New housing minister promises to tackle housing crisis

Posted 25 July 2016 by Ben Salisbury

The new Minister for housing, planning and London, Gavin Barwell, has said he will work with stakeholders to try and meet housing targets

The new housing minister, Gavin Barwell, MP for Croydon Central, has presented his first thoughts on how he plans to tackle his new job.

Mr Barwell said that all MPs understand that the housing shortage and inability of many people to buy their first home is one of the most common subjects in constituency surgeries.

He said: “Too many people are having to live in overcrowded or even unsafe conditions. Too many people don’t have a permanent place to call home. Too many people are having to pay too much of their monthly earnings on their housing costs.”

He said that he plans to work with a range of stakeholders, including councils, developers, local communities, housing associations and investors to try and ensure that the government backs the right mix of tenures that are needed and to try and meet housing targets.

Mr Barwell was appointed minister for housing planning and London last weekend by the new Prime Minister, Theresa May. He said the government remains committed to building one million new homes, though this would only be on green belt in “exceptional circumstances”.

He said: “The Government is committed to the strong protection and enhancement of Green Belt land. Within the Green Belt, most new building is inappropriate and should be refused planning permission except in very special circumstances.”

Last week, the House of Lords’ Economic Affairs Committee recommended that the government raise its annual target of new homes by 50% from 200,000 to 300,000 to help rectify the shortage of supply.

In a message for London, Barwell said: “In addition to my national responsibilities for housing and the planning system, I look forward to working with Sadiq Khan and the leaders of London councils to ensure the continued success of our wonderful, diverse capital - and to make sure that all Londoners share in that success.”

Mr Barwell’s promotion may provide a positive note for landlords as he has criticised new landlord licensing schemes.

He has previously said in relation to his own constituency: “All the evidence suggests that it is a minority of landlords that are causing the problem, not the whole sector.

“So why is our Labour Council taxing all landlords right across the borough (a tax which law-abiding landlords will pay but those causing the problems will try to avoid), rather than using powers it already has to take action against those landlords who are not maintaining and managing their properties properly?”

It remains to be seen if this opinion will translate itself into formal government policy.

Mr Barwell tweeted his reaction to his new post last weekend saying: “Look forward to working with councils, housing associations, developers & investors to ensure we build the homes people need and deserve.”

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