New housing minister sets out pro-private sector stance in commons speech
Mark Prisk: Private cash key to build boom
Mark Prisk has stressed the importance of private funding to boost affordable housing during his first commons appearance as housing minister.
Conservative Mr Prisk said on Wednesday that providing affordable housing is ‘at the heart’ of the coalition’s agenda. He spoke barely 24 hours after taking over the housing brief from Grant Shapps.
Responding to criticism from shadow housing minister Jack Dromey of the government’s £4 billion cut to capital funding for new affordable homes in 2010, Mr Prisk emphasised the need to attract private investment to build homes.
He claimed the previous Labour government’s system of top-down targets had failed to deliver the homes people needed. He said: ‘We don’t believe that somehow it is Whitehall’s job to run the market place.
‘It is not just about every pound we spend, it is how we lever in private sector funds,’ he added, saying that the £4.5 billion government funding for affordable homes in the 2011 to 2015 spending round had attracted £15 billion of private funding.
Mr Prisk was previously a chartered surveyor and had responsibility for construction in his role at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. In 2005, he presented a bill to protect the green belt from development.
On Wednesday he said the revived right to buy is a policy the government ‘can and should be proud of’ in the face of criticism from Mr Dromey, who mocked the government’s attempts to boost house building over the past couple of years.
Pat Brandum, chief executive of Midlands housing association WM Housing, said: ‘We would like to be part of [house building plans] and hope Mr Prisk wants to be involved with housing associations and not just developers because we really have something to offer.’
David Montague, chief executive of 66,000-home L&Q, said: ‘In Mr Prisk, I see someone who is pro-housing, pro-construction and pro-business and willing to cut red tape. All of those things are good news as far as I’m concerned.’
Bulging in-tray: the job ahead for Mark Prisk
Development: house building numbers fell for the fifth quarter in a row last month, down almost a quarter on last year. Grant Shapps launched the affordable homes programme in 2011 but it falls to Mr Prisk to plan for a replacement when the programme ends in 2015
Welfare reform: changes to benefits could impact landlords’ incomes and hit tenants, who face penalties for extra bedrooms and a total cap on benefits. Reforms could increase homelessness
Homelessness: the government’s recent homelessness strategy was panned by charities for lacking teeth. Homelessness services are being hit by cuts despite growing demand
Funding: Mr Prisk must encourage new funding sources for housing, including real estate investment trusts and increasing institutional investment in the private rented sector
Relationship with the sector: with falling grant and complaints the government doesn’t see the importance of housing, Mr Prisk must ensure he makes the case for housing across government
Grant Shapps: the legacy
Funding: Grant Shapps oversaw the ending of all grant funding for social housing, with new funding restricted for homes let at affordable rents of up to 80 per cent of market rates and fixed-term tenancies
Housing revenue account reform: First proposed by Labour, Mr Shapps oversaw the long-awaited move to council self-financing, allowing authorities to keep rental income and form business plans
Transparency: Mr Shapps has badgered housing association chief executives about opening up their books to scrutiny. In recent months he appeared to have been winning this battle