homeMonday 19th March 2018

Housing split poses concerns over priorities

Stuart Spear25/01/2018 - 14:14

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New junior housing minister Heather Wheeler
New junior housing minister Heather Wheeler

In an unusual move the newly named Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has split the housing portfolio with one minister responsible for home ownership and another for the private rented sector.

Heather Wheeler MP for South Derbyshire has been appointed minister for housing and homelessness while Dominic Raab MP for Esther and Walton is being asked to focus on housing supply, home ownership, planning and help to buy.

The responsibility split with the private rented sector and homelessness being relegated to the junior minister’s portfolio has raised concerns that the government’s focus will be on increasing the housing stock rather than better protections for tenants in the private rented sector.

‘With the private rented sector covered by the more junior figure we are not particularly encouraged by that in terms of priority,’ said Seb Klier, campaign manager for Generation Rent.

‘You can see elements of the private rented sector siting with Heather Wheeler but it is strange that there is not an overall oversight sitting with Dominic Raab, especially as there are a number of ongoing unfinished or potential activities sitting around the PRS coming out of the ministry, it feels this should be a higher priority within the housing portfolio.’

Under the changes Ms Wheeler will take responsibility for homelessness and rough sleepers, private rented sector, housing ombudsmen and redress, leasehold reform, supported housing and domestic abuse and refugees.

Stephen Battersby housing consultant and past CIEH president said: ‘There are big housing issues so it probably requires two ministers, and as the departmental title includes housing then Sajid Javid as secretary of state also has to deal with housing matters. How effective this set up will be only time will tell.’

He added: ‘While it seems good news that the ministry now has housing in its title, it is only good in reality if there is now action not just window dressing and there is an increase in the supply of genuinely affordable housing. Given that Dominic Raab is a deregulator and defender of the green belt at all costs, I am not optimistic, but let us see what happens.’

The last time the portfolio was split was between 2007 and 2009 when John Healey MP and Ian Wright MP shared the housing portfolio under the last Labour government.

Ms Wheeler moves from being a Junior Lord of the Treasury and before that an assistant government whip. She sat on the Communities and Local Government Committee between 2011 and 2015.


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