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In the future, everyone will be housing minister for 15 minutes

City A.M. Monday, 16 July 2018
In the future, everyone will be housing minister for 15 minutesAndy Warhol once said that in the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes. If Warhol were alive today he might well say the same about your chances of becoming Housing Minister.

The past eight years have seen seven Housing Ministers come and go through the doors of Number 2 Marsham Street, many of whom have barely had time to unpack before moving on.

Dominic Raab was the most recent. He came to the role just six months ago, his appointment coinciding with the re-branding of the department from the Department for Communities and Local Government to Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. The move was designed to show the Government’s seriousness towards tackling the housing crisis, a seriousness undermined by the departure four months later of Secretary of State Sajid Javid.

As the government continues to tear itself apart over Brexit, everything else, including housing policy, is being pushed down the agenda

Raab’s appointment was always politics rather than policy driven. A lawyer before entering Parliament, his ministerial career saw him spend three years at the Ministry of Justice before making the move to MHCLG. Prior to becoming Housing Minister he rarely commented on housing, both at a Parliamentary or local level. His constituency is almost entirely Green Belt, too, and not known for its enthusiastic support for housebuilding.

Six months is no time to effect real change, and so it proved for Dominic Raab. In that time, he cut the ribbon on the draft Revised NPPF consultation, picked up the social housing green paper started by his predecessor (to be finished by his successor) and made some controversial comments involving immigration and house prices.

He leaves for a bigger role, and a step up the governmental ladder, and whilst no one can begrudge him such a move it leaves the industry understandably frustrated. It takes time to get to know new ministers, to understand their priorities for the role, and to learn about their approach. The industry must now start again with its third Housing Minister in seven months.

The new Minister, Kit Malthouse, made his name at Westminster Council, before crossing the river to City Hall to become Boris Johnson’s Deputy Mayor for Policing. Like his predecessor he has no background in housing policy, having spent just nine months in government as an Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Work and Pensions.

*Read more:* Why London house price dips are nothing to worry about

The housebuilding industry will take the latest appointment with a pinch of salt, and a shrug of the shoulders. They’ve been here before and heard the same repeated phrases from countless new Housing Ministers. As the government continues to tear itself apart over Brexit, everything else, including housing policy, is being pushed down the agenda.

The current odds suggest that a General Election in 2018 is increasingly possible, and should that happen, we might well see a ninth Housing Minister in eight years.

In the future anyone could become Housing Minister. The industry will just be hoping the next one lasts longer than 15 minutes.

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