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Bob Kerslake attacks government's Housing and Planning Bill over social housing

Former head of the civil service Bob Kerslake has claimed the government is set to destroy social rented housing through measures in its Housing and Planning Bill.

Mr Kerslake, who is now chairman of housing association Peabody and the Local Government Association, was speaking during the second reading of the bill in the House of Lords this week (26 January).

He said that even leading housebuilders questioned whether the measures would meet the government’s aim of increasing housebuilding levels.

“The most significant impact of the bill is to promote one form of tenure – homeownership – at the expense of another – social rented housing.

“Taken with other measures being proposed by the government, the only reasonable conclusion is that social housing is being written out of the script.

“This effectively ends the post-war consensus on housing and the extremely successful partnership with housing associations begun in the 1980s.”

Mr Kerslake criticised proposals in the bill to extend the Right to Buy to housing association tenants, a measure that would be paid for by the forced sale of high-value council stock.

He said: “The government says the intention is to replace these one for one. But if we examine the bill, apart from the reference to London, nothing in it creates a duty for local authorities to do so.

“Even if they are able to replace one for one, it is very unlikely to be in the same area because those are the very areas where the land is hardest to find.”

He also criticised government proposals to create a new class of Starter Homes because they would replace rather than add to the supply of new social rented housing.

Mr Kerslake said: “I have real doubts about whether they will actually deliver the new homes of all types that this country so badly needs. As one major and very respected housebuilder said to me recently, where is the additionality in all this?”

Lord Best, former head of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, told the Lords: “The bill robs Peter to pay Paul, even though Peter starts off in a worse position. The biggest winners are those who were going to buy anyway and now get substantial financial benefits – for nothing.”

Following the second reading, the bill will now pass to the committee stage.

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