Controversial Housing Bill back with MPs

Posted on 04 May 2016. Source: International Business Times

Controversial Housing Bill back with MPs

The government's controversial Housing and Planning Bill is back in front of MPs after a bruising shakedown in the House of Lords which saw the legislation amended 13 times, watering down some of its most important elements.

Now MPs will consider the Lords' amendments. If the government wants the Housing Bill to pass quickly into law, it faces serious compromise with the opposition on the details so a final draft can be agreed before the state opening of parliament on 18 May, when the government moves on to its new legislative agenda. The government said it has listened to points made during the debate.

The government was defeated by the peers on starter homes, discounted property for first-time buyers under-40. One Lords' amendment would hand local authorities, which are broadly opposed to starter homes, the power to decide how many are built in their area.

Other defeats came on so-called "pay to stay", a policy to make higher-earning council tenants pay closer to market rents. Peers increased the household income threshold at which market rents would be due to £50,000 inside London and £40,000 ($58,788) outside. And they voted to allow local councils, not the Treasury, to decide if they wanted to charge higher-income tenants a larger rent.

"The government has already announced that it intends to reject some of the Lord's amendments," said Anita Rivera, head of planning at Mishcon de Reya, a law firm. "These include some very sensible and rational improvements to the bill, but also a number of populist, opportunistic amendments which took advantage of the 'big wind' of defeats.

"There is concern that, while the sensible changes go to the heart of some of the in-principle ideals, if there is compromise it may be on the wrong amendments. This will be a case of who can hold out the longest. The Lords seem to be the nation's conscience, therefore it's unlikely they will relent anytime soon. If the government wants to see this bill enacted it will need to make some concessions — otherwise this game of ping pong looks likely to run on close to the end of the parliamentary session."

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