On 3rd May 2023, the House of Lords debated the Levelling Up & Regeneration Bill in committee. The Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich spoke in support of amendments to the bill tabled by Lord Best and Lady Warwick, and supported by the Bishop of Chelmsford, relating to housing development and the infrastructure levy:
The Lord Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich: My Lords, I support Amendment 335 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, and Amendments 336 and 337 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Best, to which my colleague the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford has added her name as the Church of England’s lead bishop for housing. I am aware, as others have commented, that we are touching on matters that will arise again in the 10th group.
On 20th April 2023, the House of Lords debated amendments to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. The Bishop of Leeds spoke in favour of an amendment that would tie the definition of “affordable homes” to median income:
The Lord Bishop of Leeds: My Lords, I shall speak in support of Amendment 242 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Stunell. I do so having consulted the Bishop of Chelmsford, who leads for the Church of England on housing but is unable to be here today. It is clear, I think, that we need to rethink what genuinely affordable housing is and how an adequate supply can be delivered. In London, the south-east and many other areas across the country, the current affordable housing for rent definition of 20% below market rates makes little difference to those on a median income, let alone those in most need. Without redefinition, we will continue to work under the illusion that homes classed as affordable are helping to solve the housing affordability crisis, when for the most part they are not.
Of course, we need a multifaceted approach to solve the lack of affordable homes. I was interested to learn from the Bishop of Chelmsford that Vicky Ford MP has been addressing this in relation to Chelmsford. During her 10-minute rule Bill debate on 22 February, she spoke to the shortage of affordable housing we face locally and nationally. Her Affordable Housing (Conversion of Commercial Property) Bill would apply affordable housing obligations to conversions of commercial property to residential occupancy. The Bill is due its Second Reading in the Commons on 26 May, and we certainly hope that it will make some progress.
On 18th April 2023, the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich spoke in support of amendments to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill regarding the importance of housing for older people:
The Lord Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich: I shall speak very briefly in support of the group of amendments, on none of which would I dare wish to claim to be an agnostic. I particularly support Amendment 207 proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Best, to which my colleague the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford has added her name. The amendment addresses the important role of local authorities to consider older groups’ housing needs when developing local plans. Together with Amendment 221 from the noble Lord, Lord Best, these changes to the Bill would deliver a more effective response to the shortfall in appropriate housing for older people at all levels of government.
On 27th March 2023 the House of Lords debated the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill in the 8th day of the committee stage. The Bishop of Derby spoke in favour of amendments to the bill that would ensure health and wellbeing of residents is taken into account in housing planning:
The Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, I am glad that today we have the opportunity to consider the health and well-being dimensions of planning. It is my view that development planning cannot be truly successful if it does not also enhance health and well-being. I speak first in favour of Amendment 188 and Amendments 394 to 399 from the noble Lord, Lord Crisp. The right reverend Prelates the Lord Bishop of London, the Lord Bishop of Chelmsford, the Lord Bishop of Manchester and the Lord Bishop of Carlisle, who have previously spoken on these issues, regret they cannot be in their place today. However, I have no doubt they would want to give their support to these amendments were they in the Chamber.
I am sure noble Lords will recall stories of what can happen when living conditions deteriorate. Awaab Ishak’s death in December 2020 from a respiratory condition caused by “extensive mould” was an incredibly tragic story, as was that of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah’s death, partly caused by toxic air near where she lived. It is welcome that the Government are working to deliver Awaab’s Law through the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill and that Ella’s Law, the Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill, continues its journey through Parliament in the other place.
The Bishop of Durham received the following written answer on 27th March 2023:
The Lord Bishop of Durham asked His Majesty’s Government when they plan to publish details of how the £150 million funding for local authorities to support people on Ukraine visa schemes into longer term accommodation will be allocated.
On 22nd March 2023, the House of Lords debated amendments to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. The Bishop of Manchester, on behalf of the Bishop of Chelmsford, spoke in support of an amendment to the bill that would require local authorities to being forward an assessment of the local need for housing for older people as part of their housing plans:
The Lord Bishop of Manchester: My Lords, I support Amendment 221 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Best, to which, as he indicated, my right reverend friend the Bishop of Chelmsford added her name. She apologises for being unable to be in her place today; in my own brief remarks, I will make a number of points that she would have contributed had she been here. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, who, like the noble Lord, Lord Best, has a long and honourable history of leading the thinking on housing matters in this land.
I declare my interest in housing for older people: as set out in the register, I am a board member of the Wythenshawe Community Housing Group. In fact, it is more than an interest; it is a passion. In my time as chair of the association, we have opened a flagship development of 135 apartments for older people with mixed rental, shared ownership and outright purchase. Developments such as this enable local people to live in dignity in old age. They provide social space as well as private dwellings. In many cases, they allow residents to remain close to their family networks and former neighbours—the support networks that they need in later life. We can do well for older people but that should not have to rely on episcopal passion or potluck. It needs to be part of how we plan housing provision at a strategic level.
The Bishop of Manchester spoke in support of a motion to regret moved by Lord Shipley (on behalf of Baroness Thornhill) on 22nd March 2023:
‘That this House regrets that the Rent Officers (Housing Benefit and Universal Credit Functions) (Modification) Order 2023 will freeze Local Housing Allowance (LHA) at the levels applied in April 2020 and therefore fails to account for inflationary increases in rent, resulting in vulnerable claimants spending a greater proportion of income on rent; further recognises that His Majesty’s Government’s inability to control inflation has resulted in unaffordable rents and contributed to housing insecurity for all tenants; and calls on His Majesty’s Government to align LHA with local housing rates.’
The Lord Bishop of Manchester: My Lords, I am very pleased to take part in this short debate. I would like to add my support to the Motion proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, and along with others wish her a speedy recovery. I am grateful for the impressive way in which the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, took this on at very short notice.
I declare my interest as set out in the register, I am the owner of one apartment, in Birmingham, currently privately let. I echo the concerns of other noble Lords. I had intended to add further statistics—I am a mathematician by background—but I think noble Lords have had enough numbers in this short debate already.
The Bishop of St Albans spoke in support of a motion to regret relating to leaseholder protection tabled by Baroness Pinnock on 21st March 2023:
‘That this House regrets that in laying the Building Safety (Leaseholder Protections) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2023 (SI 2023/126) His Majesty’s Government have not published data on the number of landlords who have benefited from an error which allowed landlords to transfer costs of remedying historical building defects on to their leaseholders; further regrets that His Majesty’s Government have no intention to identify leaseholders affected by that error to advise them to appeal to the First-tier Tribunal to recover costs; and calls on His Majesty’s Government to publish these figures in a spirit of transparency and write to those affected with clear guidance on how to recover costs.’
The motion was agreed.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I shall add a few words of support for the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock. I stand with a weary sense of déjà vu, looking around at a number of people with whom I have sat as we have worked through building safety and fire safety measures.
What is interesting is that the Government fundamentally tried to grasp this problem. I pay tribute to the right honourable Michael Gove, who has been quite exceptional in taking hold of it and trying to solve it. I say well done to the Government for shifting the main problem in this very troubling area.
The Bishop of Oxford asked a question on the government’s heat and buildings strategy, and whether the government planned to change the target date for banning the installation of gas boilers in new build homes, on 28th February 2023:
The Lord Bishop of Oxford: To ask His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of progress on their Heat and Buildings Strategy, published on 19 October 2021; and whether they have any plans to change the date of 2025 for banning the installation of gas boilers in new-build homes.
The Bishop of Gloucester asked a question on provision of low cost housing for vulnerable groups of people such as those released from prison on 20th February 2023, during a debate on leasehold charges and transparency for leaseholders:
The Lord Bishop of Gloucester: My Lords, some of the most vulnerable in society, including prison leavers and refugees, can be heavily penalised by the housing system. In the south-west, there is a joint project with the police and crime commissioner to manufacture low-cost eco-pods which provide not only employment and skills for prisoners on day release but a potential solution to rehousing vulnerable people. What is being done to speed up this sort of housing provision for vulnerable groups?
You must be logged in to post a comment.