Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo's website.
Since Parliament’s return, much of our time has been dominated by consideration of the Government’s Housing and Planning Bill.
This Bill has been forced through Parliament in order that the Government can continue their short-sighted strategy on housing which will only lead to a spiralling housing crisis.
On our first day back, MPs found the Government had shoe-horned in a vast number of amendments to the Bill, which saw MPs voting on amendments as late as 2am. These new amendments totalled over 60 pages – the largest number of amendments tabled that we have seen on a piece of legislation in recent Parliamentary history.
Despite these many amendments, they have yet to improve the Bill and help provide any affordable and adequate housing. Some of our main concerns with this Bill, included: the lack of support for families and young people aspiring to get on to the property ladder; the forced selling off of council and social housing stock, and; the failure to address the need for landlords to maintain their rental properties at a liveable standard for tenants.
Housing is an important part of any future infrastructure plans in the UK, and that is why it is vital that this Bill must be used to addresses the lack of affordable housing in the UK and so it doesn’t mean we only come back to these issues in later years finding more and more people are living in squalid, over-priced housing.
That is why it was deeply concerning when an amendment to the Bill was put forward that proposes to increase the threshold to be eligible for discount on starter homes to £450,000 in London and £250,000 outside of London.
As a former top civil servant at the Department for Communities and Local Government has said, this new definition of starter homes stretches the definition of affordable housing to breaking point.
Though Labour supports more home ownership, as was seen under the last Labour Government, it is concerning, as Shelter has found, that families on the Government’s new national living wage in 98% of local authorities would not be able to own a starter home, including many areas of the North-East. The Government’s new starter homes scheme will only help those on high-earning salaries and not those on low or middle incomes.
Again and again, the Government has shown that they do not understand the housing crisis we currently face and instead have pushed ahead with their ideological agenda which will not fix the situation, only make it worse.
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