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Housing and Planning Bill set to raise fines against agents and landlords to £30,000

The Housing and Planning Bill passed its report stage in the Commons last night. With a large nu...

The Housing and Planning Bill passed its report stage in the Commons last night.

With a large number of official announcements made beforehand, the debate did not start until well into the evening.

The Bill will now make history as it goes on for its third reading. It is the first Bill with an English legislative stage, where only English MPs can vote on certain sections.

The English stage and third reading will take place on a date to be confirmed.

The Bill will introduce a blacklist of private landlords and letting agents, to be made available to local councils and central government.

The Bill will also make it possible, for the first time, to ban both letting agents and landlords from the industry. As it stands, however, the Bill does not make it impossible for banned letting agents to open as estate agents.

Amendment 16, tabled by the Government, would increase maximum fines levied against someone letting out a sub-standard home from £5,000 to £30,000.

The Bill – which also extends Right to Buy to housing association tenants and will force local authorities to build starter homes for first-time buyers – has been attacked by critics as being designed to bring about the end of social housing in the UK. They also said it was about social cleansing.

Several hours before yesterday’s debate, protesters gathered in a rainy Parliament Square to voice their concerns.

One MP voting against the Bill was Green MP Caroline Lucas, who represents Brighton Pavilion.

She said: “The housing crisis is biting hard. Renting is unaffordable, our social housing stock is dwindling and buying a home is still an impossible dream for many. And, as with so many of the challenges our society faces, it is the young who are suffering the worst.

“The Government had an opportunity to utterly rethink the housing model – but instead Parliament is being presented with legislation that’s going to make the situation far worse – and put another nail in the coffin for British social housing.

“There are a few good measures in the Bill.

“The provisions on rogue landlords, letting agents and the introduction of a brownfield register are welcome – but they simply don’t go far enough to protect renters or encourage the building of truly affordable homes.

“The overall effect of this legislation will be to inflict further harm on those already suffering and to drag more people into the housing crisis. It will decrease the amount of social housing, fail to bring down sky-high rental costs and do nothing to keep people warm in their homes.

“For example, the Bill should have looked at ways to make rents fall – but it doesn’t even go as far as bringing in smart rent controls to keep them in line with inflation.”

Lucas went on to say: “The housing crisis we’re facing is the result of botched policies by successive Governments – and this latest Bill is set to compound that failure.”

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