Amid the football fever, Brexit brouhaha and Trump trashing, most Brits will have barely registered that the knock-on effect of David Davis’s resignation as Brexit secretary was the appointment of Kit Malthouse, the fourth – yes, fourth – new housing minister in 12 months.
Housing crises pale into insignificance compared with the nation’s place in World Cup history, the precarious future of Britain andthe US president’s visit to the UK, I suppose. Not everyone was oblivious, though.
One high-profile commentator on Twitter lamented:
Impressed by @DominicRaab as housing minister, for the five minutes he was in the rôle. It would be great to have a housing minister of that calibre with a life span longer than a mayfly’s.— Richard Coles (@RevRichardColes) July 9, 2018
Interestingly, the tweet wasn’t from a professional body, housebuilder or residential expert. It was from one Reverend Richard Coles, he of Strictly Come Dancing fame and 80s pop band The Communards.
The fact that Coles – who normally posts whimsical observations about his daily life and pictures of his dogs – was tweeting about Raab’s departure underlines how important the housing minister role is, or more accurately would be were it not for all the distractions.
The question is: can the new incumbent cut through the noise? Does he even want to – or like one or two of his predecessors, does he see housing as a short stopover on the way to a more heavyweight ministerial role?
BoJo ally Malthouse once admitted to making life “more uncomfortable” for the homeless (reportedly with the help of hoses), which won’t have endeared him to everyone. But on the plus side, he has cabinet support in the form of James Brokenshire and was one of Johnson’s deputy mayors at the GLA, so is not unfamiliar with the industry. Berkeley Group chairman Tony Pidgley is certainly pretty upbeat about the appointment.
“I like his commercial edge. I’ve always liked him,” he tells me. “He’s a man who understands housing and the challenges we face and that’s what we need. He wants to get the job done and you need people who just want to get it done.”
Indeed we do. We also need someone who will hang around for more than five minutes and reassure the industry that the government is serious about solving the housing crisis, and I know just the forum – cue shameless plug – the all-new RESI Convention, taking place at Celtic Manor in Wales on 12-14 September. The whole residential sector hopes, nay expects, to see you there Mr Malthouse.
A new number one?
It is looking as though Landsec, the UK’s largest property company for donkey’s years, is in danger of being usurped by SEGRO. The industrial behemoth has already nabbed the number-two spot from British Land and if it continues on its upward trajectory – and Landsec continues on its downward one – it could overtake it in a matter of weeks.
It is a sign of the times that the business that started out as the owner of the once-ridiculed Slough Trading Estate is poised to become the largest property company in the UK, while the once seemingly unassailable Landsec, which takes great pride in being described as “the UK’s largest property company”, could lose that title.
Well, I guess everything is experience…