Housing industry frustration grows with 17th housing minister in 20 years

Sebastian McCarthy
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Malthouse is seen as a close ally of the former foreign secretary Boris Johnson (Source: Getty)

Ministerial manoeuvres in Westminster might feel so commonplace that a new housing minister hardly warrants the raising of an eyebrow.

Yet with Dominic Raab becoming Brexit secretary after the shock resignation of David Davis on Sunday night, Kit Malthouse takes over a housing department that has had four ministers in as many years, and industry frustration over the frequent comings and goings of politicians is growing.

Paul Smith, managing director of specialist land promotion firm StrategicLand Group, told City A.M.: "While the government keeps insisting the housing crisis is one of its top priorities, the constant churn of ministers paints a different picture.

"No sooner has a minister got to grips with the portfolio, then they’re moved. That is, in large part, a consequence of the junior status of the post. Impress and you’re quickly promoted out, struggle and you’re replaced by another potential rising star at the next re-shuffle. If the government is serious about addressing the housing crisis, then keeping the minister in post would be a good start."

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Malthouse, an ally of Boris Johnson and former deputy mayor of London, is the eighth housing minister since 2010, and the third in 2018. He replaces Dominic Raab, whose short six-month tenure left industry trade bodies such as the Federation of Master Builders (FMP) unimpressed.

Sarah McMonagle of the FMP told City A.M.: "One thing we are hoping is that Kit Malthouse is more engaged with the industry than Dominic Raab was. With Raab we weren’t really able to meet him, so we just started engaging directly with those above him like Sajid Javid and James Brokenshire – I’ve been in public affairs for a long time and I’ve never known a minister not want to meet with key stakeholders."

In his new role as housing minister Malthouse will be taking over at a time when the property market shows signs of volatility, with housebuilding giants such as Berkeley Group and Crest Nicholson last month reporting slimmer profit margins as costs rise.

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Nick Sanderson, chief executive of luxury retirement developer Audley Group, said: "Housing has been a named priority of this government, but actions speak louder than words. This is the eighth housing minister in eight years, and 17th in 20. Short termism is inevitable with such a huge amount of turnover."

Sanderson added: "This post should not be seen as a stepping stone, and let’s hope that finally, in Kit Malthouse, we have a housing minister who will stick around for longer than 12 months. Without stability, I fear that nothing substantial will be achieved and the UK’s housing crisis will continue to deepen."

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