Jonathan Werran 27 May 2015

Queen's Speech 2015: Housing Bill outlined

Council chiefs have demanded a lead role in housebuilding and greater powers to help deliver the Government’s Housing Bill commitments outlined today.

The call follows today’s Queen’s Speech, which announced legislation would be ‘introduced to support home ownership and give housing association tenants the chance to own their own home’.

Main elements of the Bill will include provisions to extend the Right to Buy levels of discount to an estimated 1.3 million housing association tenants.

This would require councils to sell expensive vacant council houses to fund the Right to Buy extension discounts and support the building of more local homes.

Last month public finance experts the Institute for Fiscal Studies calculated 15,000 such annual disposals - out of council holdings nationally of some 210,000 high-value properties - would be required to meet the £4.5bn yearly funding costs.

And in a parallel bid to boost housing supply, the Government plans to enact laws to establish a statutory register for brownfield land with the aim of getting Local Development Orders set up on 90% of suitable brownfield sites by 2020.

Other proposed changes to housing and planning legislation could see the neighbourhood planning system streamlined and simplified.

In his introduction to today’s Queen’s Speech, prime minister David Cameron said: ‘Our Housing Bill will dramatically extend the Right to Buy to the tenants of Housing Associations – putting home ownership within the reach of 1.3 million more families.

‘We will require councils to sell high-value council houses and put the money into building affordable homes.’

In response, chair of the Local Government Association’s housing board, Cllr Peter Box said council chiefs would ‘work with government on how these proposals could be funded without any unintended consequences on councils’ ability to invest, and ensure communities include a mix of homes’.

Cllr Box also said the new proposals needed to ensure that homes sold under the revamped Right to Buy enabled replacement on a one-to-one basis and ensure the new promises to build 200,000 starter homes for young people came with the infrastructure they needed and with a mix of housing.

‘If we are to deliver the homes and infrastructure desperately needed, councils must have a lead role in housebuilding,’ Cllr Box said.

He continued: ‘Local authorities could build half a million new homes and transform the lives of hundreds of thousands of families if given greater powers, resources and flexibility.’

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