Campaigns Regulation and Enforcement

View from Westminster

John Stewart
Written by John Stewart

A string of statistics were published this week, including the latest homelessness figures.

Almost 14,000 households were accepted as homeless by local authorities in the final quarter of 2017 – slight dip in previous figures. However, the number of households in temporary accommodation increased by 4%, and the number pf households receiving help with homelessness also increased. The ending of a private sector tenancy was again identified as the single largest cause of homelessness.

The use of temporary accommodation for homeless families outside of London, by London councils was also raised at Prime Minister’s Questions, by Sittingbourne and Sheppey MP, Gordon Henderson, claiming it was putting strain on public services.

With the Homelessness Reduction Act being implemented in April, councils will be under increasing pressure to provide support and assistance at an earlier stage. It came as no surprise to see the Government announce additional funding of £215 million for local government, to help prevent homelessness, available from 2019.

The Office for National Statistics also released official rent figures, showing private rented sector rents rising at just 1.1%. The various measure of inflation over the same period were 2.5%, 2.7% and 3.6% The figures further undermine those calling for rents to be pegged at inflation. ONS stats also showed house prices continuing to rise faster than both rents and inflation, despite housebuilding starts and completions also creeping upwards.

A debate on welfare reform was held I Westminster Hall on Wednesday, initiated by SNP MP, Philippa Whitford, where concerns were raised about the impact of the capping and freezing of housing allowances. Meanwhile, the Government revealed that just £5 million had been saved by removing housing support for under 21 year olds. The DWP also published an updated schedule of when local authority areas and JobCentre+ will move to Universal Credit full service, which can be read here.

HMOs were in the firing line in another Westminster Hall debate, with Labour MP, Stephen Pound calling for further planning restrictions. He complained that each planning application was considered on its merit, even where an applicant intended to convert multiple family homes in the same area, and that there should be a ‘saturation’ limit. He also felt that Article 4 directions gave landlords 12 months notice of the withdrawal of permitted development right, conveniently ignoring the fact that councils can introduce emergency measures with immediate effect, just as Trafford Council did last year. In reply, PRS Minister Heather Wheeler told MPs that councils had sufficient powers under planning, building control and licensing legislation to deal with the issues raised.

Not a week goes by without fire safety being raised at Westminster. In a Commons statement, Communities Secretary Sajid Javid admitted that families had not been offered permanent housing in line with the timescale set following the tragedy. He also came under pressure to restrict materials to be used for cladding, ahead of the final report of the Hackitt Inquiry. His colleague, Maria Miller, MP for Basingstoke has tabled a 10 Minute Rule Bill that would require high rise building freeholders or management companies to hold an annual meeting for residents, giving information on the findings of the buildings fire risk assessment, and to raise questions. While it has no chance of becoming law, it is clear that

MPs have an appetite for further legislation beyond the recommendations of Dame Judith’s inquiry.

And finally there were more announcements of speakers due to take part in our Future Renting North conference, which is taking place at the Concorde Conference Centre on 24th April 2018.

Amongst those now confirmed are Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham and property market analyst Kate Faulkner. Book your ticket here. 

About the author

John Stewart

John Stewart

John is the Policy Manager for the RLA. He has over 20 years experience working in politics, as a successful election agent, MP’s assistant, local councillor and council leader, and is a former charity chief executive.

He oversees RLA policy work across all levels of government – central, devolved and local – working to ensure that landlords’ views are represented and officials, MPs, Assembly Members and local councillors have key information and evidence about the PRS before they take decisions.

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