The General Election in June was meant to be Theresa May’s crowning glory. The opportunity for the Prime Minister to simultaneously achieve her own significant mandate to govern, a strong hand at the EU negotiating table, and the chance to bury Labour’s likelihood of forming a government for a generation or more.
The electorate had other ideas.
A significantly weakened Theresa May was left to negotiate with the DUP in order to form a government and many senior ministers and MPs were left clearing their parliamentary desks. Among them was Gavin Barwell, the Minister for Housing and Planning. This was the first significant moment in a tumultuous 100 days in housing. Below, we examine some other significant moments for housing over the 100 days since the general election.
13 June - New housing Minister
Alok Sharma was appointed Minister for Housing and Planning on 13th June. He entered the role with the focus of executing the policies set out in the recently released Housing White Paper. Just 24 hours later the focus of his first 100 days would change dramatically.
14 June - Grenfell Tower
The disaster at Grenfell Tower shocked the nation and put a spotlight firmly on fire safety and building regulations. The first priorities were rehousing and supporting victims swiftly followed by inquiries, investigations and testing of cladding around the country. Testing and investigation is ongoing and the repercussions of the disaster are set to reverberate for years to come.
4 July - £2.3bn investment in infrastructure for new housing
A £2.3 billion fund was launched in an attempt to unlock 100,000 new homes in areas of high demand. The new investment through the Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) aims to solve the problem of house building being held back due to lack of funding for vital infrastructure projects like the building of roads, bridges, energy networks and other utilities. Local authorities across England can come forward with proposals to help get homes built faster.
25 July - Consultation on sale of new build leasehold houses
The government’s Housing White Paper ‘Fixing our broken housing market’ published in February 2017 highlighted the government’s aim to improve consumer choice and fairness in the leasehold sector.
This consultation looks at a range of measures to tackle unfair and unreasonable abuses of leasehold; in particular the sale of new leasehold houses and onerous ground rents.
24 August - Ten year high in new build construction
The number of new build homes under construction has reached the highest level since 2008. The latest house building data shows that 164,960 new homes were started in the year to June 2017, up 13% on the previous year, and have increased by more than three-quarters since the low in 2009.
More than 153,000 new homes have been completed during the same period, showing an increase of 11% compared with the year before.
14 September - Alok Sharma delivers maiden speech
Housing Minister Alok Sharma gives his first speech since taking office - 93 days after his appointment. He referred to the terrible start his tenure had, with the Grenfell fire the day after taking office, and said more homes need to be built faster, whether for sale or rent. He pledged the Government would not introduce rent controls but made clear the ban on lettings fees will happen.
Given the ups in housing since the election, it is clear the government has many challenges ahead. Delivering the promises made in the Housing White Paper while addressing the issues and concerns raised by the tragedy at Grenfell are likely to be key features of the next twelve months. It remains to be seen how successful the government will be in balancing these demands.
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