Housing and Planning Bill

Written evidence submitted by the National Housing Federation (NHF) (HPB 19)

The National Housing Federation (NHF) is the voice of affordable housing. Our members – housing associations – provide two and a half million homes to more than five million people and invest in a diverse range of neighbourhood projects that help create strong, vibrant communities.

The Housing and Planning Bill represents a bold step from the Government towards ending the housing crisis: a commitment every political party made before the general election. Housing associations want to work with government to achieve this. They already build 50,000 homes a year and have an ambition to build 120,000 homes a year by 2033 - half of the homes that the nation needs. This would add £8.1bn to the economy and create 170,000 new jobs.

Ahead of NHF Chief Executive David Orr giving oral evidence to the Committee on Tuesday 10 November, this briefing sets out some points which we hope Committee members will note when taking evidence on the Bill. Our full detailed written evidence for the Committee on specific changes we hope to see to the Bill will follow shortly.

Making sure housing associations can deliver the Right to Buy

Ensure the wording in the Bill reflects the agreement between housing associations and government

Housing associations share the Government’s objective of helping their tenants to buy their own home. However, the sector has always been clear: we want to help people into home ownership, but not at the expense of our ability to build more homes of all tenure, including affordable homes, or our independence.

The recent agreement between the Government and housing associations to deliver the Right to Buy to their tenants on a voluntary basis, without the need for legislation, does this. Under this agreement, housing associations can both enable home ownership and continue to build the new homes the country needs. As part of this process, we agreed with government a clear set of parameters and principles on which the sector’s participation depends.

Notably, the agreement was made on the basis that housing associations will receive the full receipt for every home they sell to spend on delivering a new, replacement home. In many cases, housing associations believe they will be able to use this money to build more than one home to replace that which has been sold, adding to the country’s overall housing stock and maintaining the level of affordable housing.

Under the agreement housing associations will also be able to protect and retain affordable housing in areas where it would be difficult to replace – for example, in rural areas where land for new affordable homes is hard to come by. Tenants living in those areas who wish to buy a home will have access to a portable discount.

The Housing and Planning Bill includes clauses (56-58) to enable the delivery of this historic agreement. It is vital the wording of the legislation reflects the spirit and word of these principles. The Bill must clearly state that housing associations must be fully compensated for every home sold through the new Voluntary Right to Buy scheme, so that the sector can deliver on the agreement and provide much needed one-for-one replacements.

Getting land and planning measures right to deliver more affordable homes

Change the Bill to ensure Starter Homes are delivered in addition to affordable homes

T he a v a il a b i li t y a n d a ff o r d a b ili t y of l a n d is o n e o f t he k ey b a rr i e r s t o de li v eri n g n e w h o m e s , p a rt i cu l arly a f f o r d a b l e h o m es, a n d t he G o v er n m e nt i s r i g ht t o i nt r o d u ce m e a sures t o a d dress t h i s i n t he Bill . O ne o f t he key ch a n g es i s t he n e w p o w er f o r d e v e l o p ers t o de li v er S t a r t er H om e s as p a r t o f t h ei r S e c t i on 1 0 6 o bli g a t i o n s ( C h a p t er 1 ) .

S t ar t e r H o m es w i l l p l ay a n impo r t a n t r o l e i n ce r t a i n m a r k e t s, h el p i ng y o u n g peo pl e t o t a ke t h ei r f i r s t s t ep on t he prop e rt y l a d d er. H o w e v er, w e t h i n k i t i s c r u c i al t h a t t he Bil l i s c h a n g ed t o r e f l e ct t he n e ed f o r S t a r t er H omes t o be:

· d el i v ered i n add i t i on t o, n ot i nstead o f , a ff ordab l e a n d soc i al r e n t ed h o m e s , f or w h i ch t h e r e r ema i ns h i g h n e ed a n d d emand

· d el i v ered i n add i t i on t o h omes t h a t w o ul d o th er w i se ha v e been b uil t e i t h er f or o ut r i g h t sa l e or tr a di t i o n al a ff o r d a b l e h o u s i ng

W e a l so be li e v e t h a t l oc a l a u t h o r i t i es sh o u l d be a b l e t o r eta i n t he f l e x i b i l i t y t o p l an f o r a n d m e e t t he h o us i ng n e ed t h a t e x i s t s i n t h ei r a r ea ( w h i ch m ay n o t be f o r S t a r t er H omes p e r se ) .

Keeping housing associations independent, with proportionate regulation

Add deregulatory measures to the Bill and keep Pay to Stay voluntary

W e a r e d i sa p p oi nted t h a t t he O ff i ce f o r N a t i o n al S t atistics h a s d e c i d e d t o r ec l ass i f y h o us i n g assoc i ati o ns as p u b li c b o d i es. T h i s co ul d m e a n t h at t he s e c t o r i s n o t a b l e t o sca l e up t he d eli v ery o f n e w h o m es as q u i c k l y as it w o ul d l i k e t o .

A s t he G o v er n m e n t h a s pro m i se d , w e w o ul d l i k e t o see d e r e g u l a t ory m e a sures i n tr o d uc e d i n t he Bil l as q u i c k l y as p o ss i b l e, t o b r i ng t he se c t or b a c k o f f t he n a t i o n al b al a n ce sh e e t . T he ch a n g es w e w o u l d l i k e t o see w o ul d a l so m a k e r e g u l ati o n o f t h e sec t o r m o r e p r o p o r t i o n ate, g i v i ng h o us i ng ass o c i ati o ns m ore co nt r o l o v er t h ei r b u s i n e sses a nd a ll o wi ng t h e m t o do m ore w i t h t h ei r ass e t s.

S ome o f t he d e r e g u l ato r y ch a n g es w e w o u l d l i k e t o see i nc l u d ed i n t he Bil l u n d e r Cl a u se 73 a r e:

· R emo v e t he n e ed f or r e g u l atory c o n s e n t f o r i n di v i d u al d e c i sions on d i s p o s a l s a n d a s s e t man a g e me n t . T h i s w o ul d m a k e i t e a s i er f o r h o us i n g a ssoc i ati o ns t o r e l e a se m o r e h o m es f or sa l e and o ff er e x i s t i ng cu s t om e r s a ch a nce t o b u y a s t a k e in t h e i r o w n ho m e .

· C h a n g i ng h o w h o u s i ng a s s o ci a ti o n s c a n v al u e t h e i r h o me s : A t t he m omen t , a rt i f i c i al r es t r i c t i o n s m e a n t h a t a s soc i ati o n ho m e s w h i ch ha v e been tr a n s f e rr ed fr o m a l oc a l a u t h o r i t y can o nl y be v a l u e d at 3 0 % - 4 5 % o f w h a t t he h o m e i s actua ll y w or t h . R e m o v i ng t h i s r e s t r i c t i on w o ul d m e an t h e se h o m es, li k e ot h er a ff o r d a b l e ho m e s a s s oc i ati o ns o w n, co ul d be v a l u e d at a b o u t 6 0 % o f t h ei r m a r k e t w or t h. T h i s w o ul d a ll ow ass o c i ati o ns t o b o rr ow m or e , a ll o wi ng t h em t o bu il d m ore h o m e s at no cost t o t he p u b li c p urse.

· S t rea m li n i ng g o v ernm e nt i n v e s t ment : C u r r e n t l y , p u b li c i n v est m e n t i n h o us i ng i s sp li nte r ed i nto l ots o f d i ff erent p o t s w i t h bu r e a u c r atic r e q u i r eme n t s. W e w o ul d l i k e t o see g o v ern m e n t s t r e a m li ne it s i n v est m e n t so i t i s co n s o li d a t ed i nto a s i n g l e p ot , w h i ch can be sp e nt t o de li v er t he h o us i ng n e e d ed i n a l oc a l ar e a w h e t h e r t h a t s bri n g i ng em p t y h o m es b a ck i n t o us e , o r bu il d i ng h o m es f o r o l d e r p e o pl e .

W e w o ul d a l so l i k e t o s e e t he P ay t o S t ay sch e m e s t ay v o l u n t ary ( Cl a u se 7 4 ) . H o u s i ng ass o c i ati o n b o ards a r e be s t p l ac e d t o set r e n t d e p e n d e n t u p o n t he t e n a n t s a n d t he m a r k et i n w h i ch t h e y o p era t e . M a n d a t i ng t h i s p oli cy n a t i o n a l l y i s a b l u n t i ns t r u m e n t a n d w e w o u l d l i k e t o see t he G o v ern m e n t p u t t he p ol i cy b a ck on a v o l u n t ary f o oti n g.

November 2015

Prepared 10th November 2015