British Government boosts role of Housing Minister

The British Government has a renewed focus on delivering more housing supply, according to the newly named Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to put a focus on housing by renaming the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) as the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) indicates that housing is being taken seriously.

Indeed, the new Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid , said that the change reflects how much importance is being put on housing within Government.

Sajid Javid said:

‘Building the homes our country needs is an absolute priority for this Government and so I’m delighted the Prime Minister has asked me to serve in this role. The name change for the department reflects this government’s renewed focus to deliver more homes and build strong communities across England.’

The move has been welcomed but not without some cynicism with commentators hoping that it will be more than just a name change. It is not clear currently what role, if any, there is for former Housing Minister Alok Sharma.

Richard Lambert, chief executive officer of the National Landlords Association (NLA), said:

‘Housing strategy should be at the forefront of the Government’s thinking. However, we hope that this works out to be more than just rebranding exercise, and that Mr Javid and his department will look to address the housing crisis by genuinely working across all tenures, not by fixating on building more homes.’

Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) also welcomed the move:

‘The inclusion of the word housing sends a clear signal as to the importance the Government places on housing policy by the renaming of the department and the Secretary of State’s title.

‘However, actions always speak louder than words which is why it is vital that we also see continuity, application and a continued willingness to be bold where necessary in housing policy.

‘We want to see continuity in terms of building on a set of good policies to unleash the capacity of the SME house building sector set out in the Housing White Paper, application in terms of effective implementation and a willingness to still be bold where Government intervention is still called for.’

However, Tim Miles, a partner in the social housing team at national law firm Clarke Willmott LLP, believes that if the Government was really serious about the housing sector it would have elevated it to its own separate department.

Tim Miles said:

‘It is disappointing that a real opportunity has been missed in the cabinet reshuffle to make housing a standalone cabinet post. Effectively instead the word housing has been added to the beginning of Sajid Javid’s formal job description which now becomes Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

‘As he was already responsible for the Department of Communities and Local Government brief, which already encompassed responsibility for housing, it is difficult to see how Mr Javid’s day to day role will actually change, unless the Minister of State position for Housing is abolished, which would seem unlikely.

‘Beyond symbolism, since 2010 the lion’s share of Government housing policy has focused on increasing home ownership, which is only half of the story. The wider issues of increasing rents and lack of supply of rental homes, including genuine social rent homes, will also be required to be addressed if the housing crisis can ever truly be solved.

‘To be an effective Secretary of State, Mr Javid will need to advocate strongly for a change of direction of Government policy to address all areas of the housing crisis.’


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