Estate agency boss Kevin moves to parliament

Hunters Chairman Kevin Hollinrake
Hunters Chairman Kevin Hollinrake
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Estate agent Kevin Hollinrake made his debut as an MP this week. He talks to Sharon Dale about making a difference.

Moving is very much on Kevin Hollinrake’s mind at the moment. His working week is now at Westminster, so he needs a base in London. He is also moving away from the day-to-day running of his estate agency and into the corridors of power.

“It’s a big change but I wanted to do something more with my life than make money. I want to make a difference,” says the chairman of Hunters property group and newly-elected Conservative MP for Thirsk, Malton and Filey.

His interest was caught early as a child in Easingwold where his father, a milkman, his mother, a social worker, and his sister, a politics student, would have impromptu debates around the kitchen table. His political ambition came later after a career in estate agency that began at the bottom, in Burnley, and progressed to co-founding a company that is now the sector’s fastest-growing franchise network with over 100 branches nationwide.

While he will parachute into the York headquarters for board meetings, the matters concerning him most include better transport links for his constituency, which include turning more of the A64 into dual carriageway; faster, more frequent rail links between York and Scarborough and better jobs and broadband connectivity on his patch.

He is also more than happy to give the Prime Minister the benefit of over 30 years at the coal face of housing dealing with buyers, sellers, developers and landlords. Property is an important area for his party and housing was at the heart of its manifesto. Vote-winning Conservative policies, rolled out for the election, included extending the Help-to-Buy equity loan scheme until 2020, forcing local authorities to allocate plots for self-build, keeping properties worth up to £1m free of inheritance tax and creating a Starter Home scheme where first-time buyers will get a 20 per cent discount on new-build homes on brownfield sites. They also pledged to tackle the housing shortage by building 200,000 homes each year. A promise to give housing association tenants the right-to-buy with discounts of 35% on a house and 50% on a flat after three years of renting was more controversial. Providers will have to replace like for like using the proceeds of sales along with top-up funding from the forced sell-off of the country’s most expensive council houses. There is already talk of the policy being watered down.

“The problem last time, when local authority tenants were given the right to buy, was that no money was set aside to replace the houses that were sold. The principle was good but not the practice.

“Now there will be a statutory obligation to replace every property that is sold with another affordable home. I don’t see a problem with that and I think it will encourage housing associations to be proactive. Rather than just acting as landlords and collecting rent, they will have to build and that will be good for people on housing waiting lists,” says Kevin.

Top of his own property wish list is helping small developers get access to finance and land. “We have to find a way to build more houses and making sure that banks lend to small builders would be a way forward. It will allow them to develop smaller sites and possibly create more housing in some of our villages, which would make them more sustainable so they are able to support a shop and a school.”

He would also like to see rental property improved and suggests a self-regulatory scheme where landlords and agents adhere to a set of standards. Planning is a thorny issue but he believes that local authorities should be given more latitude on their stated housing needs, while accepting that more homes have to be built to ease an under supply that could see more people priced out of the market.

His short-term prediction on prices is that Yorkshire property will increase by five per cent this year. “If we get the supply levels right, I think we’ll see another five to ten years of growth of around five per cent each year,” says Kevin, who has all the right credentials for Housing Minister, but says: “One step at a time. There’s so much for me to learn and my focus is looking after my constituents.”