Housing - The Hottest Topic at CPC18

“More, better, faster” was the new Minister of State for Housing and Planning, Kit Malthouse MP’s, mantra for housing, the hottest topic at this year’s Conservative Party Conference.

With the plentiful supply of housing-related fringe events it simply wasn’t possible to attend them all, though Malthouse managed to speak at a remarkable number. Weary of the high turnover of people in the role, Malthouse deservedly earned delegates’ respect as he showed his understanding of and enthusiasm for housing, the former being particularly impressive since he had been in post for just shy of 3 months.

He spoke about the various housing challenges including: affordability, supply, rental market standards and costs, planning regulations, land value calculations and persuading local communities to support development.

Acceptability rockets with good design – a critical piece to the jigsaw” he said. Frequently during Conference, he encouraged developers to strive to build “the conservation areas of the future”. These weren’t empty words, Malthouse’s Instagram account shows his passion and appreciation of beautiful, well-designed homes. No surprise that Create Streets already had Malthouse’s attention, and captured the audience’s notice at Conservative Home’s “More Good Homes” fringe event. Create Streets’ Nicholas Boys Smith gave a stand-out whistle-stop history of planning explaining his organisation’s aim “to help solve the housing crisis and to help communities and developers create beautiful [sufficient density] street-based places” which went down a storm.

Malthouse spoke of the £1bn loan scheme for SME house-builders announced pre-Conference in September, saying it “should allow 1000 flowers to bloom”. He wants a “fizzing, bubbling competitive market as it will deliver the homes we need”.  He enthused about new Garden communities, urged local authorities to look at them and the Government incentives.

He is well aware that the industry is highly regulated and the speed of building homes too slow. His determination to tackle the various issues holding up “more, better, faster” homes being built, including councillors’ frustrations with how the Planning Inspectorate ‘works’ will be watched keenly. In Malthouse’s favour is the fact the Prime Minister recognises that “solving the housing crisis is the biggest domestic policy challenge of our generation”.

For the few – maybe for the many, Theresa May’s ballsy, breath-taking “Dancing Queen” entrance will stick in the memory, but for everyone her announcement to abolish the borrowing cap on councils is ground breaking. Perhaps history will show it to be the housing policy change with the biggest impact on delivering the homes our country needs.

Account Manager, Isobel Ballsdon, attended the Conservative Party Conference on behalf of MPC.