Background and Summary
3.The Housing and Regeneration Act gives effect to the Government’s proposals to create the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) and the Office for Tenants and Social Landlords (TSA). The Prime Minister’s statement to Parliament of 11 July 2007 on the draft legislative programme set out the context for the Act. The Queen’s Speech on 6th November 2007 confirmed that “available and affordable housing is one of my Government's main priorities. Legislation will be introduced to create a new Homes and Communities Agency that will deliver more social and affordable housing, and promote regeneration.”
4.Professor Martin Cave began an independent review of social housing regulation on 14th December 2006. Professor Cave’s remit was to establish a clear set of objectives for the regulation of social housing to underpin any new regulatory system, present options for reform and make recommendations about institutional arrangements. His report Every Tenant Matters: A review of social housing regulation, was published on 19th June 2007. On the same day, the Government launched the consultation paper Delivering Housing and Regeneration: Communities England and the future of social housing regulation. This paper took forward Professor Cave’s recommendations and set out proposals on the role, responsibilities and operation of Communities England, now the HCA. The then Minister for Housing and Planning, Yvette Cooper MP, made a statement to Parliament on 15th October 2007, which set out further detail on the new social housing regulator, the Office for Tenants and Social Landlords. The Government’s Housing Green Paper Homes for the future: more affordable, more sustainable, published on 23rd July 2007, set out the role of the HCA in the context of the proposals set out in the Green Paper.
5.This Act follows from these reviews, consultations and statements.
6.Part 1 of the Act creates the HCA and sets out its objects and powers. The objects of the HCA will be to improve the supply and quality of housing in England; to secure the regeneration or development of land or infrastructure in England; to support in other ways the creation, regeneration or development of communities in England or their continued well-being; and to contribute to sustainable development and good design. The Act also abolishes the predecessor organisations of the Urban Regeneration Agency and the Commission for the New Towns, which operated under the joint name of English Partnerships. The powers of the HCA are modelled to a large extent on those of the Urban Regeneration Agency. The HCA will take on the functions of those organisations and also certain functions of the Housing Corporation, related to investment in housing.
7.Part 2 of the Act creates the new social housing regulator, the Office for Tenants and Social Landlords, and sets out its objectives and powers. The new regulator will regulate social housing in England provided by registered providers (which will include current Registered Social Landlords (RSLs), along with other bodies who choose to register). The new regulator will take on the regulation functions of the Housing Corporation. The Act also abolishes the Housing Corporation.
8.The Act also gives effect to other measures in relation to housing services which were proposed in or alongside the Housing Green Paper Homes for the future: more affordable, more sustainable on 23rd July 2007:
proposals to enable certain local housing authorities, on application to the Secretary of State, to keep rental income from new supply dwellings (included in the Housing Green Paper);
proposals to enable certain local housing authorities, on application to the Secretary of State, to opt out of the Housing Revenue Account Subsidy system (included in the Housing Green Paper); and
proposals that a rating against prescribed sustainability standards should be introduced for new homes, indicating whether the home has been assessed and, if it has, the performance of the home against the standards (proposed in The future of the Code for Sustainable Homes - Making a rating mandatory, published on 23rd July 2007 alongside the Housing Green Paper).
9.The Act also gives effect to a number of measures in the consultation paper Tenant Empowerment: A Consultation Paper, published on 11th July 2007, which set out proposals to increase tenant empowerment. The Act gives effect to proposals to:
introduce a requirement for a local authority to hold a statutory ballot to ascertain tenants’ views before seeking consent from the Secretary of State in relation to England or the Welsh Ministers in relation to Wales to transfer its housing stock to a private sector landlord; and
give local authority tenants powers to consider the options for the future management of their housing stock and, if they desire, to effect a change of a landlord (subject to certain conditions).
10.The Act also gives effect to other measures in relation to housing services:
to allow local authorities and RSLs to offer tenancies which are not secure or assured to families referred to Family Intervention Projects;
to reform the law relating to tolerated trespassers by preventing the creation of tolerated trespassers in the future; and restoring tenancy status to existing tolerated trespassers, as set out in Tolerated trespassers: A consultation paper, published on 20th August 2007;
to make changes to the requirements in the 1985 and 1987 Landlord and Tenant Acts about the information landlords will be required to supply to service charge payers and how service charges monies are held, as set out in Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002: A Consultation Paper on Regular Statements of Account and Designated Client Accounts, published on 25th July 2007;
to protect providers of shared ownership housing from early enfranchisement(1) and to allow limits on the maximum equity share which shared owners can buy to keep homes available as affordable housing in areas designated as protected by the Secretary of State in relation to England and by the Welsh Ministers in relation to Wales;
minor amendments to the way the right to buy scheme works, as set out in Clarifying the Right to Buy rules: a consultation paper, published on 22nd August 2007;
to enable service personnel to establish a local connection with the district in which they serve, for the purpose of applying to a local housing authority for an allocation of social housing or homelessness assistance;
to remove the requirement on local housing authorities that they be accepted by the Secretary of State for inclusion on an annual disposals programme before seeking her consent to a large scale transfer of housing to the private sector;
to widen the existing power for the Secretary of State in relation to England and Welsh Ministers in relation to Wales to provide financial assistance for the giving of general advice in respect of residential landlord and tenant law; information and training and for running an alternative dispute resolution service;
to extend from six months to two years the time limit for local authorities to prosecute those who breach any provision of building regulations to which section 35 (penalty for contravening building regulations) of the Building Act 1984 applies, as set out in Longer time limits for prosecution of breaches of Building Regulations – Consultation, published on 31st July 2007;
to provide the same security of tenure, and other rights and responsibilities, to gypsies and travellers on local authority sites as gypsies and travellers on private sites, and occupants of other types of residential caravan site, such as park home sites. This is in response to the European Court of Human Rights ruling in the case of Connors v United Kingdom in 2004. The ruling can be found on the European Court of Human Rights portal at http://cmiskp.echr.coe.int/tkp197/view.asp?action=html&documentId=699671&portal=hbkm&source=externalbydocnumber&table=F69A27FD8FB86142BF01C1166DEA398649;
to widen the existing power for the Lord Chancellor to provide financial assistance for the giving of general advice in respect of the law relating to commonhold land relating to residential matters, information and training and an alternative dispute resolution service; and
to remedy a declaration of incompatibility of the European Convention of Human Rights in relation to section 185(4) of the Housing Act 1996 and section 119(1) of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 and Article 7A(4) of the Housing (Northern Ireland) Order 1988.
Shared owners buying their freehold before they have acquired full ownership of their home by buying further shares under the terms of their lease