CIH Housing 2019: Theresa May seeks a legacy, but will “radical” reforms really spark “housing revolution”?

Theresa May (Demo)

IN one of her final performances as Prime Minister, Theresa May is set to offer “radical reform” to deliver more social housing and improve tenant rights, but it’s fair to say not everybody will be convinced.

The Prime Minister is making an appearance at the Chartered Institute of Housing’s (CIH) conference and exhibition in Manchester this afternoon, where she will give a keynote speech and offer her audience the parting gift of a “housing revolution”.

She is expected to urge new design standards — something explored by housing minister Kit Malthouse MP in his session yesterday — along with more social housing, and further tenant rights.

The Social Housing Green Paper is also expected to get a look-in, with an action plan supposedly set to make an appearance in September.

Whether she has anything to say on Grenfell and the ongoing resident campaigns to have dangerous cladding removed from their highrise buildings, well, we’ll just have to see what she has to say.

“This is a Government with a bold vision for housing and a willingness to act on it,” she is expected to say. “A Government that has delivered radical reforms for today, and the permanent structural changes that will continue to benefit the country for decades to come.”

But she will also warn against complacency, saying: “The housing shortage in this country began not because of a blip lasting one year or one Parliament, but because not enough homes were built over many decades. The very worst thing we could do would be to make the same mistake again.”

On that score, she’s unlikely to find any naysayers in the audience, or further afield; many industry figures, politicians and campaigners have been saying much the same for years — until recently to deaf ministerial ears.

Again, harking back to Malthouse’s ministerial session yesterday, the Prime Minister will call for new regulations for developers to build high-quality housing. The message is that quality must not be lost to quantity.

Some local authorities make Nationally Described Space Standards a condition of granting planning permission, according to the Prime Minister’s Office. But many do not — and even where standards are applied, they are not mandatory.

May will tell her audience this has resulted in an uneven playing field, with different rules in different parts of the country, leaving “tenants and buyers facing a postcode lottery.”

“I cannot defend a system in which owners and tenants are forced to accept tiny homes with inadequate storage,” May will say. “Where developers feel the need to fill show homes with deceptively small furniture… And where the lack of universal standards encourages a race to the bottom.”

She will also confirm plans to end so-called “no-fault” evictions, with a consultation to be published shortly.

On the Social Housing Green Paper, the Prime Minister is expected to announce the timetable for further action, calling for more high-quality social housing, better tenant rights, and demanding landlords demonstrate how they have acted on concerns raised.

Responding to these announcements, the Local Government Association’s housing spokesperson, Councillor Martin Tett, said: “There is a critical need for renewed national leadership on standards for new homes, which give certainty to councils, developers and communities. These standards should future-proof all new homes ensuring they are accessible for all ages and all markets, meet the housing needs of our ageing population and are environmentally sustainable.

“High-quality homes for affordable and social rent are desperately needed across the country now, and councils need to be able to play a leading role in solving our housing crisis. The last time this country built homes at the scale that we need now was in the 1970s when councils built more than 40% of them. Councils were trusted to get on and build homes that their communities needed, and they delivered, and they can do so again.

“It was good the Government lifted the Housing Revenue Account borrowing cap, but it now needs to go further in the Spending Review by devolving Right to Buy so councils retain 100% of their receipts and can set discounts locally.

“It should also scrap permitted development rights which take away the ability of local communities to shape the area they live in, ensure homes are built to high standards with the necessary infrastructure in place and have resulted in the potential loss of thousands of desperately-needed affordable homes.”



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