Housing Secretary Michael Gove has warned the government they face being beaten at the polls in the upcoming election without reform of the housing system. Speaking to a number of national news outlets over the weekend, Gove discussed issues ranging from leasehold and rental reform, making provision for housing in the upcoming budget, new build numbers, and planning reform.
In an interview in The Sunday Times, Gove suggested that young people trying to get on the housing ladder were turning away from democracy and toward “an authoritarian leader who would just fix this,” no doubt in a nod to the rise of right wing leaderships in Europe in recent years.
Ahead of a much anticipated Spring budget, Gove used his interview to publicly call on Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to “make a bold housing offer,” with commentators suggesting it could be a final bid for votes before the General Election later this year. Conveyancers and property market professionals will be wary of reports which suggest that the government are considering introducing housing incentives including stamp duty cuts, a 1% mortgage guarantee scheme for first time buyers, and a tax on residential property to deter foreign investors.
Tellingly, Gove tells The Sunday Times
“I’d do it all, everything everywhere all at once. He (Jeremy Hunt) knows what I am keen on and I won’t say any more than that.”
Speaking to GB News Gove was equally forthcoming on the government’s efforts to build more housing, telling the programme that it was “fair” for people to question whether the current housing targets are “ambitious enough.” He described the Conservative Party as “having a plan” pointing to
“the four years where we’ve delivered the most homes (in the last three decades) have been the period since 2019. So the longer the Conservatives have been in, the more homes that we’ve delivered,”
“Last year we introduced legislation to try to unlock housing work being blocked by environmental red tape. It would have unlocked new homes, but Labour voted against it.”
This week the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) will announce proposed change to building on brownfield sites in cities where housing delivery has dropped below expected levels, with “a general presumption that if you are building or converting a property in a brownfield location, that planning permission should be granted automatically.”
It is also expected that a further £3bn of funding for the affordable homes guarantee scheme will be announced.
On leasehold reform Gove stands by the Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill, which has come in for criticism after the “rushed” legislation didn’t make provision for the banning of new leasehold properties, something Gove has since said would be addressed with amendments. Having described leasehold as “a money making scam” Gove is equally bullish describing leaseholders as having been “mugged by bandits” commenting
“Are we on the side of the already privileged, successful, well connected, who are getting money for nothing out of ground rent? Or are we on the side of the overwhelming majority of people who just want a roof over their head in order to be able to raise their family and to lead a good life?
“If we cave in to vested interests on the basis that they have big chequebooks and they might go elsewhere, we are both letting down the overwhelming majority of people, but we’re also actually saying … this is the sort of country where money speaks louder than the voices of people who’ve got all the right values.”
Mr Gove has used the national press to pursue housing reform in recent months. In December Gove said he would strip councils of their responsibilities for planning if housing targets continued not to be met. In a statement to the House of Commons he reiterated that planning reform was necessary to build homes “more quickly, more beautifully and more sustainably.”