There was plenty of coverage last week – not all of it positive – of the Conservative Party Conference, with its heavy emphasis on ‘levelling up’ and ‘building back better’ (or burger or beaver, depending on your preference). But for those of us in the property industry, some of the more interesting comments came from Michael Gove at a fringe meeting where he talked about social housing.
The necessity for more, good quality social housing is an issue that you would expect the housing secretary to grasp but under successive incumbents – and governments – it has not been top of the priority list. As people living in social housing continue to highlight problems with damp, overcrowding, rat infestations and poor maintenance, there is clearly a worsening situation that is not being addressed.
Michael Gove seems to understand this, telling fellow conservatives that “the quality of social housing, particularly in some parts of the country, remains scandalously poor,” and adding “we do need to look at the condition of social housing, and the way in which we can make sure that there is a proper incentivisation for those who are social housing providers both to improve stock and to increase numbers”.
As the person charged with the government’s levelling up agenda, this would be a good place for Michael Gove to start. Social housing has a vital role to play in the property mix. The fact that there is not enough of it has pushed more people into the private rented sector and with demand now exceeding supply in the PRS, how people will be housed is now a major issue.
So it is heartening to see a government minister showing an appreciation of the fact that “the supply of social housing overall has not kept pace with the demand” and publicly admitting that something must be done about it.
Author : Maryanne Bowring
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