On Tuesday I led for Labour in the Commons discussing the amendments the Lords had a made to the Housing and Planning Bill.
This appalling Bill has been something that I have been working to mitigate the disastrous effects of since early November of last year and we are now in the closing stretch before it is sent to the Queen for Royal Assent.
Labour Lords and their crossbench colleagues have worked hard to inflict a number of defeats on the Government and forced them to concede and add numerous amendments to this Bill; on Starter Homes, Pay to Stay, on the selling of “higher value” council homes and on the privatisation of the planning system and many other elements.
However, the Housing and Planning Bill remains an extraordinary and extreme piece of legislation. Concern is being voiced by housing experts, charities, house builders, mortgage lenders, about the provisions in the Bill and with good reason.
On Tuesday, in the Commons we were given the opportunity to discuss these and see how they improve the Bill. But unfortunately all I heard was Government talk in favour of policies that will be damaging to so many people across all parts of the UK.
One of the most contentious elements of this Bill is Pay to Stay. This is a tax on tenants and a tax on aspiration and will lead to many people having to leave their homes or increase their levels of personal indebtedness. How could anyone describe a household in London were a couple earn an income of £17,000 and £23,000 as high; or £12,000 and £18,000 outside London?
Under these measures, a situation where even a modest rise in income, due to a promotion or taking on extra hours at work, could result in a significant hike in rent.
Recently I’ve been meeting with various groups of people to discuss how the Bill will affect them and some of the stories have been extremely hard to hear.
As the whole housing world has acknowledged, this Bill does little to solve our housing crisis but will make things a whole lot worse for the supply of genuinely affordable housing.
There are no elements of the Bill that undertake the vigorous, progressive building programme of housing across a range of tenures that the UK needs; nor is it bold enough to take a serious look at practices of renting and tenures and bring forward concrete proposals that could lead to real reform.
We will see, when the Bill comes back from the Lords on Monday, if we can use this last chance to stop the Government overturning important safeguards that the Lords have put into this Bill but I feel that the Conservatives are wilfully overseeing the demise of genuinely affordable and social housing in our country.
There is nothing wrong with promoting homeownership but not at the expense of those who are at the sharp end of the housing crisis, those who are in the direst housing need.
Unfortunately that is exactly what this Bill doing.