Jimmy Breck-McKye

Developing opinions

What challenges are facing the Ministry for Housing, Communities & Local Government?

“Housing” is now the first word in the department’s titular remit, and housing forms perhaps its most pressing priorities: responding effectively to the Grenfell tragedy, and improving access to the housing market.

On the first: DHCLG must implement recommendations of the Hackitt Review, including a more effective ‘outcomes-based’ building safety regulations framework, with clearer terms and responsibilities. It must move swiftly to identify risks in existing high-rises, and cooperate fully with the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry.

On the second: the department must explore ways to stimulate further housebuilding. It could open up opportunities for SMEs and housing associations to build more homes. It could consider helping organisations raise more capital to invest in this. It could focus on ensuring planning-consented sites are built out faster. Above all it must do so without losing sight of housing quality.

But new builds alone can help no-one sitting empty. DHCLG should investigate ways to improve the efficiency and cost of the home-buying process, and give private renters more clarity over fees.

At a communities level, DHCLG has ongoing but important work to do developing an Integrated Communities Strategy, encouraging social mixing. Given patchy evidence for the benefit of previous interventions, it should establish meaningful measurements to help track the impact of individual pilot policies and build an evidence-based ‘toolbox’ of approaches that work.

Finally: Brexit. DHCLG must work quickly to establish a UK Shared Prosperity Fund that will cover the shortfall in local authority EU funding.