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All change at the Ministry of Housing as Sajid Javid becomes Home Secretary and James Brokenshire becomes the new Secretary of State for Housing.

View our round-up of further national housing, planning and development stories.

The government has published the Letwin report on affordability in the housing market in England. Find out more here, including the full version of the report here 

 

Yes, Minister 

A cabinet reshuffle sparked by the resignation of Amber Rudd following the Windrush revelations at the end of April has led to wholesale changes at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). 

The new Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, was formerly Secretary of State for Housing from July 2016 to April 2018, and has been succeeded by James Brokenshire, the former Northern Ireland Secretary and Minister for Security and Immigration. 

Following his appointment, James Brokenshire immediately spoke out about Grenfell, promising, ‘One of my top priorities is… ensuring everyone affected by the Grenfell Tower fire gets the support they need and we learn lessons from the tragedy so something like this can never happen again.’

Read more about recent changes at the housing ministry here: https://bit.ly/2KpRwhm 

 

Raynsford review on planning

The interim Raynsford report on planning, published in May, has made a range of provisional suggestions to help evolve the planning system in England. 

Former housing minister Nick Raynsford has been examining the planning system and concluded that while the system has attempted to make planning quicker and more efficient, in reality it has had the opposite effect with a complicated legal framework inhibiting activity leading to un-coordinated and fragmented legislation. 

Raynsford says: ‘The division of responsibilities between public institutions that drive our collective planning effort is… confused. So too are local government boundaries, which are often a poor fit with areas that we need to plan for.’ 

Provisional propositions that will inform the final recommendations include introducing simplified planning law, closer alignment between different layers of local, regional and national planning authorities and a new focus on planning being carried out in the public interest.

 

Housing affordability, 2017 

Affordability continues to be a hot topic for planners, landowners and developers, contributing to issues around both supply and demand. 

Recent findings published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) for 2017 state that housing affordability has worsened significantly in 69 local authority areas over the past five years. 

On average, people paid 7.8 times their salary for houses in England and Wales during 2017, an increase of 2.6% since 2016. New homes were less affordable at 9.7 times the cost of average earnings, while existing homes generally cost 7.6 times average earnings. 

The worst impact of this affordability issue was felt in London and the South East followed by the East of England. In contrast, house price affordability in Wales remained almost static during 2017 and has followed a trend of slight improvement over recent years. 

Across England and Wales, Kensington and Chelsea was the least affordable place in which to buy a home in 2017, with average house prices outstripping earnings by 40.7 times. 

The most affordable local authority area was Copeland in Cumbria where the average house price was 2.7 times median earnings. 

A separate report, published by the government, also shows the changes to housing supply and affordability over the twenty five years from 1991 to 2016. 

Using a model developed by the University of Reading, the report looks at the interaction of many demographic, economic and societal factors over the period to produce a range of housing supply and affordability indicators. 

House price changes and wage stagnation along with the long-lasting effects of the last recession all play a role in how affordability differs across the country. 

See the report in more detail: https://bit.ly/2JS5atH 

 

The cost of rent 

Several media reports in recent weeks have highlighted the cost of renting in England – and the effects and costs associated with long-term renting. 

Analysis by the BBC has revealed that the average length of residence for private renters in England has now increased to 4.3 years and since 2008 there has consistently been more new private rented lettings every year than new sales. 

This level of rental activity is also reflected in the fact that the average cost of rent has increased by 19% from 2007 to 2017 for private renters in England and Wales. In general, people are renting for longer periods of time as buying a property has become more expensive and wages have struggled to keep up with housing costs. 

Especially in London and the South-East, those on or below average earnings are facing huge difficulties in saving enough for a deposit on their first home. This then keeps people as long-term renters, even for decades. 

PwC predicts that as the price of owning a home rises, 7.2 million households will be in rented accommodation by 2025, compared with 5.4m in 2017 and 2.3m in 2001. 

Read more comment on these figures here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-44046392 

  

Home Improvements report launched 

April saw the launch of a new housing supply report from the Resolution Foundation, an independent national research and policy organisation. 

Entitled Home Improvements: Action to address the housing challenges faced by young people, the report aims to address generational differences and the concerns of young people.

The Intergenerational Commission states we know that millennials today are spending more of their income on housing than previous generations did at the same age, but critically get less for their money which has a knock-on effect on their security and quality of life. 

Combined with the different financial circumstances and priorities of different generations, there is some real potential for misunderstanding amongst all parts of society and a feeling that younger people are being short-changed. 

The report looks at how this can be addressed and how communication between different community groups and age groups needs to be improved. 

Read more on this fascinating topic:

http://www.richboroughestates.co.uk/latest-news.asp?m_category%5B%5D=1&Button=Filter+News

  

Paying for fire safety measures 

The Hackett Review’s final report was published in May and saw a swift response from government promising ‘to make sure people living in high-rise buildings are safe.’ 

James Brokenshire promised a more detailed response in the autumn that will identify how the government would implement a new regulatory system.

One way to increase safety in buildings is for construction firms and housing providers to pay directly for fire safety measures. This follows a move by Barratt Homes to pay for backdated and future fire safety costs at its Citiscape development in Croydon despite being neither the current freeholder, nor the managing agent. 

The housing ministry has been in talks with a range of builders and developers to address concerns over fire safety. In particular, the government said it was keen for leaseholders to be protected from the costs of safety improvement measures and any necessary future work.