Housing high on Cameron's agenda says new minister
The Conservatives are to give housing a bigger emphasis under the leadership of David Cameron, the new shadow housing minister claimed this week.
Speaking to Inside Housing, Michael Gove said Mr Cameron's election marked a change in Conservative approach in which housing policy would be central.
The newly appointed shadow minister for housing admitted it had lacked prominence under previous leaders, but said that would change under Mr Cameron.
'The impression that I get from what David has been saying to [shadow secretary for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister] Caroline Spelman and the rest of the team is that he's very keen that housing policy, social justice and urban regeneration should all get a bigger emphasis in policy and campaigning terms,' he said.
Mr Gove appeared to backtrack on the unpopular Tory policy of extending the right to buy to housing associations. 'I am also sensitive to the fact that housing associations and other providers of social housing need to maintain a decent stock of housing,' he said.
'I'm interested in hearing from housing associations and others, [so] that we can make sure they maintain [it].'
Mr Gove said homelessness was a 'key priority' and he hoped to engage with the voluntary and charitable sector to inform policy. An announcement on the issue is expected in the new year. The new social justice commission under Iain Duncan Smith (Inside Housing, 9 December) is to look at homelessness.
Shadow minister for communities and local government Alistair Burt this week said the Tories would give more power to communities as 'the gap between public and elected representatives is growing and worrying'. Mr Gove said that this could potentially give housing associations more powers and a bigger role locally.
He welcomed the possibility of giving arm's-length management organizations financial freedom, and said he would look at bringing in new private finance mechanisms for new build.
Chloe Hardy, government affairs manager at the National Housing Federation, welcomed the appointment of Mr Gove.
'To have someone in the housing role who's a real policy thinker could be quite exciting,' she said. 'If he works the way I think he may work it's a real opportunity for the sector to engage with the Conservative party in a way we haven't done for a very long time.'