New in post as the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove is a minister of some considerable experience and clout within cabinet. Potentially, this could be very good news for the social housing sector. First item on the agenda and not really addressed during the conference are current pledges to build 300,000 homes per annum; the governments stated ambition could be thwarted by a combination of NIMBY’s inevitably supported by their local MP.
Maybe the Prime Minister could throw some light on that subject but his commitment to the use of brownfield sites and preserving greenfield sites, he mentioned “you can also see how much room there is to build the homes that young families need in this country not on greenfields, not just jammed in the South East but beautiful homes on brownfield sites in places where homes make sense.” could also be seen as a step away from large scale housing production.
At the conference, we were pleased to hear Michael Gove say “And so I think we definitely need more social housing and there may be some people who because of circumstances will be in social housing for much of their adult life, we must ensure that it is attractive, decent and well-integrated with the rest of the community.” There is nothing to disagree with here!
However, it is clear that the Minister is no great fan of the sector saying “And also the quality of social housing, particularly in some parts of the country, remains scandalously poor” It is difficult to argue that the Minister does not have a point following reports from ITV and others which we have covered in previous blogs, we know there are pockets of serious deprivation and issues with property condition and failures in communication.
On balance it would appear that Mr Gove might have more of an insight into the lives of residents than one might immediately suspect. Let us hope that he will be a champion for tenants and will support, what we think will be a difficult challenge, in significantly raising new housing output.
It’s hard to see exactly where his boss stands. The Prime Minister talked about fixing the ‘broken housing market’ to solve the ‘national productivity puzzle, arguing “This is ensuring homes are build in the right place and are affordable”. And although Boris acknowledges the change required to ‘level up’ and at least housing got a mention there wasn’t any mention of policies or funding to support his ideas.
We look forward to hearing on how the Government looks to support the sector in levelling up, building social rented homes that are required and are truly affordable but also to meet the requirements of net zero.
Next up, the Autumn Budget!