On Tuesday night, the highly controversial Housing and Planning Bill returned to the House of Commons after its latest spell in the House of Lords.
This is no idle game of Parliamentary ping-pong: This Bill is the most significant legislation the Conservatives will bring forward in this Parliament and was introduced promptly after last year’s unexpected General Election victory. The purpose of the Bill, in its original form, was to increase homeownership and housebuilding by enacting a large-scale shift away from rented housing, both amongst private and social housing tenants, as well as to reduce the housing benefit bill and reverse a decade of falling home ownership.
Since it’s progression to the House of Lords for consideration in April 2016 the Bill has been met with fierce resistance and has attracted a huge amount of controversy from opposition Peers. The scrutiny process undertaken by the Lords in the past 16 weeks produced 13 amendments to the Bill’s original form; each representing a miniature defeat of the Government’s plans.
On Tuesday 3 May, MPs voted to reject all of the Amendments put forward by the Lords. This back-and-forth between the two houses is effectively an elaborate game of Ping-Pong in which each House compromises until the Bill can be passed through both Houses of Parliament. As of last Tuesday, it is the House of Lords’ turn to table a revised set of Amendments.
Which of the defeats inflicted by peers are the most significant? The Starter Homes scheme (discounted property for first-time buyers) is central to the Government’s plans and is certainly one aspect the Government won’t want watered down. One Lords' Amendment would hand local authorities, many of which are opposed to starter homes, the power to decide how many are built in their area. Opposition Peers also won an Amendment requiring repayment of the 20% Starter Home discount if the property is sold during the first 20 years. Cross-bench Peer Lord Best, who tabled the Amendment, said that would reduce potential resentment among new buyers who would not benefit, and help reduce to cost of the scheme too.
What does this mean for home owners across the country? Whilst the Government plays ping-pong with their House of Lords opposition, 71% of aspiring property owners doubt their ability to buy without financial help from family members.
If the Government wants to avoid negative headlines before the EU referendum on June 23rd, they will need to compromise the Housing Bill enough to satisfy the opposition. If the Government wants the Bill agreed before the state opening of parliament on 18 May, when they move on to the new legislative agenda, the Bill will need to pass quickly into law.
Considering the tight time frames, it is likely that that the Government will have to stomach a raft of comprises in order to win this game of Parliamentary ping-pong. What’s harder to tell is whether the aspiring property owners will feel any benefit from the Housing Act that results.
This article was written by Account Executive Oliver Pearce