MP SLAMS GOVERNMENT HOUSING BILL IN COMMONS – “Trading off the interests of one section of the community against those of another” says Helen Hayes
DULWICH AND WEST NORWOOD MP Helen Hayes has slammed the Government’s housing and planning bill in a House of Commons debate.
“Across the country, we need more social housing at rents that are directly related to the income of lower-income households, more intermediate housing for key workers and middle earners to rent or buy, and more low-cost starter homes for those taking the first step on the home ownership ladder” she told fellow MPs.
“These clauses have been drafted by a blinkered Government who have no interest in carefully assessing and responding to housing need as it really is, and every interest in peddling a myth of accessible home ownership to people, many of whom stand very little chance of achieving it.
“By doing that, they are trading off the interests of one section of the community against those of another.
“In my short time as an elected Member of this House, I have spoken several times in the Chamber about the extent of my constituency’s housing need.
“I represent a part of the London Boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark. Each borough has more than 20,000 people on the waiting list for a council home. Each week, my surgery is full of people who come to see me because they are in desperate housing need.
“Each week, people ask me why they should have to live in damp, overcrowded and extortionately priced private flats, why their children should be subject to the insecurities that come with short-term tenancy after short-term tenancy, and who is going to help them in their housing need.
“Many more people will find their situations made much worse as a consequence of the Bill than will be helped by it.
“A family who came to my surgery late last year is typical of many who contact me. The mother is a part-time teaching assistant who is studying to become a teacher, while the father is a pharmacy technician.
“They live in a two-bedroom housing association property with their four children. The two older girls, who are both at secondary school, share a top bunk, while their two younger siblings share the bottom bunk.
“The parents described the toll that the situation is taking on their relationship. Their older daughters, who are model students, are often tired and stressed at school.
“The family works hard and could not have more aspiration for a better life, but their situation will be made worse by the Bill.
“They will not be able to afford to exercise the right to buy their housing association home, and even if they could, that would be a pretty big gamble, since it is not suitable for their needs.
“The family home that they desperately need is likely to be exactly the type of home that will either be sold under right to buy, or that councils will be forced to sell to fund the right to buy for other housing association tenants.
“The Bill delivers nothing for this family, nor for many other residents like them who cannot raise a mortgage but nevertheless have significant housing need that should not and must not be ignored.
“I sat and wept with this family as they described the sheer unfairness and impossibility of their situation.”
“Something does not become affordable simply because the Government label it so.”
Helen Hayes told the House that during the previous days sitting of the communities and local government select committee* she had been “dismayed” to hear senior CLG officials confirm that they have not yet completed any analysis of the likely sums that will be raised from right-to-buy sales and the forced sale of council homes.
“The Government therefore simply do not know whether the funds will be available to replace housing association homes that are sold under right to buy, and still less at a rate of two for one.
“The Select Committee heard evidence from an officer at a Conservative-led local authority in Cambridgeshire who said that the council was up to the limit of the borrowing cap against its housing revenue account.
“When its high-value homes are sold, the first call on the receipt will be HRA debt repayment.
“Once the subsidy for right to buy has been deducted, there will be almost nothing left to deliver new homes. Members are being asked to vote on a major housing reform without any evidence that it can or will deliver what the Government promise that it will.
“There are further attacks on affordable housing in the Bill. The pay-to-stayclause, which is introduced with no taper and no lead-in time, is simply a Conservative tax on hard work and aspiration.
“There is a deep inconsistency within pay to stay. On the one hand, the Government have decided that a household comprising two people earning the new minimum wage outside London or the London living wage—by definition the minimum required to live on—is “high earning.”
“On the other hand, the Government take a different view of the high-earning threshold for tax purposes. “The two are not the same figure.
“The impact of pay to stay will be that rents rise to market levels overnight. “I cannot see any justification at all for requiring the rent paid by residents living in social housing and earning the minimum wage or the London living wage to be doubled or, in some parts of London, much more than doubled.
“Pay to stay will break up communities and will price people out of their homes although there is no private sector or other affordable housing for them to move into. “It will increase homelessness and act as a disincentive to seek promotion at work or to take on more hours. “It is a Conservative tax on aspiration.
Earlier Mrs Hayes told the House: “The Mayor of London has tried to redefine affordable rent as up to 80% of very high private market rents. “To put it simply, that is anything but affordable to the vast majority of Londoners.
“Rent now consumes an average of 62 per cent of Londoners’ income, and the Government now include a starter home of up to £450,000 within the definition of affordable housing. “That will not wash; something does not become affordable simply because the Government label it so.”
*The committee monitors the policy, administration and spending of the Department for Communities and Local Government and its associated arms length bodies, including the Homes and Communities Agency.
For the full Hansard report of the debate please go to Oral Answers to Questions – Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Clause 67 – Payments to Secretary of State (12 Jan 2016) Housing and Planning Bill