So, farewell Dominic Raab, we really didn’t get a chance to get to know you before you ran off into the arms of another department. However, on the rebound, we have quickly shacked up with someone else who, on paper at least, is eminently more qualified to service our needs. Although, rebound relationships frequently end in further heartbreak so who knows where we will find ourselves.
With housing being the number one government priority after Brexit – no, really it is, Mrs Maybe keeps telling us so and she’s never wrong – will this new appointment bring the strong and stable approach to housing delivery that we are continually promised? What now for the Social Housing Green Paper? The NPPF amends are still apparently on track for publication next week but will the new Minister want to get involved?
First the man (no female Housing Minister since Caroline Flint back in 2008). Leaving aside the distinct possibility that this reshuffle is less about selecting the right people for the job and more about selecting people from the increasingly small pool of Tory MPs who aren’t going to resign in a fit of pique in a few weeks time, Malthouse is an interesting choice. Until 2015, Malthouse was London through and through, a long career as a Westminster City Councillor followed by a lengthy stint at the GLA as a member and Deputy Mayor under Boris. This does mean that, quite unusually, we have a Housing Minister who has at least some experience of housing policy on a local level and in challenging delivery circumstances. Whilst he appears to have a controversial record on homelessness during his tenure at Westminster City Council – in that he wasn’t fond of there being any homeless people within Westminster and tried to clear them from the City.
A staunch supporter of the Right to Buy, he has previously talked of his support for Theresa May’s efforts to ‘fix the broken housing market’.
However, having a former London man (admittedly now Home Counties MP) in charge of housing alongside former Housing Minister and former London MP Gavin Barwell who, as Chief of Staff, remains very involved in housing and planning policy, is quite a controversial choice. Londoners tend to be seen as having a different view and understanding on housing than those from outside the capital. Does this suggest a renewed focus on achieving genuine delivery– or am I just being optimistic?? That said, he is to the right of the party – some say like Jacob Rees-Mogg but without the Latin – and his Instagram is generally filled with pictures of rural churches so what that means for any greenbelt releases or village extensions is anyone’s guess.
It would not be unusual for a new Housing Minister to want to make their own mark so the Social Housing Green Paper may well be delayed beyond its original publication date. It may also fall to Malthouse to provide a response to the Letwin Review, which is probably not an enviable task given it doesn’t really provide government with any sticks to beat the industry with – although with the final report not due out for a few months that may be someone else’s job by then.
Once he is released into the wild with his first official public outing we will get more of a glimpse of the Malthouse way, until then, he we can dream of a refreshing new era of stability within MHCLG…