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The ARCH annual report for 2015-16 is now available to view.

 

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Housing and Planning Bill: ARCH representations 13/11/2015

The Housing and Planning Bill passed its second reading in the Commons earlier this month (2 November) and has now reached the Committee stage in the House of Commons. The Bill will now be scrutinised by the Public Bills Committee who will report back by 10 December.

 

ARCH has made formal representations to the Public Bills Committee. Our submission focuses on Part 4 of the Bill, and in particular Chapters 2 and 4, which directly affect stock retained councils.

 

Read the full ARCH submission.

 

Sale of high value council housing

On the proposals in the Bill for sale of high value vacant council housing to fund the grants to housing associations for payment of Right to Buy (RTB) discounts for housing association tenants, we've made the point that ARCH members are extremely concerned at the proposal to pay for this policy through the forced sale of high value vacant council housing. 

 

Council tenants have had the RTB since 1980 and councils have been expected to absorb the financial impact of sales within their housing revenue account business plans. We've argued that:

 

  • it's particularly unfair that councils and their tenants should now be expected to subsidise the costs of RTB discounts for housing association tenants
  • our preferred option would be for the requirement to make payments in relation to high value property to be dropped from the Bill altogether
  • short of that, we want to see an explicit commitment in the Bill for one-for-one replacement of all properties sold, as promised by the Prime Minister in launching the Conservative Manifesto.

 

De-regulation of housing associations

We've expressed concern that the proposals in Chapter 2 of Part 4 of the Bill, to allow the Secretary of State to deregulate housing associations by regulation, contain no requirement for consultation with local authorities before making any such regulation. We argue the Bill should be amended to include such a requirement to consult.

 

Introduction of a mandatory 'pay to stay' scheme

On proposals to introduce a mandatory 'pay to stay' scheme with income thresholds of £30,000 (£40,000 in London), we've made the point that councils are already free to operate 'pay to stay' schemes on a discretionary basis and to charge higher rents to tenants with household income over £60,000. We've argued that:

 

  • the much lower thresholds proposed in the mandatory scheme is likely to affect around 1 in 4 tenants not in receipt of Housing Benefit and will therefore hit hard working families providing a significant disincentive to work 
  • the Parliament should require that 'pay to stay' schemes remain voluntary until it can be shown that they're workable and do not have perverse and damaging impacts on work incentives.

 

Read the full ARCH submission.

 

The provisional programme of witnesses for the Housing and Planning Public Bill Committee has been agreed by its Programming Sub-Committee. The Committee heard oral evidence all day on Tuesday 10 November and will continue in the morning of Tuesday 17 November. The Committee will further consider the Bill on 19, 24, 26 November and 1, 3, 8 and 10 December.

 

ARCH members should be aware that we made a joint request with The National Federation of ALMOs (NFA) to attend the Committee to make oral submissions; on the basis that the two organisations represent two thirds of all council housing stock and a quarter of all people living in social rented housing in England, managing over 1.1 million council homes across 79 local authorities in England and Wales. We argued that the Committee would benefit from hearing how our tenants and the 1.4 million people on council house waiting lists will be affected by the changes being proposed by the Bill, and thereby be in a stronger position to scrutinise it.

 

Unfortunately our joint request was declined and we were advised that on this occasion the programme of witnesses was very tight and the Committee would not be able to offer ARCH and the NFA an opportunity to give oral evidence to the Housing and Planning Public Bill Committee; however should anything change in the programme the Committee will keep our request in mind.

 

We'll continue to press our case on behalf of stock retained councils.

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