27th November 2019
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Party manifestos and housing issues
In the past week the major parties have published their manifestos for the General Election. All make reference to housing to a greater or lesser extent. The Conservative Party manifesto commits the party to:

  • encourage a new market in long-term fixed rate mortgages which reduce the cost of deposits, opening up a secure path to home ownership for first-time buyers
  • offer more homes to local families, enabling councils to use developers’ contributions via the planning process to discount homes in perpetuity by a third for local people who cannot otherwise afford to buy in their area
  • maintain its commitment to a Right to Buy for all council tenants
  • reform shared ownership, making it fairer and more transparent
  • continue with reforms to leasehold including implementing the ban on the sale of new leasehold homes, restricting ground rents to a peppercorn, and providing necessary mechanisms of redress for tenants.

At page 31 the manifesto promises to renew the Affordable Homes Programme, “in order to support the delivery of hundreds of thousands of affordable homes”. The party says that it will also end rough sleeping by the end of the next Parliament by expanding successful pilots and programmes such as the Rough Sleeping Initiative and Housing First.

For the Conservative Party manifesto, click here.

The Labour Party manifesto addresses housing on pages 77 to 80. Labour commits to:

  • create a new Department for Housing, make Homes England a more accountable national housing agency and put councils “in the driving seat”
  • set up a new English Sovereign Land Trust, with powers to buy land more cheaply for low-cost housing
  • deliver a new social housebuilding programme of more than a million homes over a decade, with council housing at its heart
  • build at an annual rate of at least 150,000 council and social homes, with 100,000 of these built by councils for social rent
  • replace the definition of ‘affordable’ linked to local incomes
  • give tenants a stronger say in the management of their homes
  • take urgent action to protect private renters through rent controls, open-ended tenancies, and new, binding minimum standards
  • abolish rules that require landlords to check people’s immigration status
  • end rough sleeping within five years, with a national plan driven by a prime minister-led taskforce, including raising the Local Housing Allowance in line with the thirtieth percentile of local rents, and earmarking an additional £1 billion a year for councils’ homelessness services
  • repeal the Vagrancy Act and amend antisocial behaviour legislation to stop the law being used against people because they are homeless.

For the Labour Party manifesto, click here.

The Liberal Democrat Party manifesto can be searched to locate housing issues. The party commits to:

  • build at least 100,000 homes for social rent each year and ensure that total housebuilding increases to 300,000 each year
  • help finance the large increase in the building of social homes with investment from a £130 billion capital infrastructure budget
  • build new houses to zero-carbon standards and cut fuel bills through a ten-year programme to reduce energy consumption from all the UK’s buildings
  • devolve full control of Right to Buy to local councils
  • introduce a new Rent to Own model for social housing where rent payments give tenants an increasing stake in the property, owning it outright after 30 years
  • allow local authorities to increase council tax by up to 500 per cent where homes are being bought as second homes with a stamp duty surcharge on overseas residents purchasing such properties
  • help young people into the rental market by establishing a new Help to Rent scheme to provide government-backed tenancy deposit loans for all first-time renters under 30.
  • promote longer tenancies of three years or more with an inflation-linked annual rent increase built in, to give tenants security and limit rent hikes
  • improve protections against rogue landlords through mandatory licensing
  • set clearer standards for homes that are socially rented
  • fully recognise tenant panels so that renters have a voice in landlord governance
  • urgently publish a cross-Whitehall plan to end all forms of homelessness
  • exempt groups of homeless people, and those at risk of homelessness, from the Shared Accommodation Rate
  • make providers of asylum support accommodation subject to a statutory duty to refer people leaving asylum support accommodation who are at risk of homelessness to the local housing authority
  • introduce a ‘somewhere safe to stay’ legal duty to ensure that everyone who is at risk of sleeping rough is provided with emergency accommodation and an assessment of their needs
  • ensure sufficient financial resources for local authorities to deliver the Homelessness Reduction Act and provide accommodation for survivors of domestic abuse.
  • legislate for longer term tenancies and limits on annual rent increases.
  • abolish the Vagrancy Act, so that rough sleeping is no longer criminalised.

For the Liberal Democrat manifesto, click here.

The Green Party manifesto commits to replacing Universal Credit with a Universal Basic Income (UBI), a weekly payment for everyone. The manifesto also commits to:

  • transform the lives of renters, by increasing housing security and bringing rent levels down, especially in places where they currently far outstrip incomes
  • introduce rent controls on private tenancies, which reflect average local income rates and the cost of maintenance
  • end no-fault evictions
  • make it easier to set up community-led housing initiatives
  • enable private renters in Houses of Multiple Occupancy to buy and run their home as a housing co-op
  • give communities the first chance to buy local land that comes up for sale by extending Scotland’s Community Right to Buy policy to England and Wales, so enabling them to deliver new affordable homes on purchased land, supported by the Community Housing Fund (which the Government plans to end in 2020, but the Green Party would maintain for at least another three years).

For the Green Party manifesto, click here.

The Brexit Party manifesto includes pledges to:

  • simplify planning consents for Brownfield sites
  • change the funding model to make it easier for councils to borrow from central government to build council houses
  • accelerate infrastructure grants funding to kick start schemes of marginal viability.
  • change the process for outline planning consent.
  • introduce more flexibility on the size and type of units as part of a development.
  • allow more flexibility in the number of affordable homes within a development scheme.

For the Brexit Party manifesto, click here.

Plaid Cymru’s manifesto includes the following commitments:

  • create a new tax credit of up to £25 per week to households paying more than 30 per cent of their income on private rent
  • create a new National Housing Company which will borrow against rents to build a new generation of public rental housing in Wales
  • support Crisis’s plan to end homelessness and adopt a ‘housing first’ policy
  • abolish the Vagrancy Act
  • support the approach of Centrepoint in respect of youth homelessness.

For the Plaid Cymru manifesto, click here.

All of the above parties, except for the Brexit Party, include pledges to reintroduce legislation in respect of domestic abuse.

For the response of Crisis to each of the various party manifestos, click here. For that of the National Housing Federation (in respect of the Conservative and Labour manifestos), click here and for comment by the Residential Landlords Association, click here.

Affordable Housing Supply: April 2018 to March 2019 – England
On 20 November 2019 the MHCLG published details of the supply of affordable housing in England between April 2018 and March 2019. There were 57,485 affordable homes delivered (completions) in England in that period (an increase of 22 per cent compared to the previous year). The statistical release also shows:

  • 66 per cent of new affordable homes were for rent (including social, affordable and intermediate rent), which has been decreasing since 2014-15, when it was 78 per cent.
  • 49 per cent of all affordable homes were funded through section 106 (nil grant) agreements, similar to the previous year (when it was 48 per cent).
  • 92 per cent of affordable homes delivered in England were new build, similar to the previous two years.
  • There were 61,056 starts on site in England (a 10 per cent increase on the previous year).

For the full statistics, click here. For tables showing the information organised by type, local authority area and other criteria, click here.

Housing Advisers Programme 2019-2020
On 21 November 2019 the Local Government Association announced the successful applicants for the Housing Advisers Programme (HAP) 2019-20. The HAP is designed to support councils by helping them meet their local housing need. It aims to be simple, flexible, and locally-led. This year, nineteen successful applicants received money from the programme to promote, facilitate and enhance their role and capacity to meet their local housing need. For details of the successful applicants and the projects funded, click here.

Domestic abuse in England and Wales: year ending March 2019
On 25 November 2019 the Office for National Statistics published data about how domestic abuse is dealt with at the local level within England and Wales, using annual data from various sources. The main points are:

  • According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales for that period, an estimated 5.7 per cent of adults (2.4 million) experienced domestic abuse in the last year.
  • There was no significant change in the prevalence of domestic abuse experienced in the last year compared with the previous year.
  • The police recorded a total of 1,316,800 domestic abuse-related incidents and crimes in the year.
  • Of these, 746,219 were recorded as domestic abuse-related crimes, an increase of 24 per cent from the previous year.
  • As the survey showed no change, the increase in police recorded crime may reflect improved recording by the police and increased reporting by victims.

For the statistical release, click here.

Domestic abuse: Action for Children report
On 21 November 2019 Action for Children published a report – Patchy, piecemeal and precarious – which reveals that every day in England up to 690 children are at risk of domestic violence which, it calculates, is the equivalent of over 25,000 children during the General Election period alone. The charity says that, with evidence showing many cases go unreported, "the numbers are likely to be just the tip of the iceberg".

The charity worked on an investigation with the University of Stirling into domestic abuse services across England and Wales, including in-depth interviews with representatives from 30 councils. This showed:

  • Over 10 per cent of councils interviewed had no specialist support services for children affected by domestic abuse
  • Access to children's domestic abuse services was restricted by their postcode in over a third of local authorities
  • Two-thirds of local authorities interviewed say their services for children are at risk in the long-term due to limited funding.

Action for Children is urging all parties to commit to bringing back to Parliament a bill similar to the Domestic Abuse Bill, which was progressing through Parliament before dissolution. The manifestos of all major parties (apart from the Brexit Party) have pledged to do so: see above. For the report, click here. For a summary, click here. For comment by Action for Children, click here. For a response from the Local Government Association, click here.

Domestic violence: report from Auditor General – Wales
On 21 November 2019 the Auditor General produced a report that found that information on the prevalence of violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence in Wales is unreliable and there is no clear picture of its extent. The report said that there is a gap in data about which victims, survivors and perpetrators use public services and what services are made available.

The report makes a number of recommendations including:

  • needs assessment and mapping of service provision by public bodies are revisited and involvement widened and enhanced;
  • delivery agencies (local authorities, health bodies, the police, fire and rescue authorities and the third sector) are to review their approach to regional working to better integrate services and maximise the positive impact they can make on victims and survivors;
  • local authorities review their commissioning arrangements to remove duplication and overlap; rationalise administration arrangements; streamline and standardise commissioning arrangements; and set appropriate performance measures, targets and benchmarks.

For the report, click here.

‘Right to adequate housing’ – Wales
On 19 November 2019, Welsh Minister for Housing and Local Government, Julie James, confirmed to Assembly Members that the right to adequate housing will feature as a ‘due regard’ duty as she launched the Local Government and Elections (Wales) Bill. Speaking in the Senedd, the Minister said the duty will be written into the statutory guidance which will be given to local authorities if the bill becomes law. As CIH explains in its report of the statement, though a ‘due regard’ duty does not include an enforceable right to adequate housing for individuals, it will require local authorities to demonstrate that they have considered the right to adequate housing as a central part of their policy and decision-making processes, a process which can be subject to court challenge. The aim of the ‘due regard’ duty is to drive positive change and focus more resource on housing. For CIH’s report of, and response to, the statement, click here. For the statement itself, click here.

‘No fault’ evictions
On 19 November 2019 Generation Rent  published an assessment of the areas where a tenant is at most risk of an eviction under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988. According to its analysis of government data, the “worst place for evictions is the London Borough of Havering where last year 39 in every 1000 private renters were made homeless by landlords selling up, re-letting or evicting to avoid making repairs”. For the Generation Rent assessment, click here.


Parliament was dissolved on 6 November 2019 ahead of the General Election on 12 December. On dissolution those bills still progressing through Parliament failed and, in order to proceed, must be reintroduced in the next Parliament.

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Sprinklers and other fire safety measures in new high-rise blocks of flats
On 5 September 2019 the MHCLG launched a consultation outlining the government’s intention to reduce the “trigger height” at which sprinkler systems would be required in new high-rise blocks of flats and asking for views on the trigger height options. It also seeks views on proposals to improve wayfinding signage within blocks of flats, and to install evacuation alert systems for use by fire and rescue services. The consultation closes on 28 November 2019. For the consultation document, close here.

Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme: Towards a more sustainable service
The government is consulting on proposals to change the Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme. The aim of these proposals is to ensure that the Scheme is sustainable into the future, in order to maintain this vital service for those who need it. The key proposals in this consultation are:

  • contracting for individual courts rather than larger geographical areas
  • allowing providers to claim for the scheme fee in addition to the follow up Legal Help fee
  • the introduction of a set attendance fee for all schemes in place of the existing nil session payment
  • the introduction of reasonable costs for travel as part of the competition element of the bid.

The consultation closes on 3 January 2020. For the consultation document, click here.

Draft Housing Support Grant practice guidance – Wales
The purpose of this consultation is to seek views on the new draft practice guidance for the Housing Support Grant (HSG), which has been produced by the Welsh Government in partnership with external stakeholders. The guidance sets out the framework in which local authorities should operate and administer the grant. The consultation seeks views on whether the guidance:

  • explains what the grant is for
  • will help local authorities to provide support services to those who need them.

The consultation closes on 29 November 2019. To access the consultation documents, click here.

Housing Ombudsman’s consultations
The Housing Ombudsman has launched consultations on two documents aimed at providing a faster, more accessible and more transparent service. Both the Business Plan for 2020-21 and revised Housing Ombudsman Scheme propose changes to meet the challenges of unprecedented demand for the service and to respond to resident and landlord expectations.
The Housing Ombudsman says that the Business Plan 2020-21 sets out new approaches for handling casework based on a new, more efficient operating model. It includes plans to support earlier resolution of complaints within landlords’ complaint procedures as well as faster, high-quality decisions on complaints in its formal remit.

Proposed changes to the Housing Ombudsman Scheme would increase awareness of the service and support consistent complaint handling practice across landlords. A new power would help to ensure evidence is provided in a timely manner to accelerate complaint resolution, with the initial evidence requested not being received in an estimated 25 per cent of cases. Another new power to conduct further investigations beyond the initial complaint would help to identify any potential systemic failure.

The consultations are open until 20 December 2019. For the consultations, click here.

Strengthening police powers to tackle unauthorised encampments
The Government is consulting on measures to criminalise the act of trespassing when setting up an unauthorised encampment in England and Wales and, in particular, on:

  • amending section 62A of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to permit the police to direct trespassers to suitable authorised sites located in neighbouring local authority areas
  • amending sections 61 and 62A of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to increase the period of time in which trespassers directed from land would be unable to return from three months to twelve months
  • amending section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to lower the number of vehicles needing to be involved in an unauthorised encampment before police powers can be exercised from six to two or more vehicles
  • amending section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to enable the police to remove trespassers from land that forms part of the highway.
For the consultation, which closes on 4 March 2020, click here.

Housebuilding data shows dearth of homes for affordable renting Robert Booth The Guardian 20 November 2019 – to read the article, click here

Is Labour's pledge to build 100,000 council houses achievable? Hilary Osborne The Guardian 20 November 2019 – to  read the article, click here

General election 2019: Big changes coming in housing Greg Beales Shelter Blog 21 November 2019 – to read the article, click here

To avoid blazes like Bolton's, we must radically overhaul student housing Eva Crossan Jory The Guardian 21 November 2019 – to read the article, click here

If a man was experiencing domestic abuse, would you recognise it? Helen Greig NHF Blog 22 November 2019 – to read the article, click here

Housing policy needs some bite Joe ShalamCentre for Social Justice 22 November 2019 – to read the article, click here

Specialist housing – a lifeline for survivors of abuse Amy Doyle Homeless Link 25 November 2019 – to read the article, click here

Housing: recent developments Sam Madge-Wyld and Jan Luba QC Legal Action November 2019 – to read the article (subscription required), click here

Gypsy and Traveller Update Chris Johnson, Dr Angus Murdoch and Marc Willers QC Legal Action November 2019 – to read the article (subscription required), click here


28 November 2019                               
Closing date for submissions to the consultation on sprinklers and other fire safety measures in new high-rise blocks of flats (see Housing Law Consultations)

29 November 2019                               
Closing date for submissions to the Welsh Government’s consultation on draft Housing Support Grant practice guidance (see Housing Law Consultations)

30 November 2019                               
Closure to new applications for Help to Buy ISAs

13 December 2019                               
Opening of Parliament

20 December 2019                               
Closing date for submissions to two consultations by the Housing Ombudsman (see Housing Law Consultations)

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