Thank you to everyone who contacted me about the government’s plans for leasehold reform.
The government has been promising leasehold reform for more than six years, including repeated promises to ban leasehold on all new homes by an ever-rotating cast of Conservative housing ministers, so it’s deeply disappointed after all this time that what is now being presented to parliament is so underwhelming and unambitious. If I’m being completely honest, it smacks of doing the bare minimum in an election year and hoping to get away with it.
Some of the measures in this Bill are welcome, with new rights, powers and protections for leaseholders that do at least represent progress. But I remain deeply concerned that some others, such as clauses intended to protect leaseholders from covering the legal and valuation costs associated with lease extensions, are too weak to work in practice – which is why Labour will be presenting amendments to this Bill in parliament to strengthen them.
But it’s what’s missing from this Bill that makes it such a disappointment, because while the sale of new leasehold houses will be banned, the same is not true for new flats, despite the fact that flats make up 70% of all leasehold properties. So, the question the Secretary of State for Housing, Michael Gove, really needs to answer is why he thinks it’s ok for the owners of flats to have to continue living under a system he himself described as “feudal and archaic”.
If they’re not going to ban leasehold for all new flats, then I at least want to see measures that make it mandatory for the freeholder of new flats to have to establish and operate a residents’ management company responsible for all service charge matters and associated works, with each leaseholder given a share. But frankly this mediocre Bill has only strengthened my resolve to get a Labour government elected who will take the housing crisis seriously and tip the balance of power away from developers and back towards leaseholders and tenants where it should belong.