The sector has the prospect of yet another new housing minister as Dominic Raab became Brexit secretary as of this morning (July 9).
Raab, only appointed to the housing brief in January replacing Alok Sharma – himself in the job for a matter of months.
The new housing minister will be the 18th to hold the role in the past two decades, a pattern that pushes holders of the post into short-term tenures.
Raab’s successor will be the eighth housing minister since 2010.
Just a fortnight ago, Raab was reinforcing the government’s support for Right to Buy and pitching a social housing Green Paper that gave a regulator ‘teeth’ at Housing 2018.
Shadow housing secretary, John Healey, said four housing ministers in two years and eight in eight years was “no way to run” a government supposedly committed to housing as a top priority.
NHF chief executive, David Orr, referenced his retirement joke of outlasting Raab in office to ask for a housing minister who “really wants the job and wants to make a difference.”
Raab’s promotion widens the emerging policy void over social housing, with fears of a delay to the Green Paper – that many in the sector already doubt the government’s commitment to.
There is also real concern as to the realism over the government’s housing target – not least from across the construction sector itself.
Raab’s credibility in the role took a hit over a ‘dog whistle’ use of discredited statistics linking immigration to the housing crisis.
His suitability for the post was called into question before he even took it up having claimed near record food bank use was down to users “experiencing cash flow problems”, and cited Trussell Trust data as support – an interpretation the trust flatly rejected.
A foodbank in Raab’s constituency – opened by Raab himself – caught him out citing low income as the main reason more than 910 adults and children had needed its aid over a 12-month period.
Johnny Caddick, managing director at build to rent developer Moda, said the movement of housing minister had become an “extraordinary circus” with government needing to prove that it’s not focusing on Brexit at the expense of everything else.
“It’s vital we have continuity in the role and a reality check about the vital role build-to-rent needs to play.
“We need a new minister to continue the great work Gavin Barwell did in supporting investment and in ensuring we have the necessary skilled workforce to build all the homes politicians keep promising voters,” he said.
Backed by Apache Capital Partners, Moda has a £2bn development pipeline of 7,000 rent-only homes across England and Scotland.
Paresh Raja, CEO of Market Financial Solutions, said Raab’s move could prove a hindrance when the property market needed consistency and clarity in policy.
“It’s vital the government acts quickly to appoint a new housing minister and ensures it sticks to its strategy to help more people get on and move up the property ladder,” he said.
Russell Pedley, co-founder of Asset Architecture called the housing brief “the most unwanted job in politics”.
But, in acknowledging the challenges facing Raab’s successor, Pedley said whoever takes over will find a host of opportunities to make a difference – from modular housing technology to billions of pounds of new investment “waiting to pour in” from institutional investors.
“I wish I could say I was surprised by the news but sadly this pattern has become all too predictable and once again we will have to listen to the pledges of another person in the job,” said Ishaan Malhi, CEO and founder of Trussle.
He said: “Since founding Trussle, I’ve gained a better understanding of the many problems that plague the housing market and what’s abundantly clear is that we desperately need not only innovation, but continuity of leadership and a strong hand willing to be brave on policy.
“Instead, what we have is a government that doesn’t seem to be taking the issue seriously and an unstable housing post.
“In a month’s time, we were expecting to see major policy changes via the National Planning Policy Framework – how can the public believe that any proposal will be delivered when the people who make them never stick around?”
Malhi identified three key issues for the new minister to address: prioritising housing supply, ending ‘piecemeal’ tax breaks, and renewed effort to encourage innovation.
“I only hope the new housing minister can stay in the job long enough to have an impact on these,” he said.