The recent UK government cuts to support for mortgage interest (SMI) payments from next month will cause financial difficulty for thousands of home-owners on lower incomes. There are currently 110,000 claimants of SMI. A recent answer to a parliamentary question from Shadow Housing minister for England, Melanie Onn MP, revealed that up to 5% – 5,500 – of those affected haven’t had full information about the end of the scheme. A recent FOI request revealed that fewer than 7,000 households have signed up for the loan scheme which replaces SMIs.
This scheme is much valued and the Government needed to answer for its treatment of low income households. Instead the minister pointed to my voting record. What he failed to note was the reason why Labour voted against the stamp duty measures in England. We voted against the Government’s proposals because independent researched showed that it would only benefit the wealthiest in society and to make matters worse would inflate house prices not make them more affordable.
A number of constituents have been impacted by a scandal of the new housing market where new homes are sold with leaseholds – which results in ground rents that in some cases double every ten years and will cost over £7,000 to buy the leasehold.
In many cases, the people being hurt by this are first time buyers who have saved for years to buy a home. Only to find that housing developers have used leasehold schemes to undermine their dream of owning their first home.
Many people who purchased a new home with these leaseholds were not given legal advice and if they approached a sales team they would be sold a leasehold under pressing sales tactics.
We are now in the absurd situation where developers are profiting from this legal loophole and giving bonuses to their Chief Executives of over £100m. This is wrong and needs to be put to an end.
The Government happened to make a statement today setting out their approach for this, which I welcome. But I am still concerned that by the time the legislation comes into being developers will have sold on their leaseholds to third parties to negate their liability.
On Monday, I asked the Housing Minister, Gavin Barwell MP, why the Tory Government is failing to build the houses that are needed over the border in England.
I pointed out to the Minister that the Labour controlled Flintshire County Council has worked tirelessly with the Labour controlled Assembly to deliver 600 new council homes in Flintshire.
The Minister failed to give a decent answer to how the Conservative Government are going to tackle the housing crisis in England. This is disappointing as the solution to the housing crisis is simple: build more houses.
Labour is Wales, despite facing opposition from the Tories, has redirected resources to ensure that the good quality social housing is built. Government is all about choice and the choices made by the Tories show that they are against the many and only for the few.
On Monday, I asked the Housing Minister for England, Gavin Barwell MP, if he would welcome the work of Flintshire County Council to build more council homes.
As you will be aware, Local Government and housing is a devolved matter in Wales. The work of Flintshire County Council demonstrates what we can achieve if we are serious about tackling the housing crisis. In England there is a Government who is reluctant to take on the issue of the housing shortage meaning more people are struggling to achieve their dream of owning their own home. Whereas in Wales, the Welsh Assembly Government and Flintshire County Council have worked hand in hand to deliver the much needed 500 new council homes.
These new homes will help people get truly affordable accommodation, delivers jobs for the local economy and helps the small and medium sized builders grow in troubled times.
The Minister referred to his new White Paper, which is designed to build more homes in England. However, his proposals merely scrape the surface of the underlying issues. If we are truly going to enable people to rent affordably or own their own home we must build. Simple as that. The UK Government is ducking this task, as they have for the past 7 years, but Labour has shown that in Government we can deliver the homes we need.