More build-to-rent homes and a diversification of the housebuilding market to increase opportunities for small and medium sized builders are among the government’s priorities, housing minister Alok Sharma has said.
Speaking at a fringe event at the Conservative Party conference on Monday, the housing minister told delegates he would also be focused on improving affordability and the quality of new build homes, and added his job was to “deliver the housing white paper”.
Mr Sharma said while the chancellor’s announcement earlier in the day of an extra £10bn for Help to Buy was “helpful”, this did not remove the need to build more homes.
“It’s very simple but we just need to build more houses. We need to build more houses to sell and to rent [and] we need to diversify the number of people who are building houses,” he said.
Mr Sharma revealed ministers had “talked about” a new process where rather than public sector simply selling land for development, the Homes and Communities Agency “takes on land that’s owned by public sector and we encourage small and medium sized builders to build on it”. Mr Sharma said the government wanted at least 10% of local authority housing sites to be developed by small and medium sized builders and allow for an increase in custom homebuilding to levels seen in Europe.
On build-to-rent, he said the country needed to attract more institutional investors into this market.
Mr Sharma also revealed he would be embarking on a “tour” of the country, speaking to tenants about the “issues that matter to them” to inform the social housing green paper announced by communities secretary Sajid Javid last month.
“For me what’s really important in this whole process is that come 2022 people feel that there is a sense of fairness about the housing market, whether you’re looking to buy or whether you’re looking to rent,” he said.
Mr Sharma said his four priorities are to make the system more affordable; improve quality; increase build-to-rent and diversify the “people doing the building”. He said: “If we don’t get these right as a Conservative Party we will have trouble at the next election.”
However, during the session Mr Sharma declined to answer questions on the roll out of the extended right-to-buy to housing association tenants, a move which is set to be funded by forcing councils to sell off their high value homes. David Montague, chief executive of L&Q housing association, told the session a pilot of the scheme among its tenants had demonstrated that the “demand is there”.
Mr Sharma did indicate there would be an announcement “soon” on social housing rents beyond 2020, when the current policy of annual 1% reductions expires.