St Albans MP’s fears over impact of Housing Bill

Brandon Lewis, local government minister. Picture: JAMES BASS

Brandon Lewis, local government minister. Picture: JAMES BASS - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2011

Housing minister Brandon Lewis will be lobbied to ensure St Albans will not be adversely affected when the government’s housing reforms are put into practice.

Although the Housing and Planning Bill paves the way for tenants to buy their housing association home at a discount, paid for by the sale of high-value council homes, St Albans MP Anne Main is concerned about the impact upon the district.

Anne has recently asked to speak with the minister as she believes “high-value areas like St Albans would find it difficult to replace these council homes.

“I am arguing for protection for St Albans to ensure that the council is sufficiently compensated when it sells off its high-value housing.”

The bill includes the following provisions:

• Council tenants earning more than £30,000 a year would be asked to pay a higher rent, under the so-called ‘pay to stay’ policy

• The bill will require local authority tenants to declare their income to their landlord, and it also calls upon councils to return any additional rental income to the treasury

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• In an amendment to the bill, pay to stay will be voluntary for housing associations

• Because of an extension of right to buy rules, every housing tenant will gain the right to buy

• Housing charity Shelter estimates that 2,993 council homes in this area will have to be sold to pay for the right to buy policy

• Measures aimed at speeding up the planning process are contained in the bill to increase the number of houses built

The district council has not yet worked out its likely financial losses, in terms of assets, as a result of the sell-off of high value council housing as the government has not defined the method for calculating how much each stock-holding authority will need to pay.

New clauses added to the bill will give local authorities flexibility in setting planning fees, through a pilot programme.

The council’s head of housing, Karen Dragovic, said in a recent report: “Currently in St Albans there is a gap of £1.2 million between the cost of processing planning applications and the income the council is allowed to get through fees.

“The pilot will be linked to putting in place a procedure to allow planning applications to be processed by an approved ‘designated person’ if an applicant chooses.”