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By Graham Norwood

Editor, LAT & LLT

Graham Awards


Dear New Prime Minister - here's your housing to-do list

We are only a fortnight away from having a new Prime Minister, following a contest in which housing has played a small-to-non-existent part in policy debate.

When it has been mentioned it’s been treated with the customary glib terminology of building more, faster, better. We’ve heard it all before.

So in a bid to cut the BS, here’s my to-do list for the next PM. Don’t hold your breath, but here goes…


1. Appoint experienced delivery-focussed politicians to housing briefs and keep them in post long enough to make a difference. Recently-appointed junior housing minister Marcus Jones is the 12th since 2010, while new Housing Secretary Greg Clark is the fifth since 2018.

2. Address the overall housing supply crisis. You may be uncomfortable at being held accountable to a target, but your party’s 2019 pledge of 300,000 new homes annually (some being replacements for squalid old ones) still makes sense. You have little control over private builders but can have direct control over social housing building levels.

3. Particularly address the under-supply of social housing. Councils and housing associations are not wicked - they can be a vital safety net to provide housing to those who cannot afford it via the open market. Shelter’s commission suggests a 20-year programme to deliver 3.1m more social homes. That seems sensible and would provide a legacy you could be proud of.

4. Amend rental reform proposals to be more even-handed. If anti-landlord group Acorn says “Make no mistake about it - the proposals for rental reform published by the Government are a massive step forward” then it is not unreasonable for landlords to say the measures are unbalanced. Landlords need incentives to continue providing housing rather than cashing out (and get real - young tenants are unlikely to vote Conservative no matter how hard you try).

5. Implement a long-term home insulation programme. You say you want new thinking, so here’s your opportunity. Give (yes, give) home owners cavity wall, loft or floor insulation and incentivise them to have ground source heat pump, solar thermal panels, air source heat pump or biomass boilers - and think through delivery to avoid another Green Homes Grant farce.

6. Bite the bullet on planning reform. Go on - admit that you cannot achieve goals for new house building and infrastructure in a short timeframe while simultaneously pretending every objector will have their day (or more precisely, year) in court. You wouldn’t hold a multi-year inquiry before, say, going to war - yet currently, in a bid to avoid upsetting current or future political supporters, governments allow process-driven prevarication over vital development.

7. Stop re-announcing modular house building as the way out of the crisis. It’s no longer new, it’s widely recognised as an improvement in quality and speed over older methods, so give tax breaks to ensure it’s used more widely.

8. Introduce radical reform to the house buying process in your first year. Set a target - say three months - by which time an offer accepted on a home should end with completion and move-in. Consumer-friendly policies like these will be a low-hanging-fruit win for you and your party, with only muted opposition because - well, who in their right mind thinks the current process is good?

9. Regulate property agents. The framework has been in place since the Regulation of Property Agents working party reported in July 2019, accompanied with the hope that the proposals would be law and working within two years. Would the public approve if you introduced this as an early policy move in your premiership? You bet. And much of the industry has now become accustomed to the proposals, so this is a reform that’s yours for the taking.

10. Respect housing. Include it in your hopes and ambitions for the country, mention it front and centre in your speeches, make it something you want to be remembered for - in a good way. Few if any Prime Minister has done this in recent decades, meaning that as a subject it’s been relegated to a subject of minor importance. It isn’t - and if you think it is, wander the streets of what you will probably call “our great cities” and see how many homeless people there are now. You really do have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make a difference.

*Editor of Letting Agent Today and Landlord Today, Graham can be found tweeting about all things property at @PropertyJourn

  • jeremy clarke

    Not strong enough. Housing needs to be completely free of government shackles other than sufficient funding.

  • Michael Day

    Some decent points Graham.

    Unfortunately politics is largely short term - can we win the next election? - this results in short term “sound bite” policies. Housing policy is much longer term than the electoral cycle and should be treated as such. It would be great if it could be depoliticised but that seems both unlikely and unworkable.

    With a new Prime Minister facing a huge economic challenge as well as facing a General Election in two years or less, I see very few, if any, of your list, seeing the light of day anytime soon.

    I certainly see no appetite politically for ROPA - Governments have always preferred competition to competency - adding costs to business at a time of economic downturn and where the benefits will not be seen immediately seems unlikely.

    Matthew Payne

    Not only has every single piece of housing legislation in recent memory been created with both eyes firmly on the ballot box, there has been very little real consultation with the industry each time, and each one is considered in isolation of other poilcies or the possible fall out. Can't see that changing, their only focus will be the 2024 general election, and the Tories will be hunting for young Labour urban voters in London, Manchester & Birmingham to recruit as they were in 2019, hence the Tenant Fees Act. The Renters Reform Bill will be too tempting to use to cling to power to care what it means for tenants who will take the brunt of the mistake. Bring back some conviction politicians.

  • Richard Rawlings

    100% with you on all these point Graham. They do over complicate things and seem to have little grasp of the support they might enjoy as a result of taking a “can do” attitude. Other countries have got most of these things right - why not the UK (esp England)?

  • Andrew Stanton PROPTECH-PR A Consultancy for Proptech Founders

    Shelter has had nearly seven decades to make a difference, it generates £70M a year and spouts populist nonsense, and is highly devisive. Maybe, housing could get sorted if well funded pressure groups took the time to really understanding the UK housing model. Instead of having an Eric Blaire view 'Landlords bad' As to cohesive policy from the government, though we have a rotating system for housing secretaries, the whitehall manadrins are always in post, maybe they too need to get out of the London centric bubble and realise the macro and micro of people, housing and the economy. And how by 2040, IoT will be so embedded into the lives of people, that housing will no longer be just four walls and a roof, it will be a place that nurtures every need of a human. Homes used to be where workers went to after work or on retirement, now they are fast becoming the space we work in also, this shift needs to be embraced also with any forward planning on housing. WFH is not a fad it is a reality inextricably linked to the economic growth of any nation. National homebuilders need to stop designing homes on the same criteria as in the 1980's, and start to think of staying relevant to those first time buyers of 2040.


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