Grant Shapps MP is Housing Minister. He is pictured yesterday with Eric Pickles MP cutting the red tape of HIPs.
Since first sitting at my ministerial desk last week the time has flown by – moving in, meeting my staff, being briefed in dozens of meetings, it has all added up to a hectic few days. Yet, throughout the busy hours what has never been in doubt is the need to push through our reforms, to meet our promises, to make decisions – in short, to get things done.
Yesterday was the first step. We have suspended Home Information Packs. Just as we promised, and within a week, they are history.
HIPs were doomed from the start. They added needless red tape to a housing market which, by the time they were introduced, was struggling. The £400 cost of a pack was a disincentive to putting a house up for sale and I had a torrent of unhappy letters and emails from buyers, sellers and the industry. More than that, having been in business, I have an inherent dislike of restrictive and oppressive red tape that strangles markets. Scrapping them was always a no-brainer and will reduce the cost of selling a home, remove a layer of regulation from the process and provide a welcome help to the housing market during the recovery. It will also mean a saving for consumers to the tune of £1bn over ten years, giving sellers more money in their pocket to spend and help a wider economic recovery.
But scrapping HIPs has not been painless. There are some people out there who were led up the garden path by the Labour Government and spent money training – or often retraining – to become home inspectors. I feel saddened that Ministers were blind to the effects of their policy, ignoring their own studies and not turning back before it was too late. Thankfully, most inspectors trained as Domestic Energy Assessors and we will be maintaining the Energy Performance Certificate that – uncoupled from the HIP – can become an important tool to tackle the existing housing stock’s carbon emissions.
Housing is an incredibly important part of our economy and our lives – it affects not just the financial stability of the country but the stability of individual families. Health, education, crime and social outcomes are often rooted in the homes we live in. For the last three years we have put together a comprehensive set of policies to tackle housing supply and accessibility; fight homelessness and encourage aspiration; free the housing market and put communities back in control. It is vital that we now put those policies into action.
One week on from taking up my ministerial post and the first housing pledge is fulfilled. HIPs have been stopped as part of the growing dustbin of expensive, wasteful and pointless bureaucracy brought in by the last Government. Now…what’s next?