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New Housing Minister Needs To ‘Hit the Ground Running’

by Sarah Halloran

The big news for housing this week came with the cabinet reshuffle that saw Grant Shapps moved from housing minister with Mark Prisk taking his place. Mr Prisk, the Conservative MP for Hertford and Stortford has been told in some quarters that he has a daunting task and that he must address many industry issues without delay.

The Home Builders Federation (HBF) has been particularly vocal in the wake of Mr Prisk’s appointment as it raises concerns above the future for new builds in the UK. Earlier this week, Steve Turner who is Head of Communications at HBF urged the government to put pressure on the country’s banks to increase their overall lending.

“There are ways that the government can help but ultimately we need to see the banks lending more money – it is exactly the same as for mortgages,” Mr Turner said.

Those comments came after claims that development finance represented the biggest obstacle to sustained home building and not planning policy as many believe.

On the HBF website however, the federation goes even further in putting their point across as they urge the new housing minister to ‘hit the ground running’. The HBF claim that at present, we are building homes at the slowest rate since the 1920’s and that we are only providing half of the country’s overall requirements.

The HBF go on to state that they are looking for the coalition government to address what it calls a severe lack of mortgage credit and development finance. Amongst other issues, the federation has also asked that funding is maintained for the FirstBuy scheme which has been responsible for 10,000 new homes in the UK.

It all adds up to a daunting task for the new incumbent – a fact which the HBF acknowledge.

“We welcome Mark Prisk to the role. Whilst he has an unenviable intray, it is clear that he understands the scale of the job in front of him with his background in the sector,” said Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the HBF.

“We hope he will offer some radical ideas to transform the current housing and planning systems and tackle the housing crisis, providing economic growth and jobs, and strengthening communities across the country.  In his previous role he undertook some positive work to reduce regulation, a commitment his Government has also made with regards to housing and something we hope he will now deliver on.”

The federation go on to welcome Mr Prisk and while the size of the issues facing the housing market as whole are a significant task, the questions that relate to new home builds are obviously going to take up a major proportion of the new Housing Minister’s role.

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Empty Homes Charity Helps to Ease the Housing Shortfall

by Alison Feemantle

As pressure to address the housing crisis in the UK grows stronger and stronger, new solutions are starting to emerge that could help to ease the strain.  According to UK charity Empty Homes, there are currently 1.7 million families on council housing waiting lists and that figure continues to grow.  The UK population is growing and yet house building rates have not been this low since the 1920s.

It Could Cost as Little as £10,000 to Renovate an Empty Property

New ideas come and go on how to ease this problem, but one idea that can’t be ignored is the idea of reusing the thousands of homes currently standing empty across the UK.  Empty Homes has spent a great deal of time collating local council statistics and estimate there are currently 720,000 empty properties in the UK.  Renovation of each property could cost as little as £10,000.  With new-build homes at an all-time low, this seems like the ideal solution to the shortfall in available housing.

Thousands of Properties Ready to Be Renovated

Often these properties are privately owned or properties that have fallen into disrepair.  Some have been inherited by owners who simply don’t have the resources to renovate the property.  Whatever the reason, it’s apparent that many of these homes could be made habitable for the thousands of families desperate for accommodation and that’s exactly what Empty Homes sets out to achieve.

Empty Homes was first established in 1992.  Over the years they have acted on behalf of those individuals and families desperate for somewhere to live by challenging Government policies and suggesting ways to take advantage of thousands of empty homes.  One of the largest problems faced by the owners of these empty properties is the lack of funds to renovate and repair them.  Empty Homes successfully campaigned for tax-breaks for these owners helping them to raise the funds to make them habitable once more.

Help Empty Homes to Rehome Thousands of UK Families

On a local level, Empty Homes is helping thousands of individuals to bring homes back into use. On a national level, every council in the UK now has a named officer whose responsibility it is to restore empty homes back into habitable condition.  These are just some of the initiatives that Empty Homes has addressed and they plan to continue working with home owners and local authorities to help ease the housing crisis and help the thousands of people desperate for a place to call home.

Empty Homes provides a wealth of free advice and assistance to those looking to renovate an empty property and to those looking to invest in empty property.  You can also report an empty property through their website so they can investigate further.

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Get Britain Building Fund Gets Positive Response

by Alison Feemantle

Housing Minister Grant Shapps has welcomed what he referred to as an overwhelming response to the government’s Get Britain Building Campaign amidst news that home building is on the increase and the new build market has also seen positive growth.

The £420m fund was launched only two months ago yet early reports indicate that there have been 176 expressions of interest, meaning that the project is already three times oversubscribed. It’s claimed that the ease of application has seen smaller building companies compete alongside the big developers and that is one of the reasons why the programme has attracted so much interest during its early stages.

All of the bids received so far would cover a total of 392 sites and they are expected to see schemes resurrected that have previously ground to a halt. In addition, once the project is fully underway it is expected to provide up to 30,000 extra jobs in the construction sector by 2014.

“With the Prime Minister putting housing centre stage in the road to economic recovery, we are pulling out all the stops to get the jobs created and the red tape cut to ensure we get the homes this country needs built,” Mr Shapps announced.

“So I am greatly encouraged by the clamour from developers large and small to get Britain building by applying for a share of our £420m fund to unlock stalled sites across the country.”

Mr Shapps went on to say that some of those ‘stalled’ sites had been identified with a view to getting work started again.

“I can confirm that 18 of the most difficult sites have already been identified to potentially share £45m to resolve the issues they face, get builders back on site and over 1,300 homes built. I look forward to seeing the results of the competition and the houses that result,” he added.

Meanwhile, figures released last week claim that house building is already on the increase with a rise in new builds for the last quarter of 2011. With regards to housing completions, the survey shows an increase from the September figure of 26,180 to 26,730 at the end of the year.

In addition, Kevin Wilkins of Bovis Homes claims that the new homes market is already showing the first signs of recovery.

“It is always difficult to predict the market place but the advantages and benefits of buying new are clearly having an impact with homebuyers,” Mr Wilkins said.

The figures relating to new build completions are still down by around 48 per cent compared with the peak period in 2005 but with positive news coming from the Get Britain Building Fund, further rises are anticipated.

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