Housing has taken centre stage in Theresa May’s recent Cabinet reshuffle, with several significant changes promising a sharper focus on UK homes and developments.
Sajid Javid has been moved to the newly created role of Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government. This role has been adapted from the position of Secretary of State of Communities and Local Government, which Javid has held since 2016. Adding ‘housing’ to his remit is a sign of the government’s commitment to addressing the housing crisis, with housing having traditionally been a junior minister role.
Meanwhile, Dominic Raab has been moved to the position of Housing Minister, replacing Alok Sharma. Raab will be the seventh housing minister since 2010, which may go some way to explaining a lack of strong direction from the government on housing over the last decade.
Many will struggle to immediately recall Raab’s previous thoughts on the topic of UK homes, but he has held some thought-provoking views in the past. For example, he has been noted for expressing the view that the government should not build in green belt land in the effort to create more affordable housing.
One point is that in 2014, he called for stamp duty to be scrapped altogether on properties less than £500,000. It will be interesting to see if he pushes this topic further in his new role, having once described stamp duty as a tax which penalises savers.
In 2012, he also spoke about using innovative methods to achieve more equality in housing, such as tenants having a ‘right to own’, based on releasing ‘dead equity’ and gifting social tenants with a percentage of the capital. However, if working under much greater public scrutiny in the role of Housing Minister, it remains to be seen how much of this bold approach to fixing the housing crisis will remain.
Raab faces a significant challenge in his new role, as the topic is currently such a contentious issue for the government. The ongoing property crisis has no quick solution, but increasing scrutiny means Raab will need to show significant leadership capability in order to succeed in his position.