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Does the Housing and Planning Act sound the 'death knell for social housing'?

View profile for Amy Tagoe
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Post Christmas possession proceedings

On 12 May 2016 the Housing and Planning Act (“the Act”) received Royal Assent and has therefore been passed into law. The Act has been widely criticised across the country, including in the House of Lords. The critics, of which there have been many, have labelled it as the Act that “sounds the death knell for social housing”, whilst others, such as Shadow Housing Minister John Healey describe it as a “blinkered, unbalanced bill.” Some argue that the Act is even worse than the much loathed bedroom tax.

One particularly unpopular measure which the Act introduces is the requirement for local authorities to sell off a certain amount of council houses each year; this aligns with the viewpoint that the Act places too much emphasis on home ownership. The new “starter homes” being built supposedly fall within the remit of affordable housing, although it is argued that they will in fact prevent many from getting housing, particularly in cities and areas with high rental rates. It has been said that replacements will be built to replace the affordable housing which is sold, yet developers will be able to choose to build “starter homes” over more affordable forms of social housing. As such, the critics argue that whilst traditional social housing is sold off, there will be no viable replacement; the supply will be far less than the demand.

In many areas, the Housing and Planning Act being passed into law does not mean the end of the debate. As critics believe that many of the proposals will not work in practice the arguments will rumble on for some time yet, meaning, that whilst the Act may have a negative effect on social housing, it may be too early to suggest the Act sounds the “death knell for social housing.”     

If the Act does lead to a decrease in available social housing then it is inevitable that the number of people made homeless will increase. This will place more pressure on Local Authorities and other organisations, who may struggle to deal with the increased demand and to provide the support required.

At Stephensons, our specialist housing lawyers can assist with all aspects of housing law and related disputes, including homelessness and mortgage repossessions. If you find yourself at threat of becoming homeless or need any other housing assistance, contact our team on 0175 321 6399. You may be eligible for legal aid to help fund your case.

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