Jim Fitzpatrick, Labour MP for Polar and Limehouse, and a patron of LKP, yesterday urged his colleagues to join the All Party Parliamentary Group on leasehold.
Already 35 MPs and Lords have expressed their support.
Mr Fitzpatrick was speaking in the Commons adjournment debate before MPs head off for their summer holidays.
“There are a whole number of major issues on leasehold reform.
“England is one of the few countries in the world that still have leasehold — it does not exist in Scotland — resulting in unfair ground rents, excessive service charges, retirement home rip-offs, restricted lengths of leases and expensive dispute resolution procedures.
“It took us two and a half years to get the Department for Communities and Local Government to recognise that there were not 2.5 million leaseholders in Britain.
“It has now recalculated the number at 4.1 million, but the leasehold reform MPs who are active in the Chamber think there are more like 7 million, and those people are being ripped off.
“This area of legislation urgently needs reform, and I am grateful to the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership—the charity campaigning on this area—which helps the hon. Member for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley) and myself.
“We are forming an all-party group on the issue in September, and I invite all colleagues to join it to ensure that we can put pressure on the Government and get leasehold reform.”
Full debate here
We now have a few more MPs and Lords signed up to the APPG.
The latest is James Berry, the Conservative MP Kingston and Surbiton, who won his seat from LibDem and LKP patron Sir Ed Davey in 2014.
For any MP with an urban constituency, leasehold will be one of their most important housing issues. The APPG plans to hold its first meeting in September and we will let readers have a full list following that meeting.
So far, we have representatives from both Conservative and Labour in both the Commons and Lords, as well as cross-benchers in the Lords among the prospective APPG members. Membership includes two former housing ministers from the Conservative party, and one Labour ex-shadow housing minister.
The only disappointment is that so far we have no Welsh or Lib Dem MPs.
We are now on our ninth Housing Minister in 10 years, which seems to have been of little help to anyone other than those who benefit from the deficiencies in the current legislation.
1) Yvette Cooper: 2005 to January 2008
2) Caroline Flint: January 2008 to October 2008 (10 months)
3) Margaret Beckett: October 2008 to June 2009 (10 months)
4) John Healey: June 2009 to June 2010 (1 year)
5) Grant Shapps: June 2010 to September 2012 (2 years two months)
6) Mark Prisk: September 2012 to October 2013 (1 year 1 month)
7) Kris Hopkins: October 2013 to July 2014 (10 months)
8) Brandon Lewis: July 2014 to July 2016 (2 years)
9) Gavin Barwell: July 2016
LKP is cautiously optimistic the Gavin Barwell could be a good Housing Minister for leasehold issues. He is the first housing minister for some time to represent an urban area. His constituency of Croydon Central has over 40% of its homes which are either privately owned leaseholds or socially rented flats.
For new build that figure will be much much higher with a large number if high rise developments under construction at the moment.
Gavin will hopefully already be aware that Croydon has a long history of association with leasehold issues.
In 2012 Conservative London Assembly Member for Croydon and Sutton, Steve O’Connell, was the author of a detailed review of service charges in London. The report title “Highly Charged” gives a strong clue as to its conclusions.
It is not just ministers who change.
Since 2010 we have our fifth official in charge of leasehold in Gavin’s Department of Communities and Local Government, we have our fourth official in overall charge of the leasehold and rental sector and the second official in charge of housing standards, which sits above the leasehold team.
LKP has not even met any of the officials in the housing supply side of the department, who we presume are not fully briefed on many of the problems that have emerged in recent years.
In 2010 both the public and ministers were being told by officials that leasehold legislation was “balanced”. Officials advised ministers at the time there was only anecdotal evidence of problems. As LKP has successfully argued, the opposite was the case.
Its difficult to know how anyone could think things were balanced and working well when it turns out nobody knew how big the sector was.
LKP worked with DCLG statisticians in 2014 to establish the current figure of 4.1 million private leasehold households, replacing the 2.5 million that was the basis of government thinking.
Today, the leasehold sector is at least 250 per cent larger than when Lord Young introduced the Leasehold Reform and Urban Housing Development Act for the Conservatives in 1993. It is double the size when the Labour Government introduced the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act in 2002.
LKP was one of the few groups that has consistently argued since 2010 that we still have major problems in the sector.
As a result, we went through a period of being scorned or ignored, and even banned from speaking at some official meetings. Fortunately, that has largely changed.
Government – unhelped by a well resourced sector – has accepted that it did not know how large the sector was but it does now.
What is already clear from some of the comments from MPs who have joined the APPG, is that there is a lot more understanding of some of the problems surrounding leasehold than we thought.
The balance in leasehold is shifting at last – towards those who end up paying for it all.