Another Month Another Housing Minister

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A new month and with it, a new housing minister. But is a new housing minister a compliment to the sector?

It is not surprising that there seems so little positive action to help the private rented sector, when there is so much change and more change. There have been 15 previous housing ministers since 1997 and 5 incumbents in less than 2 years. Is this a record?

We get excited about a new housing supremo and hardly have our key-boards cooled down and we await new initiatives and new action to help the sector, when there is a re-shuffle and Ministers are moved to greener pastures and another Minister installed.

Gavin Barwell, appointed in July 2016, had little choice in the matter. He lost his seat in June 2017 following the General Election. As he held the post longer than his successors in the post, he may have been making a difference, but sadly it was ‘so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye.

He was followed by Alok Sharma, who vowed to talk to tenants, which he set about doing with gusto. Sadly, it appeared he was concentrating on social tenants; perhaps he would have followed up with private sector tenants but on 9th January 2018 he was replaced by Dominic Raab as Minister for Housing, under Sajid Javid who became Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government when Housing was added to the responsibilities of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government on the same date. 

James Brokenshire was appointed as Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government following the resignation of Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, over the Windrush scandal and repatriation quotas. Sajid Javid was promoted to Home Secretary. 

Mr. Brokenshire had previously been Northern Ireland Secretary, but had resigned from that role in January 2018 due to a medical problem. Now back in action and ready for lots of it, he will have housing as one of his major roles, given that Prime Minister Theresa May has said that the housing crisis will be a priority for Government.

David Orr of the National Housing Federation, welcomed the new Minister by saying ‘Over the past few years, we have seen a number of positive policies introduced. Mr. Brokenshire has a big job on his hands to ensure we continue moving in the right direction’. As my area of interest is the private rented sector, recent changes do not appear to me to be positive for the private sector; they have introduced more work for the landlord, more bureaucracy to deal with and little benefit; my apologies to those who are delighted by recent developments.

Having been Secretary for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire will be aware of the problems that arise when the housing market is fractured; he will find that housing has many good people working in it, trying to address the issues and willing to add whatever they can to the discussion about what needs to be done, or should be done.

How can he ensure that he doesn’t go wrong and fail to achieve noticeable results? That’s simple. Address both sides of the rental sector, social and private rented; try to believe that not all private rented landlords are the rogues they are so often painted, in the same way not all social landlords have only their tenants interests at heart; give equal weight to both sides. 

Social housing cannot keep up with demand; the private sector is vitally needed. First step in doing this is some stability in those who have Government authority – namely the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government and the Housing Minister.

To answer the question ‘Is it a compliment to the sector to have a new Housing Minister?’, the answer is that it could be, but we need to see some changes before we finally decide that if they can succeed in housing, they can fill the most senior roles in Government, and for that they need time.

For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon