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Written Question
Affordable Housing: Rural Areas
3 Aug 2021

Questioner: Lord Bishop of St Albans (Bishops - Bishops)

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to allow local planning authorities in rural communities to (1) set the threshold for affordable housing, and (2) decide the tenure for affordable housing.

Answered by Lord Greenhalgh

This Government believes that meeting the housing needs of rural communities is important. We’re increasing the supply of affordable housing and investing over £12 billion in affordable housing over 5 years, the largest investment in affordable housing in a decade. This includes the new £11.5 billion Affordable Homes Programme, should economic conditions allow.

Since April 2010, over 190,000 affordable homes have been provided in rural local authorities in England. And between April 2015 and March 2020, 11% of new build additional Affordable Homes have been delivered in villages with a population of fewer than 3000, and we recognise the importance of these settlements for both economic and housing growth.

The Government has given councils a comprehensive range of tools to deliver a new generation of council housing and have a key role in the delivery of affordable housing:

  • A package of reforms that give local authorities increased flexibility over how they can spend their Right to Buy receipts on replacement homes. This package will make it easier for authorities to fund homes using Right to Buy receipts including homes for social rent; allow authorities greater flexibility over the types of homes they provide to reflect the needs of their communities; give authorities more time to use receipts and to develop ambitious build programmes; and make sure more new build replacements are delivered instead of acquisitions, contributing to net supply.
  • Government abolished the Housing Revenue Account borrowing cap in 2018, enabling local authorities to borrow for building.
  • In terms of planning, national policy is clear that affordable housing contributions should not be sought for developments of fewer than 10 units. This is to ensure that a disproportionate burden of developer contributions is not placed on Small and Medium-sized builders. In designated rural areas policies may set out a lower threshold of five units or fewer.

Written Question
Buildings: Fire Prevention
26 Jul 2021

Questioner: Lord Bishop of St Albans (Bishops - Bishops)

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government what considerations they have given to replicating the Pool Re insurance model to help resolve the insurance premium increases faced by leaseholders in developments with building and fire safety defects.

Answered by Lord Greenhalgh

The Government is aware that some leaseholders are facing high buildings insurance premiums as a result of fire safety issues. We are continuing to closely monitor the market and are working with the insurance industry to encourage market-led solutions.

With regard to Pool Re, we would not typically recommend drawing parallels with existing Government-backed insurance schemes given the specific design of any intervention is dependent on the size, frequency and nature of the risk being insured.


Written Question
Buildings: Insulation
16 Jul 2021

Questioner: Lord Bishop of St Albans (Bishops - Bishops)

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answers by Lord Greenhalgh on 28 June (HL1204, HL1205), what assessment they have made of reports that leaseholders, despite having an EWS1 form certifying that their building's external wall system has been assessed for safety by a suitable expert, are unable to sell their leases on account of lenders refusing to offer mortgages.

Answered by Lord Greenhalgh

The Department frequently engages with the industry and will continue to challenge them on the use of the EWS1 process, as well as pressing for more data so that we can get a sense of how the RICS guidance is being applied, and the impact of the process on mortgage applications.

We will continue to work with lenders to enable them to understand and accept other forms of assurance such as a comprehensive fire risk assessment which includes the external walls or post 2018 building control sign off for high rise blocks.


Written Question
Housing: Rural Areas
5 Jul 2021

Questioner: Lord Bishop of St Albans (Bishops - Bishops)

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to (1) review, and (2) update, what constitutes a designated ‘rural area’ within the terms of section 157 of the Housing Act 1985 with a view to including more smaller rural communities.

Answered by Lord Greenhalgh

The areas set out under section 157 of the Housing Act 1985 are National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and areas designated as rural for the purposes of Right to Buy by the Secretary of State.

The criteria for rural designation are that the population density is 2 persons or fewer per hectare; and that there are no more than 3,000 inhabitants.

Areas are designated at the request of individual local authorities; and can be made at any time.

There are no immediate plans to review the designation criteria; but the Government continues its commitment to meeting the housing needs of rural communities.


Written Question
Housing: Fire Prevention
28 Jun 2021

Questioner: Lord Bishop of St Albans (Bishops - Bishops)

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the fire at the Blue apartment block in Leeds on 8 June, what plans they have, if any, to organise an emergency roundtable meeting with (1) developers, (2) insurance companies, and (3) finance providers, in relation to flammable cladding and other fire safety defects present in residential developments.

Answered by Lord Greenhalgh

The impact on residents living in high-rise buildings with unsafe cladding is clearly understood and recognised. That is why the Government is investing over £5 billion to remediate high rise residential buildings with unsafe cladding.

Flat owners in buildings between 11 and 18 metres, will be protected from unaffordable costs of cladding removal with a generous government-backed finance scheme, capped at £50 a month.

The Department and Ministers frequently engage with building owners and developers on their responsibilities for building safety and remediation, as well as insurance and finance providers on their market response to the challenges.


Written Question
Buildings: Insulation
28 Jun 2021

Questioner: Lord Bishop of St Albans (Bishops - Bishops)

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the number of leaseholders unable to sell their leases because of (1) cladding issues not addressed by the financial scheme to support cladding removal, and (2) fire safety issues other than cladding.

Answered by Lord Greenhalgh

The Department does not hold the data in the form requested.


Written Question
Buildings: Insulation
28 Jun 2021

Questioner: Lord Bishop of St Albans (Bishops - Bishops)

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the impact that the updated guidance on external wall fire review processes (the EWS1 form) will have on the ability of leaseholders to sell their leases.

Answered by Lord Greenhalgh

The Royal Institution of Charted Surveyors (RICS) guidance on the proportionate use of the EWS1 process is a step forward in terms of clarity for consumers and a consistent, more proportionate approach to valuation assessments. This ensures that EWS1 assessments are only requested when absolutely necessary. RICS are currently monitoring the impact of the updated guidance.

MHCLG estimates that if lenders which use the EWS1 process follow the RICS guidance, nearly 500,000 flat owners will not need to ask their building owner to commission an EWS1 form.

So far, most major lenders, representing roughly 80% of the mortgage market, have said that they will adopt the RICS guidance or already take a markedly less risk-averse approach.

Recent data from one major lender suggests that an EWS1 already exists for 50% of mortgage applications where one is requested, and we are working with industry to ensure this picture only improves.


Written Question
Buildings: Fire Prevention
28 Jun 2021

Questioner: Lord Bishop of St Albans (Bishops - Bishops)

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to give residents, tenants and leaseholders the right to access their building's fire risk assessment.

Answered by Lord Greenhalgh

The Building Safety Bill seeks to provide residents, tenants and leaseholders of high rise buildings with further and more detailed information about the safety measures in their building upon request. This information may include full, current and historical fire risk assessments: further detail will be set out in due course.


Written Question
Housing: Disability and Older People
24 Mar 2021

Questioner: Lord Bishop of St Albans (Bishops - Bishops)

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government how they plan to meet the housing needs of (1) older, and (2) disabled, people.

Answered by Lord Greenhalgh

We place great importance on the provision of suitable homes for older and disabled people. Our planning rules already mean councils must consider the needs of older and disabled people when planning for new homes. In 2019 we published Planning Practice Guidance in order to help councils implement the National Planning Policy Framework policies.

In August 2020 we published our planning white paper, which set out the high-level details of our proposed planning reforms and we continue to engage with a range of stakeholders in order to help shape our proposals.

In September 2020 we consulted on how to raise accessible housing standards and we have also committed to a full review of Part M of the Building Regulations which includes a research programme to help us to consider what changes can be made.

In January 2021 we published the draft National Model Design Code, which guides local authorities on how to provide a variety of choice of homes to suit all needs and ages, including those of older people and disabled people.

We are committed to protecting and boosting the supply of supported housing and our aim is that 10% of delivery under the new Affordable Homes Programme will be for much needed specialist and supported housing for older and disabled people.

Lastly, by 2021-22 we will have invested over £4 billion into the Disabled Facilities Grant (2010-11 to 2021-22) which has provided an estimated 400,000 adaptations in disabled people’s homes.


Written Question
Housing: Disability
22 Mar 2021

Questioner: Lord Bishop of St Albans (Bishops - Bishops)

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government when they intend to publish a summary of responses to their Raising accessibility standards for new homes consultation, which closed on 1 December 2020.

Answered by Lord Greenhalgh

The Government response to the consultation on raising accessibility standards for new homes will be published later this year and it will include a summary of responses.


Written Question
Council Tax
24 Feb 2021

Questioner: Lord Bishop of St Albans (Bishops - Bishops)

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of whether current council tax bands in England adequately reflect changes to property prices since 1991.

Answered by Lord Greenhalgh

Council tax bands in England reflect the sale value of properties at 1 April 1991 and provide a proxy for relative ability to pay. This banding system is well understood and provides a stable income stream to local authorities and predictable annual bills for taxpayers.


Written Question
Housing: Construction
16 Nov 2020

Questioner: Lord Bishop of St Albans (Bishops - Bishops)

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answers by Lord Greenhalgh on 1 October (HL8296), 6 October (HL8828), and 28 October (HL9442), what assessment they have made of the impact of (1) fears of negative equity on existing house purchases, and (2) house prices rising faster than wage increases, on the effectiveness of diversification.

Answered by Lord Greenhalgh

In response to Part 1: The Government has taken unprecedented measures to support consumers, businesses and the wider economy. Many homeowners will benefit from these measures.

The Government has strengthened the welfare safety-net with over £9 billion boost to the welfare system. The furlough scheme has been extended to the end of March, with employees receiving 80% of their current salary for hours not worked. The Government has also supported business during this time through the coronavirus business interruption schemes, the bounce back loans and the future fund.

This package of support also includes mortgage holidays for up to 6 months, and a moratorium on lender repossession enforcement until 31 January 2021. These measures continue to protect homeowners who have been affected by coronavirus from unaffordable costs if they cannot work due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Government has also taken substantial measures to support the housing market. We have introduced a stamp duty holiday, with effect until 31 March 2021, raising the threshold for paying stamp duty land tax from £125,000 to £500,000. We have kept the housing market open, with clear guidance on how to conduct home buying and selling amid Covid-19 restrictions. We have taken measures to ensure that the housing market and all associated activities can continue during the current lockdown, and the housebuilding sector, in line with the wider construction sector, will continue to operate and follow Covid-19 secure guidelines. In combination, these measures have ensured a functioning and effective housing market. There are currently high levels of transactions in the market. The provisional seasonally adjusted estimate of UK residential transactions in September 2020 is 98,010, which is very similar to September 2019 at only 0.7% lower and 21.3% higher than August 2020.

In response to Part 2: the Government wants to see the housing market diversify over the long term, regardless of short term movements in house prices. We support community and self-builders, small and medium enterprises, and those who are building homes in innovative ways. We have put in place initiatives to diversify the market including the £2.5 billion Home Building Fund, which received a £450 million boost in June, and the £1 billion ENABLE Build guarantee scheme. In addition, we are supporting the Build to Rent sector with a £3.5 billion Guarantee Scheme, driving up standards and quality across the private rented sector. Leveraging in more private investment will help create skilled jobs and drive economic growth while our ongoing planning reforms will reduce burdens on the construction sector.


Written Question
Housing: Construction
10 Nov 2020

Questioner: Lord Bishop of St Albans (Bishops - Bishops)

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answers by Lord Greenhalgh on 1 October (HL8296), 6 October (HL8828), and 28 October (HL9442), what assessment they have made of whether diversification will be sufficient to tackle developments which are currently stalled due to ‘land banking’ and ‘intentional delay’.

Answered by Lord Greenhalgh

Sir Oliver Letwin’s 2018 Review of Build Out provided a comprehensive assessment of build out of sites and recommended that a greater diversity of housing products on residential developments was a key way to overcome issues associated with low market absorption rates. Our Planning White Paper consulted on proposals to amend national policy to encourage more variety of development types by different builders, and we are now in the process of analysing the responses. We will be publishing our response in due course


Written Question
Housing: Construction
28 Oct 2020

Questioner: Lord Bishop of St Albans (Bishops - Bishops)

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answers by Lord Greenhalgh on 1 October (HL8296) and on 19 October (HL8828), what assessment they have made of the impact of tackling the practices of 'land banking' and 'intentional delay' on the market absorption rates in the housing market.

Answered by Lord Greenhalgh

Sir Oliver Letwin’s 2018 independent Review of Build Out was clear that developers will only build new homes at a rate that the market can absorb. That is why our planning white paper sets out proposals to revise national policy to encourage masterplans and design codes for substantial development sites to see a variety of development types by different builders come forward at once. This will help speed up build out by ensuring new development can appeal to a broad range of market needs. We are also exploring further options to speed up the build out of residential development as part of the implementation of the white paper.


Written Question
Property Development
19 Oct 2020

Questioner: Lord Bishop of St Albans (Bishops - Bishops)

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Greenhalgh on 1 October (HL8296) and the White Paper Planning for the Future, published on 6 August, what assessment they have made of the reasons for low market absorption rates as the responsible factor for stalled developments.

Answered by Lord Greenhalgh

Sir Oliver Letwin's 2018 independent Review of Build Out provided a comprehensive assessment of build out rates for large residential sites which identified low market absorption rates as a key constraint. A copy of the report can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/independent-review-of-build-out-draft-analysis.