New Housing Secretary sets out stall with new housing measures

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A government priority

In his first major speech as housing, communities and local government secretary, James Brokenshire has declared housing to be the government’s domestic priority, whilst adding that fixing the broken housing market was not just an economic mission but also a moral one. In his speech on Monday 2nd July, he outlined a raft of new announcements covering renting, leasehold, home ownership and planning, setting out his stall as a man who means business and promising a more transparent system.

One area he focused on was renting, introducing proposals for a new longer tenancy model that will make renting more secure for both tenants and landlords. He announced the launch of a new consultation into overcoming the barriers to longer tenancies and proposed a minimum tenancy of three years, with a six-month break clause. Reaction to the proposal has been mixed to say the least and the consultation will run until the end of August.

Brokenshire also shone a light on the often huge gap between planning permissions and delivery of new homes. Build out (the time between planning permission and completion) has risen from 1.7 years in 2013 to four years, which is a massive slow down. Sir Oliver Letwin is leading an independent review of build out and has found that the larger the development site, the smaller the percentage of it is built each year. There has been a 40% lapse in planning permissions and in London a staggering 270,000 residential planning permissions remain unbuilt.

A compulsory requirement for developers to report on timing and pace of new housing delivery is also planned. But it is not just about quantity of new homes, but also about quality. Brokenshire emphasised the importance of designing and building places that people are happy to call home and that will become strong, thriving communities for generations to come with a strong sense of identity.

The government is looking at ways to stimulate innovation and competition into the house-building market and move away from a sector that has become far too reliant on a small group of large developers. One route is by embracing Modern Methods of Construction and innovations that will allow homes to be built faster.

The housing secretary released £450 million of government money to speed up delivery of developments on surplus public sector land through the Accelerated Construction Programme. The use of Modern Methods of Construction and SME builders is central to this initiative.

The previously announced £3 billion Home Building Fund also seeks to back the small and medium sized builders who were all but wiped out in the financial crash, investing in them to make a real difference to the overall number of new homes delivered.

He also addressed concerns around the leasehold market and introduced the new condition that new government funding schemes will no longer be able to use the money for unjustified new leasehold houses. Abusive practices in the leasehold market can turn a homeowner’s dream into a nightmare and make new homes unattractive to buyers. This new legislation is part of the governments continuing push to tackle unfair practices.

So just two months into his new post, Brokenshire has his work cut out addressing the many far-reaching challenges posed by the housing market. And it is likely there will be more consultations to come, as Brokenshire added: “Since 2010, government-backed schemes have helped over 468,000 households buy a home. The number of UK first-time buyers is at an 11-year annual high. But this ambition still remains out of reach for many. That’s why I will be considering further steps in the time ahead on turning the vision of home ownership into a reality.”