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03/03/2016

Housing for the most vulnerable in society

The Housing and Planning Bill which is currently before the House of Lords seeks to deliver:

• One million homes by 2020
• Local plans across authorities by 2017 - or the Government will impose plans instead
• 200,000 Starter Homes, offering 1.3 million tenants the Right to Buy and cutting red tape to boost home building

A report published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) states that if the Bill goes ahead as currently drafted it could lead to local authorities selling off around 15,300 council-owned bungalows by 2021. Currently the Bill makes it compulsory for local authorities to sell properties as they become vacant, "To ensure that the money locked up in high value vacant housing stock will be reinvested in building new homes that better meet the needs of local people including older residents."

Highlighting that these bungalows house some of the most elderly and vulnerable people in society, the JRF has called on ministers to make bungalows and sheltered housing exempt from the initiative. Brian Robson, JRF's Programme Manager, said, "We risk holding a great British bungalow sell-off that will make things worse for older and disabled tenants who are trying to find suitable, affordable accommodation, the increasing reliance on costly, insecure tenancies in the private-rented sector to house families on low incomes will only serve to trap more people in poverty."

The Government's response to this call has been somewhat lukewarm, stating that councils can decide not to sell a property if it meets a "particular need ". But with local authorities seeing a large reduction in their central funding from Government many are seeing this as an opportunity to sell off houses to make up for their financial loss. In turn, this could lead to elderly people being housed in unsuitable accommodation.

The House of Lords is about to get its teeth into this Bill so it is not a done deal, but the Government could certainly be in for bumpy journey ahead.

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