The Housing and Planning Bill 2015-16 was considered in committee in the House of Lords during nine sittings between 9 February and 23 February 2016. It was considered on Report over five days between 11 April and 25 April 2016. Third Reading took place on 27 April 2016.

Full background on the Bill, and its provisions as originally presented, can be found in Library Briefing Paper 7331, Housing and Planning Bill 2015-16. A further Library Briefing Paper 7398, Housing and Planning Bill: Report on Committee Stage, summarises the Bill’s progress in Public Bill Committee in the House of Commons.

The paper has been updated to include a summary of consideration of Lords amendments by the House of Commons on 3 May 2016, Lords consideration of Commons amendments and reasons on 4 May, consideration of Lords message on 9 May 2016, consideration of Commons reasons and amendments on 10 May, consideration of Lords message on 11 May and, finally, consideration of Commons reasons on 11 May.

The purpose of the Bill

On publication, the Government said the Bill would kick-start a “national crusade to get 1 million homes built by 2020” and transform “generation rent into generation buy.”  The supply-side measures in the Bill are primarily focused on speeding up the planning system with the aim of delivering more housing.  There is also a clear focus on home ownership, with measures to facilitate the building of Starter Homes; self/custom build housing; and the extension of the Right to Buy to housing association tenants following a voluntary agreement with the National Housing Federation (NHF). Other measures in the Bill are aimed at tackling “rogue” landlords.

Scrutiny in the House of Lords

Throughout the Bill’s progress in the House of Lords Peers have criticised the lack of detail on key areas, such as the definition of high (now higher) value vacant council housing and the requirement on local authorities to make a payment to the Secretary of State in connection with increased rental income chargeable to certain high income tenants. The Government’s intention is that the detail will be provided in regulations. Peers have argued that the “skeleton” nature of the Bill has impaired their ability to give it proper scrutiny.  The contents of the Bill have drawn the attention of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. The Committee’s 20th, 21st, 26th, 27th and 28th  Reports of 2015-16 included recommendations on the Bill’s delegated powers. The Committee expressed concern over the “variable quality” of the Department’s original delegated powers memoranda; said the Government had failed to provide the Committee with timely information on amendments affecting certain delegated powers in the Bill; and expressed disappointment in several areas where the Government rejected the Committee’s recommendations.

Lords amendments

Some of the housing measures in the Bill were substantially amended on Report with further amendments at Third Reading. Several non-Government amendments and new clauses were added, including:

  • a requirement that the 20% discount on Starter Homes be repaid over a period of 20 years (reduced by 1% for each year of occupation);
  • a provision to give local authorities the power to determine the proportion of Starter Homes to be built on any particular development;
  • provisions to require determinations (in respect of higher value vacant council housing) affecting more than one local authority to be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, and also to make the definition of higher value housing subject to parliamentary approval;
  • provision to enable local authorities, where they can demonstrate a need, to retain receipts from council house sales to fund the provision of a property of similar type to the one sold;
  • provision to give local authorities discretion over the levels of rent they would want to charge tenants with high incomes;
  • provision to limit rent increases for higher income tenants to no more than 10p for each pound of income above the minimum income threshold (the Government is seeking to apply a taper rate of 20p in the pound); and
  • provision to set the minimum income thresholds for ‘pay to stay’ at £50,000 in London and £40,000 outside of London (the Government is seeking to set the minimum thresholds at £31,000 and £40,000 respectively).

Government amendments included:

  • a provision putting on the face of the Bill a requirement to ensure that where the Government make an agreement with a local authority outside London about building new homes, at least one new affordable home is provided for each dwelling that is assumed to be sold;
  • provision to allow regulations to exempt households in receipt of Housing Benefit and Universal Credit from the ‘pay to stay’ policy; and
  • provision to enable local authorities to grant longer-term tenancies of up to 10 years in certain circumstances with potential for longer tenancies for families with children.

In relation to the part of the Bill on  planning in England, a number of non-Government amendments and new clauses were added. These related to:

  • a new clause providing for a neighbourhood right of appeal;
  • an amendment to restrict permission in principle to housing-led developments only;
  • provision to allow local authorities to require section 106 affordable housing contributions from certain small-scale developments; and
  • a new clause to incentivise the use of Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) by ending the automatic right to connect to conventional drainage. 

At both Report stage and Third Reading a number of Government and Government-supported amendments were made on the planning provisions, which included: 

  • provision to enable the Secretary of State to prepare a local plan for a local planning authority and to direct that it is brought into effect;
  • explicitly excluding fracking development from being capable of being granted permission in principle;
  • putting on the face of the Bill the qualifying documents capable of granting permission in principle and setting a duration for it;
  • enabling local planning authorities to revoke or to modify permission in principle granted;
  • a new clause to allow the Secretary of State to grant planning freedoms to local authorities to facilitate new housing;
  • making clearer on the face of the Bill the Government’s intentions in its pilot schemes for competition in the processing of planning applications.

A new non-Government clause was also added on Report introducing a “carbon compliance standard for new homes”. This would require the Government to put in place regulations for a carbon compliance standard for new homes built from 1 April 2018.

Ping Pong

When the Bill returned to the House of Commons on 3 May 2016 the Government sought to reject a number of the Lords amendments, particularly those relating to Starter Homes; the sale of vacant higher-value council homes; higher rents for high income tenants; the neighbourhood right of appeal; affordable housing contributions; sustainable drainage systems; and carbon compliance.

On 4 May the House of Lords agreed to the majority of the changes made in the House of Commons but agreed to press for further amendments in respect of Starter Homes; higher-value council homes; and the neighbourhood right of appeal. The Lords also agreed to insist on its amendments in respect of sustainable drainage systems and carbon compliance.

The Commons considered the Bill again on 9 May. Lords amendments were again rejected but Government amendments in lieu were agreed to place a statutory duty on the Government to undertake a review of energy standards in new homes, and to require a review of the effectiveness of policy and legislation on sustainable drainage.

The Bill returned to the House of Lords on 10 May. The Government amendments were accepted and no further Lords amendments were agreed aside from a further amendment concerning the sale of higher-value council homes which was pressed, successfully, to a vote by Lord Kerslake (Crossbench Peer).

The Commons considered and rejected Lord Kerslake’s amendment, following a division, on 11 May. The Bill then returned to the House of Lords for the final time where Lord Kerslake agreed not to insist on his amendment.




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