Housing Secretary: I will unlock land for more homes
The new Housing Secretary has vowed to “strain ever sinew” to end the region’s home-building crisis.
Robert Jenrick MP said it was “extremely important” to build the homes the Black Country, Staffordshire and Shropshire desperately needs.
And he has called unlocking brownfield sites a “priority” in his bid to increase the numbers during a visit to Wolverhampton.
Mr Jenrick, who was born in the city and did work experience at the Express & Star in the late 1990s, said: “My mission is to get more homes built, to get more young people and families onto the housing ladder and to help them have the dream of home-ownership that I’ve benefitted from.
WATCH: MP outlines housing strategy
“For me, there was no better place to come on my first visit to see housing than Wolverhampton – the city I was born in and my family has such deep connections with – to see what’s going on here, which is fantastic regeneration.
“And there’s a real partnership between central Government, the city council, the mayor and institutions here in the West Midlands that has definitely helped forge [this] over the last few years.”
The Newark MP, who lived in Shifnal and grew up in Ludlow, was given a tour around development sites in the city.
He was joined by Wolverhampton Council leader Ian Brookfield and Walsall Council leader Mike Bird, who also holds the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) portfolio for housing and land.
The group went on a mini tour of sites in Wolverhampton including the site of the city’s former Royal Hospital, which will become the centrepiece of a new development featuring dozens of apartments.
Mr Jenrick said there had been a lot of investment in the region – and that houses and infrastructure needed to follow.
He said: “The good news is that this area, which I know well, is prospering economically.
“There’s a lot of new jobs and investment coming to Wolverhampton, to South Staffordshire, to Telford, and communities around them. And as a result of that, people want to come and live in this area.
“We need the houses and the infrastructure to follow that and I think it’s extremely important that we do get those homes built.
“And the new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, was clear on the campaign trail that we need to respect the greenbelt.
“As Secretary of State, I’m going to strain ever sinew and try to pull every lever that’s available to me to help communities build the homes they need.”
Around 215,000 homes need to be built by 2031 in the region, according to the WMCA, in a bid to keep up with demand and a growing population.
The Government minister said he wanted councils to have “ambitious plans” – because houses needed to be built.
Mr Jenrick added: “I want local authorities across the country to have ambitious plans, because we need to build homes – we need the next generation to have the opportunity to have a home of their own, whether that’s a chance to buy a home or one for rent. And so we are, as a society, going to have to be very ambitious in our housing plans. In Wolverhampton we have an example of a lot of brownfield land, a lot of regeneration opportunities and fantastic buildings.
“It is also an example of how the Government can work to improve the town and city centre, to help it to evolve.
“There’s a lot of opportunities to get more homes and workspaces into a city centre like this – and give it new life and help the city centre to thrive in the future.”