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22/06/2017

Queen’s Speech: HS2 phase 2A bill announced

Words: Laura Edgar
HS2 train

A bill to enable the next phase of High Speed 2 (HS2), between Birmingham and Crewe, was announced in the Queen’s Speech.

According to a briefing document released alongside the speech, the HS2 Phase 2A Bill aims to provide the powers to build and operate the next stage of the HS2 network between Birmingham and Crewe.

In February 2017, The Planner reported that the High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) hybrid Bill gained Royal Assent after more than three years of parliamentary scrutiny.

A Draft Tenants’ Fees Bill has also been drawn up. It aims to tackle unfair fees imposed on tenants to make the private rental market “more affordable and competitive”.

The draft bill proposes to ban landlords and agents from requiring tenants to make any payments as a condition of their tenancy with the exception of the rent, a capped refundable security deposit, a capped refundable holding deposit and tenant default fees.

It also proposes to cap holding deposits at no more than one week’s rent and security deposits at no more than one month’s rent.

An Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill should make sure the UK remains at the forefront of developing new technology for such vehicles. It will allow the regulatory framework to keep pace with electric car technology and provide for the installation of charging points, according the document.

The document notes that the government “will deliver the reforms proposed in the [housing] white paper to increase transparency around the control of land, to ‘free up more land for new homes in the right places, speed up build-out by encouraging modern methods of construction and diversify who builds homes in the country’”.

The speech also laid out a number of bills that aim to ensure a “smooth and orderly” withdrawal from the European Union, including a Repeal Bill, a Customs Bill and an Agriculture Bill.


Reaction

A few rogue agents don’t represent the vast majority

 

Julian Goddard, partner and head of residential at property consultancy Daniel Watney LLP, said:

"Tenant fees have been held up by the media and politicians as emblematic of a broken rental market run by greedy landlords and lettings agents. But a few rogue agents charging rip-off fees do not represent the vast majority in the sector, who charge for making sure inventories are provided, tenants pay on time and properties are filled promptly.”

He said the real issue for renters is soaring demand coupled with a lack of supply, which has pushed rents up, while recent weak wage growth has seen rent take up more of people’s pay.

“This is what the government should be looking to tackle."

Silence on fracking is telling

 

Brexit “understandably” dominated the Queen’s Speech, said Dominick Veasey, associate director at planning consultancy Nexus Planning.

“However, despite being extremely light on detail, it was reassuring that references were made to bringing forward proposals to promote fairness and transparency in the housing market, and help ensure more homes are built.”

Such references, he continued, suggest that the government “remains committed” to delivering as much of the housing white paper as it can without a majority in the House of Commons.  

“Silence on anything fracking-related is telling. The failure to mention fracking legislation and the setting up of a shale environmental regulator potentially indicate that such measures have been kicked into the long grass.”

Gov needs to go further than white paper reforms

 

Martin Tett, housing spokesman at the Local Government Association, said it is good to see that the government continues to see housing as a priority, but councils are “more ambitious” about increasing housing supply and quality.

“This will require the government to go much further than the implementation of the housing white paper reforms. In particular, we’d like to hear more on how local government can work to ensure the ‘new council housing deals’ outlined in the Conservative manifesto can deliver the homes our communities need quickly.”

Tett added that a thriving private rented sector can contribute to a balanced mix of available housing and councils have a stake in ensuring that tenants have access to decent housing.

“Any reforms should be implemented in a manner that is fair to decent landlords, whilst protecting tenants from substandard accommodation. This requires a local approach, led by councils.”

Bold reform kicked into the long grass

 

Ian Anderson, executive director, Iceni Projects, said: “We’ve been speculating that the government would not be progressing large parts of the housing white paper, and the Queen’s Speech confirmed this. With no new primary legislation planned, it is clear that the government have yet again kicked bold reform into the long grass.

“It’s interesting to see that the government will look to set aside parliamentary time for the progression of a Tenants’ Bill. This is a canny bit of politics; with young voters flocking towards Labour, the Conservative government needs to quickly assess what it can offer those locked out of the housing market.”

Calls for secondary housing legislation

 

Neil Clarke, chairman of the District Councils’ Network, said: “In the absence of a new housing bill, district councils call on the government to help meet the shared aim of delivering more housing through the development and implementation of secondary legislation at the earliest opportunity. These include measures around starter homes and changes to the National Planning Policy Framework in order to encourage an expansion of the type and tenure of new homes to meet need.

“The DCN also calls for amendments to the Right to Buy receipts, increasing the time available to spend them and the ability to retain 100 per cent of Right to Buy receipts to build new homes; unlocking planning permissions that are not being developed, lifting the borrowing cap for the housing revenue account; and future certainty over rent setting policy and the sale of high-value assets.”


The briefing document can be found on the UK Government website (pdf).


Image credit | HS2

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