BRITAIN’S newly-appointed housing minister Esther McVey has vowed to work with councils struggling to meet tough government targets on new homes.
However, the MP failed to say if she would review Whitehall-set targets despite pleas to do so from council chiefs in Portsmouth, who need to build thousands more homes in the next 15 years.
Speaking during an official trip to Lee-on-the-Solent – her first in her new role – Ms McVey insisted the government needed to tackle the national housing crisis and said setting targets was key to doing this.
‘Each year for the last 10 years we have been building more homes so we’re on the path to delivering more homes,’ she said. ‘But we appreciate there is more to do.
‘Boris Johnson has made it very clear as a leader of the country that housing is going to be key for him and that opportunities for all will be a big priority.’
The government has set Portsmouth a goal of building 17,260 new homes in the city – more than 860 every year until 2036.
However, civic bosses at Portsmouth City Council have insisted this is ‘impossible’, saying the island only has capacity for 14,500 extra homes.
Councillor Darren Sanders, city housing boss, said councils needed more ‘flexibility’ to build the homes ‘communities really needed’.
The Lib Dem added: ‘The government’s current targets for housing are unrealistic and undeliverable. They need to see that.
‘We have a government that says we have to deliver these targets. But we have an air pollution crisis which if we stay on the targets will only get worse.
‘The government needs to work with us.’
Responding, Ms McVey said: ‘I must emphasis this is only guidance.’
Ms McVey’s trip saw her touring the new 200-home Daedalus Village, which will be completed by October 2020.
Kate Ives, delivery director for housing contractor Wates Residential, said: ‘It was a privilege to have the new housing minister visit us. She was enthusiastic, engaging and clearly understood the intricacies of the housing market.’
Councils can be punished by the government for not hitting housing targets.
Last year, Portsmouth City Council launched an appeal to Whitehall to change the system.