Housing 2021: Industry responds to housing minister

Industry responds to housing minister Christopher Pincher's keynote at Housing 2021 with qualified praise, but there's room for improvement.
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The industry has responded to housing minister Christopher Pincher’s keynote address to the Housing 2021 conference with qualified praise, but a distinct sense of “room for improvement.”

Pincher was keen to highlight the government’s commitment to provide almost £4bn for the decarbonisation agenda, and to promote the recovery from Covid as an ideal opportunity to “build back better.”

For James Prestwich, director of external policy and affairs at the Chartered Institute of Housing, the minister was a little light on detail: “There’s some real ambition in there, and that was very, very positive. As always with these things though, it’s is much about what isn’t said, as opposed to what is said,” he noted. “I thought there was a lot in there about houses, and about homes, and about properties, but maybe not enough about the people that live in them.”

John Bibby, CEO of the Association of Retained Council Housing, congratulated the minister on his recognition of the work local authorities have done to tackle homelessness, but was less positive about the minister’s apparent future focus for affordable housing: “There are already 1.1m people on council housing waiting lists, and I didn’t hear local authority housing mentioned once in that speech,” McGoldrick said. “If you go back to the previous government, Theresa May talked about a new generation of council housing, and that’s gone. There’s an awful lot of money going into homeownership to tackle the affordability crisis. The government spent 20 billion pounds on the Help to Buy Equity Scheme, there’s the stamp duty holiday away – who knows what the final figure will be? But what we’ve seen is house prices go up, so the affordability gap has got worse. is the key issue is that affordability. Most people want to aspire to homeownership, but I think there is also a place for investment in social rented accommodation from local authorities and housing associations in the new build programme, and that’s certainly what I’d like to see.”

John McGoldrick, MD of the National Federation of ALMOs, meanwhile, was concerned by the minister’s apparent focus on new build at the possible expense of existing housing stock. McGoldrick welcomed the minister’s recommitment to the government’s manifesto promise of £3.8m for decarbonisation, but couldn’t help wondering where the cash for other investments would come from: “The minister has already said there’ll be no more new money. We’ve got the changes to Decent Homes Standard, the Fire Safety Act – we know that in the short term landlords are spending tens of millions to make sure, quite rightly, that buildings are safe to live in,” he said. “Maybe some councils need some support in certain parts of the country today, and I’d just ask the minister to remember that next time he’s at the treasury.”

Image: Christopher Pincher was speaking today at Housing 2021. Courtesy Richard Townshend/Creative Commons.

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