Photo: Peter Lopeman / Alamy Stock Photo

We must put housebuilding back at the heart of our communities

This government will prioritise building affordable, environmentally-friendly homes the country needs, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick writes
January 27, 2021

Read more: Labour's shadow housing secretary on the flaws in our broken housing system

This past year has shown how important it is to have a home of your own. Despite the new Covid measures under which we’re all living, our mission remains the same: to build the homes the country needs. That work continues, notwithstanding all the other pressures on government. As Housing Secretary, I was determined that the property market should be kept open at this difficult time, and we worked hard with industry to ensure it was safe. The housing market is leading the recovery and we will keep doing everything we can to support the sector. We will create and sustain jobs, make housing more affordable for the young and those on lower incomes, and level up by encouraging investment in those parts of the country that have seen too little of it in recent decades. Across the country, people are struggling to realise the dream of owning their own home, but find the reality of being a leaseholder far too bureaucratic, burdensome and expensive. That’s why, earlier this month, we announced the most ambitious set of reforms to English property law for 40 years to make it easier, cheaper and fairer for leaseholders to buy a lease or extend a freehold, and to pave the way for commonhold to be the dominant tenure for flats.

We are reforming the planning system, and we’ve brought forward the biggest affordable homes programme in 10 years. Our ambition is to create places for people to live that are beautiful and well designed, with green spaces. To facilitate this, we convened the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission, published the National Design Guide and are bringing forward the National Model Design Code, which seeks to apply the design principles that built Belgravia, Bath and Bourneville as widely as possible.

We know that our complex planning system has been a barrier to building the homes people need. It takes seven years to agree local housing plans and five just to get a spade in the ground. Lack of certainty and clarity hampers small and medium-sized developers from competing. To address this, last year the Prime Minister and I set out a new vision for radical reform to England’s outdated planning system in our “Planning for the Future” white paper, proposing a faster, more transparent, predictable approach. These once-in-a-generation reforms will provide more housing for young people and create better-quality neighbourhoods across the country.

We will cut red tape—but not standards, placing a stronger emphasis on quality and the environment than ever before. Planning decisions will be simple and transparent, with local democracy at the heart of the process. This includes creating a fast-track for approving beautiful buildings and making sure councils prioritise good design through clear local guidance.

This government has built more homes than at any time in the last 30 years. That record provides a strong foundation for us to go further. I want us to be a country with a better planning system, a diverse housing market and a resurgent construction industry—a country that builds places where people can flourish. The government will fulfil its manifesto promises to end rough sleeping and build a million new homes within the term of this parliament. We will build more homes in all parts of the country, but we will prioritise imaginative urban regeneration on brownfield land and well-designed, sustainable new settlements.

As we face the economic effects of the pandemic, now is the time for decisive action and a clear plan for growth. Our reforms will create thousands of jobs and lessen the dominance of big builders in the system, providing a major boost for small building companies across the country. As Housing Secretary, I am on a personal mission to deliver this transformational change, and build homes of all tenures for future generations that this country rightly expects.