Another week, another Secretary. After one of the most tumultuous weeks in the history of British politics, the housing industry once again finds itself with a new Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
In a whirlwind few days, Michael Gove was sacked and replaced with Greg Clark, MP for Tunbridge Wells. Known to the housebuilding industry due to his stint as Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government from May 2015 to July 2016, Clark inherits a sector currently experiencing an upheaval, with difficult times yet to come.
But, with four Secretaries of State for Housing in six years, Clark enters a role which has seen its fair share of people come and go. We take a look at the legacy of those who went before him.
Sajid Javid: 14 July 2016 – 30 April 2018
Appointed as Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government by then-Prime Minister Theresa May in July 2016, Sajid Javid almost immediately introduced measures aimed at increasing housing supply, with the launch of a £3bn Home Builders Fund in October of the same year.
The Home Builders Fund was designed to provide short-term loan funding for small builders to deliver 25,500 homes by 2020. The same measures also focussed on proposed changes to the planning system, bringing forward brownfield sites whilst not implementing a ‘brownfield first’ policy.
In February 2017, Javid launched the Government’s long-awaited Housing White Paper, designed to “fix the broken housing market”. The White Paper included proposals to speed up housebuilding, promote modern methods of construction, help smaller builders enter the market, and amend planning rules.
The housing market in this country is broken, and the solution means building many more houses in the places that people want to live.
The only way to halt the decline in affordability and help more people onto the housing ladder is to build more homes. Let’s get Britain building.SAJID JAVID
During his time as Secretary, Javid also implemented legislation aimed at stopping developers from selling houses on leasehold terms, which often left buyers with large ground rent charges. These new measures were introduced in December 2017, to cut out “unfair and abusive” practices within the leasehold system.
In 2017, Javid brought forward a green paper on social housing in England, in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy.
“It will be a wide-ranging, top-to-bottom review of the issues facing the sector,” he said. “It will kick off a nationwide conversation on social housing. What works and what doesn’t work. What has gone right and what has gone wrong. Why things have gone wrong and – most importantly – how to fix them.”
Javid riled developers towards the end of his tenure in February 2018, accusing them of landbanking, whilst threatening to intervene to ensure more homes were built. Meanwhile, the Sir Oliver Letwin Review was underway, which examined the gap between planning permissions granted and schemes built out.
There is definitely some hoarding of land by developers. When you have a lack of supply developers can feel more confident that land prices will keep rising. The government needs to play a more active, more muscular role.SAJID JAVID
Despite what critics claim, numerous independent reviews have proved that housebuilders do not landbank. We hope that the Letwin Review will identify where the actual blockages are to housing delivery.ANDREW WHITAKER, HOME BUILDERS FEDERATION PLANNING DIRECTOR
James Brokenshire: 30 April 2018 – 24 July 2019
James Brokenshire stepped into the role when Sajid Javid became Home Secretary in April 2018.
Brokenshire announced measures to speed up the process of removing potentially unsafe cladding on private sector high-rise buildings in 2018, followed by an announcement in December 2018 that the Government would action all recommendations within Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of Building Regulations and fire safety.
In July 2018 the Government published its keenly-anticipated revision of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which focussed on “building attractive and better-designed homes in areas where they are needed”.
The NPPF implemented 85 of the proposals set out in Javid’s Housing White Paper 2017, and confirmed the introduction of a new standard method of assessing housing need. The NPPF also focussed on promoting high-quality design of new homes by empowering local authorities to refuse permission for development that “does not complement its surroundings”.
This revised planning framework sets out our vision of a planning system that delivers the homes we need. I am clear that quantity must never compromise the quality of what is built, and this is reflected in the new rules.JAMES BROKENSHIRE
In October 2018 Brokenshire announced the introduction of a New Homes Ombudsman, as part of a package of housing measures. The role of the Ombudsman was to “champion homebuyers, protect their interests and hold developers to account”. It also announced plans to accelerate the planning system by utilising land and vacant buildings.
If you aspire to own your own home then I want to say this to you. We will help you. We will build the homes our country needs. We will fix our broken housing market and make it work for you.JAMES BROKENSHIRE
Throughout his tenure, Brokenshire focussed on beauty and design, under the Government’s ‘Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission’, with the then Housing Minister Kit Malthouse calling for a “golden period of housebuilding”.
Robert Jenrick: 24 July 2019 – 15 September 2021
Robert Jenrick was appointed as Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government when Boris Johnson became Prime Minister in the 2019 Conservative party leadership election.
In August 2019 Jenrick announced a range of measures to help people on lower incomes access the housing ladder, including changes to shared ownership by consulting on a new model which made it simpler for people to purchase more of their home.
Jenrick also announced that he would seek to reform the planning system by boosting housing delivery.
Building the houses this country needs is a central priority of this Government. We know that most people still want to own their own home, but for many the dream seems a remote one.
That’s why I’m announcing radical changes to shared ownership, so we can make it simpler and easier for tens of thousands trying to buy their own home.ROBERT JENRICK
Jenrick brought in a new building design guide in September 2019, which introduced a national standard for local authorities to follow, whilst giving them the option of designing their own guide, in what Jenrick described as part of the Government’s “broader commitment” to localism.
And, like Secretaries before him, Jenrick pledged to deliver one million more homes in the next five years, progressing closer to the Government’s target of 300,000 new homes per year by the mid-2020s.
We delivered one million homes in the last five years, and we’ll deliver at least another million in the next five years.ROBERT JENRICK
In April 2020, a number of building safety reform measures were introduced, including sprinkler systems being made mandatory in all high-rise buildings more than 11 metres tall. Building a Safer Future followed the announcement of an unprecedented £1bn fund for removing unsafe cladding from high-rise buildings.
In July 2020, as the first wave of Covid swept the UK, Jenrick announced an extension of the Government’s £9bn Affordable Homes Programme by a year, giving housing associations and local authorities more time to begin work on schemes.
And, in August 2020, the Government announced a £1.3bn allocation for new homes and other vital infrastructure projects, anticipated to deliver up to 45,000 homes.
As we get Britain building we are also laying the foundations for a green economic recovery by investing in vital infrastructure for local communities, creating jobs and building environmentally-friendly homes with a huge £1.3 billion investment announced today.
This government is determined to level up all parts of the country and this funding will not only give a much needed boost to our economic recovery, it will help build the good quality, affordable homes the country needs.ROBERT JENRICK
Later the same month, the Planning White Paper was published, which sought to overhaul the English planning system by giving communities a central role in designating land, whilst replacing Section 106 agreements and Community Infrastructure Levy payments with a new Infrastructure Levy.
Then, in February 2021, Jenrick and the Government committed to fund the cost of replacing dangerous cladding for all leaseholders in residential buildings of 18 metres or more, pledging £3.5bn of support and other measures to improve building safety.
Michael Gove: 15 September 2021 – 6 July 2022
Gove was appointed as Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government following a cabinet reshuffle. Within days, his department was renamed to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
Gove’s time as Secretary focussed mainly on attempting to resolve the ongoing cladding remediation issue. He called on the property industry to work with the Government to agree a funded plan to fix the crisis, as well as asking manufacturers to contribute to the estimated £4bn bill for remediation works.
In February 2022 the Levelling Up White Paper was published, stating that the previously announced £1.8bn brownfield fund would go to developments in the North and Midlands, alongside a new Social Housing Regulation Bill to reflect a further commitment to building more social homes.
Not everyone hares equally in the UK’s success. For decades, too many communities have been overlooked and undervalued. As some areas have flourished, others have been left in a cycle of decline.
Levelling Up and this White Paper is about ending this historic injustice and calling time on the postcode lottery.MICHAEL GOVE
In February Gove also announced tough measures on developers who did not sign up to the Building Safety Levy, including preventing them from securing planning permission and building control approval on schemes.
A few months later, Gove states that the new National Planning Policy Framework would seek to support better environmental outcomes for the planning system. The NPPF, to be published in July, would “say significantly more about how we can drive improved environmental outcomes”.
And, more recently, Gove has voiced caution about the Government’s target of 300,000 new homes per year, stating that he and the Government would do “everything it can”, but that “there are a number of factors that have made it more difficult”.
So, there you have it. Four Secretaries in six years, with progress in some areas but very little in others.
One thing is for sure: Greg Clark has his work cut out for him.