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Brandon Lewis dismisses Labour-backed Lyons Housing Review

Housing minister Brandon Lewis has dismissed Sir Michael Lyons’ Housing Review for failing to address the “practical” delivery of new homes.

Mr Lewis told Construction News that the report outlined what the Labour Party was already looking at in the housebuilding sector, “talking about measurements” rather than how the industry would go about building units.

“[Labour] seems to think that just by setting a target – which is something they did for 13 years and never reached any of them – means they fixed the problem.

“But it’s about looking at all the different sectors and working out how you get houses built and the Lyons Review doesn’t do that.

“It talks about measurements and targets but not anything practical about how you get housing built and how you support the people who want to get into homes.”

The Lyons Housing Review was commissioned by Labour leader Ed Miliband to carry out an independent review of housing policy and draw up a strategy for the changes needed to deliver at least 200,000 homes a year by 2020.

Lyons Housing Review

Sir Michael Lyons told Construction News last week that the Church of England and supermarket chains should enter the housebuilding market as developers.

Following the publication of the Lyons Housing Review, commissioned by Labour leader Ed Miliband in September 2013, Sir Michael said landholders including the Church of England, supermarket chains like Tesco and Sainsbury’s and universities should be encouraged to become housing developers, creating “a much more diverse building industry”.

Mr Lewis, speaking at the Construction News Summit 2014, insisted the Conservative Party was more focused about getting people into houses through schemes such as Rent to Buy, Starter Homes or boosting custom build.

The minister said he wanted to see more homes coming through in the private rented sector, which he described as a “very small sector” at present.

He said PRS had huge opportunities and was able to build at scale, lending itself to city development for younger occupiers not looking to enter the sales market.

On garden cities, the minister said his party was making progress with local authorities on the creation of new zones, adding that an announcement was due shortly.

Asked whether the Conservatives would seriously consider proposals put forward in the Lyons Review on encouraging unconventional developers such as the Church of England and supermarkets to get involved in housebuilding, Mr Lewis agreed that the CoE had a large land holding.

He said government officials were in discussion with the Church over the potential use of this land for the party’s drive on increasing custom-build.

The biggest challenge facing the industry was “demand for skills”, according to Mr Lewis who said the government forecast that 14,000 apprenticeships would be started in 2014.

Summit chairman Andrew Neil said the figures quoted by the housing minister of 480,000 homes built during the government’s term to date was “impressive, until you divide that number by the number of years of government”, saying this was “half of what everyone says we need to build every year”.

Mr Lewis insisted he made “no apologies” for the government’s record, and that it had “inherited the lowest housebuilding rate since the 1920s”.

Keynote address: Talking points

  • The Conservative Party inherited a broken housing market but has managed to get housebuilding to its highest level since 2007, according to Brandon Lewis.
  • He said his party was investing in the industry to make sites viable, as well as introducing policy to boost both supply and demand.
  • But he insisted there was no “silver bullet” solution to the housing shortfall.
  • He said the main issues facing the housebuilding industry were around skills, which he is addressing in partnership with construction minister Nick Boles.

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