to grant “sufficient suitable development permission” of serviced plots of land to meet the demand based on this register. Cross-party support for initiatives to promote self/custom build was demonstrated during the passage through Parliament of the 2015 Act, although the Local Government Association has questioned the need for legislation in this area.
Parts 2 and 3 will give local authorities additional powers to tackle rogue landlords in the private rented sector. They will gain the ability to apply for banning orders against private landlords. A database of rogue landlords and agents will assist authorities in England in carrying out their enforcement work. Landlords will benefit from a clear process to secure repossession of properties abandoned by tenants.
The Bill will not, as originally expected, introduce a statutory Right to Buy (RTB) for housing association tenants. Following the Government’s acceptance of the NHF’s offer to implement the RTB on a voluntary basis, Part 4 of the Bill provides for grants to be paid to associations to compensate them for selling homes at a discount. The Bill provides a mechanism through which local housing authorities will be required to make payments to the Secretary of State. These payments will be calculated with reference to an authority’s high value housing stock with the expectation that this stock will be sold as it becomes vacant. This aspect of the Bill is controversial. There is concern that receipts raised from the sale of high value council stock will not generate sufficient funding to pay off the debt associated with these properties; provide for replacement of the sold stock; cover the cost of discounts for housing association tenants; and finance a Brownfield Regeneration Fund. Commentators have welcomed the Government’s desire to improve access to home ownership, particularly for younger people, but many have called for a range of measures to support a balanced mix of tenures.
Part 4 also makes provision for ‘high income’ social tenants (expected to be set at £40,000 in London and £30,000 elsewhere) to pay a market rent as opposed to a social rent – this policy is referred to as ‘pay to stay.’ This measure is the subject of an ongoing consultation process which closes on 20 November 2015.
Part 5 covers a range of measures including:
Part 6 contains a number of different reforms to the planning system, with the aim of speeding it up and allowing it to deliver more housing. Powers are given to the Secretary of State to intervene in the local and neighbourhood plan making process. A new duty to keep a register of brownfield land within a local authority’s area will tie in with a new system of allowing the Secretary of State to grant planning permission in principle for housing on sites identified in these registers. It also allows for major infrastructure projects with an element of housing to apply for development consent through the 2008 Planning Act regime, rather than having to seek separate planning permission. Many legal and planning professionals have welcomed these provisions, but there has been some concern about the extra burdens and costs for local authorities and about Government intervention taking away local say in local developments.
Part 7 relates to compulsory purchase and implements some of the changes set out in the Technical consultation on improvements to compulsory purchase processes published earlier in the year including: giving all acquiring authorities the same powers of entry for survey purposes prior to a compulsory purchase order being made; to introduce a standard warrant provision in relation to the proposed new common power of entry for survey; and to introduce a standard notice period of 14 days for entry for survey purposes (Clauses 111-117); developing targets and clearer timetables for the confirmation stage of the compulsory purchase order process (Clause 118); allowing the Secretary of State to delegate decisions to a planning inspector in certain circumstances (Clause 119); and making changes to the process of taking possession of the land and on the timing of the acquisition process (Clauses 121-128).
Parts 1 to 4 of the Bill extend to England and Wales but will only have practical effect in England. This also applies to Parts 5 and 6 aside from clauses 90; 91; 108; 109; and 110 which will apply in England and Wales. The whole of Part 7 of the Bill extends to, and will have practical effect, in England and Wales. Clause 89 (regulating estate agents) will apply to the whole of the UK.
Commons Briefing papers CBP-7331
Authors: Wendy Wilson; Louise Smith; Sarah Hartwell-Naguib; Lorraine Conway; Cassie Barton