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The Housing & Planning Act: what you need to know

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The Housing & Planning Act received royal assent last week after a tumultuous trip through parliament’s legislative process.

Over the course of six months ministers, backbench MPs, and peers tabled hundreds of amendments in a bid to improve the bill.

Some were successful in being adopted and maintained. Most were not.

LGC has picked out the key changes and clarifications made to the bill.

Sale of higher value council homes

The bill originally referred to local authorities selling their “high value” properties but the government later amended it to “higher value” in a bid to prevent some councils from being disproportionately affected by the number of sales. Regulations setting out what constitutes “higher value” will be set out in due course.

Replacement homes

Councils will be able to retain more of their right-to-buy sales receipts to provide replacement homes if they enter into an agreement with the government and commit to building at least one new “affordable home” for each property sold outside of London, and two for every home sold in London.

The term “affordable” includes starter homes which will be available to buyers below the age of 40 with a minimum discount of 20% against market value, limited to £450,000 in London and £250,000 elsewhere.

Starter homes

Councils will be required to promote the supply of starter homes. While there is no threshold included in the act, housing minister Brandon Lewis told MPs this month he expected 20% of new homes on a site will be starter homes.

Local authorities won’t have to accept starter homes on rural exception sites – small plots of land that would not normally be used for housing.

The government is currently consulting on a taper for how much of the discount homeowners will have to pay back should they sell their starter home within a certain time period.

Planning applications

Pilots which will allow alternative providers to process, but not determine, planning applications are to be carried out over a five year period. Any advice or recommendations from approved providers, which could include planning consultants or other councils, will not be binding on local authorities when they take a final decision on an application.

Pay to stay

Local authority landlords will have to charge certain tenants more rent, whereas housing associations can decide whether to do that or not.

Households earning more than £31,000 outside of London and £40,000 within the capital will be subjected to higher rents. Benefits will not be included in those calculations, nor will any income from children living at home.

For every £1 households earn above the pay-to-stay threshold, there will be a 15p increase in rent.

The thresholds are to be reviewed and uprated in line with inflation each year.

Secure tenancies

Councils will be able to grant secure tenancies of up to 10 years to families with children – the legislation originally limited this to five years.

Statutory guidance will be issued to councils on which households will qualify for a secure tenancy.

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