Rewarding the Aspiration of Homeownership?
signiﬁcant protests, the ﬁnal text of the Act retains most of the key provisions
of the Bill. Although much of the precise detail as to the operation of the
provisions is yet unknown (this will be provided for in subsequent regulations),
the 2016 Act offers an important moment to assess the trajectory of housing
policy in England.4Detractors argue that the reforms sound the death knell
for social housing,5herald ‘the end of localism’6and demonstrate ‘ideologi-
cal overreach’ on the part of the Conservative Party.7We assess these claims
through an examination of the key provisions of the 2016 Act as they pertain
to social housing and measures targeted to increase homeownership, and we
evaluate their likely impact. In so doing, it is argued that the reforms reveal
the government’s determination to promote homeownership above all other
housing tenures as the only stable housing option and, moreover, do so at the
expense of social housing. We argue that the 2016 Act therefore contributes
to an intensiﬁcation in the residualisation of social housing under which those
unable to access homeownership are denied the opportunity for housing sta-
bility. The Act sells a false dream of ‘affordable housing’ and adopts an overtly
moralistic tone which praises homeowners as aspirational, thereby degrading
those who do not or cannot own property. Crucially, the 2016 Act enters the
statute book at a time of acute housing crisis in Britain: with homelessness on
the rise,8the cost of the average home in popular towns reaching 10–20 times
the average salary,9a surge in private sector rents10 and rates of homeownership
in decline.11 It is against this febrile backdrop that the provisions of the Housing
and Planning Act 2016 must be scrutinised.
BACKGROUND TO THE 2016 ACT
Housing policy has, since the earliest days of the 2010 Coalition Government,
taken centre stage in policy-terms12 and dealing with ‘the housing problem’ has
become an essential marker of political competence. Theresa May’s coronation
4 The Act applies mostly to England. Scotland and Wales deviate from many of the measures in
5 HL Deb vol 609 col 465 9 May 2016.
7Editorial,The Guardian 8 May 2016 at https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/
may/08/the-guardian-view-on-the-housing-bill-ideological-overreach (last accessed 16
8 Department for Communities and Local Government, Homelessness Statistical Release (23 March
9 Ofﬁce for National Statistics, Housing Summary Measures Analysis (5 August 2015).
10 HomeLet, HomeLet Rental Index (June 2016).
11 Resolution Foundation Report, The Housing Headwind: The Impact of Housing Costs on Liv-
ing Standards 28 June 2016 at http://www.resolutionfoundation.org/publications/the-housing-
headwind-the-impact-of-rising-housing-costs-on-uk-living-standards (last accessed 16 Septem-
ber 2016); S. Clarke,‘Home ownership struggle reaches Coronation Street’ Resolution Foundation
Blog 2 August 2016 at http://www.resolutionfoundation.org/media/blog/home-ownership-
struggle-reaches-coronation-street/ (last accessed 16 September 2016).
12 See, for example, the 2015 General Election and the London Mayoral Election of 2016, which
were fought largely according to which political party or candidate could out-promise their
rivals as to the number of houses it would build if elected.
662 C2017 The Author. The Modern Law Review C2017 The Modern Law Review Limited.
(2017) 80(4) MLR 661–684