News analysis: Gove’s best tier for housing?


The government has finally published its long-awaited white paper on the ‘upgrading’ agenda, courtesy of the Secretary of State for Upgrading, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove.

This 2019 election slogan expresses a desire to smooth the gaps in wealth and opportunity, which are currently concentrated in the Southeast, across the country. The government says it will ‘shift… attention and resources to Britain’s forgotten communities throughout the 2020s’.

At its core, the agenda is set out as a decade-long process that incorporates 12 “missions” – broad, quantifiable goals that include creating better pay, better public transport, higher levels of schooling and vocational training; and a narrowing of the life expectancy gap between geographic areas.

My biggest fears are that the policy is too fragmented and the task at hand is much bigger than Gove admits

Housing is of course on the agenda. Goal 10 promises that, by 2030, “renters will have a secure path to homeownership with the number of first-time buyers [FTBs] increasing in all areas; and the government’s ambition is to see the number of non-decent rental units reduced by 50%, with the biggest improvements in the worst performing areas”.

Housing commentator and former mortgage professional James Chidgey says the document also states: ‘Home England will lead the regeneration of sites in towns and cities, and funding for housing supply will be substantially redirected to wasteland industrial North and Midlands from the South East.

“Homes England will also manage a new £1.5billion Leveling Homes Building Fund. The document pledges to build more genuinely affordable social housing, although the details will be in a new social housing regulation bill later this year.

Additionally, government plans include abolishing Section 21 evictions and consulting on the creation of a landlord registry.

I’d like to ask Michael Gove: what plans are in place to improve the eviction experience for tenants under Section 8 once Section 21 is gone?

Chidgey says he gives the 12 missions a “warm welcome”, adding that they are “long overdue”.

Kate Davies, executive director of the Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association, agrees: “It’s positive to see longer-term thinking. [But] the industry will have to see the details before the effect of these announcements can be judged.

Lack of detail is a common criticism. Director of Your Mortgage Decisions Dominik Lipnicki said: ‘Gove needs to ensure that leveling up is more than just a gimmick as many northerners have lent their votes to the Conservative Party on the basis that their regions will get much-needed investment.

“Governments of all colors have always been good at announcing policies that ended up making good headlines but little in terms of real improvement. It really has to be different.

If the 12 missions are not prioritized, the reference to housing is low

Lipnicki adds: “My biggest fears are that the policy is too fragmented and that the task at hand is far greater than Gove admits. We have already seen tensions between Gove and [chancellor] Rishi Sunak and the money provided may only scratch the surface in the end.

Chidgey points to another potential concern: “Although the 12 missions are not hierarchical, the reference to housing is low.

He also observes how Mission 10 refers “rather casually” to tenants and FTBs.

Meanwhile, on the buy-to-let front, Mortgages for Business sales manager Jeni Browne says that, as someone who works primarily with landlords, she sees the goal of “standard of decent housing”, the abolition of Article 21 and the register of owners are the most relevant. .

The industry will have to see the details before the effect of these announcements can be judged.

“This document is clearly designed to protect tenants and we all want tenants to live in good homes and be allowed to stay there as long as they meet the terms of their lease.”

Browne adds, however, that the abolition of Section 21 is “bad news”, explaining: “Many landlords rely on [this] above follow the route of eviction using Section 8 if the tenant has failed to pay rent or is acting in a way that falls into the “antisocial” category, or even illegal. The Section 8 eviction process is very long, so landlords prefer to simply serve a Section 21.

“Also, landlords, if they need to sell their property or even move in themselves, have no absolute guarantee that they will be able to get tenants out.

“The consequence is that more landlords will leave the private rental sector [PRS].”

When asked what she would like to ask Gove if given the chance, Browne replied: “What plans are in place to improve the experience of eviction for tenants under Section 8 once article 21 is gone?”

The money provided might only scratch the surface in the end

And: “Homeowners already feel incredibly disenfranchised. There have been tax changes, mortgage changes, energy performance certificate changes, several types of licenses have been introduced and now this. The country relies on the PRS – what would you say to a landlord who felt this was the last straw and decided to sell? »

For his part, Chidgey would ask: ‘What and how are you going to ensure that people have opportunities to rent good value housing, social or private, and for them to buy affordable property, that they be freehold, leasehold or condominium, apart from new-build?”

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