Industry reacts to new housing minister

New housing minister Alok Sharma, MP for Reading West, has been urged to build on the housing white paper to ensure delivery of the government’s ambitious target.

Mr Sharma takes up the role as minister of state for housing and planning after former housing minister Mr Barwell was unseated during last week’s general election.

Tweeting about his appointment, Mr Sharma said: “Honoured to be appointed minister of state for housing and planning to work on building the homes Britain needs.”

Mr Sharma joins the Department for Communities and Local Government, which is still headed up by Sajid Javid.

What should Mr Sharma’s priorities be?

Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, welcomed the appointment of Mr Sharma, but felt he must focus on implementing the strong proposals laid out in the housing white paper.

“He assumes the role at a critical juncture for the delivery of the government’s ambitious target to build 1.5 million homes between 2015 and 2022. 

“Vital to this will be ensuring that the recommendations within the 2017 Housing White Paper – that aim to diversify the supply of new homes and revitalise the SME housebuilding sector – are delivered in full. 

“The previous housing minister Gavin Barwell deserves credit for his work in pushing forward a wide range of reforms, including those designed to tackle some of the barriers to growth faced by smaller-scale builders, and we hope that Sharma can build on this legacy.” 

Gavin Barwell
Mr Barwell (above right) lost his seat in the recent snap general election

Dan Gandesha, founder of property investment platform Property Partner, hoped Mr Sharma would be able to get a grip of a housing crisis which represented one of the biggest threats to the UK’s economy. 

"We urge him to make clear without delay that commitments made in the housing white paper still stand and that investment in homes of all types remain key priorities for the new government, particularly when it comes to affordable, quality rental stock, which is a growing issue in the UK's cities and the capital.”

Dan felt that with a fresh pair of eyes, the disruptive 3% additional stamp duty charge should also be reviewed as far as institutional investors are concerned. 

“This type of investment activity actually improves the UK's stock of quality rental accommodation and delivers cash to the very developers we are relying on to fix the broken housing market in this country. 

“This needs to be properly recognised in the tax treatment they are subject to.”

Mr Sharma becomes the third housing minister in the past year with Mr Barwell only succeeding Brandon Lewis in 2016.

Rico Wojtulewicz, policy adviser for the Home Builders Federation, felt Mr Sharma needed to get on with reforming the planning process and unlocking land for SME builders.

“SMEs are the beating heart of local economies working within a 15-mile radius of their HQ, they contribute to filling regional skills and housing shortages.

“Our members, mostly SMEs, are encouraged by Mr Sharma’s previous parliamentary work on tackling late payment, supporting sustainable development and valuing local employment.  

“As housing and planning minister, we hope he will be a champion for SMEs.” 

Dan also cited planning as a key priority, adding: "If the incoming minister also acted to speed up the planning process alongside taxing land as soon as it has planning permission to prevent land banking, then they would be set to make a revolutionary impact on the problems faced by buyers and tenants nationally."

Brian pointed out that the Conservative Party’s manifesto opened up the possibility of local authorities taking a more active role in housebuilding, suggesting it was open to more radical approaches. 

“It would be a shame if such radicalism was now dropped in light of a hung parliament. 

“We look forward to working closely with the new minister, whose experience in the Treasury should hold him in excellent stead for the challenges ahead.”

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