The government is committed to helping the social housing sector deliver more homes but landlords must step up to the challenge, says Mark Prisk
Time to be bold
To get a phone call from the prime minister asking you to become housing minister is a great privilege, and a challenge I relish.
Housing affects everyone - whether you’re old or young, rich or poor, rent or own your home.
All of us need a home, somewhere we can call our own, somewhere that families can be secure and where children can grow.
Everyone deserves to have a roof over their head, and young families who want to get on and feel the pride of homeownership deserve an opportunity to do so.
Setting clear aims
So my priorities are clear: unlock the housing market, get more homes built and see more families enjoy the security that comes from being able to step over their own threshold.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my role as business minister and I hope to build on what I achieved there: whether that was overseeing a record number of small business start-ups, or overseeing £6 billion pounds of investment into the UK car industry.
I already have some understanding of the housing and the construction markets, but I know I have much to learn, particularly about the social housing sector.
What I do know is the economic value of the sector: its ability to drive local growth. So, as I said in my speech to the National Housing Federation last week, I want to listen and learn from the experts - Inside Housing readers who have a strong track record of delivering new affordable homes.
From the outset I want councils and housing associations alike to be crystal clear that this government is committed to helping the social housing sector deliver more affordable homes.
It’s why just a day after being appointed to my new post we set out a comprehensive and positive range of measures that include building up to another 15,000 new affordable homes and bringing an extra 5,000 empty homes back into use.
These new measures will build on the £1.3 billion that is already working to unlock stalled housing schemes, and the affordable homes programme of £19.5 billion [£4.5 billion from government and accompanying private sector investment], which we are confident, will deliver up to 170,000 new affordable homes.
Alongside reforms to the planning system and the rented sectors, these policies will improve our housing provision over the next few years and in the longer term.
But I want more. The great strength of the social housing sector is its diversity - the way councils and housing associations build homes and provide services in an innovative way to a wide variety of tenants.
Like the work by housing association London & Quadrant on the former Olympic park to develop affordable homes for both rent and purchase, and the Fizzy Living private rental scheme launched recently by Thames Valley Housing.
So, my challenge to the sector is to build on this strength: to get together and learn from each other so we can deliver homes for an even wider group of people, in new ways and in different types of tenure. It’s time to be bold.
I know this will be a tough challenge - as a former businessman I know that, in order to improve and deliver more, you need more certainty about the market you work in and the direction of government policy, especially future financing for affordable homes.
That’s why we will stand by the social housing sector and put in place a comprehensive set of measures to help this sector adapt and grow, especially through our newly announced housing guarantees, and the £200 million equity finance fund.
There will be some significant challenges on the road ahead, and times we disagree, but as a government we are determined to work with you and improve the provision of affordable housing and the lives of your tenants.
Mark Prisk is housing minister and the MP for Hertford and Stortford