According to the government they launched last week a bill which is a “Historic Housing and Planning Bill will transform generation rent into generation buy”.
So is the bill really achieving this or is this government doing all it can to find more ways to get rid of its responsibility to provide social housing and try to increase its voting community by supplying discounted homes onto the market for the 86% of people who claim to aspire to own their own home*
What does the Bill offer?
The bill basically confirms policies which the government has been talking about for some time, so there aren’t really any surprises, bar the plans to publicise rogue landlords and agents and the government’s view that Local Authorities should pull back from local licensing.
In summary, here are the changes that have been announced:-
New affordable Starter Homes
This will put a “new legal duty” on councils to guarantee 200,000 Starter Homes. First time buyers, under the age of 40 can purchase the properties at a 20% discount on market prices.
What you can do to secure a discounted property
If you are interested in this scheme, PLEASE make sure you let the government/local authority know by registering your interest.
Some years ago Labour required all Local Authorities to plan how many homes they needed to match their population. They also had to provide information about where they would build these homes – if planning was put in, whoever owned the land.
Those plans are now out of date and the Coalition, now Conservative government have requested that Local Authorities have to provide a similar document which shows how they are going to provide “the homes their communities need”.
What’s shocking is that if YOUR local authority doesn’t provide this plan, it means the decision of what is built can be taken out of the local authority’s hands.
According to the very useful Planning Advisory Service which explains:
“The Nation Planning Policy Framework states that where relevant policies are out-of-date, permission should be granted unless any adverse impacts outweigh the benefits, or other policies indicate otherwise, when assessed against the NPPF (paragraph 10).”
For more information on this and how to fight the Local Plans or get involved in producing one, visit the .gov site.
The Local Government Association has also produced a useful FAQ for Local Authorities which is quite helpful to the public too.
This Housing Bill has stated that Local Plans are in place by 2017, according to Brandon Lewis, the Housing Minister, 82% have adopted a Local Plan, but that means 18% haven’t produced one yet.
As an example of a Local Plan, here is one from Nottingham.
Pay to Stay
This affects any tenants who are currently living in social housing and likely to be paying half the market rent, even though they are on higher incomes.
This should help to provide councils and housing associations to secure higher rents from their housing stock and as people will end up paying market rent, they may leave and move into other properties (if they can find anything in our era of starved housing stock), meaning a property COULD be freed up for someone else on a waiting list.
Automatic Planning Permission (in principle) on brownfield sites
The government is hoping that if they can speed up brownfield site development, it is a higher incentive for developers to put in plans for these sites versus building on green belt.
Land for 20,000 custom and self-built homes by 2020
For anyone that is keen to build their own grand design or just a nice property that suits their needs, this is a real duty that is being placed on councils to help allocate land where available.
This is a fantastic opportunity for anyone keen to build a home of their own. Don’t think this is impossible, it’s something that you can do and here are two of the first steps you need to take:-
Register your interest via Custom Build. You aren’t committing to anything but it means your Local Authority will have to take into consideration what you want and this could make finding a plot of land a lot easier.
Measures to tackle rogue landlords
Local Authorities are going to be given “the power to blacklist, and in extreme cases ban” landlords who don’t abide by the law and support good landlords to allow them to recover their property’s possession more quickly if the property has been abandoned.
These changes come on top of a host of new rules for landlords on smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and on top of that the changes to retaliatory eviction rules and need to supply the right paperwork at the start of a tenancy to a tenant which includes the Right to Rent Guide.
In addition we are waiting for a date for the role out of the ‘Right to Rent’ pilot currently in the West Midlands, so from the Private Rented Sector perspective, there is still a lot going on and it’s essential landlords either use an ARLA, NALs or RICs agent to manage their properties OR join a landlord association such as the Residential Landlord Association.
And the view is that these additional powers mean that Local Authorities don’t necessarily need now to run individual licensing schemes which have become ‘popular’ across England.
The Residential Landlord’s Association point out that:-
“Measures in the Government’s new Housing and Planning Bill make clear that local authorities can use council tax registration forms to ask tenants for details of a properties’ tenure and its landlord to help root out criminal landlords.”
To me this is a brilliant move as its taken ages for governments to take up this super idea from the RLA. Basically it means that to find rental properties, rather than rely on the landlord to tell the Local Authority by paying a license fee which may or may not go towards enforcement, it means the tenant simply ticks a box on the Council Tax form – sheer genius!
This costs less than a licensing scheme and when matched with HMRC’s records it can show that someone is renting a property out and not declaring the tax!
In addition, the data collected by tenancy deposit schemes can be shared with Local Authorities too, making a much more joined up service to help with enforcement.
Off the back of this change, the RLA is “calling on councils to drop licensing schemes given that the Bill makes clear that they can collect the information they need without levying expensive costs on landlords”
Other changes that are less impactful on individuals include the sale of high value council houses to help fund people into home ownership.
All these changes on top of the deal with housing associations to extend the Right to Buy to “1.3 million housing association tenants from as early as next year” mean an enormous shake up to the English housing market (remember housing policy is individual to each country, not the UK).
Want to know how all of these policies will affect you?
Read my next article on how these changes affect First time buyers, investors, sellers and renters.