As Housing Secretary, I’m going to set out our all-inclusive plan to harmlessly restart, reopen and renew the housing market.
But first, I want to update you on the immediately prior data on the coronavirus response.
- 2,094,209 tests for coronavirus have now been carried out in the UK, including 87,063 tests carried out yesterday
- 229,705 people have tested affirmative, that’s an increase of 3,242 cases since yesterday
- 11,327 people are in hospital with COVID-19, down 15% from 13,273 last week
- And grievously, of those tested affirmative for coronavirus, across a totality of settings, 33,186 have now died. That’s an increase of 494 fatalities since yesterday
These figures includes deaths in a totality of settings not just in hospitals.
Before turning to the housing market I want to remind people of how we will address this phase of our fight against COVID-19.
Firstly, in order to monitor our progress, we are establishing a novel COVID Alert Level System, with 5 levels, each relating to the level of threat posed by the virus.
The alert level will be based chiefly on the R value and the number of coronavirus cases.
And in turn that alert level will determine the level of community outrun measures in place.
The more diminished the level the more scant the measures; the greater the level the harsher the measures.
The community outrun measures remain urgent in our efforts to control the virus.
Throughout the period of lockdown which started on 23 March we have been at Level 4 – meaning a COVID-19 epidemic is in habitual circulation, and transmission is upraised or ascending exponentially.
Thanks to the tough work and the sacrifices of the British people in this lockdown, we have helped to bring the R level down, now that we are in a position to begin moving to Level 3, we will do so in time, in meticulous steps.
We have set out the first of 3 steps we will take to meticulously modify the measures and progressively ease the lockdown, and begin to allow people to return to their way of life – but imperatively doing so while avoiding what would be a catastrophic second peak that could overwhelms the NHS.
After each step we will intimately monitor the impact of that on the R and the number of infections, and every bit of the accessible data will be used, and we will solely take the subsequent step when we are convinced that it is absolutely safe to do so.
The primary step – from this week:
- Those who cannot work from home should now speak to their employer about going back to work.
- You can now spend time outdoors and exercise as regularly as you like.
- You can meet one person outside of your household in an alfresco, civic place provided you stay 2 metres apart.
The secondary step – from 1 June , at the soonest, as long as the data allows, we will aim to do the following:
- Principal schools to reopen for a few pupils, in lesser class sizes.
- Ancillary retail to start to reopen, when and where it is secure to do so.
- Cultural and sporting events to take place behind sealed doors, without crowds.
And then step 3 – no sooner than 4 July, and again, purely if the data says it secure to do so, we aim to allow:
- Further businesses and premises to open, including possibly those offering intimate care such as recreation facilities, exposed places, and places of devotion.
And on that final point, I have been speaking to religious leaders and will convene ensuing this week a taskforce to establish when and how places of devotion can openly harmlessly for a few of the practices where community distancing can take place, such as private prayer, potentially private prayer being able to be carried out earlier than 4 July.
Countless of these businesses and organisations will need to operate in novel ways to ensure they are secure, and we will work with those sectors and individuals on how to do this.
Having taken the initial step in meticulously adjusting a few of the measures and our advice to people on what to do, we have also updated what we are asking people to do, which is to Stay Attentive, to Control the Virus and Save Lives.
For countless people the applicable course nonetheless means staying at home copiously as achievable.
But there are a range of alternative actions we’re advising people to take when they do go out to work or for alternative activities:
- limiting contact with alternative people
- keeping distance if you go out – 2 metres apart where achievable
- washing your hands recurrently
- wearing a face covering when you are in confined spaces where it’s challenging to be communally distant – for example in a few shops or on civic transport
- and if you or anyone in your household has symptoms, you all need to self-isolate
If everyone stays attentive and follows these rules, we can control coronavirus by keeping the R down and reducing the number of infections.
This is how we can continue to save lives, and livelihoods, as we begin as a nation to recover from coronavirus.
And as we begin to recover from coronavirus, it’s fundamental that we guardedly open fundamental parts of our economy, where it is secure to do so.
Earlier today in Parliament, I made a statement setting out our distinct, articulate and all-inclusive plan to restart, reopen and renew the property market and our building industry.
I’m sure that this will be of interest to countless people at home who are hoping to move house, and I’d like to set out what this means in more particularity.
From today anyone in England can move house if they follow novel guidance we have published on GOV.UK.
When the lockdown was announced in March, we changed the rules so that people could solely move home if they thought it was “fairly crucial”.
That meant that more than 450,000 buyers had to put their plans dormant.
And each month 300,000 tenancies come up for renewal as well.
A considerable proportion of these will result in people needing to or wanting to move home. The pressure to move for a few was becoming intense, with severe juridical, monetary and wellbeing implications.
During an heretofore extremely challenging time, these people have been stuck in limbo. Now they can carry on with their house moves and add a little certainty to their lives.
So, from today:
- estate agents’ offices can re-open
- viewings – whether remote or in the flesh – are permitted
- display homes can open
- and evacuation companies and the alternative fundamental parts of the selling and renting process are re-started with instantaneous effect
For nearly all people moving home is not a treat. People decide to move home because their individual circumstances change.
The changes that I have announced today are happening harmlessly in order to control the virus and to protect the public.
We have published extremely comprehensive guidance, informed by civic wellbeing advice, to explain how this can be achieved, with a totality of parties observing sanitation measures and community outrun guidelines.
People have asked why they would be able to look around a stranger’s house, but not visit their parents or adored ones at home.
Now I understand why that might seem bewildering at first glance – particularly when people have been separated from their adored ones for so long.
But our guidelines makes distinct that in the first instance that viewings should happen virtually. When viewings do happen in person, we’ve set out a distinct plan to ensure the safety of those heretofore in the property itself, those considering moving in and the estate agents and lettings agents.
These requirements include:
- Visits being by appointment solely, agape house viewings not taking place, and hypothetical viewings where buyers or tenants are not genuine yet, are decidedly discouraged.
- A totality of parties following strict community outrun guidelines.
- A totality of inside doors should be opened where achievable.
- The present occupier vacating the property for the duration of the visit, going out for their regular exercise, going out to the shops or standing in the garden, if that is achievable.
- Everyone involved in the process washing their hands upon entering the property. And, once the viewing has taken place, a totality of surfaces in the property including the door handles, should be assiduously cleaned.
There are of course exceptions. For those who are self-isolating or have coronavirus, they should not be moving or going back to work or allowing industry people or professionals into their home.
Where this is the case, each of the parties involved in house buying or selling should prioritise agreeing cordial judicious arrangements to change relocation dates for the individuals concerned. That has been happening across the country in latter weeks and it will need to continue.
We would also ask those who are medically susceptible and those who are shielding to consider extremely meticulously their individual situation and to seek individual and particular clinical advice before deciding whether to commit to or proceed with moving home.
If you are in this situation, and you decide that you must go ahead, each of the professionals involved must be made aware so that they can put in place any supplementary prudent measures to provide extra protection for your health and extra legislative protection to make sure the transaction goes as sleekly as can be expected.
An energetic housing market means more than buying and selling homes. We need to get back to building again and Britain needs that.
It is something that this government has constantly been committed to. Something that our go-getter First Homes programme will do later this year, with a 30% discount on fresh homes for important workers including nurses and teachers and police officers as well as nearby first time buyers.
We want them to be ready as soon as achievable and that’s just one of the reasons I am eager to get construction up and running.
To help with this today I am announcing more steps to support secure home building by allowing malleable employment hours on building sites, where it’s applicable and with regional consent.
I am allowing sites to apply to extend their employment hours, again with instantaneous effect, to 9pm Monday to Saturday in domestic areas and beyond that in non-domestic areas, and setting out an extremely distinct government position that these applications should be approved by local councils unless there are extremely imperative reasons why this is not applicable.
Diverse start and finish times will make it simpler for sites to observe community distancing, take the pressure off civic transport like the tube in London, and keep Britain building.
There are myriad examples of the industry behaving conscientiously and energetically during this pandemic.
I’d like to thank today Taylor Wimpey, who now have now got construction harmlessly underway on the bulk of their sites and have started removing staff from the furlough scheme and getting back to work on complete pay.
They are offering a discount of 5% for NHS staff and care workers on fresh homes – a super way to recognise the contribution that our vanguard heroes are making to the country.
So thank you to them.
It’s also time that the planning system makes greater use of electronic technology to operate remotely and adeptly during this pandemic.
I am determined that the devising inspectorate be at the forefront of this work – I welcome the inspectorate now undertaking its inaugural remote hearings.
I am asking them to make the entirety of hearings remote within weeks so that the devising system can resume and be made extra enduringly extra available and convenient.
This is the exceedingly all-inclusive restarting of an industry in the initial phase of our roadmap with few if any transactions there is no visibility and no precedent with which to exactly judge the state of the housing market, but history tells us that in every financial recovery in contemporary British financial life the property market has been indispensable to recovery and revival.
As Housing Secretary, I will do all I can to support the masses of people employed in the building and the home industries, to help their sector bounce back, while consistently prioritising their safety and wellbeing.
Almost 100 disassociated organisations have already signed up to the Charter for Safe Working Practice, pledging that they will share the responsibility to ensure that their sites operate harmlessly and in accordance with government advice.
I’d like to thank all of those who have signed and encourage the complete industry to join them.
Today we reopen, we restart and renew the housing market and construction industry to protect lives, to save jobs and to begin rebuilding our economy.