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Starter homes powers to be devolved to councils under Housing Bill amendment

Councils will be able to decide the percentage of starter homes on a new housing development under an amendment to the Housing and Planning Bill that passed in the House of Lords yesterday.

Lord Kerslake, president of the LGA, proposed amendments 8 and 9 to abolish measures in the Bill meaning that the communities secretary could prevent the approval of planning applications which failed to meet the required level of starter homes, typically 20% except for small sites.

The amendment was supported by leaders of all the political parties in the LGA, who wrote to the Guardian yesterday warning that the bill risked hampering councils’ ability to build affordable council housing and increasing homelessness.

Lord Kerslake said of the proposed legislation: “In committee, we also learned that there is not one housing market in this country but many, each with their own different needs and issues. It is for this very reason that we require each local authority to consider carefully its local housing needs and draw up a local plan to meet them.

“It is hard to think of a more overbearing and centralising action that the government could have taken on something that should so clearly be a matter for local decision. So far as I am aware, it is also completely without precedent. I cannot establish any previous government who have sought to specify the types and tenures of housing in individual planning applications in this way.”

The Earl of Listowel, one of the LGA’s vice presidents, supported the motion, warning that the lack of affordable council housing meant that more families were reliant on short-term tenure in private rented accommodation, which could disrupt children’s education, mental health and family relationships.

He told Baroness Williams, parliamentary under-secretary to the Department for Communities and Local Government: “I would be grateful if the Minister could provide a further assurance that the government are giving priority to working with local authorities — my noble friend Lord Kerslake talked about the importance of working in partnership with them — and others to provide low-income families with the secure housing they so urgently need.”

Baroness Williams urged Lord Kerslake to withdraw the amendment, saying: “I want to be clear that the government are totally committed to promoting the supply of housing across all tenures. I commend local authorities for all the work that they do but legislation is needed to promote the supply of starter homes and ensure that delivery is maximised.”

However, amendment 8, which contained the proposal “an English planning authority may only grant planning permission for a residential development having had regard to the provision of starter homes based on its own assessment of local housing need and viability”, passed by 280 votes to 194, and the contingent amendment 9 also passed.

 Lord Kerslake has previously warned that radical action, including devolution, will be necessary to allow London authorities to tackle the capital's housing crisis.



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