8th Housing Minister in 8 Years – Industry share their view

The last 48 hours have seen some significant changes to the Prime Minister’s Cabinet, with the public left wondering who’s going to make the next move. The resignations have appeared to have been sparked by Theresa May’s Brexit plans, which MPs such as Boris Johnson and David Davis state they are unable to get on board with; she announced these at Chequers last week.

Yesterday we saw former Housing Secretary Dominic Raab appointed as Brexit Secretary following the departure of Davis. Kit Malthouse, former Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Family Support, Housing and Child Maintenance was later revealed as next in line to become Housing Minister following Raab’s exit; Malthouse will be the eighth person to take on the role in just eight years.

Whilst the sudden Cabinet departures and appointments could be a likened to a revolt against May’s Brexit plans and their potential impact on the UK’s future, it’s surely worth considering the repercussions of the reshuffling itself. In the case of the Minister of State for Housing, for example, the frequency of change within the role sparks numerous questions; namely what the impact on policy progress and professionals in the property market has been.

It’s no secret that the problems in the market have been acknowledged by the Government – one only need look to the Call for Evidence on the transaction process last year or the proposed ban on leasehold homes. However, even if support and drive for change does not come purely from one source, the effect which government changes have on the pace of such progress is surely a question worth asking.

Simon Bath, CEO and founder of proptech platform When You Move, said: “While it is of critical importance that the Prime Minister handles the Brexit negotiations with the strongest possible team around her, there remains a need to ensure that important – and time sensitive – domestic issues do not get left behind. Kit Malthouse will now inherit a department dogged by a number of issues ranging from the impact of Brexit on the property industry right through to the transparency of referral fees amongst estate agents and conveyancers. While some projects, such as the digitisation of Local Authority records, may take longer than some find comfortable, this new appointment must serve as a call to action across the industry to push for real change where it matters. In what has not been a seamless period for UK housing, including acute tragedies such as the Grenfell Tower fire, I hope that this will be the last change in post for some time to come, providing stability and security to one of the UK’s most important sectors.”

Rob Hailstone, founder and CEO of Bold Legal Group said: “Kit who? Taken from Wikipedia admittedly, but Christopher Laurie Malthouse’s Minister of State for Housing and Planning CV reads as follows: Anti-congestion charging, anti-dangerous dogs, anti-prostitution cards in telephone kiosks across London, pro fox hunting with dogs.

“No disrespect to Kit, but that says it all, how seriously (or otherwise) the housing market is to the Prime Minister and the Government. The impression given, after eight Housing Ministers in eight years is any plug will do to fill a hole.

“With ministerial changes made this often, no one can take seriously any policies or plans that Government has when it comes to housing, and that is sad when the majority of people in the UK live in houses or flats.

“There really isn’t much more to say other than how disappointed millions of voters must be.

“The Government says it wants to Improve the Home Buying and Selling Process and the civil servants involved are doing a great job. Let’s hope Kit gives them his full backing and we end up with a home moving process that the public, and the stakeholders involved, deserve.

“Interestingly the abbreviation of Kit is, Keep in Touch! With luck, he might, but the $64,000.00 question is, for how long?”

Beth Rudolf, Director of Delivery at the Conveyancing Association said: “We welcome Kit Malthouse’s appointment.

“As a former Deputy Mayor for Business and Enterprise and a businessman chairing a finance company we anticipate he will understand the importance of vitality in the housing sector. We are contacting his team to arrange a meeting in the hope that we can help with any information he might need to get him up to speed.

“At such an important time in the review of the home moving process, which is desperately needed to free up the blockages creating such a fragile marketplace with transaction times at 16 weeks, we need someone on board who can pick up the baton and support the changes which must come to ensure a robust housing market.”

Stephen Ward, director of strategy at the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) said:  “With a solid pedigree in local government, the Minister will understand the reality of the difficulties of delivering on the Government’s important commitments on homebuying.

“Our work with MHCLG shows the Ministry’s commitment to working with the housing and property industry and we know that positive and important work to deliver the government’s agenda is underway.

“However, we recognise that each Minister brings with them their own priorities and we would urge the new Minister to provide leadership while continuing the collaborative and facilitative approach being taken by MHCLG. What all stakeholders need is consistency if we are to make the process of buying and selling of a home smoother, less stressful and more secure.”

Simon Bath, CEO and founder of proptech platform When You Move, said: “While it is of critical importance that the Prime Minister handles the Brexit negotiations with the strongest possible team around her, there remains a need to ensure that important – and time sensitive – domestic issues do not get left behind. Kit Malthouse will now inherit a department dogged by a number of issues ranging from the impact of Brexit on the property industry right through to the transparency of referral fees amongst estate agents and conveyancers.

“While some projects, such as the digitisation of Local Authority records, may take longer than some find comfortable, this new appointment must serve as a call to action across the industry to push for real change where it matters. In what has not been a seamless period for UK housing, including acute tragedies such as the Grenfell Tower fire, I hope that this will be the last change in post for some time to come, providing stability and security to one of the UK’s most important sectors.”

Paula Higgins, chief executive of the HomeOwners Alliance said: “Another reshuffle, another housing minister! We wonder why this critical government post is being treated in such a conveyor belt fashion. We wish the new housing minister luck of course and will continue to work with government to sort out the leasehold scandal, the quality problems with new build homes, the ridiculous home buying and selling process which costs homeowners thousands etc. but to really see change, we need a housing minister that owns the portfolio for the long term.”

Paul Sams, partner of Dutton Gregory Solicitors, said: “Now that we have yet another Housing Minister with different ideas on how the Housing market issues should be approached all that will happen is – nothing.  Every politician talks about the need for more housing in this country but no one has a solution that seems workable at present.  In the 21st century we seem to have not progressed by the last century’s attitude as regards political will to change the same.  Stability generally brings the chance to make changes and I would hope that with the new Minister in place he can stay in place a while to actually make a difference or at least realise he might not be there for long based on his predecessors so set off quickly in his brief”

Mike Bowen, head of residential property services at Jevons Riley & Pope Solicitors said: “It is disappointing that the Government’s stated aim to improve the conveyancing process for many consumers has been hampered by a lack of continuity in respect of ministers since the policy was announced.  That said, the Ministry have been engaging and making progress with us and other stakeholders and we hope that the new Minister will continue the positive work that the department has been engaged in. We look forward to working with them.”

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