From the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) we have now shifted to the Department for Levelling up Housing & Communities (DLUHC). While it is positive to see housing retaining its prominence, some might wonder whether the priority for Michael Gove will be in that order, starting with ‘levelling up’.
There’s no doubt that within the civil service the faces tend to remain the same, which is clearly a positive in our ongoing work to tangibly improve the home buying and selling process, however a new secretary of state is always going to have their own stamp to put on the job. And as mentioned, we await to see to what extent it will be ‘levelling up’ that takes the lion’s share of his focus.
We at the Conveyancing Association (CA) have already written to Mr Gove inviting him to speak at our December conference. We seek to meet in order to get a clear idea whether he, and the government, will continue to prioritise making the improvements to the home buying process that we all want to see, and which the CA has lobbied extensively for.
For us, that ongoing commitment from the government will be vital and we are positive all those concerned will continue to see how important the housing market is to the UK, and the huge efficiency gains that could be delivered by cutting down significantly on the time it takes to complete a property purchase.
It feels like a ‘win-win’ already to continue to pursue this important agenda, especially given the progress that has been made, although admittedly there are plenty of other housing-related issues to be tackled and ‘made good’. Not least the obvious ones around cladding, helping existing leaseholders, shifting to a fairer commonhold system, and helping more young people onto the housing ladder.
It is early days of course but we do have some initial crumbs of what might be priority areas. Mr. Gove, speaking at a fringe event at the Conservative Party Conference, specifically picked out social housing provision as one area he feels requires action.
He called the “quality of social housing, particularly in some parts of the country, [as being] scandalously poor”, talking about overcrowded conditions, damp, “and other factors which hold back the flourishing of the children and the families who are raised in those homes”.
The improvement of social housing looks very much part of the ‘levelling up’ agenda then, not forgetting the fact the government has committed to building 300,000 new homes by the mid-2020s.
Mr Gove also talked about “resolving the housing problem” in order for families to have a stake in their future, to help deliver social housing and was also quick to mention “access to finance”. All this might suggest a continued focus on affordable housing and supporting first-time buyers via existing, and perhaps new, government schemes.
What we also know is that Mr Gove has a reputation for ‘getting things done’.
This is unlikely to be a government department which sits back and waits, which is why it is so important that our sector continues to have the ear of this administration and that we put forward tangible solutions as well as a timetable of when they can and should be delivered.
It’s also important we hold the government to account for announcements it has already made, most notably around leasehold reform, but not yet delivered the legislation for.
We are a long way down the road to positive reform in so many areas, but there is still much to do. It’s unlikely that this new broom will sweep entirely clean, but we should not rule out some change of priorities, and we must be prepared to fight our corner to keep the focus on those areas which we believe need to change in order to get the housing market we want.