By Harry Scoffin
The longest continuously-serving MP was told to keep waiting for zero ground rents and a leasehold houses ban in the Commons last week.
Quizzed by Sir Peter Bottomley on July 20, housing minister Luke Hall could not specify when legislation to enact the heavily trailed reforms would emerge, only when “parliamentary time allows”.
Mr Hall suggested more leasehold delays “given the impact of covid-19 on the agenda and the government’s wider work to restart the economy”.
The minister’s answer drew a frustrated response from the APPG co-chair, who spoke of endless consultations on reform and a failure by government to match the rhetoric with action.
“Mr Speaker, if you and the Minister came to Worthing station and walked from there to my flat, you would walk past a site where Homes England could help Worthing Borough Council to produce extra social housing and potentially more leasehold or commonhold homes. Six times a year, on average, over the last 10 years, Ministers have talked of progress on ending leasehold abuse and providing better homes for the future, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said just now. This time, can we have action,” asked Sir Peter.
An end to new-build leasehold houses and peppercorn ground rents for future leases were first announced by Sajid Javid, then Communities Secretary, in December 2017 as part of his crackdown on “feudal practices” in the property market.
The policies were then put out to consultation by Mr Javid’s successor James Brokenshire, who endorsed them in June 2019, before reappearing in the Conservative party manifesto in December.
Supporters of the plans say they would protect housebuyers and act as a disincentive for developers to sell flats as tenancies, creating an opportunity for a reinvigorated commonhold, forms of which are already widely used throughout the world.
The Worthing West MP also heard that a controversial planned permitted development right for freehold owners to put two extra storeys on existing blocks of flats is vital for urban renewal.
The planning deregulation that Leasehold Knowledge Partnership has established will enrich ground rent investors by up to £42bn and deny leaseholders their right to buy was defended by Mr Hall, who said it would “encourage the densification of our towns and cities for additional homes”.
He said it would create “an extra 800 homes a year for families across our cities and help to protect the countryside too”.
LKP has reported it would only create 8,120 units after 10 years.
The housing minister did not recognise concerns that the new rooftop development right could be imposed by absentee building owners without leaseholder approval.
Sir Peter’s early day prayer opposing the scheme has since been taken up by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who has tabled his own motion against the PDR, which 28 MPs have signed including shadow housing minister Mike Amesbury, ex-shadow chancellor John McDonnell and former Green Party leader Caroline Lucas.
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that The Town and Country Planning (Permitted Development and Miscellaneous Amendments) (England) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 (S.I., 2020, No. 632), dated 23 June 2020, a copy of which was laid before this House on 24 June 2020, be annulled.
“If it fails to gain enough support, leaseholders could pay dearly,” the Sunday Times reported yesterday.
If your property is leasehold, the biggest legal shake-up in almost 1,000 years could open up a new way to own your home. The plans are among a raft of changes announced last week, which could also leave you with high safety bills and two extra storeys on your roof.
It was also picked up by The Guardian’s Patrick Collinson, who wrote:
“Then there are the new rules giving block owners the right to add two extra floors with no permission. The government says it’s about letting families build granny flats or additional bedrooms. The truth is, they will be seized upon by freeholders, instead, to extract money from leaseholders. Why? Because when they come to buy out their lease, the freeholder will argue that they have to be compensated for the two additional storeys they could have profited from by adding them to the block. Leasehold Knowledge Partnership reckons it could gift as much as £20bn to the assets of freeholders. Even more money for doing absolutely nothing.”
report by the Law Commission published this week should have made uplifting reading for the 4.3 million homeowners in England and Wales trapped in our feudal leasehold system. It appeared to (finally) spell the end to many of the gruesome practices that have left people in despair, such as ludicrously expensive lease extensions, spiralling ground rents and absurd service charges.