Opinion: Is the post of housing minster finally being taken seriously?
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government
Opinion: Is the post of housing minster finally being taken seriously?Image: Housing via Shutterstock
By Peter Girling, chairman, Girlings Retirement Rentals
Housing is one of the greatest challenges for the government, however, when it comes to the post of housing minister, it’s a case of revolving doors. Brandon Lewis, appointed this week as new Housing and Planning Minister, is notably the fourth housing minister in the past three years.
With former Housing Minister Kris Hopkins in the role just 10 months, Mark Prisk in the post just one year and one month, and Grant Shapps managing two years and four months, it really raises the question: where is the continuity in housing? Ministers are barely getting their feet under the table before being removed from post.
On a positive note, Brandon Lewis will be responsible for both planning and housing. This is the first time in five years that the housing and planning portfolios will be held by a single minister of state. Also, as a full minister of state, Mr Lewis is likely to have an influential voice with the Department of Communities and Local Government and with the prime minister.
This all bodes well. It suggests that housing will be given greater priority in government. Will we finally see some joined up thinking about housing and planning policies too? Let’s hope so. We wish Brandon Lewis well.
As a private landlord himself, Mr Lewis will have a keen understanding of the big issues in the private rental sector. Let’s hope his insight and experience will help him tackle key issues, such as the need for more purpose built retirement properties to house an ageing population, as well as the need for longer term tenancies for renters. Security of tenure for tenants is vital for investors in the ‘build to rent’ sector.
Providing appropriate housing for an ageing nation is a major issue. By 2037 the number of people aged 85 and over is projected to be 2.5 times larger today, reaching 3.6 million. Additionally, almost a quarter of the UK’s population will be over 65. Many of these people will want to downsize to retirement accommodation but will be unable to do so because of the shortage of suitable housing.
The Housing LIN/Elderly Accommodation Counsel (EAC) forecasts a deficit of 240,000 of bespoke retirement properties by 2030. Equally, think tank Demos produced a report last year entitled, ‘Top of the ladder’ which claimed that 3.5 million people over 60 in the UK are interested in retirement housing, but can’t as there are only 500,000 units – 106,000 for home ownership and 400,000 for social rented.
Increasing the supply of homes for older people, which will also free up housing for younger generations, needs to be higher on the political agenda. Only by tackling the housing crisis at the top of the market will we have any hope of having enough homes for all ages in the future.
This view was echoed in a new report from International Longevity Centre and Age UK which called for the biggest house building programme for a generation that is suitable for older people.
We commend the fact that housing has been given greater priority in the ministerial hierarchy, and sincerely hope that Brandon Lewis will devise concrete policy and plans for solving some of these major issues in housing. We’ll wait and see.