Housing

Britain's housing crisis won't be solved by yet another Housing Minister

As Dominic Raab becomes Brexit Secretary, Theresa May appoints her fourth Minister for Housing and Planning in four years – no wonder there is still no coherent plan to deal with the housing crisis

As Brexit continues to suck up all of the UK’s political oxygen, the government’s housing policy continues to suffer – with Kit Malthouse appointed as the fourth Minister for Housing and Planning in as many years.

Following David Davis’s resignation over Brexit, Dominic Raab has moved to Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (more popularly known as Brexit Secretary), sparking another ministerial merry-go-round.

Thus Raab’s reign as Minister of State for Housing and Planning ends six months to the day after it began. His predecessor, Alok Sharma, lasted almost seven months. Before that, Gavin Barwell was a relative veteran in the job, surviving for almost 11 months before losing his seat at the 2017 General Election.

How long Malthouse will remain in the position is anyone’s guess. During his tenure as deputy leader of Westminster City Council, Malthouse was criticised on his approach to tackling homelessmess, admitting in 2008 that he instituted a policy of making life “more uncomfortable” for homeless people.

Another housing minister gone without making any impression on the sector

At the last General Election, Theresa May was keen to say that housing was a priority. The evidence, however, suggests otherwise.

Since May 2010, seven new Housing Ministers have come and gone – with none lasting long enough to get to grips with the brief and produce a coherent set of policies to address the housing crisis. Malthouse is the eighth incumbent since the election in 2010 and the 17th in the position since 1997.

Former Housing Association chief executive Tom Murtha told The Big Issue: “Here we are again after only a few months. Another housing minister gone without making any impression on the sector and even less on the growing housing crisis.

“I think it is shameful that a government that claims that housing is one of its top priorities shows that in reality it isn’t. If it was a priority we would have a cabinet post for housing and the person appointed would stay in the role for more that a few months.

“Sadly this is not likely to happen as the government becomes even more embroiled in Brexit at the expense of all other issues. The result will be a further delay in the publication of the Housing Green Paper, no real solutions when it is published and an even worsening of the housing crisis.”

John Bird, founder of The Big Issue agrees. “Make no mistake, the housing crisis is a declared state of emergency,” he said last year. “Only a powerful Department of Housing, with a unwavering Secretary of State, would keep house-building at the top of the cabinet’s agenda.”

After the last election, The Big Issue criticised May’s decision not to include a Secretary of State for Housing in the full cabinet position.

Instead, the issue of housing was one of many briefs under the remit of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. That department has now been renamed to include Housing – but has already seen a change at the top, with Sajid Javid moving to Home Secretary and being replaced James Brokenshire.

Theresa May is already on her fourth housing minister in just two years as PM

Speaking to The Big Issue editor Paul McNamee, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “As an MP for an inner city area that has been dealing with housing issues all my life, I have a passion for dealing with the housing crisis.”

By contrast, John Healey MP has been Shadow Housing Secretary for the past two years, since the position became a full Shadow Cabinet position. In response to the latest ministerial change, Healey Tweeted: “Dominic Raab’s move means that Theresa May is already on her fourth housing minister in just two years as PM. Eight different housing ministers in eight years. No way to run a Government.”

Image: Jay Allen 

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