Submission to Labour Housing Policy Consultation document 2016

Overarching points

  • Labour’s housing policy needs to be less London-centric than it has been in the past
  •  Housing needs to have a greater focus in plans for devolution to the regions
  • We need plans in place to repeal much of the Housing & Planning Act 2016
  • There is too great a focus on home ownership in the Labour Party’s policy documents.
  • The term “social housing” should be replaced by “community housing”

Labour’s record

What are the best achievements of Labour in government on housing that we should draw on when thinking about fresh ideas for the future?

  • Decent Homes Standard
  • Homelessness Prevention and Homelessness Strategies (Homelessness Act 2002)
  • Revision to Housing Finance system for local authorities
  • Best Value, and quality inspections for Audit Commission
  • Selective Licensing
  • HMO licensing
  • Tenant Services Authority
  • Tenants sitting on Housing Assn Boards

What are the areas of housing where Labour in government should have done more?

  • More investment in building social housing
  • More made of the benefit of the choice to live in social housing – allowed social housing to continue to be denigrated and have a stigma associated with it
  • More progress made in establishing mixed tenure estates
  • Reinstating Parker Morris standards
  • Decent Homes Standard in private rented sector
  • Greater intervention into empty properties
  • Controlling the PRS: restoring security of tenure, improving management and condition of the stock, controlling rents, greater control of HMOs
  • Tackling benefit rules which meant that younger people on benefits could not afford to live in a self-contained home – and let the Coalition Govt extend the under-25 rule to the under-35 rule

In your view which housing policies and key messages in the last manifesto most resonated with voters?
Not much of it got across to voters, despite some very good policies (rent rise controls, tackling agents’ fees, house building in social rented sector, a housing bank and more).

Which policies did not resonate so well? Was there anything missing from our policy offer to voters on this issue?
There was nowhere near enough focus on housing – and policies were developed so late that most people did not know what our housing policies were.
Not enough on young people.

Making home ownership more affordable

What is affordable housing?

  • A maximum of 30% of gross income to be spent on rent or mortgage

How can we help more young people and families on ordinary incomes buy a home?
What measures could support young people in particular to find an affordable home to buy?

What role is there for shared ownership or discounted homes to buy?

What role can local authorities and co-operatives play?

  • Local authorities should be allowed to build for sale and for shared ownership, and staircasing
  • Co-operatives need to be given greater support and funding

Improving the rental sector(s)

How can we ensure a greater supply of affordable social housing to rent?

  • Reinstate grants for Housing Associations
  • Provide funds for building council housing
  • Change the Right To Buy so that new housing cannot be sold in the first 10 (?) years after completion (the number of years might depend on the amount of new building enabled by the Labour Government)
  • Remove any right to receive more than 1 Right To buy discount
  • Take housing expenditure out of the Public Spending Borrowing Requirement
  • Establish a Housing Investment Bank

How can we change perceptions around social housing?

  • Change terminology (“community housing” not “social housing”) – and emphasise that at its best it is managed by highly skilled professionals and democratic organisations, is of higher quality and more energy efficient than most other rented housing
  • Actively seek to get rid of the stigma associated with community housing and revise any statements and legislation which reinforces the residual or welfare housing idea
  • Do not allow signs like “no ball games”
  • Encourage the development of mixed tenure estates
  • Ensure that there is green space in all community housing estates and areas
  • Reinstate Parker Morris standards
  • Enable community housing tenants to staircase to full ownership

What role can local authorities play?

  • Local authorities should be allowed to build for sale and for shared ownership, and staircasing
  • Build homes and use innovative funding mechanisms
  • Develop joint building schemes with other local authorities

How can we drive up standards in the private rented sector?

  • Require PRS homes to be brought up to Decent Homes Standards
  • Require all landlords, agents and managers to be licensed, trained, and accredited
  • Require all properties to be inspected before the landlord is allowed to let to a Housing Benefit (or Universal Credit – if it is still here) recipient
  • Redefine HMOs to be any property let to 3 or more unrelated people
  • Require local consultation where new HMOs are proposed
  • Scrap the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) and return to fitness for habitation rules, with improvements
  • Introduce rent control
  • Remove Assured Shorthold Tenancies as the norm, and make long term tenancies the norm
  • Outlaw admin fees and fees for renewing a tenancy etc, and control the scale of deposits and rent in advance
  • * Bring in controls on Air BnB so that they are limited to real holiday lets
  • Require landlords to use a standard tenancy agreement
  • Ask students to provide their ideas!

How can we put more power in the hands of tenants to ensure affordable properties are of a decent standard?

  • Provide incentives for tenants to do repairs – rebates for work carried out
  • Reinstate the right of tenants to stand for election to Housing Association Boards
  • Require PRS landlords to establish tenants’ associations

Skill shortages

What more can we do to encourage people, in particular under-represented groups such as women, into the construction industry, including in green construction jobs, and tackle the growing skills shortage?

  • Develop a larger pool of apprentices by borrowing the idea of student loans (this was controversial!)
  • Require all house building and maintenance companies, and their sub-contractors, above a certain size to have apprenticeship schemes
  • What can be done to ensure those new homes that are being built are to a sufficient size, high quality and environmental standard?
  • Reinstate Parker Morris standards for community housing
  • Provide financial incentives for self-build homes to be built to high standards
  • Require green space and liveability factors (including storage space and features to support people with disabilities) in all new built home areas
  • Allow density of new housing schemes to be decided locally, with a national minimum – not all areas require the density that London needs or can accommodate.