The UK is facing a housing crisis. In early 2016, Gavin Barwell was appointed as Theresa May’s new Housing Minister, replacing Brandon Lewis, becoming the fourth UK minister in charge of housing in as many years.
He started his first day by reiterating his predecessors pledge to build a million new homes to help solve the housing crisis and went to social media to add ‘Look forward to working with councils, housing associations, developers & investors to ensure we build the homes people need and deserve…’
At the start of 2016, David Cameron’s government announced a £1.2bn fund to prepare brownfield sites for new homes, helping deliver 200,000 new starter homes over the next five years by fast tracking the creation of 30,000 homes.
This announcement came six months before the EU referendum which sent waves through the country, industry and the government.
Joining the team now headed by Sajid Javid, who is now appointed as the Senior Minster in the Department for Communities and Local Government, which itself is responsible for housing, Gavin Barwell needs to grip the housing crisis firmly with both hands and tackle it head on otherwise it’s just going to get worse.
In a recent interview with the CIOB, Lord Kerslake, himself a former head of the Department for Communities and Local Government, urged Gavin Barwell to instigate a wholescale review of the governments housing policy. These comments followed the Lord’s economic affairs committee report, that the million homes by 2020 pledge, won’t be enough, suggesting the number was more like 300,000 new home every year for the foreseeable future.
David Cameron’s government continually missed housing targets, in effect adding to the debt of the current housing crisis year on year. A survey commissioned from the independent House of Commons Library by John Healey MP, has cited Cameron as the worst performing UK Prime Minster since 1923 when it comes to building new homes.
Theresa May quickly pledged to boost infrastructure spending and housing supply as part of a plan to build a UK economy that ‘works for everyone’ but is this too little too late for the UK Housing market?
Following his appointment, Savid Javid said: “My priorities are to build more homes and increase home ownership, devolve powers to local areas and help communities deliver excellent public services.” However, this sentiment mirrors this governments previous promises about how housing was the ‘most important issue’ in the UK today, promises they have continued in failing to deliver.
In a recent speech Theresa May herself stated that SME’s are the backbone of the country and for our industry to drive itself out of a post Brexit slump, engaging SMEs at the earliest stage is paramount. In a previous article we discussed how it was a golden age for SMEs in construction, with unrivalled opportunities for SME’s to engage directly with the client. By ensuring them more freedom to tender and subsequently deliver on smaller projects, the Government knows that industry SMEs could be making a significant dent in their housing figures.
So where does that leave the UK? Despite the result of the EU referendum, the UK still needs houses – a lot of houses. It doesn’t matter if that figure is 200,000 a year or 300,000 because if this government, with all its promises, policies and desires, can at peak, only muster up less than 160,000 new homes, then this is a crisis that will not go away without a radical and effective response.