Gove Quits: How Effective was he in Combatting the UK’s Housing Crisis?

Gove quits

The resignation of Michael Gove has left the UK’s property industry pondering his impact on the housing market.

Gove, a prominent figure in British politics, has served twice as the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities, demonstrating his influence and commitment.

His departure raises critical questions about whether his tenure made a meaningful difference in addressing the UK’s housing crisis.

A Controversial Tenure
Michael Gove’s time as the head of housing policy was marked by his outspoken views and legislative efforts.

Famously declaring UK housing as “broken” and condemning leaseholds as “a feudal system that had to go,”

Gove sought to implement substantial reforms. He initiated his own legislation, a departure from the usual practice of ministers merely advancing inherited bills.

Achievements and Shortcomings
One of Gove’s notable achievements was the passage of a leasehold reform bill, although it fell short of comprehensive rent reform. His tenure also saw the introduction of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act, intended to streamline the planning process and give local councils more autonomy over housing targets.

However, Gove faced significant setbacks, such as the abandonment of his housebuilding planning reforms due to opposition from his backbenchers in November 2022.

Data from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities revealed that the UK added 234,400 dwellings last year, unchanged from the previous year and still below the 2019 Conservative manifesto target of 300,000 homes annually. Despite this, Gove touted that the UK would have built one million homes over the current parliament, with the figure standing at 935,204.

Industry Reaction
The property industry has had mixed reactions to Gove’s legacy. Jeremy Leaf, a former Rics residential chairman, acknowledged the effort behind Gove’s leasehold bill, even though it lacked a crucial ground rent provision. He expressed disappointment over the bill’s incompletion due to the election and Gove’s decision to step down, giving it a moderate rating and hoping the next government will continue the work.

Lauren Hughes from Vouch highlighted the frustration within the industry over the Renters Reform Bill’s failure, pointing to ongoing uncertainty in the private rented sector. Some commentors also critiqued Gove’s “brownfield presumption” policy as ineffective, given the existing plans for brownfield sites and the persistent shortfall in housebuilding levels.

However, other industry members commended Gove’s genuine desire for change, particularly in leasehold reform and renters’ rights. However, noting that the supply of new and affordable homes continued to lag behind demand, leaving many aspiring homeowners struggling.

Overall, Michael Gove’s tenure as the head of housing policy was a blend of ambitious reforms and unmet targets. While he made strides in leasehold reform and initiated significant legislation, the broader goals of increasing housing supply and making homeownership accessible remain elusive. His resignation marks a critical juncture for the UK’s housing market, with the industry hopeful that future administrations will build on his groundwork and address the enduring housing crisis effectively.

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