After stepping into number 10 Downing Street Theresa May began by appointing new cabinet ministers, including making Gavin Barwell MP Minister of Housing and Planning. Already the new minister is facing calls to address the housing shortage that is leading to prices continually increasing despite uncertainty.
The latest government figures for house prices show that on average the price of homes in the UK increased by 8.1% in May 2016 despite uncertainty around the EU referendum. The continuing strong growth of the housing market has been linked to a severe housing shortage. Now that Barwell has taken his new position as Housing Minister he is facing calls to take action.
In a joint statement welcoming Barwell into his new position the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) and the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) urged him to “reshape Britain’s housing mix” because demand is greatly outstripping supply.
Director of online search provider Search Acumen Andy Sommerville noted that much has changed since the May 2016 figures were released, including the Brexit decision, but added, “Data does show the robust demand for properties in the run up to the referendum. In May, prices were rising in all four countries in the UK, and this is driven by the inadequate supply of new and affordable homes.”
Sommerville continued that with a new housing minister there is an opportunity for a new approach to successfully reshape the housing shortage with further planning reform being one way to achieve this.
Barwell’s predecessor was also the minister for both housing and planning but before this the two areas were split for several years. The two areas are clearly very closely linked and having one person in charge of both of these could help speed up a plan to build more houses. The lack of housebuilding in the UK is frequently blamed on planning difficulties but those within the industry can now hope that the two areas will be more in sync, allowing for the housing shortage to be addressed more efficiently.
Following his appointment, Barwell asserted he was committed to building 1 million new homes with various different housing tenures.
One of the areas Barwell could focus on following his new appointment is renting. He has been urged to ensure the building of more houses with the view to renting them by relaxing the rules around public funding. Barwell has already been critical of local authority licencing schemes that govern the private rental sector, arguing there should be a focus on landlords who are not maintaining and managing properties properly rather than taxing all landlords.