With housing a key priority for this government, we were delighted to welcome Brandon Lewis, Housing and Planning Minister – and notably the first Housing Minister to survive a General Election – to Pagefield HQ for a breakfast Q&A session. Here are five things we learnt about the Government’s priorities for the sector and how they will fulfil their ambition to deliver 200,000 new homes a year over the next Parliament:
The Prime Minister put home ownership firmly at the centre of his speech at Conservative Conference last month when he launched a ‘national crusade to get homes built’. Brandon Lewis echoed this sentiment setting out that 86% of the population want to be able to own their own home and the Government intend to respond. Starter Homes, which provide a 20% discount on a new home for first time buyers, and plans to extend Right to Buy are all geared towards reaching this aspiration. Whilst the importance of other housing models are recognised by the Government, home ownership has and will remain firmly at the top of the political agenda.
Despite playing second fiddle to home ownership, it is acknowledged that the rental sector will play an important role in helping to boost housing supply. Learning the lessons from the United States, the Minister wants to see the development of the ‘professional rented sector’ where rental properties are delivered at scale with reserved benefits for both the landlord and renter. The appetite for institutional investment, coupled with lifestyle and behavioural change means that there is a growing cohort of young professionals who want to maintain the mobility that renting offers but demand good quality and well managed properties. The market needs to respond to this and the Private Rented Sector is therefore an essential part of the housing mix to help realise the ambition of 200,000 new homes per year.
Extension of Right to Buy, Starter Homes, changes to the planning process and other reforms to smooth the building process will be delivered by the Housing Bill that has begun its passage through Parliament. The Bill will pave the way for the legislative changes necessary to deliver the reforms needed to boost housebuilding and home ownership.
Over the last Parliament, we witnessed significant changes to the planning system. The Minister does not see this as the end of the process and is intent on continuing to review the system – the planning process still takes too long and remains overly bureaucratic. Councillors should therefore view their planning teams as economic regeneration departments driving investment within their local area and dedicate resources accordingly.
The Minister set out that the Government is open to new ideas and are always willing to look at new models to help achieve their aspiration to promote home ownership. This coupled with a willing and able Minister for Housing and Planning presents a clear window of opportunity over the coming months for the sector.