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6 industry news HOUSING MINISTER

Lewis welcomes housebuilding surge

ministerial responsibility for planning and hous- ing at the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). There was some confusion when it was ini-


tially thought that Mark Francois MP, who was appointed as Minister of State at the DCLG, had been given the housing and planning briefs. It was later confirmed that Brandon Lewis would continue as Planning and Housing Minister. It was good timing for Lewis who was then able to welcome new figures showing a surge in

GOVERNMENT APPOINTMENT Greg Clark tells departments to ‘loosen their grip’

Government, Greg Clark has alreay made his first announcement. Promoted from a ministerial role at the


Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Greg Clark will head the department responsible for creating ‘great places to live and work, The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), which has also recently assumed responsibility for architecture policy. Speaking ahead of the first meeting of a dedi-

cated ministerial Housing Taskforce, he urged departments to ‘loosen their grip’ on sites that are standing idle so they can be released for new housebuilding. This is linked with the target to release enough land for 150,000 homes by 2020. He has also called on England’s 326 councils

HELP TO BUY Help to Buy: Equity Loan Scheme success story T

he Department for Communities and Local Government housing market sta- tistical release on 30 April reported the

continued success story of the government’s Help to Buy: Equity Loan scheme. It was the seventh release covering Help to Buy:

respond online at

Equity Loan and confirmed that in the first two years of the scheme (to 31 March 2015), 47,018 properties have been bought with an equity loan. The total value of these equity loans was £1.99

billion and the value of the properties sold under the scheme totaled £10.01 billion. The mean

purchase price of a property bought under the scheme was £212,932. Most of the home purchases in the Help to

Buy: Equity Loan scheme were made by first- time buyers. This accounted for 38,703 (82 per cent) of total purchases.

ot resting on his laurels, newly appointed Secretary of State for Communities and Local

to follow the government’s lead and look at the land assets they hold, saying: “The chance to own your own home should be available to everyone who works hard and aspires to. That is what a government for working people is about – making sure people have the security they need to build a brighter future for them and their families. “The scale of our ambition is clear – to release

enough surplus and redundant public sector land for 150,000 homes over the next five years. I want to see departments going further and faster than before, starting right away, to loosen their grip on sites that are standing idle and to turn them over for housebuilding. “Councils are significant landowners and

town halls should be looking at their estate, particularly brownfield sites, and thinking about how they could make better use of their

holdings by releasing land for new homes for their communities.” Previously, Greg

Clark held the posts of minister for decentrali- sation at DCLG, and minister for cities at the Cabinet Office, and his appointment is being

seen as strengthening the regional and cities devolution agenda. Industry bodies reacted positively to his

appointment with Federation of Master Builders CEO, Brian Ferry saying: “Greg Clark played a crucial role in putting in place the National Planning Policy Framework and we welcome his appointment as state secretary for communities and local government.”

s many old faces left and new faces joined the government’s all Conserva- tive cabinet Brandon Lewis retained

the numbers of new homes being built across the country. Housebuilding figures showed that starts had

more than doubled since those seen during the same period in 2009 – with both starts and com- pletions rising over the past year. The numbers of homes completed has also

risen sharply, to their highest levels for nearly six years. In the year to March, work started on 140,500

homes – 5 per cent higher than during the previ- ous year. Over 40,000 homes were started between January and March this year – 31 per cent higher

than the same period in 2014, and 136 per cent higher than the same period in 2009. This means housing starts are at their highest level since 2007. Speaking about the figures Brandon Lewis

said: “Housebuilding is at the heart of our plan to ensure the recovery reaches all parts of our country. We’re turning around an industry that was devastated and getting the country building again. Today’s figures show these efforts are reap- ing results, with housebuilding starts having more than doubled since 2009, and completions at their highest for nearly six years. “It is vital we maintain this momentum,

getting workers back on sites and homes built – giving more people the chance to own their own home.” Although the reappointment of Brandon

Lewis as Housing Minister will provide some continuity for the housing sector he will report to a new Communities and Local Government Secretary in Greg Clark MP, who replaced Eric Pickles in the cabinet reshuffle.

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