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Politics update: LHA, Section 21 and energy efficiency

Sally Walmsley
Written by Sally Walmsley

In today’s politics update we look at a new debate on the impact of LHA and Section 21 on homelessness, a new Peers’ debate on energy efficiency and new EPC figures.

Opposition homelessness debate

The Labour Party yesterday initiated a half day debate in the House of Commons on homelessness. Of note:

  • In opening the debate, the Shadow Housing Secretary, John Healey MP, expressed concerns that the link between housing benefits and private rents had been broken and went on to say: “We see £2,200 extra a year for average private rents, with no action from the Government to protect private renters either from eviction or from huge rent hikes.”
  • In his opening remarks the HCLG Secretary, Robert Jenrick MP, argued that as a result of the decision to increase the Local Housing Allowance in line with inflation: “The majority of people in receipt of housing support in the private rented sector will see their housing support increase.”  Addressing concerns about the impact of Universal Credit on rent arrears, he told the House: “The figures that I have seen most recently show that for individuals who come on to universal credit with pre-existing rent arrears we see a one-third reduction in rent arrears after four months.” He went on to say that the Renters’ Reform Bill will “bring an end to no-fault evictions and create other important initiatives, including a lifetime deposit which will help those on low incomes and others throughout society by making it easier and cheaper for tenants to move.”
  • Janet Daby MP (Labour, Lewisham East) Peter Aldous MP (Conservative, Waveney) and Neil Coyle MP (Labour, Bermondsey and Old Southwark) all called for LHA rates to be increased.
  • Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP (Labour, Brighton, Kemptown) asked the Secretary of State to meet with him and Shelter to consider the contents of a ten-minute rule Bill he presented in the last Parliament that sought to provide the funding to establish a “decent redress system” in the PRS, protect deposits and allow a disputes resolution mechanism.
  • The Chair of the HCLG Select Committee, Clive Betts MP (Labour, Sheffield South East) noted that about a year ago the National Audit Office published a report for the Public Accounts Committee “stating that the Government had done no proper analysis of the connection between their welfare reform policies and homelessness.” He went on to ask the Secretary of State to work with the DWP to produce such an analysis. 
  • Liam Byrne MP (Labour, Birmingham Hodge Hill – standing to be Labour’s candidate for Mayor of the West Midlands in May) called for a restoration of housing benefit for young people and for a removal of the caps on housing benefit. 
  • Justin Madders MP (Labour, Ellesmere Port and Neston) identified “insecurity for private renters” as being among a number of other key drivers of homelessness. He went on to say:
  • “Shelter tells us that the leading cause of homelessness is the loss of a private rented home, and I have concerns about the way that people in that situation are not given much help. They are given no special priority and they ​have to wait until an eviction order is granted by the court, which puts more costs, pressure and stress on them. We also know that those extra costs make it even harder for them to get a new home of their own. We absolutely need to do more, and I am glad we have debated this subject today.”
  • James Cartlidge MP (Conservative, South Suffolk) spoke at some length about the PRS, noting that: “If a tenant finds themselves at the end of their tenancy, having to renegotiate, and the landlord knows that they can easily re-let—that there is an under-supply in the market —we know who will be wearing the boot on which side of the equation, and that will mean pressure on the tenant to accept a higher increase than they otherwise would. We need more supply and more choice.”
  • Mr Cartlidge went on to describe the build-to-rent sector as offering a potential solution.
  • Feryal Clark MP (Labour, Enfield North) called on the Government “to hurry up on their proposals to end section 21, so that we can put an end to no-fault evictions.”  
  • She continued: “In my borough of Enfield, the no-fault eviction rate is the highest in the capital and the second highest in the country. The way to end that is to ask the Government to hurry up with their proposals that they have been sitting on and talking about for several years now.”
  • In his maiden speech, Mick Whitley MP (Labour, Birkenhead) said: “Right to buy, the failure of successive Governments to build adequate social housing and the inability of local councils to regulate the rental sector effectively mean that many tenants are now too scared to speak up against rogue landlords for fear of losing their homes.”
  • In his winding up speech the Shadow Housing Minister, Alex Cunningham MP, also identified private renting and “tenants’ rights” as areas where changes were needed to help prevent homelessness.

Select Committee chairs announced

The Speaker last night confirmed those MPs elected to chair Select Committees. Of note:

  • Sir Robert Neill MP (Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst) was re-elected to Chair the Justice Committee which will have oversight of court reform. This will include matters related to a housing court.
  • Stephen Timms MP (Labour, East Ham – Former Minister and Shadow Minister for Work and Pensions) was elected to Chair the Work and Pensions Committee.

Elected unopposed were:

  • Rachel Reeves MP (Labour, Leeds West) who was re-elected to Chair the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee which will have oversight of policy related to the energy efficiency of housing.
  • Yvette Cooper MP (Labour, Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) who was re-elected to Chair the Home Affairs Committee which will have oversight of immigration policy including the Right to Rent scheme. 
  • Clive Betts MP (Labour, Sheffield South East) who was re-elected to Chair the HCLG Committee.
  • Mel Stride MP (Conservative, Central Devon – Former Financial Secretary to the Treasury) who was re-elected to Chair the Treasury Select Committee.

Peers to debate energy efficiency bill

On February 7 the House of Lords will hold a second reading debate on the Domestic Premises (Energy Performance) Bill. This is a Private Member’s Bill being promoted by the former CLG Minister, Lord Foster of Bath (Liberal Democrat). The Bill would:

  • Put an existing fuel poverty target into primary legislation. Currently, the Fuel Poverty (England) Regulations 2014 require the Government to improve the energy efficiency of homes for people living in fuel poverty. The properties in which they live must have a minimum energy performance certificate (EPC) band C rating by the end of 2030. This date could be changed through secondary legislation. The bill would require in primary legislation the secretary of state publish and implement a strategy to deliver on this specific 2030 target.
  • Make it a legal requirement for the government to meet a further target: that as many homes as possible are improved to EPC band C by 2035. This target is not currently set out in legislation.

Other provisions include: enabling the Secretary of State to require mortgage lenders to provide information on the energy performance of properties in their portfolio; and new requirements concerning the energy efficiency of new heating systems installed in existing properties.

The Bill in full can be found here with accompanying notes here:

It would need government support to make it into the statute book.

Almost 21 million EPCs lodgedA

MHCLG has published the latest Energy Performance of Buildings Certificates statistical release for Q4 2019. It can be accessed at: Of note:

England & Wales

Since 2008, 20,987,000 Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) have been lodged in England and Wales.

England

  • From October to December 2019, 378,000 EPCs were lodged in England, an increase of 4% from the same quarter in 2018.
  • There was an increase of 4% in the number of EPCs lodged for new dwellings in the last quarter, compared to the equivalent quarter in 2018, and a continuation of the upward trend in EPCs for new dwellings since 2014.
  • In the 12 months to December 2019, 251,000 EPCs were lodged for new build dwellings, an increase of 5% on the previous year.
  • From October to December 2019, 83% of new properties were given an A or B rating.

Wales

  • From October to December 2019, 20,000 Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) were lodged in Wales, an increase of 13% from the same quarter in 2018.
  • There was an increase of 3% in the number of EPCs lodged for new dwellings in the last quarter, compared to the equivalent quarter in 2018.
  • In the 12 months to December 2019, 9,000 EPCs were lodged for new build dwellings, an increase of 12% on the previous year.
  • From October to December 2019, 88% of new properties were given an A or B rating.

About the author

Sally Walmsley

Sally Walmsley

Sally Walmsley is the Magazine and Digital Editor for the NRLA. With 20 years’ experience writing for regional and national newspapers and magazines she is responsible for editing our members' magazine 'Property', producing our articles for our news site, the weekly and monthly bulletins and editorial content for our media partners.

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