CWAG News Update August 2020

CWAG News Update August 2020

This update includes the following: 

·         Government plans for reform of the planning system
·         Draft Building Safety Bill
·         Evictions Ban extended
·         CWAG AGM September 2020
·         New in the Library / Recent Publications 

Government plans for reform of the planning system

On 6th August, the Government published two planning related consultations:
White Paper Planning for the Future setting out plans for fundamental reform of the planning system requiring primary and secondary legislation.
Interim proposals for immediate implementation set out in the document Changes to the current planning system

Changes to the current planning system (consultation deadline 1st October)

This document sets out proposals for immediate changes to improve the effectiveness of the current planning system and includes the following measures:
Changes to the standard methodology for assessing housing need.
The proposed new methodology will help boost numbers in areas that currently have low projections and overall will increase the calculation for housing need to 337,000 units (up from 270,000 under the current approach). This will allow greater flexibility towards achieving the current target figure of 300,000 units. Lichfields has published an analysis of the implications of the proposals by local authority.
Measures to secure implementation of the First Homes scheme through developer contributions.
The Government intention is that a minimum of 25% of all affordable homes secured through developer contributions should be First Homes which will replace shared ownership schemes.  30% will be the minimum discount although authorities could choose to a higher discount. Initially schemes will be funded through Section 106 but in the longer-term funding will be through the Infrastructure Levy.
Exception sites (outside of Local Plan allocations and not rural exception sites)
These are to be used for First Homes but can include an element of market housing as well.  
Temporary lifting of the small sites threshold
The Government is proposing to temporarily lift the small sites threshold below which developers are exempted from affordable housing contributions. The intention is to increase the threshold from 10 units to 40 or 50 units for a period of 18 months to support SME builders as the economy recovers from Covid19.
Extension of Permission in Principle
Proposal to extend Permission in Principle to include major sites so landowners and developers have a fast track to secure the principle of development for housing without having to draw up detailed plans first. 

White Paper "Planning for the Future" (consultation deadline 29th October).

The White Paper sets out proposals for wide-ranging reform of the current planning system.

Proposals include a new planning system based on zoning. At the plan making stage areas will be allocated one of three categories - as Growth Areas, Protected Areas or Renewal Areas. Once the zonal plan is in place, there will be an assumption of ‘permission in principle’. The change is intended to speed up the delivery of new homes.
Other features include greater use of technology and a simpler national levy to replace developer contributions.
The government’s one-page summary of the proposals can be viewed here.
A group of planning academics and researchers have produced a blog The wrong answers to the wrong questions presenting a critique of 5 key claims underpinning the reforms. 

Draft Building Safety Bill

This draft Bill was published at the end of the Parliamentary session in July to allow more time for consultation and scrutiny before the Bill is presented to Parliament in the autumn.
The Bill introduces a new safety regime for high rise buildings (defined as 18 meters and above) and establishes a new Building Safety Regulator within the Health and Safety Executive to implement this. The Regulator will oversee a new, more stringent regime for high-rise residential buildings based around a duty-holder system that ensures responsibility for building safety is identified with named individuals at all stages from initial design and construction through to when the building is occupied.
Once the building is occupied, the ‘Accountable Person’ usually the building owner will be responsible for safety and must register with the Building Safety Regulator and apply for a Building Assurance Certificate. The Accountable Person will need to conduct and maintain a safety case risk assessment for the building and appoint a Building Safety Manager to oversee it day to day. 
Building inspectors who are responsible for signing buildings off as safe for people to live in will also have to follow the new rules and must register with the regulator.  The draft Bill will also give the Government new powers to better regulate construction materials and products and ensure they are safe to use.
The emphasis in the draft Bill on making individual named persons accountable in law for the safety of high-risk buildings has major implications for landlords with high rise stock. The draft Bill imposes specific responsibilities on the Accountable Person and Building Safety Managers along with penalties for compliance failures including unlimited fines and imprisonment.
The National Federation of ALMOs has arranged a webinar to discuss the implications for councils and ALMOs in managing high-rise buildings details

Evictions Ban Extended

On 21st August, the Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick announced a 4-week extension to the evictions ban taking the total ban to 6 months. He also announced the introduction of new 6-month notice periods until at least 31st March 2021, to give tenants greater protection from eviction over the winter.
Once eviction hearings restart, it is the intention that the judiciary will prioritise the most serious cases including those involving anti-social behaviour and domestic abuse. 

CWAG Executive Group Vacancies

CWAG is seeking nominations to join the CWAG Executive Group responsible for the management and direction of the group. There are currently three vacancies.
Membership is not onerous and confers benefits in terms of personal and organisational development including the opportunity to gain access to a range of policy meetings and debates.
We are keen to encourage nominations including from members with finance experience.
If you are interested in the role please contact either Ceri Davies (CWAG Chair), or Alison Freeman (CWAG Policy Officer). 

CWAG Annual General Meeting

The AGM this year will take place on Wednesday 23rd September 2020 on Teams.
Our speaker Jenny Osbourne, Chief Executive of Tpas  will discuss the impact of the Covid19 crisis on tenant engagement and scrutiny along with the recently published CWAG commissioned TPAS report and toolkit which addresses the council role in ensuring quality and effective Tenant Management by their ALMOs.
The detailed programme for the AGM will be circulated shortly.

Recent Publications / New in the Library

The latest annual survey looking at the impact of Universal Credit on landlords and tenants (covering the period between March 2019 and March 2020). As this survey covers the period just before the start of the pandemic it provides a useful benchmark for further planned work into the impact of Covid19.
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