With the saga of the UK leaving the European Union dragging on, it’s likely that the event could signal the downfall of current Prime Minister, Theresa May. Rather than another speculative piece on Brexit, here we discuss her record on the UK’s housing issues.
Ms May’s speech at Downing Street on 13th July 2016, just weeks after the referendum result, where she pledged to help those who were just about managing, although vague, seemed hopeful. She vowed to help those who couldn’t afford a home, or people who had difficulty obtaining mortgages.
It was an optimistic speech for the new leader, and she claimed that she had the housing sector at the centre of her agenda.
In the Conservative manifesto for the 2017 election, the government vowed to deliver one million new homes by 2020, as well as better housing. The government also pledged to make the house buying process more transparent, to clamp down on abuses within the private rented sector and to put £2 billion toward affordable housing.
In 2018, at the Conservative party conference and the National Housing Federation, Theresa May delivered speeches which further specified that the £2 billion previously pledged would be spent on low cost homes provided by housing associations, and that the current limits on borrowing by local councils against housing revenue assets would be scrapped.
With less than three years as Prime Minister, and most of the focus taken by Brexit, it is important to bear in mind that Mrs May has not so far served a complete term as Prime Minister. However, independent research has discovered that less than half of house builders felt that the original target of 300,000 homes built each year was achievable. The difficulties in this included slow planning processes, land availability and shortages of skills, which has become worse with a reduction of EU workers.
Whilst house building projects have significantly increased in recent years, according to statistics, figures are still below the peak of 200,000 each year in 2007/8. With Right to Buy remaining in force within England, housing stock levels have also continued to erode, although this policy has been terminated in Wales and Scotland.
There has been a wide range of new laws and regulations for letting agents and landlords to follow in the private rented sector since Theresa May became Prime Minister. To comply with regulations and keep track of inventory property management software is now seen as crucial for landlords.
The Tenant Fees Bill was included within the Conservative party’s manifesto in 2017, and more one-off measures, like mandatory client money protection (CMP), have also undoubtedly improved the image of the sector, which has been sorely needed.
However, other policies which are yet to come into force, such as the pledge from the MHCLG to introduce a property Ombudsman, seem publicity stunts rather than thoughtful policy.
In terms of rental reform, the biggest impact has been from Right to Rent, which has made headlines for the wrong reasons. Pioneered and personally endorsed by May while she was still Housing Secretary, its impact, which is widely regarded as bureaucratic and discriminatory, is likely to cast a shadow over all housing legacy from the Prime Minister.
reform, the biggest impact has been from Right to Rent, which has made headlines for the wrong reasons. Pioneered and personally endorsed by May while she was still Housing Secretary, its impact, which is widely regarded as bureaucratic and discriminatory, is likely to cast a shadow over all housing legacy from the Prime Minister.
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