Housing & Planning Bill: the good bits, the bad bits, and the silence

The Housing and Planning Bill has been announced and is making its way through the Commons. The government is using the legislation to drive through some major changes that threaten to weaken social housing and harm the poorest members of society.

But they're also embarking on some much-needed changes to the private rented sector which should help to root out illegal practices and improve renters' homes. 

The Bill is silent on security for renters. At a time when millions of us have no option but to rent privately, we need to start having some protection from eviction on a landlord's whim: today we launched a petition calling for this. Please sign it and help us persuade politicians to give everyone a stable home.

The Good:

Through the Bill, local councils will get equipped to take a tougher line on landlords - thanks in part to Generation Rent's lobbying. They'll get to keep more of the fines they dish out, so will have a reason to invest in enforcing laws on decent conditions. They will also start sharing intelligence about landlords, with a national blacklist of convicted landlords and agents, and the opening up of tenancy deposit schemes' databases so local authorities can check who is operating in their area and target resources appropriately.

The government could go further: the public should have access to the blacklist so that, at the very least, they can check if a prospective landlord has been convicted of anything. And it should be made easier for tenants whose landlord has been convicted to claim back rent under the expanded Rent Repayment Orders. 

The Bad:

By selling off empty council homes, the government risks turning swathes of London into rich-only neighbourhoods, and forcing low income households into poorer parts of the country, creating an even more divided society. Councils and Housing Associations won't have the incentives to build social housing so government support will just go to the relatively well-off through the new Starter Homes, which will be sold at 20% less than market prices.

To minimise the damage, there need to be many changes to the proposals - including a retreat on allowing Starter Homes to replace affordable homes to rent. There is also an opportunity for the government to turn Starter Homes into something much fairer - and closer to our Bubble-Free housing model - by maintaining the discount in perpetuity, instead of the five years it is currently restricted to. Instead of handing a massive windfall to a lucky minority of first-time buyers, these homes could be kept permanently (relatively) affordable.

We will keep an eye on the Bill as it is scrutinised by MPs line-by-line over the next few weeks. If we need to apply some pressure, we hope we can rely on your support. In the meantime, please add your name to our calls for better security of tenure.

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