Housing policy deserves seat at top table – Bob Hunt

24 Jul 2014

How important is the housing market to UK plc? The short answer is ‘very’.

Its impact is wide reaching, touching many, many sectors including those close to our lives, for example, the building trade and financial services to retail and energy. But should we question if, at the heart of government, it is held in such high esteem?

Given the scope and breadth of David Cameron's recent ministerial reshuffle, one might have expected him to push further and return the housing minister to their rightful position within the cabinet.

This would send a message that housing - in particular improving the flow of supply - is deemed economically and politically important enough to be represented when all the major cabinet decisions are being made.

However, if the industry was hoping for such a move, we have all been left disappointed.

While Cameron did make the new housing minister, Brandon Lewis, a full minister he will still not attend cabinet. However, he does become both minister for housing and planning - so perhaps we will now see some much-needed joined-up thinking. To my mind, a trick has been missed and I'm quite intrigued why the Prime Minister did not bring the housing and planning minister into cabinet.

He probably feels his government has done everything it can do, prior to this point, in order to get the housing market moving again - Funding for Lending, planning changes, plans for new garden cities, Help to Buy, etc.

What more can be put in place to increase housing supply during the next nine months given the fact house builders work well in advance of this and any rewards from those policies are already working their way through the supply pipeline?

In effect, with few exceptions, it's highly unlikely any new policies over the next year or so will have an impact during that time.

It is disappointing of course but in a way the government can already point to a number of measures that have been introduced which were designed to stimulate the market and, particularly with Help to Buy 1, can show a real impact and influence. If questioned on this issue, I suspect they will be confident in their response and they also have the fallback that new house building levels have been poor for many decades - this is not just a problem of the last five years.

Bob Hunt

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