Planned Legislation on Housing Matters
The following commitments have been made by
Ministers for legislation on Housing matters as soon as Parliamentary
(i) Introducing seller's packs to the homebuying
and selling process, designed to benefit consumers and strongly
backed by the Consumers' Association. This was a manifesto commitment
in 1997 and in 2001.
(ii) Rationalising and modernising the controls
on Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), including a clearer definition
of HMOs and a compulsory licensing scheme. This was a manifesto
commitment in 1997 and in 2001.
(iii) Reforming the housing fitness regime,
replacing the existing fitness standard with the evidence-based
Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) as the basis for
enforcement against unacceptable housing conditions.
(iv) Selective licensing of private landlords
in areas of low housing demand, to deal with the growing problem
of unscrupulous landlords and their often anti-social tenants
undermining efforts to regenerate declining parts of northern
(v) Dependent on the outcome of consultation
currently under way, possible measures to enable social landlords
to deal more effectively with anti-social tenants, which complement
the private landlord licensing measures.
Ministers have made commitments to the following
Regulatory Reform Orders:
Housing: Private sector housing renewal
Repeal of highly-specific grant and loan-giving
powers contained in the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration
Act 1996 and Housing Act will remove most of the restrictions
on local authorities' powers to give assistance for home repair
and will allow them the alternative of offering loans.
Housing: Delegation of Housing Management (Private
To make changes to Section 27 of the Housing
Act 1985 enabling the sub-contracting of the management work,
to allow PFI projects between LAs and shell companies for financing
purposes. Aim to complete February 2003.
Housing: timing of rent increases for assured
To resolve the problem of "annuality"
in Registered Social Landlords' rent increases, to allow RSLs
to legally apply a fixed day for annually increasing rents (eg
the first Monday in April). This also affects private landlords.
Aim to complete February 2003.
In addition, the Homelessness Act 2002 includes
provisions on both homelessness and the allocation of housing.
The provisions on the allocation of housing amend Part 6 of the
Housing Act 1996. Among other things the 2002 Act repeals the
current provisions, which deal with the classes of person who
qualify for an allocation and replaces these with new provisions
dealing with eligibility for an allocation of housing. The details
of the categories of applicant who qualify/are eligible are provided
in regulations. Thus, when the relevant provisions in 2002 Act
are commenced (January 2003 proposed) the Government will need
to make regulations prescribing classes of person who are and
are not eligible for an allocation of housing.
The following commitments have been made by Ministers
for legislation on Local Government matters as soon as Parliamentary
The Local Government White Paper Strong Local
LeadershipQuality Public Services published in December
2001 included a number of commitments requiring Primary legislation.
The recently published draft Local Government Bill covers these
commitments. In addition, there is a commitment to legislate to
make statutory within local government, the provisions in the
Cabinet Office, Statement of Practice on Staff Transfers in
the Public Sector and the Annex, A Fair Deal for Pensions.
This was announced as part of the package arising out of the Best
Value Review. It is included in the draft Bill as an Additional
Measure saying that it is the intention to address this in the
Local Government Bill on introduction.
Local Government regulations that Ministers have
made a commitment to replace or repeal
There are no regulations to which there is a
commitment to replace or repeal but there will be regulations
which are to be amended. It has not been possible to produce a
list of all regulations that will be amended. There is a process
for abolishing a number of consent regimes and there are a number
of measures in the Making a Difference report, which we
are considering how to take forward.
DRAFT LOCAL GOVERNMENT BILL
Nick Raynsford's letter of 16 July to you addressed
those points where he had undertaken to provide supplementary
notes after your Committee's scrutiny of the draft Bill on 11
In that letter, and in answer to Clive Betts'
question in relation to clause 48 and 49 of the draft Bill, Nick
explained why the Department considered there was merit in making
overhanging debt payments rather than continuing to pay housing
subsidy to local authorities after the transfer of their housing
stock. In reply you have suggested that illustrative calculations
should have been offered to confirm or refute this point. I believe
this misunderstands the point in relation to the justification
for making the overhanging debt payment, as in both instances
the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister ensures there is no net
burden on the local authority.
The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, through
the Housing Revenue Account ensures a local authority can meet
the full cost of servicing its housing attributable debt. Therefore
a local authority can be confident that while it holds housing
stock, including where it establishes an ALMO, it will have the
resources to meet its loan commitments in respect of borrowing
secured for housing purposes.
Where an authority and its tenants choose housing
transfer ODPM assumes that after the transfer the local authority
will no longer have housing attributable debt. Where the receipt
for the housing exceeds the housing attributable debt, the local
authority is required to make provision from the receipt to repay
or service its debt.
However, where the receipt is less than the
debt, there are essentially three choices to enable such authorities
to deliver tenant aspirations to transfer their housing. ODPM
could continue to pay subsidy to the local authority on that part
of the debt remaining after taking account of the receipt; it
could make a one-off payment to the local authority in lieu of
the continuing subsidy; or it could make a payment direct to the
public Loan Works Board to extinguish the authority's remaining
housing attributable debt. The public consultation undertaken
by former DETR in 1999 showed the majority supported the latter
option, which was subsequently adopted in the form of the current
overhanging debt payment arrangements. Where there are breakage
costs associated with the repayment of the housing attributable
debt, these must be met by the local authority in full.
The housing attributable debt position for each
local authority will be unique, reflecting its pattern of housing
expenditure to date. However, when considering whether or not
to transfer its housing stock the position is subsidy neutral,
as ODPM ensures that there are resources available to meet the
loan obligations. For Government, while the timing of the costs
of either repaying or servicing an authority's housing attributable
debt differ, the financial costs are likely to be very similar.
I hope from this explanation that the Committee
will recognise that we have sought to put in place a level playing
field whereby the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister ensures
there are resources available to address an authority's housing
attributable debt whichever housing option its tenants choose.