Response to Housing and Planning Bill 2016

Head of Department Professor John Flint has responded to the recent Housing and Planning Bill news.jf

Parliament debated the Government’s proposed housing and planning bill earlier this week amid growing concern from MPs, activists and social housing groups about the impact it could have on the housing crisis.

The proposed bill includes plans to extend right-to-buy to housing association tenants, charging market rents to those in council housing with household incomes of £30,000 per year or £40,000 per year in London, and requires councils to sell off 200,000 vacant high-value properties.

Housing expert Professor Flint commented;

“The Housing and Planning Bill, which MPs have debated this week, has been described as the end of Council or social housing. Measures such as revising security of tenure so that those on higher incomes (combined household incomes of £30,000 or £40,000 in London) will be charged market rents and the right to buy for housing association tenants (and selling off higher value council properties to fund this), alongside the bedroom tax and fixed-term tenancies are a significant transformation of social housing. These certainly appear to suggest a fundamental attack on the viability and sustainability, and indeed the idea itself, of public housing and similarly transformations are also evident in, for example, the United States.

“The Prime Minister has stated that ‘nothing is more important [to security and opportunity] than ensuring that hardworking people can buy affordable homes.’ But this rhetoric (which negates the importance of renting and fails to define affordability) is not reflected in policy or political realities. There is a clear lack of ambition and imperative within government to tackle the scale of the housing crisis in this country. While a range of initiatives have been implemented, collectively they fall very far short of what is required. But, beyond the details of these policies there are some fundamental questions that need to be addressed.

“Are we going to accept that in some parts of our cities, most notably London, it is increasingly impossible for individuals on low or middle incomes to live there? Are we ambitious enough to tackle some of the larger structural problems within UK land and housing supply markets and the effects of international property investment flows that are causal factors of the crisis? Is it acceptable that younger generations are priced out of a home of their own (not only as owner-occupiers but increasingly as tenants)? Are we willing to give up on the idea that communities thrive best when housing facilitates the residential proximity of different tenures and incomes? Are we reversing the understanding that social housing is not just about bricks and mortar but that social landlords have played crucial roles in supporting a range of other social policy imperatives such as local economic development, tackling homelessness, supporting vulnerable households and building cohesive communities? This is now what is at stake.

“In previous periods of our history when faced with a housing crisis, there has been, firstly a scale of response by government and others that acknowledged the severity of the problem and, secondly, a recognition that the important contribution of the private sector, while crucial, was simply not adequate and therefore strong national and local state intervention was required. Finally, there was an understanding that providing housing for all was a public good that was inherently linked to wider economic and social wellbeing. Although the precise mechanisms required may be different in our own era, fundamentally these three ideas are still relevant today. The fact that government ministers are now directly commissioning 13,000 new homes in Southern England is perhaps some sign of small steps in this direction.”

Originally from the USP website

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