Posted on 13 July 2018

The Revolving Door Of Housing Ministers

Earlier this week, the Prime Minister Theresa May announced that Housing Minister Dominic Raab was being put in charge of Brexit and would be replaced by Kit Malthouse, formerly Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the DWP.

His appointment means that there have been eight housing ministers in eight years.

This has caused a great deal of concern in the property sector, due to no minister lasting long enough to really make a positive impact at a time when the housing market is facing serious challenges.

Of course, Brexit is an even bigger issue, but the constant revolving door of ministers is not helping the sector or giving the property community any confidence that the Government is treating housing as a priority.

Mr Malthouse now has to take on the big responsibility of Theresa May's stalled pledge to "fix the broken market".

Malthouse was elected MP for North West Hampshire in 2015, having been a councillor in Westminster and a member of the London Assembly from 2008 to 2016 serving as deputy mayor for policing and deputy mayor for business and enterprise.

As a chartered accountant he founded a Midlands-based finance company which he now chairs, and it is hoped that his accountancy background may make him more open to hearing representations against recent tax changes for landlords, which include the removal of mortgage interest relief and the 3% stamp duty surcharge for second home owners.

The property industry has reacted to yet another Housing Minister with some credulity.

In a joint statement, Propertymark chief executives Mark Hayward and David Cox said: “We welcome Kit Malthouse as the new housing minister.

“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.

“There have been a large number of consultations over the last few years, all of which now require policy to be put into place; it’s not entirely clear how this can happen if a new minister is reshuffled as soon as they are in post long enough to understand their brief.

“This is a situation in which we would probably welcome a three-year minimum term although given our experience so far that would be wishful thinking.”

Ben Taylor, M.D. of Keller Williams commented:

“Mr. Malthouse arrives in his post at a time when the housing market is facing significant challenges and is being use as a political football to curry favour with the electorate.

This makes his job even more difficult as he will have to balance “voter pleasing” policies with those that might not make such compelling headlines.

What is certain is that some long-term thinking and strategies are required and that the new minister should be given the chance to immerse himself in the sector, speak to industry stakeholders and other relevant parties, and produce some joined-up thinking.

In recent times, the Conservatives have adopted a number of Labour’s housing policies, so it is my hope that Mr Malthouse comes up with some more original approaches to solve the housing crisis and is given the time necessary to implement them.

As it is, he takes to his post with around 15 new consultations and policy changes in the pipeline and each lever that is tweaked often has a knock-on affect somewhere else that was not anticipated or considered.

The new Housing Minister certainly has his work cut out for him. He will need to get up to speed quickly and make some brave policy decisions as the housing crisis continues to worsen due to not having a firm and consistent hand at the helm.”.

Little is known about Mr. Malthouse’s views on housing, although in 2015, during the reading of the Finance Bill, he did express the opinion that the Government should build more homes.

He stated: “The Government are doing a lot in the Bill to help the housing market and have rightly identified that home ownership has fallen relatively significantly over the last few years.

“They should be commended for the action that they are taking, certainly with regard to young people, but housing is not the only asset class available.

“The solution to the housing market will be a long-term one. We are trying to build as many houses as we possibly can—we need 250,000 to 300,000 houses a year to bridge the demand and supply problem—but that will take some time to do.”

Let us just hope that Mr. Malthouse remains in his post long enough to get to grips with the challenges facing the housing market, and make some positive change.