Housing minister Brandon Lewis has said the vote to leave the EU will not affect the government’s commitment to build 200,000 starter homes by 2020 nor its promise to extend the right-to-buy programme
Speaking to the Chartered Institute of Housing, Lewis acknowledged that the market uncertainty following last week’s referendum ‘had certainly been felt in the [housebuilding] sector’ and that it would ’not be plain sailing in the days ahead’.
But Lewis, whose comments came as the share prices of the major housebuilders began to recover after Monday’s falls, insisted the current situation was not as worrying as the financial crisis of 2007-08.
‘Let’s remember how things were in the wake of the crash [when] housebuilding was on the floor and the banks were on their knees,’ he said.
‘If we could rebuild from that dire position then we can certainly get through the current turbulence. Indeed it is because of the determined actions we have taken over the last six years that the industry is well positioned now.’
Lewis said that the 265,000 homes currently with planning permission were ‘testament to the effectiveness’ of the National Planning Policy Framework and its revamp of the planning system.
The minister admitted that the government could not take credit for ‘all this progress’ and applauded the construction industry for its role in increasing housing numbers.
He added that housebuilders should ’keep calm and carry on’, and assured them that the Conservatives would also stick to their manifesto pledges and deliver 200,000 new Starter Homes over the next four years, free up more public land for housing, and continue to ‘streamline’ the planning system.
Lewis went on: ‘We also remain committed to the extension of the right to buy. This policy has been controversial, and understandably so. It’s a big change.
‘But our motivation remains as it did at the general election: to give 1.3 million tenants in housing association properties the same opportunities as tenants in council properties.’
At a time of vociferous disagreement, the significance attached to housing policy is a welcome point of consensus
The minister also spoke about the recent introduction of a ‘permission in principle’ approach for housing-led development sites.
Concluding his speech, Lewis outlined how ‘at a time of uncertainty’ and the imminent arrival of a new prime minster, ‘a clear commitment on the part of government to keep Britain building becomes more not less important’.
He added: ‘At a time of vociferous disagreement, the significance now attached to housing policy is a welcome point of consensus.
‘I’m not claiming that this spirit of concord applies to every point of policy detail – as you might guess from my exchanges across the dispatch box – but on the imperative to build more and build better I think there is little disagreement.’