Blink and you will have missed the announcement that Kit Malthouse MP (North West Hampshire) has been appointed Housing Minister. The fourth person to fill this role in just two years under Theresa May’s leadership.
Unsurprisingly between the Brexit fall out, the scramble to keep the government afloat, and the euphoria that football’s coming home, the mainstream media haven’t afforded Mr Malthouse’s appointment much in the way of column inches.
His predecessor, Dominic Raab MP has been promoted to be the new Brexit Secretary. It seems that whilst holding the housing brief may be good for the politicians’ career, it is not actually much good for fixing the broken housing market.
Housing is now a perennial victim of politics over priorities.
For all the new policy initiatives, housing targets, reviews and investment commitments are increasingly meaningless. Until the housing ministerial post is afforded stability, continuity and provides leadership for more than six months then all we will continue to get is incremental and piecemeal progress in tackling the housing crisis.
What can we expect, if anything, from Kit Malthouse in his role?
His political career reveals he has little experience of a formal housing role. He does bring extensive central London local government experience having served as Deputy Leader on Westminster City Council. He is also a close ally of Boris Johnson having served on the Greater London Authority and was appointed a Deputy Mayor from 2008 until 2015.
Here we have a new Minister who understands London and its challenges, whilst representing the constituency of North West Hampshire he can bring a wider perspective of the housing challenges outside of the capital.
There are two specific issues the new Minister has raised in Parliament on housing, which could be a test of his direction as the new Housing Minister.
Rather interestingly the new Minister has advocated a position that would prevent speculative developers from being able to use the planning inspectorates planning appeals system to “bully the council into reaching some kind of compromise.”
This would apply to communities which have neighbourhood plans in place, with significant housing targets, an approved Local Plan, and a five-year housing land supply.
Mr Malthouse has also challenged one of his predecessors on infrastructure investment as well. Arguing that if there is to be significant development in existing communities then there needs to be infrastructure improvements to make the schemes deliverable.
Now he has his hands on the levers of power we shall see what he will do with it; and if he is there long enough to do anything at all.