UK's New Housing Minister Hits the Ground Running

The UK’s new housing and planning officer, MP Gavin Barwell has a tough job a head in his new role. Not only is the time-consuming and complicated planning permission process a well-known issue in the UK that he must work with and improve, there is also a severe lack of homes. And these two problems represent just the tip of the ice-berg of what needs to be done.

On accepting the role from Prime Minister Theresa May, Housing Minister Barwell details his views of the UK’s housing policies and his commitment to providing housing across the UK.

“Every MP will tell you that housing is one of the most common issues they deal with in their surgeries,” Barwell said in his blog. “I look forward to working with councils, housing associations, developers, investors and local communities to make sure we build we need with the mix of tenures that people want and that those homes should be great places to live.”

National Housing Federation chief executive David Orr made no bones about what he’s hoping for from the new minister in his statement on the new appointment: “Housing associations look forward to working with him in partnership to tackle the country's housing deficit. The priority now must be to ensure the supply of new homes does not falter and housing associations are well placed to step in and keep Britain building.”

But, it appears that the UK’s new housing minister is already facing a potential problem on the supply of new homes side. In its trading update, Barratt Developments said one element of its post-Brexit plans could be to reduce the number of homes it builds. The reason? So it can assess what impact the vote and the negotiations that will follow, will have on demand.

“Following the EU referendum, we are mindful of the greater uncertainty now facing the UK economy,” Barratt’s chief executive David Thomas said. “Consequently, the immediate outlook for our industry is less clear…. We had contingency plans in place and we have taken appropriate measures to reduce our risk, such as reassessing land approvals, as we continue to monitor the market.”

Another issue that has been raised in the weeks since Barwell has taken on his new role is the proposed privatisation of the currently Government-owned Land Registry.

“Gavin will have a lot on his in-tray and a number of key concerns still exist in the sector,” said David Cox, managing director of ARLA, and Mark Hayward, managing director of the NAEA in a joint statement. “The Government’s decision to sell the Land Registry risks reversing its good work on transparency and we call on the new minister to work with the new Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Department to think again on this proposal.”

With so many key issues being raised already by industry leaders and other MPS, there is no hiding the size and importance of MP Barwell’s new role. Nor can he shy away from what needs to do; begin work with the desire, energy and ability to create and implement a housing and planning system that provides more of what is needed in the UK.

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