" Others regard his appointment as indicative of a priority bias within the government, with public relations and other departments seeming to take precedence over housing issues. "
James Brokenshire’s appointment as Sajid David’s replacement at the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government marks the latest instalment in a bewildering drip-like feed of such placements over the past few years and a cause of intense frustration for those who regard political continuity as the fundamental means with which to repair Britain’s ‘broken’ housing market.
His instalment at the MHCLG means that Brokenshire becomes the fourth secretary of state for housing since 2015 (or sixteenth since 2000), with many commentators pointing to the almost farcical turnover in responsible personnel and their limited time-scale for constructive problem solving as well as the lack of previously stated positions on either housing or planning by the current minister and his paucity of relevant experience. Still others regard his appointment as indicative of a priority bias within the government, with public relations and other departments seeming to take precedence over housing issues. So, how will it impact on the governments drive to redress the crisis?
Previous ‘interventions’ on housing by Brokenshire have been confined to some vocal support for George Osbornes Stamp Duty reforms, low-key criticism of private landlords (despite, purportedly being one himself - he apparently owns and rents a property in Essex) and responsibility for the introduction of Right to Rent checks as Immigration Secretary. He also, rather embarrassingly opposed plans for an application of 60 new homes in his South London constituency of Old Bexley and Sidcup - an ironic gesture for one who must now commit himself to the government’s plans to build 1 million homes by 2020.
Most importantly, however, Brokenshire is known to be a long-term ally of Theresa May, forging a close relationship and reputation for loyalty during his two years with her at the Home Office. Some experts are hopeful that this relationship will minimise the scope for arguments or disagreements between the pair - always an advantage when you are trying to frame coherent policies. And coherence is the pertinent word here, particularly given the depth of problems the minister is set to face - from delivery and quality of new homes to land capture and local authority planning, rental sector problems to leasehold abuses by developers. In fact, if we truly wish to solve worsening conditions within the sector then we need to afford more time to ministers to deliver on government rhetoric, as opposed to merely overseeing decline. Let’s hope that time has come.