If the first few hours of the new government’s approach to housing are anything to go by, it could be a confusing five years ahead. That’s because contrary to an announcement on Monday, the new housing minister is...the old housing minister.
Late on Monday afternoon Number 10 issued a statement saying that Mark Francois had been appointed as the new housing minister, working to Greg Clark, the new Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.
The announcement raised some eyebrows for Francois, the Conservative MP for Rayleigh and Wickford, was relatively unknown despite having served as minister of state for the armed forces in the old coalition government. His pre-parliament background in banking and lobbying did not lend any obvious suggestion that he had a strong interest in housing.
Even so, organisations like the Residential Landlords Association sent congratulatory messages to Francois and his appointment had been reported in a range of industry outlets, including EAT, and mainstream publications.
However, rumours began to circulate this morning on social media that the former housing minister at the end of the coalition government, Brandon Lewis, had in fact retained the position.
Meanwhile his boss will be former universities minister Greg Clark (pictured) who has replaced Eric Pickles as Communities and Local Government Secretary. Clark is considered a serious and talented politician with an interest in cities, decentralisation and science.
With a working majority there is every reason to expect the Conservative government to introduce all of its manifesto housing pledges over the next few years.
The policies include:
- the extension of Right to Buy to 1.3m housing association homes in England;
- 200,000 homes to be built over the course of the next parliament for first-time buyers aged under 40, who will secure a 20 per cent discount;
- the launch of a new Help to Buy ISA for first-time buyers to help them get a subsidised deposit for a house;
- the creation of a £1 billion brownfield regeneration fund to unlock sites for 400,000 homes, which may involve identification of public sector sites for building.
At the Despatch Box, Clark will face Labour’s Emma Reynolds - the shadow housing minister until last Thursday’s election - who has been appointed as shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary.