Alok Sharma MP Panel
Alok Sharma MP, far right, speaking at a JLL fringe event yesterday

There’s no North/South divide in policy, says latest housing minister

Jessica Middleton-Pugh

Alok Sharma MP, appointed minister for housing in May, asserted “there is one housing policy nationally” at a fringe event, but stressed there needs to be a focus on where housing is least affordable, leading to an emphasis on the South.

Speaking at an event titled ‘Why aren’t we building the houses we need?’, organised by Policy Exchange and JLL, Sharma, member for Reading West, defended the proposed changes to housing assessment methodology, which could see housing targets reduced in some areas of the North. He pointed out that “housing allocations are minimal figures, but where housing is least affordable, there needs to be an honest assessment of delivery.”

Sharma has been the housing minister for around 100 days, and has taken a role which has become notorious for its high turnover, with ministers in the post for an average of 11 months. He took over from Gavin Barwell, who lost his seat in the General Election in June.

Sharma has faced tough questions over housing delivery and construction methods, not least because of the Grenfell Tower fire which occurred weeks after he took up the post.

“Grenfell made us ask fundamental questions about housing, and that is now informing the national approach,” he said.

Also speaking at the event, editorial director of The Sunday Times, Eleanor Mills, went further and stressed “Grenfell Tower stands as a massive rebuke to local and national Government, who put profit above the lives of the people who lived there.”

For the sector overall, the Conservative Party now has an ambitious goal, Sharma said: “In 2022, we want people to look back and say that the Conservatives delivered fairness in the housing market, whether that is renting or buying.”

His assessment of what was needed to solve the housing crisis was succinct: “We just need to build more homes.

“We need to diversify the number of people out there building homes, both SMEs and championing custom building. If we delivered custom houses at the same rate as Germany, we would be building 60,000 homes a year.”

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