Politics has recently been doing its best to match the World Cup in Russia for drama, unpredictability, thrills and spills. The fallout from an extraordinary Monday – which saw two high-profile members of Theresa May’s top team, Brexit Secretary David Davis and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, resigning their posts – was another Cabinet shakeup and yet another Housing Minister.
Just over a year ago we looked at the appointment of Alok Sharma as Housing Minister
, drafted in to replace Gavin Barwell – who, despite losing his seat at the election, became May’s chief of staff. Since then Sharma has gone, lasting just eight months before being replaced by Dominic Raab, who himself has now left the post to become the new Brexit Secretary – a significant promotion for a junior minister, albeit one who played a prominent role for the Leave side in the referendum.
Raab was only in the role for exactly seven months, the shortest time of any Housing Minister this decade or last. Incredibly, there have now been 17 different Housing Ministers in the last 21 years.
The 17th incumbent is the little-known Conservative MP Kit Malthouse. Here, we take a quick look at who he is and how much influence the Housing Minister actually has.
Who is Kit Malthouse?
The MP for North West Hampshire since the 2015 election (a seat he held at last year’s vote), Malthouse’s parliamentary CV makes for quick reading given he’s only been sitting in Westminster for a short while.
He is perhaps best known for being a former Deputy Mayor of London, Policing (2008-2012) during Boris Johnson’s tenure as London mayor. He was also later appointed as London's first Deputy Mayor for Business & Enterprise (2012-2015).
Since being elected as an MP he has served on various select committees – including the Treasury Committee and the Armed Forces Bill Committee – and was named as Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Department for Work and Pensions in Theresa May’s New Year reshuffle at the start of 2018. He held that role until his recent promotion to the position of Housing Minister.
He is by profession a chartered accountant and also founded a Midlands-based finance company, which he now chairs. He was born in Liverpool and studied Politics and Economics at Newcastle University.
Some 48 hours after he was appointed as Housing Minister, he made his first formal statement. “I am delighted to be appointed as Minister of State for Housing,” he said. “Building the homes this country needs is a top priority for this government. I am keen to build on the real progress that has been made and start working with the sector so we can deliver more homes, restore the dream of home ownership and build a housing market fit for the future.”
How did the housing industry react?
As expected, the property industry wasn’t very enamoured with the prospect of yet another new person in the housing hot-seat.
Iain McKenzie, chief executive of the Guild of Property Professionals, said: “The government accepts that we are in a housing crisis with a shortage of good-quality homes, and yet they are showing time and time again that housing is not a priority.”
He insisted the market needed a Housing Minister with industry experience, dedicated to understanding and fixing the problems the market is facing.
Elsewhere, Russell Quirk, chief executive of hybrid agency Emoov.co.uk, said housing had become the poor relation in British politics, ‘a ministerial post that should have a well-oiled revolving door attached to the position’.
He argued consistency was needed in the government where the housing brief is concerned and said ‘it must be a proper cabinet position, not a junior role relegated to the corridors of Whitehall’.
Despite the frustrations and disillusionment many felt with yet another change, many industry groups welcomed Malthouse as Housing Minister, albeit with caveats.
“We hope that he is able to bring some continuity to this post as we are now on the fourth housing minister in little over 12 months, and if the government really wants to fix the broken housing market, consistency is important,” a joint statement from the chief executives of ARLA and the NAEA, David Cox and Mark Hayward, said.
What is the Housing Minister responsible for?
Malthouse’s new role will involve supporting the Housing Secretary on housing supply policy and delivery, working on homeownership policy and overseeing the Grenfell recovery programme and the Social Housing Green Paper. He’ll also have responsibility for:
- Housing financing streams
- Planning policy and casework oversight
- Homes England sponsorship and performance
- Building safety and regulations (including government response to the Hackitt review)
- Land assembly and release, and Public Sector Land and Digital Land
- Help to Buy
- Quality and design
How important is the Housing Minister?
Following the rebranding of the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) in January 2018, housing effectively (and not before time for many) got a position at the Cabinet table. Sajid Javid went from being known as the Communities Secretary to the Housing Secretary, as the government attempted to underline how seriously it was in offering housing solutions.
Javid has since been promoted to Home Secretary (replacing Amber Rudd after the Windrush scandal), with James Brokenshire taking on the role of Housing Minister in April 2018. Since then, it has been he – and not Raab – who has made the running on major policy announcements, such as the recent plans for three year standard tenancies in the private rented sector.
The position of Housing Minister is still a junior role – which is probably why it is seen by many as a stepping stone to a position with more power and influence. What’s more, since the effective creation of a Housing Secretary, the role of the Housing Minister has arguably become even more diminished – and the country should perhaps be looking to Brokenshire, rather than Malthouse, to get things done when it comes to housing.