There have been 14 housing ministers since 1997 and Gavin Barwell is the latest to bid farewell to the post after losing his Croydon Central seat. This loss and the hung parliament prompted an attack of the collywobbles in the property community, although many forecasters expect lack of housing supply to shore up prices and Barwell is now Theresa May’s chief of staff.
His influence could be useful as newly-appointed housing minister Alok Sharma, MP for Reading West, does not have a place in Cabinet and will need time to understand his new brief. A chartered accountant who previously worked in banking, he lists his interests as being in trade, industry and finance, rather than housing.
Rightmove’s analyst Miles Shipside would like to see him spearhead a consistent long-term policy to overcome years of shortage of supply and to stay in post long-term.
Will Linley, of Yorkshire-based lettings and sales agent Linley and Simpson, agrees and adds: “The job has been a revolving door for too long at a time when the sector needs stability, investment and innovation. There seems to have been more housing ministers than Leeds United managers of late, and that has robbed our sector of the opportunity to modernise and change, at the pace and scale required.”
Andrew Wells, partner at property consultants Allsop Leeds, would like Alok Sharma to pick up where Gavin Barwell left off: “Many in the housing sector agree that he was someone who got to grips with his brief and was determined to tackle the housing shortage. He keenly promoted growth across a mix of housing tenures, not just the usual Conservative mantra of home ownership. We hope that private renting and affordable renting, alongside home ownership, will be embraced by a new housing minister and that the encouragement for initiatives such as Build to Rent will be maintained. There are rental schemes in Leeds, Sheffield and York that will come to fruition with further encouragement; it would be a great shame for the region if the impetus were lost.”
We asked other Yorkshire property people what they want the new housing minister to tackle:
*Charles Calvert, head of JLL Residential in Leeds, says: “Given the huge role that a high youth turnout has had in changing the political landscape, it must now surely be time for all parties to prioritise property, an issue that has had more negative impacts on young people than any other. The housing minister role should be inside the Cabinet and he must help develop a genuinely radical housing policy. Most importantly for housing supply, the policy direction as set out in the White Paper on building more homes across the range of tenures, needs to be upheld along with supporting new methods of delivery such as Build to Rent and off-site construction.”
*Richard Conroy, CEO of Holmfirth-based property developer Conroy Brook, says: “We want clarity on what help the government is going to provide for small to medium size developers as getting funding for housing schemes remains difficult. We also need a commitment to continue the Help to Buy schemes.”
*Andrew Beadnall, of Beadnall Copley estate agents, says: “Political instability breeds procrastination on the part of home buyers and sellers. The property market works best when there’s long-term certainty so confidence is needed. We require a focus on clarity and stability in the housing sector in the post-Brexit era.”
*Will Linley, of Linley and Simpson, says: “We would like a review of stamp duty, to include the abolition of the extra three per cent levy on investment purchases; support for first-time buyers, a commitment to building on the success of Help-to-Buy initiatives; the creation of a more sustainable housing policy to cater for an ageing population, such as dedicated retirement villages in suburban areas and a switch away from apartment living; a far easier planning system for new-build properties, with less red tape and more support for the small-to-medium builder; an independent review of the government’s Build to Rent policy and licensing of lettings and sales agents.”