Saturday 13 February 2016

Housing

East Midlands Councils is working to support Local Authorities' enabling role and to co-ordinate action on affordable housing. We have published a range of resources.

Housing Review  

The East Midlands housing market has changed rapidly in recent years with massive growth in private renting, a stagnant home ownership market and a shrinking supply of affordable homes.

Since the General Election, the Government has lost no time in changing the housing landscape. With a focus firmly on home ownership, the Housing and Planning Bill looks set to fundamentally alter the way in which councils can intervene in their local housing markets. To help councils assess the significance of these changes on their roles within a fast-moving housing market, East Midlands Councils is working on a Housing Review which will be published in the spring.

The Housing Review will assess the main trends across the East Midlands and the impact of the Government’s emerging housing policies as well as highlighting best practice by local authorities across the region.

Housing and Planning Bill 2015

Sale of high-value vacant council housing – Local authorities will be required to pay a levy to HM Treasury which will be based on an estimate of potential income from sales. Some receipts from the sale of high-value vacant council housing will be used to fund the extension of the Right to Buy to housing associations.

Pay to Stay – Council tenants with a total household income of more than £30,000 per annum (£40,000 in London) will be required to pay higher rents. This will be mandatory for council tenants but optional for housing associations.  Councils, but not housing associations, will be required to return the additional income to HM Treasury.

Fixed Term Tenancies – Councils will be required to offer new tenants a secure tenancy for a fixed term of between two and four years. Successions to secure tenancies, other than to a spouse or civil partner, will result in a new five year tenancy.   Although mandatory for local authorities, these provisions will be optional for housing associations.  

Starter Homes - Planning authorities will have a new duty promote the supply of starter homes. Government will have the power to set regulations to for starter homes be included on residential sites as a condition of securing planning permission. DCLG are currently consulting on national planning policy for starter homes to be classed as affordable homes 

Rogue Landlords – A number of initiatives which aim to tackle poor management by private landlords are also included in the bill. These include banning orders where landlords have been convicted of particular offences, a national database of rogue landlords and letting agents and rent repayment orders, again, when a landlord has committed certain offences.       

Two key issues identified:

  • Housing associations – As the bill passes through parliament, stock-holding councils are being subjected to increasing levels of control and direction whilst regulation of housing associations is being loosened. This is because of the decision of the Office for National Statistics in the autumn to classify housing associations as public sector organisations.  Ministers want to restore housing associations to ‘private sector’ status and so have relaxed the requirements for housing associations relating to fixed term tenancies and pay to stay.   
  • Starter homes and affordable housing - The Government’s emphasis on home ownership and the loosening of the definition of affordable housing will inevitably result in a growing shortage of  truly affordable rented homes. Inevitably, this will cause rising homelessness, increased use of temporary accommodation and longer waiting lists.  

Action on affordable housing

EMC's Affordable Housing Task & Finish Group was set up in response to concerns that without significant effort by all players in the housing delivery chain, delivery of affordable housing in the East Midlands would be severely constrained over the next few years due to the reduced availability of public subsidy. It has examined how councils in the East Midlands could increase the delivery of affordable housing and has produced a Prospectus on Affordable Housing and the East Midlands Declaration on Affordable Housing. EMC also worked with the CIH East Midlands Regional Committee to jointly publish good practice case studies which have increase the delivery of affordable housing. Details about the Task Group and its work are available here.