New housing minister: Have hopes been built too high?
A new housing a planning minister has been appointed following the departure of Gavin Barwell in the recent cabinet reshuffle.
On Tuesday, Alok Sharma was appointed to Minister of State for the Department for Communities and Local Government.
The MP for Reading West is a qualified accountant and joined parliament in 2010. As well as being a previous member of the Treasury Select Committee, Sharma has also been a minister for Asia and the Pacific at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
In addition to opposing local plans to build on greenfield sites, Sharma also showed support to residents fighting against proposals for properties to be built at Thames Water’s Bath Road Reservoir site. He has also campaigned in favour of infrastructure investment within his own constituency. This included the expansion of the Reading Crossrail services for example.
However, despite the new appointment, people within the industry have doubted the duration of Sharma’s position.
Ajay Jagota from sales and lettings firm KIS highlighted that on average, the housing minister has changed every 14 months, with 15 MPS having held the position over the last two decades.
He also expressed his doubt towards the power that the role really has, highlighting the unlikelihood of any housing minister being able to fix the housing crisis.
“The situation is severely aggravated by the fact that the Housing Minister is not a Cabinet-level position, leaving the incumbent a largely powerless figure. And as the minister has no power, there’s no –one for landlords, letting agents or tenants to lobby, leaving us largely powerless too.”
Jagota also commented on the recent lack of effective housing legislation, stating: “As far as I can see, there has been little meaningful housing legislation since the 1980 Housing Act – and it cannot be a coincidence that that legislation was introduced by John Slayley, one of the few Housing Ministers of the modern era to be allowed the time to make his mark.”
He did, however, express support for the newly appointed minister, hoping that Sharma will receive greater power in order to tackle the housing market.
“I welcome Alok Sharma to the role and hope he is granted the authority and longevity to enact the real change housing in the UK needs.”