UK Construction Online examines the amendments made recently by the House of Lords to the Housing and Planning Bill.
The Housing and Planning Bill has been through the final report stage resulting in defeat for government on certain policy and also being forced to make a number of concessions.
The House of Lords rejected the government’s decision to scrap the zero carbon homes standard. The original policy, which was axed by the government in 2015 in the Chancellor’s ‘Fixing the Foundations’ plan, proposed that all new homes built in England from April 2018 be zero carbon.
The Peers also backed a move from Labour Peer Baroness Royall that would see local authorities to require housing developers to make affordable housing contributions on developments in certain rural areas that contain ten or less units. This would also encompass situations where permission had been given on the on the basis of a policy for the provision of housing on rural exception sites.
The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has claimed that this move could end up stifling the housing industry by increasing regulations and taxes on small builders.
Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: “We understand the need for more affordable homes in rural areas and Government policy must address this need but the intention to hit all small scale housing developments will be counterproductive. Up until relatively recently, including under a Labour Government, we had a national threshold for affordable housing requirements set at 15 units. This was part of a longstanding recognition that it is not appropriate to place the same demands on the smallest sites and the smallest firms, as it is on major developments and multi-national companies.”
“Now we have a situation where the House of Lord’s is actually inserting into legislation that small sites should be treated the same as large sites, almost as if it were a matter of principle. We’ve seen a long-term decline in the number and output of small and medium-sized (SME) house builders, a trend which has accelerated during the downturn and has almost certainly reduced the overall capacity of the industry, and in turn reduced our ability to build our way out of the housing crisis. There’s little doubt that the historically unprecedented demands now being placed on small developers are a major barrier to this. To our members, this amendment will appear little more than a direct attack on SME house builders.”
“Unfortunately, this is only one of a series of amendments backed by the Lords which show a reckless lack of realism and concern for consequences of heavy-handed regulation. The disinterring of a zero carbon standard flies in the face of the fact that further carbon reduction on site will be difficult-to-impossible to achieve, so will likely amount to no more than a tax to enable off-site carbon mitigation. Heaping ever-more taxes and heavy-handed regulations on small local builders will worsen the housing crisis.”
The House of Lords also voted in favour of increasing the pay-to-stay threshold in line with inflation every three years.
Local councils have existing powers to charge households earning £60,000 or over the market or close market rent if they live in social housing. The government’s proposal would see this reduced to £30,000 and for those living in London £40,000.
However, the House of Lords have backed three amendments to curb the government’s plans. One put forward would see local councils rather than the Treasury to choose it they wished to charge those tenants on higher income more rent.
Another alternative would see the threshold set as £40,000 outside London and £50,000 for those in the capital. The other amendment would cap rents at 10p in every pound earned above the threshold.
The government has said it will resist many of the changes made to the when the legislation is due to be finalised this month.