On publication of the Housing and Planning Bill 2015-16, the Government said it would kick-start a “national crusade to get 1 million homes built by 2020” and transform “generation rent into generation buy.” The Bill subsequently received Royal Assent and became the Housing and Planning Act 2016 on 12th May 2016.
It was expected that many of the new measures brought in with the Act would directly impact on our housing tenants. However, it is over two years since the Act received its Royal Assent and some of its key provisions are yet to be implemented. Additionally, on publication of the social housing Green Paper ‘A New Deal for Social Housing’ in August 2018, the Government also confirmed that several measures would no longer be implemented.
A list of the key changes and a current update (as of January 2019) is provided below:
End of secure tenancies
Social landlords in England have had discretion not to offer a 'lifetime' tenancy to new tenants since April 2012. The Housing and Planning Act 2016 built on this by containing provisions which would limit Local Authorities' ability to offer secure lifetime tenancies for all new tenants and most current tenants moving home. Instead, they would be replaced by fixed term tenancies of between 2 and 10 years (with 5 years expected to be the standard).
The Government has since advised within 2018’s Green Paper that these provisions will not be implemented "at this time.” It should still be noted however, that Selby District Council do offer flexible, fixed term, tenancies but that existing secure tenants will not be affected unless they move home.
Selling higher value Council Homes
The Act did not give assured Housing Association tenants a statutory ‘Right to Buy’ their homes, but it did provide for Local Authorities to make annual payments to the Exchequer. The intention was to use these payments to cover the cost of discounts for those Housing Association tenants who wanted to exercise their Right to Buy. Clarification was required as to which properties would be defined as higher value, how much Local Authorities would be expected to pay, and whether there would be any exceptions to the rule.
However, the Government has since confirmed that they “will not bring the Higher Value Assets provisions of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 into effect” and “will look to repeal the legislation when Parliamentary time allows.”
The Housing and Planning Act 2016 provided the legislative basis for the Starter Homes Initiative. 'Starter Homes' were defined as new-build properties available at a 20% discount for first time buyers aged between 23 and 40. It was expected that Social landlords would promote the supply of Starter Homes and ensure that a certain number or proportion of them were built as part of any new housing developments.
Currently, these provisions are not yet in force. Whilst the revised National Planning Policy Framework published in July 2018 confirmed that (with some exceptions) a minimum of 10% of affordable home ownership products would be expected on large sites – the requirement to include a percentage of Starter Homes has not been taken forward.
Private Rented Homes
The Act also identified the negative impact that ‘rogue’ landlords can have on the quality, standard and availability of housing in the private rented sector and consequently proposed a number of legislative changes to help Local Authorities tackle this issue.
Measures aimed at tackling 'rogue' landlords and agents came into force between April 2017 and 2018. New powers include:
- Banning Orders enabling landlords to be banned from operating and renting out properties.
- Listing landlords on a national database of rogue landlords to which Local Authorities would be able to access.
- Financial civil penalties where a landlord breaches specified legislation, to a maximum of £30k.
- Extension of Rent Repayment Orders to cover illegal eviction and/or failure to comply with a statutory notice, as well as breach of a Banning Order.
- Electrical Safety requirements on landlords in regards to the electrical safety within their properties.
- Mandatory HMO Licensing – extending the scope of licensing to consider flats and one/two storey properties and setting minimum size requirements.
‘Pay to Stay’
The Government included measures in the Housing and Planning Act 2016 to make higher rents compulsory for Council tenants earning over £40,000 in London and £31,000 elsewhere in England. Here, a taper would be introduced so that affected households would pay an additional 15p in rent per week for every £1 received in taxable income above the threshold amounts. Local Authorities would have been expected to repay the additional rental income to the Exchequer to contribute to deficit reduction, whilst Housing Associations would have been able to use the additional income to reinvest in new housing.
In November 2016, the Government announced that the mandatory ‘Pay to Stay’ scheme would not be introduced. Councils and Housing Associations instead retain discretion as to whether or not they implement higher rents for tenants with higher incomes.
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