Mark Prisk MP
Minister of State
Minister for Housing
National Housing Federation annual conference 2012
Transcript of the speech as delivered.
Introduction - working together
Thank you for that introduction.
Tonight I should like to speak briefly and specifically about how we can increase the supply of homes.
I do so, in one sense as the most dangerous type of Ministers (my civil servants will take that view!), namely someone who has a little knowledge of what he is talking about!
As a Chartered Surveyor, I feel I have some understanding of the housing and the construction markets. But I come to this role knowing that frankly I still have much to learn, particularly about the social housing sector.
So let me start by saying that I want to listen. The expertise when I look gathered here around the room is one I intend not to ignore. Indeed it’s experience which I value. There will be times when we won’t always agree, but if we work together, we can make a real difference.
As a Government we are already setting the direction.
Last November, we established the Housing Strategy as our long term framework for future action.
In the Spring, we introduced a series of key policies, including for example New Buy, which has the capability of helping up to 100,000 people.
And just two weeks ago, a day after I was in post, we set out a comprehensive set of measures to accelerate progress. Those measures include:
- Building up to another 15,000 new affordable homes and bringing an extra 5,000 empty homes back into use;
- Putting an additional £280 million into FirstBuy - so around 27,000 will now be able to buy their first home; and
- Confirming Government Guarantees of up to £10 billion, for the development of many more new rented homes.
Now, these guarantees in particular have the potential to galvanise the sector. And it shows that, despite inheriting an enormous deficit, this Government is absolutely committed to providing the policies and resources needed to build the homes people want.
These new measures build on the £1.3 billion that is already working to unlock stalled housing schemes, and the Affordable Homes Programme of £19.5 billion, which we are confident, will deliver up to 170,000 new affordable homes.
Taken together with our reforms to the planning system and the rented sectors, these policies represent the best way to improve our housing provision in both the short and longer term.
But, tonight, if I may, I would also like to issue a challenge.
I said earlier that I value your collected expertise and capability. Many of the organisations represented here provide a wide range of innovative social housing, and good services to existing tenants. But I think you can do more.
There’s a great opportunity to use your experience to develop more homes and serving a much wider group of people.
Housing associations are after all good at tailoring services that respect very different housing needs. Affordable home ownership is a good example.
I’ve seen the work of London and Quadrant on the former Olympic Park where they are already developing affordable homes for both rent and purchase.
And just last week Thames Valley launched their Fizzy Living scheme to prospective private tenants.
So what I’d like to challenge you all to think about is how you can develop homes for a much wider group of people, in different ways, and perhaps in different tenures.
We will help, not least through our newly announced housing guarantees; and the £200 million equity finance fund, so take it from me that we want you to be bold.
Clarity and stability for sector
As a former businessman I do, however, understand that for you to be innovative, you need longer term certainty about the market you work in and the direction of government policy.
This is especially true when it comes to the future of finance for affordable homes and the specific direction of policy on rents and policy reaching beyond the current spending review period.
Now on this, my ninth working day in the job, I can’t set out for you the full detail for the next three years. But let me be clear:
- I understand why you need that certainty;
- I intend to address this longer term framework;
- I want to do so working with you and others so we get it right.
True value of social housing
As a former Business Minister, I also know about the economic value of your sector: the ability to drive local growth.
Most people understand the social role of housing, whether owned, or rented, whether private or public.
And I strongly believe that housing is not merely about bricks and mortar. All of us need a home, somewhere we can call our own, somewhere that families can be secure and where children can grow.
And I shall want to address those social issues, whether it is the scourge of neighbours from hell, or the plight of the homeless.
However, increasing the housing supply, especially of affordable homes, also has an important economic purpose. One in which you and the organisations you represent have a vital role.
Building affordable homes, when you look at the bare statistics, is a great economic multiplier - and your buying power can help sustain local businesses.
You also provide jobs and help tackle worklessness. Thousands of young people have benefited from apprenticeships with construction companies on affordable housing projects.
And let me also to say to you that it doesn’t matter how small your organisation is. Indeed many of the smaller organisations are at the cutting edge of community activism, successfully using the new community rights that this Government has introduced.
It’s about giving local people a say as to what goes on in their community - whether that’s deciding where new homes are built, or how affordable housing is managed, this role is really important.
So, while the issue of building new affordable homes is clearly front and centre - I also want to say that I recognise the vital role you play in helping to protect the homeless, the vulnerable and the marginalised in society.
So, Ladies and Gentlemen, we’re putting in place a comprehensive set of measures to help this sector adapt and grow.
Of course, there are significant challenges, but as a Government we are determined to work with you to address both the short term symptoms and the long term causes.
That’s why we’re:
- Providing our multi billion pound guarantees to help lever in new investment;
- Removing the planning and financial barriers that are holding back the housing market; and
- Developing a clear direction to help increase the supply of all forms of housing, owned or rented, public or private.
I think the package really has the opportunity to make a real difference and I am looking forward to working with you.
Overcoming the problems before us won’t be easy. But then, nothing worthwhile ever is.