The Housing Bill has caused no shortage of controversy as it makes its way through Parliament. Indeed, Labour & Co-operative peer Lord Roy Kennedy, who as Shadow Housing Spokesperson is responsible for opposing it, called it “an unpleasant little bill”. Earlier today we dropped by the office Roy shares with other Labour & Co-operative peers in the Palace of Westminster to find out more.
Roy explained what the Bill will mean: reduced tenancies for social tenants, reductions in the standards that private renters are entitled to expect in terms of safety and security, and measures on home ownership that will only benefit the most well-off. It’s perhaps not what most of us had in mind when we think of ways to address the housing crisis gripping the country.
Here’s Lord Kennedy’s round-up of what you need to know about the Bill:
‘A really unpleasant little bill’ – Lord Roy Kennedy on the Ho…Earlier today we dropped by Lord Kennedy of Southwark’s office in Westminster for an update on the work of Labour & Co-operative peers opposing the Government’s Housing Bill – here’s what he told us.
Posted by the Co-operative Party on Tuesday, 15 March 2016
Yesterday, peers packed onto the red benches of the Lords chamber for a line-by-line discussion of the Bill. It’s the latest – and, now it has passed through the Commons, one of the last – opportunities to curb some of the most damaging measures in the Government’s Bill, and to ensure that the co-operative housing sector isn’t put at a disadvantage.
Roy’s work in the Lords mirrors attempts by our Chair, Gareth Thomas at the Commons Committee stage, which we covered back in November, which would ensure that co-operative and community-led housing aren’t disadvantaged from accessing good plots of land for creating housing Co-operatives.
While Gareth’s amendment did not pass, we have since received clarification that co-operatively-owned housing will be exempt from the elements of the bill that were causing concern in the sector. There had been fears that Government’s extended ‘help to buy’, which will force many other types of socially-owned housing to be sold off, could disadvantage co-operative housing.
While both the Lords and the Commons push back against it, we know there’s a clear alternative to this mess of a Bill.
For many years, Labour & Co-operative politicians have fought for an update to Britain’s housing law, much of which has its roots in the Middle ages, to give proper legal recognition to co-operative housing tenure. Unlike in other parts of the World, where this form of ownership is widespread, current housing co-operatives in Britain exist in a morass of outdated and ill-fitting legislation which limits their growth and excludes them from many of the benefits and protections inherent in the co-operative model.
Within the limits of being in Opposition, Labour & Co-operative MPs Gareth Thomas and Jonathan Reynolds have both made attempts. Back in 2011, Jonathan Reynolds’ Co-operative Housing Tenure Bill was introduced into the Commons under the Ten Minute rule, which would have put co-operative housing tenure on the statute backs for the first time. In 2013, Gareth Thomas sought, via his Housing Market Reform Bill, to oblige local authorities to promote co-operative and mutual housing options,particularly for those who can’t afford to buy.
Our work to stand up for co-operative housing and to facilitate its growth goes on. Whether fighting against the worst excesses of a Government in hock to private landlords, or showing that a better way is possible, we’ll be there standing up for our movement, and the growing number of people who need a safe, affordable decent homes to live in.