Housing took centre-stage at the Conservative Party conference this year, as new Communities Secretary Sajid Javid unveiled £5bn in funding for housebuilding. The £3bn Home Building Fund and £2bn for ‘accelerated construction’ were welcomed by housing associations, with the G15’s David Montague praising the tone of “determination and ambition” displayed by ministers.
The Conservative conference in Birmingham had a new optimism in the air, with social landlords and housebuilders optimistic that the sector could just about hit the government’s one million homes target. David Thomas, chief executive of housebuilder Barratt Developments, said: “I think it’s likely at November this year we [England] will be at 200,000 homes, in terms of net additions.” That’s up from 170,690 last year and from 121,200 in 2011.
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons for this optimism was the government’s focus on supply rather than tenure. Theresa May said in her closing address the “honest truth” was “we simply need to build more homes”. Gavin Barwell, the housing minister, demonstrated a willingness to be flexible over the Shared Ownership and Affordable Homes Programme, and even indicated there could be more capital funding for submarket rent. “I am a man in need of allies,” he told attendees.
In another sign that ministers are willing to listen to the sector, Mr Javid announced a Housing White Paper, expected to be published around the Autumn Statement. It appears now is a very good time to be speaking to government.
Senior reporter, IH