The Localism Bill was published yesterday. I suppose it might be seen as an exciting time for the housing sector – somebody described it as a potential “paradigm shift” at an event I was at last week – but, whether or not that is correct (and it could yet turn out to be), it has left me profoundly depressed about the processes of government. The consultation document on which some of the housing provisions are based was published on 22.11.2010 (our discussion) with a closing date of 17.01.2011. The Bill has been published before the full analysis of responses to that consultation has been completed or, indeed, before many have crystallised their thoughts to respond to it. It seems that, whatever you think about the coalition proposals, and there are a range of views being expressed, doesn’t really matter because the coalition is pressing ahead with them anyway. Minor amendments can be made, for sure, but the principles, which are hotly contested in the sector (as any reader of Inside Housing will be aware), are set in stone. The students are right to have been radicalised by the processes of government, and I feel similarly radicalised both in their cause as well as on the Localism Bill.
And all of the stuff in the CP is in it (other than the overcrowding section, which, frankly, was a bit of a waste of space – just get rid of sections 325 and 326 and rely on the HHSRS). There are other clauses as well, interesting in their moment, for example:
- the Housing Ombudsman’s entrepreneurial accretion of jurisdiction has extended to housing complaints from local authority occupiers in respect (inter alia) of the provision and management of stock (cll 153-5), but there is a filter (the complaint must be referred by an MP, councillor or “designated tenant panel”), which is much-derided in relation to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, and provision for the housing ombudsman’s judgments to be enforceable as if they were an order of the court;
- the HRA goes (but that was on the cards under New Labour anyways) (cll 140-7);
- the Welsh Assembly gets housing finance and accounts powers (cl 152; see also David Smith’s post on previous powers to the Assembly, the expression “Let’s all move to … Wales” being particularly apt now)
As for the CP stuff:
- the TSA’s functions are transferred to the “regulation committee” of the HCA (Schs 16 & 17)
- Standard-setting powers in relation to exchanges (cl 148);
- Limits on succession rights (cll 134-5);
- The new procedure for requiring a landlord to agree to transfers is set out (cll 132-3);
- The new “flexible tenancy” regime, including a mandatory right to possession on certain conditions being fulfilled regarding a review and notice (see discussion of CP) (cl 130, see esp new s 107D, which is sure to be the next battlefield for proportionality and public law defences), together with the new duty to create yet another strategy, the tenancy strategy (cll 126-9);
- Consequential, tricky amendments to introductory, demoted and Family Intervention tenancies are set out (cll 131, 136)
- The homelessness alterations, previously trailed, although it is tricky to make sense of them to be honest (cll 124-5)
- Changes to the allocations “rules” (for England only), so that the old s 167 only applies to Wales, and a new s 166A applies to England) – the key changes, I think, are in cl 120, which introduces a s 160ZA into the Housing Act 1996 enabling local authorities to set up their own “qualifying persons” to whom an allocation can be made, subject to regulations (cl 160ZA(7)-(8); and amendments to s 159 taking transfer applicants out of Pt 6.