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The Housing Bill: Legislation for the social cleansing of London

housing demoThe Housing and Planning Bill is one of the most dangerous and far-reaching pieces of legislation passed in this country in a long time. Yet its true impact has been unreported in the mainstream press and is largely unknown to the people it will most affect.

Far from addressing the so-called housing ‘crisis’, it has been designed to bring about the end of social housing in this country. To call it a Housing Bill doesn’t do justice to the real scope of its ambitions. The intrusive new measures it introduces for monitoring social housing tenants, and the centralisation of power in the Secretary of State it will affect, makes the Bill a social engineering plan that will have catastrophic consequences for the people of Britain.

The government say this Bill will help people to get on the property ladder, freeing up existing social housing for those most in need, cutting bureaucracy on planning permission. Measured against those ambitions, this piece of legislation is deeply misinformed and takes no account of existing conditions in housing. But the real impact of this Bill will be more sinister.

The Housing Bill is an extremely subtle and duplicitous piece of legislation that in almost every aspect does something very different, if not the direct opposite, of what it is claiming to do. If passed, the Housing and Planning Bill will:
  1. Replace the obligation to build homes for social rent with a duty to build discounted ‘starter homes’ capped at £450,000 in Greater London and £250,000 across the rest of England, in effect offering state subsidies for private investors, who may then sell their assets at full market value within five years of their purchase;
  2. Extend the Right to Buy to housing associations without any provision for their replacement with like for like, effectively overseeing the further decline in the number of homes for social rent;
  3. Compel local authorities to sell ‘high value’ housing, thereby exploiting London’s exaggerated property values either to transfer public housing into private hands or to free up its coveted land for property developers;
  4. Force so-called ‘high income’ tenants with a total household income over £30,000 in England and £40,000 in London to pay market rents, targeting low-paid working families, those on the minimum wage or claiming disability allowances who cannot afford either to Pay to Stay in their existing homes or to exercise their Right to Buy;
  5. Phase out secure tenancies and their succession to children and replace them with 2-5 year tenancies, after which tenants will have to reapply, with such tenancies also being applied to tenants who have been ‘decanted’ for the purposes of the demolition and redevelopment of their estates.

Rather than alleviating the housing ‘crisis’, either by building genuinely affordable homes or by building more social housing, the Bill will use that crisis for political and financial ends. On the one hand it forces local housing authorities to implement Conservative housing policy, and on the other it takes planning power away from those authorities.

There is absolutely nothing in the Bill about building more social housing. Instead, it introduces legislation meaning that existing social housing will be either sold into private ownership or demolished to make way for new developments.

The Bill’s model of home building is driven by state subsidised incentives for private investors that will increase, rather than check, existing speculation on the property market. Under the tattered banner of austerity, the Housing and Planning Bill is in reality legislation for the social cleansing of London in particular, and more generally for the further dismantling of the welfare state by this Conservative government.
During its passage through the House of Commons Public Bill Committee, over 150 written submissions were made to Parliament voicing concerns about its legislation and their consequences. None of these altered the contents of the Bill in any meaningful way up to the report stage. Instead, the government has responded by making plans to fast track the Bill into law.

When the democratic process fails, as it so clearly has here, it is our duty to take other measures to make ourselves heard. The Bill will receive its third reading in the Commons on Tuesday, 5 January, 2016, after which it passes to the House of Lords. Under the banner of ‘Kill the Housing Bill’, numerous groups from the housing sector, local campaign groups, trades unions and beyond will be demonstrating from midday at the Houses of Parliament against the Housing and Planning Bill and for secure and genuinely affordable social housing for all.
Please join us.

 

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