Supporting families in the private rental market

We’re as determined as ever to build a bigger, better private rented sector and ensure tenants looking for somewhere to live have a choice of high quality accommodation.

It’s why we’ve introduced the £1billion Build to Rent fund, and why we’re offering up to £10billion in housing guarantees, to bring more developers into the market and build homes specifically for private rent.

Indeed, we’ve appointed a specialist Private Rented Sector taskforce precisely to promote these two schemes to the wider industry.

And it’s why we want to make sure that all tenants whatever their circumstances are able to get the service they need and deserve.

So this week we announced new measures that will encourage longer tenancies and improved standards in the private rented sector.

There will be a new model tenancy agreement, developed with the sector itself.  This will make clear the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants alike, and enable families to request longer tenancies that will give them greater certainty and security.

And we’ll also work with the industry to develop a tenants’ charter, to ensure all tenants know what to expect and where to go if things don’t work out.    This charter will work alongside new compulsory redress schemes, which will handle complaints against letting agents including when landlords and tenants are hit with hidden fees.

And we’re encouraging mortgage lenders to follow in the footsteps of the Nationwide, and enable buy-to-let borrowers to offer longer initial fixed periods in their tenancy agreements.

These steps will help thousands of tenants get a fair deal.  And alongside the increase in supply, they will help to ensure better choice and quality for everyone who rents.

Innovation is the future of housebuilding

Yesterday I was given a glimpse into the future of housebuilding at Newhall Be, a contemporary housing development in Harlow which has used up to the minute construction techniques and innovative design to create a buzzing community. 

The scheme was named Supreme Winner at the Housing Design Awards earlier this year and is shortlisted for the Stirling Prize for the way in which its layout and design, despite its compact area, gives residents a greater sense of space and natural light.

 Local resident, Iris Meijer showed me around her beautiful three-bedroom home and I saw for myself how thoughtful design has ensured that every resident has their own outside area to enjoy and a sense of space and light in their home.

And by matching timber framed structures with off-site construction techniques, the build-time on these 84 eco-friendly homes was reduced by 6 weeks compared with using more conventional building methods. The barn-style roofs, constructed off site inSussex, were installed in Harlow in just two days per house.

I was also highly impressed at the clear effort the housebuilder Linden Homes has made to future-proof its homes. Every house comes with generous, habitable loft space to ensure that residents have the option to move up, instead of out, as their family grows.

This is the kind of design that I want to see more of – innovative thinking to create communities that residents really love, homes that will can adapt to the pressures of a growing family and construction techniques that build more homes, more quickly to deliver the homes this country needs.

We’re already clearing the path for improved design – just this week we invited views on minimum space and access standards that would allow councils to seek bigger homes to meet local needs. And that’s on top of the billions we’re investing to deliver the fastest rate of affordable housebuilding for two decades.

Newhall Be is a shining example of what be achieved in housebuilding – from building sections of homes offsite to using creative design to create welcoming communities. I hope that more developers will learn from their example and see how they can build new technology and innovations into their own work, improving the speed and design of housebuilding in this country.

You can hear me talk about the development on BBC Radio 4′s You and Yours programme here.  


New figures show we’re getting Britain building

Today’s housebuilding statistics are a further sign that our efforts to get Britain building are achieving results.

Our latest figures show there were 29,510 new homes started between April and June this year, a third higher than the same time last year.

This increase wasn’t just restricted to one part of the country over another: of the 326 councils in England, 178 reported increases in housebuilding starts.

That is in stark contrast to three years ago, when housebuilding levels had sunk to their lowest since the 1920s and we were suffering the end of the unsustainable housing boom.

Now, housing supply is at its highest level since 2008, and over 150,000 new affordable homes have been built since 2010.

In addition, we now have the highest number of first-time buyers and the lowest numbers of repossessions for six years.

There is undoubtedly more to do: but these statistics do reinforce the momentum towards getting Britain building again.

Housebuilding confidence delivering more homes

The Help to Buy: Equity Loan scheme continues to revive the housing market, with 10,000 reservations for new build homes just four months after its launch.

Buyers are voting with their feet, and demonstrating that our action to kick-start the housing market is working. Every reservation is giving more confidence to house builders, who have committed to build more homes.

It’s why housing supply is now at its highest level since 2008, the tail end of the unsustainable housing bubble. Almost third of a million additional homes were delivered between 2010 and 2012, and 150,000 affordable homes have been built in the last three years.

This success has been built on a solid foundation: our work to tackle the deficit, keep interest rates low and increase the availability of competitively priced mortgages.

It’s clear that the market has turned a corner. We now have the highest level of first time buyers since 2007 and Britain is building again.

That’s good news for the economy, and means thousands of hard-working young people and families will be able to get on and move up the housing ladder

Repossessions hit six-year low

I am determined that repossession remains the absolute last resort for homeowners facing financial difficulty.

So I am encouraged by the news that the numbers of repossessions are now at their lowest level for six years. 

Today’s figures, from the Council of Mortgage Lenders, show the numbers of repossessions have fallen by eight per cent over the past year, while the number of possession cases in the first half of 2013 was the lowest six-monthly figure since the second half of 2007.

This fall is illustrated by the fact that so far only 5,000 homeowners have needed the Mortgage Rescue Scheme since its introduction in 2009.

But I’m far from complacent and want anyone facing the threat of losing their home to know that Government help is out there.

That’s why we’ve maintained the Support for Mortgage Interest Scheme, as well as our £470million funding to ensure we continue to have the strongest safety net in the world against homelessness.

 So my message is simple: anyone facing the real and frightening prospect of losing their home should seek advice from their lender early.

Investors increasingly look to private rental market

Our plans to build a bigger and better private rented sector are gaining pace: not only have we now signed the first Build to Rent deal to build homes specifically for private rent in Southampton, but today’s Times Bricks and Mortar reports on a growing number of institutional investors looking to put their money towards this growing market. You can read more here.

I’m determined that we do everything we can to support our growing private rental market, which is why in addition to the £1billion Build to Rent fund, we’re also making Government guarantees of up to £6.5billion available, to help investors in the private rented sector access finance on more competitive terms than they would otherwise.

And we’ve set up the first ever Private Rented Sector taskforce to advise and support those looking to invest.

Build to Rent delivering homes for future tenants

Last week, I was delighted to welcome the first deal under our £1billion Build to Rent scheme, to build homes specifically for private rent.

These new properties will be delivered as part of the £500million Centenary Quay development in Southampton, where work is already underway to transform the former Vosper Thorneycroft marine works in the city.

This exciting new project will deliver a total of 1,600 homes, as well as a new supermarket, new cafes and new shops.  This first Build to Rent agreement forms part of a £7.5million package to help deliver 230 of the homes – 102 of which will be for private rent.

As Chris Tinker, Executive Director at Crest Nicholson said this Build to Rent deal will, “enable us to broaden the housing offer at Centenary Quay and to increase the rate of delivery of much-needed housing at this time”.

And Southampton City Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing, Cllr Warwick Payne, described the deal as “great news for the city”, adding it will deliver homes for rent “in a vibrant location for a significant number of residents”.

Once work on these 102 homes is completed, developers Crest Nicholson will sell them to A2 Dominion Group – who will then let and manage them as the landlord.

This deal is one clear example of how we’re looking to build a bigger and better private rented sector across the country: I look forward to visiting Centenary Quay and other developments as more Build to Rent projects get underway.

Bringing property owners into the high streets mix

Today I visited London’s West End to see first hand how a Business Improvement District can help regenerate an area by bringing the key players together to pool funds and make the high street an attractive and pleasant place to visit.

We are keen to see these partnerships taking place across the country, and that’s why we are reforming the Business Improvement District scheme. We are making it easier for them to operate, and providing £500,000 in loans so smaller towns have the help they need to set up their own partnerships. And now we want to see how property owners can also be added to this equation, to involve more local people, increase funding and boost support to regeneration projects.

Help to Buy living up to its name.

The Help to Buy: Equity Loan scheme continues to capture the public’s imagination, and help more people buy newly-built homes with a fraction of the deposit.

New figures this week showed that in just three short months, housebuilders have taken nearly 7,000 reservations – on top of over 1,000 sales that have been completed.

The scheme enables credit-worthy buyers to receive a 20 per cent equity loan to help them buy the property, interest free for five years. And it’s available both to first-time buyers and also to existing homeowners looking to move up the property ladder.

And because it’s available on newly-built homes, it’s also helping deliver more properties by bringing demand into the market. Indeed, Telford Homes recently announced that by joining Help to Buy they would double their output in London because, in the words of their chief executive, Jon Di-Stefano, “the market is there” to build more homes.

I want to see more of this appetite from every housebuilder, as it’s clear that we’re moving in the right direction, making sure that people have the opportunity to buy. And by capitalising on this moment and finding new ways to deliver homes quickly, we can get Britain building and deliver the homes this country needs.

Progress for Enterprise Zones

We’ve seen more good news for Enterprise Zones this week, with a £150 million boost in funding as well as progress on major sites across the country.

Eleven Enterprise Zones across the country will benefit from Regional Growth Funding, with the multi-million pound cash boost bringing the total government investment in Enterprise Zones to date to £800 million. A further £230 million has been invested by the private sector.

We’re already seeing the positive impact these Zones are having in the economy. Since their standing start a year ago, they have created 3,000 jobs, attracted 126 new businesses and generated 105,000 square metres of new commercial floorspace.

And momentum continues to grow.

This week, I visited London’s Royal Albert Dock Enterprise Zone, where a £1 billion deal between Chinese developer ABP (London), Stanhope plc and the Greater London Authority (GLA) will transform docklands in eastLondoninto a major business district.

The change is already striking, and I’m especially interested in the Mayor’s competition for an innovative floating village and potential to support more self-build homes.  

Mark Prisk views the Royal Albert London Docks site from the Emirates Air Line with Daniel Bridge, principal development manager for the GLA

Mark Prisk views the Royal Albert London Docks site from the Emirates Air Line with Daniel Bridge, principal development manager for the GLA

And just today I was pleased to see that work will soon be underway to reinvent the disused former Swan Hunter shipyard in North Tyneside (link to subscribed site). The site will capitalise on its easy access to theNorth Seaand has the potential to attract businesses from around the world.

Backed by £13.6 million public funding this is the next step towards a bright future for the North Eastern Low Carbon Enterprise Zone – transforming a former hub of industry into a business-ready centre for low carbon technology with reduced rates, excellent transport and support for renewable industries.

I’m confident it will be a great success, creating new jobs for local people and boosting economic growth.