By Harry Scoffin
Eddie Hughes, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Walsall North, launched a crackdown on ground rents in the Commons today.
Ground Rents (Leasehold Properties) includes one of the Communities Select Committee’s headline proposals: regulating existing leases to have ground rents set at 0.1 per cent of the present value of a property, up to a maximum of £250 per year which stays constant.
The motion has been described in the Order of Business as:
“That leave be given to bring in a Bill to regulate ground rents charged on leasehold properties; to make provision for a cap on ground rents; to make property developers liable for the legal costs of leaseholders seeking to vary certain ground rent contracts; and for connected purposes.”
MPs committed to preparing and bringing in the bill include those who serve on the Communities Select Committee. These are Kevin Hollinrake, Bob Blackman, Teresa Pearce, Andrew Lewer, Matt Western and Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi.
Launched with an opinion editorial in ConservativeHome, the house publication for Conservative politicians, the bill will be given a second reading tomorrow.
It has the support of influential Neil O’Brien MP, a former special advisor to George Osborne and Theresa May and fellow member of the 2017 intake.
Mr Hughes has a background in housing, having served as board chair of whg, a housing association in Walsall. His past professional career was in the construction industry, as reflected in his long-term membership of the Chartered Institute of Building.
Mr Hughes came to prominence for his shock win at the 2017 general election where he dislodged 83-year old David Winnick, the Labour politician who had held the seat since 1979.
The former aide to the housing secretary has recently been propounding a vision of “blue collar conservatism”, encouraging his party to follow his lead in winning over traditionally Labour areas.
Alongside demanding government takes shared ownership more seriously, Mr Hughes has criticised Help To Buy and recent stamp duty changes as “government subsidies to wealthy middle-class families.”
Perhaps most interestingly for readers of LKP, Mr Hughes has said current public policy threatens to “shatter the dream of home ownership for generations to come… we need to find new ways to increase home ownership”. A perfect candidate then to make the Conservative case for commonhold.
Speaking exclusively to this title, Mr Hughes said:
“My bill just puts the issue of onerous ground rents out there in the House of Commons for ten minutes. I am pushing for the implementation of the Communities Select Committee proposal. We will need to keep banging this drum from now on.
Government is talking about stopping ground rents problems for future lessees, but is quiet on helping those already in this trap. I want to make it easier for people to get a variation to their lease. They shouldn’t be paying the landowner’s legal fees.
It is fair to say that the housing crisis has many forms depending on where you are in the process. You might feel that as you own a home, you are not part of it. This changes when you cannot sell because of a feudal clause.”
LKP welcomes Mr Hughes’s initiative as it should pressure government to take legislative action to help existing leaseholders with monetary ground rents that are having an adverse impact on their finances and mental health.
The government response to the Communities Select Committee report is outstanding and is thought to have been delayed until after the summer recess.
Following contact with LKP, Mr Hughes has agreed to join the APPG on Leasehold and Commonhold Reform. He will be the 168th member.
Growing Conservative support for ending the chokehold of leasehold?
Mr Hughes is certainly not the first of the 2017 Tory intake to campaign on leasehold issues in parliament, but his slick intervention today suggests recently elected Conservative politicians are tuning into the leasehold scandal. Those on the government benches are watching…
The ten minute rule motion follows Stephen McPartland’s win over doubling ground rent Long Harbour / Adriatic Land leases that had his constituents trapped, unable to remortgage or sell on.
After explaining the situation in Westminster Hall, which quickly drew the attention of the BBC, the freeholder backed down and offered to replace the onerous terms with RPI-linked ground rents. A subsequent Guardian report suggested shared ownership tenants and lessees would be spared all legal fees associated with the varying of the leases.
Huw Merriman, another ambitious new generation Conservative and aide to chancellor Philip Hammond, made waves at prime minister’s question time in March by taking aim at Vincent Tchenguiz.
He urged government not to exempt the retirement sector from its commitment to cap ground rents on future leases at “peppercorn levels” (zero financial value). A recent Times report suggests government has not heeded Mr Merriman’s calls.
The LKP-run All Party Parliamentary Group on Leasehold and Commonhold Reform has Chichester MP Gillian Keegan as one of its vice-chairs. Ms Keegan, a parliamentary private secretary to the defence secretary, has a special interest in retirement leasehold properties and park homes, owing to constituency demographics.