Published: Thursday, 14th January 2016
The Government’s flagship Housing and Planning bill completed its passage through the Commons this week unscathed.
No opposition amendments were successful during the legislation’s report and third reading stages. The measures will now be scrutinised by the Lords.
The bill made history as the first to be considered under the new procedure whereby measures affecting just England are voted on only by English MPs.
Planning minister Brandon Lewis called the legislation “an historic bill in many ways. It will put homeownership within the grasp of generations that have only dreamed for many years that it could be possible. It will deliver a planning system that is the envy of the world. It will get Britain building again.”
Labour’s John Healey MP complained the legislation was “ a bad bill; it is now a very bad bill, made much worse by amendments forced through at the last minute after the Committee’s line-by-line scrutiny”.
Opposition MPs accused the Government of ending long-term rented housing and presiding over the loss of genuinely affordable homes, an issue some Conservative MPs raised.
Healey insisted. “The bill sounds the death knell for social housing. Starter homes will be built in place of affordable council and housing association homes, both to buy and to rent. Councils will be forced to sell their best properties and housing associations will not replace many of their right-to-buy sales with like-for-like homes. “
He predicted the loss of at least 180,000 genuinely affordable homes to rent and buy over the next five years. And he questioned the efficacy of an eleventh-hour amendment supported by the Government which is intended to ensure that proceeds from the sale of vacant high-value assets should be used to provide new affordable homes in London on a two-for-one basis.
Healey added “We have tried to stop the worst of the plans, but Tory ministers and back benchers have opposed our proposals to give local areas the flexibility to promote not just starter homes but homes of all types, depending on local housing need; to make starter homes more affordable and protect and recycle taxpayers’ investment; to allow local areas to protect council and housing association homes with a proper replacement of each; to limit any automatic planning permission from ministers for brownfield land; and to protect stable family homes for council tenants.”