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Category: government and politics
Rishi Sunak plans to withdraw from the commitment to build 300,000 houses a year due to backlash from Conservative MPs.
The prime minister has faced opposition on planning reform between the two fronts of MPs from different regions in England. Northern seat representatives are eager to liberalise restrictions, whilst MPs in traditional Tory heartlands wish to avoid further excessive building.
Several Conservative MPs have welcomed the U-turn. Theresa Villiers, Member of Parliament for Chipping Barnet, said that Sunak and Gove “listened and moved in our direction”. She stated:
“What is proposed will go a long way in rebalancing the system and the scrapping of mandatory central housing building targets is a starting point.
“Our proposals still place house building at the heart all the while giving local communities a say.”
MP for the Isle of Wight, Bob Seely, said:
“Targets will be more constrained by density and area’s existing character, preventing suburbs feeling like they’re being turned into cities and rural areas into suburbs”.
He added that the U-turn was “proof of a party working together”.
However, the decision has been criticised by the Labour party, which argued that it would lead to fewer houses being built.
Lisa Nandy, shadow levelling up secretary, states that the prime minister’s decision is “unconscionable in the middle of housing crisis” and “weak”. The Labour party accused Sunak and Gove of putting “party before country”.
Request for market study
Michael Gove, levelling up secretary, has requested the CMA to open up a probe into the housing sector, following the 300,000 housebuilding target U-turn after opposition from Tory MPs.
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities released a November letter that has been sent to Sarah Cardell, interim chief executive of CMA. Gove wrote:
“It is critical that we have a housebuilding sector that operates effectively to deliver the homes that people need.
“Housing plays a key role in achieving our Levelling Up ambitions. Buying a home is one of the most important decisions a family takes, with huge financial implications, so making sure this market is working in the interests of consumers is of the highest importance.”
The secretary added that the last market study took place 14 years ago – since then the nation has faced significant changes, including altered structure of the market, following the financial crisis and shifting demographic changes.
Sarah Cardell replied that the regulator has been “developing proposals for work in this area”, indicating that a decision on a year-long probe would be discussed in the January meeting.
Fierce reaction from the industry
Managing director of real estate developer Stripe Property Group, James Forrester states:
“This is astonishingly negligent on the part of the government.
“House building has languished below the required 300,000 annual number since the 1950s and that’s even with the focus and accountability of local authority facing targets.
“To remove those targets is to allow the UK’s requirement to dangle in the wind and we now have even less chance as a nation of providing adequate dwelling numbers. It’s a dumb move”.
Iain Crawford, chief executive of Alliance real estate fund, added:
“Another day, another U-turn but this one is particularly serious in that in watering down the country’s likely annual residential construction output, thousands of would-be buyers and renters are going to have less choice of home.
“The result will be even higher house prices as increasing demand from net positive immigration and an ageing population continues to outweigh supply.”