Welcome Back to the Housing Market!

On 13 May, the Housing Secretary, the Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, delivered to the House of Commons and published a speech in which he set out the Government’s “clear, coherent and comprehensive plan to restart, reopen and renew the housing market and our construction industry.” It applies to England only – the devolved administrations to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, to quote from the Financial Times “have all declined to follow the Westminster government’s revision of lockdown restrictions.” However, Nicola Sturgeon has since announced that the Scottish government will work with the property industry in the hope of re-opening the Scottish housing market on or after 18 June.

The English property and construction industry was quick to respond – estate agencies re-opened, appointments to view were made, conveyancers and removal firms swung into action and construction firms returned to abandoned sites. However, all must be conducted within social distancing and safety rules.

Under the coronavirus lockdown, people could only move house if they thought it ‘reasonably necessary‘. Mr Jenrick said this meant 450,000 had to put their plans on hold. Now, however, so long as people follow the Government’s guidance, moves can take place. The new guidance was first published at the end of March with subsequent updates made during May. As might be anticipated, the rules include extensive cleaning and hand washing.

100 construction firms have signed up to the Charter for Safe Working Practice published by the Home Builders’ Federation. It ensures that house building activities are conducted safely and within Government advice. Mr Jenrick thanked in particular Taylor Wimpey. This company has returned workers to the majority of its sites, thus removing its staff from the furlough scheme and allowing them to return to work on full pay. A 5% reduction on the company’s new homes has been offered to NHS and care workers and has, in particular, caught the Minister’s eye.

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