Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has announced “radical” government plans which he says will be crucial to kick-starting the housing market.
Jenrick was speaking in Parliament on Wednesday afternoon after the government resumed house moves and viewings in England, and tradespeople were actively encouraged to go back to work.
The majority of house moves have been on hold since March 23, which is believed to have affected more than 450,000 people. Those in the middle of buying a house have only been allowed to move if “reasonably necessary” during the Covid-19 lockdown.
The government eased those restrictions this week, and has published new guidelines permitting house moves and viewings, providing social distancing measures are maintained.
“Today I am announcing a comprehensive, clear and coherent plan to reopen the housing market and to restart the construction industry,” Jenrick told MPs.
“This is the most radical re-starting of an industry in the first phase of our national recovery roadmap. This was not an easy decision to make. I do know that in every economic recovery in modern British history, the housing market has been key.”
Today I am announcing our comprehensive plan to restart, reopen and renew the #housingmarket – safely.
— Robert Jenrick (@RobertJenrick) May 13, 2020
What Are The Plans?
Buyers and renters will be able to view properties in person. Additionally, show homes can open and removal firms can return to work, as long as social distancing guidelines are followed.
To ensure tradespeople’s safety on construction sites, Jenrick confirmed that several steps will be taken. These include builders working more flexible site hours, with arrival times staggered to ease pressure on public transport.
The government has also published workplace safety guidelines for builders to help restrict the spread of Covid-19.
Moreover, rules will be eased on how local authorities publicise planning applications. This will enable local councils and developers to publicise planning applications through social media instead of having to rely on posters and leaflets, helping to unblock the service
This has been welcomed by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB). Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: “Speeding up the planning system will be welcome news for many smaller house builders who struggle to negotiate what has typically been an unwieldy process.
“I hope that digitisation will mean greater access and transparency in planning decisions for all those involved. We must move towards a market which helps small builders bring forward quality local homes of all types, for local people.”
The government also announced that it will support smaller housebuilders struggling with cash flow by taking a more flexible approach to Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) payments, allowing them to defer payments to local authorities.