A chartered surveyor, Mark Prisk, has become housing minister in succession to Grant Shapps who has been appointed Conservative Party co-chairman and who will move into the cabinet as a minister without portfolio.
Prisk, 50, has represented the Hertford and Stortford constituency since 2001, and moves to housing from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), where he was minister of state. Among his responsibilities, he was given the job of cutting red tape.
While his new appointment will give hope to those wanting a minister who actually knows something about housing, it is BIS – under the Red Tape Challenge – that is currently considering changing changing the Estate Agents Act to allow new entrants – for example, online agents and supermarkets – to operate in the sector without having to comply with the legislation.
Further developments on the proposed changes to the Act are said to be imminent.
Prisk, who spent two years working as a surveyor for Knight Frank, is married to Lesley Titcomb, who is acting chief operating officer at the Financial Services Authority.
A Cornishman by birth, he was educated at Reading University. He has worked in the property and economic development markets and run his own business consultancy, advising a range of professional firms in the property, construction and environmental markets.
In Parliament, he has presented a Private Member’s Bill to protect Green Belt land. He enjoys watching rugby and cricket, and is vice-chairman of the Parliament choir.
Shapps had been in his post as housing minister since May 2010, making him look positively long-lived in the role compared with his nine predecessors appointed during the Labour administration.
Shapps has been most notable in the estate agency world for his instant move to ditch Home Information Packs. However, his efforts to stem the prolonged housing market downturn have yet to bear fruit, and he has come under fire for some initiatives – notably, the NewBuy 95% taxpayer-backed mortgage scheme and his suggestion that lenders should introduce ‘mates mortgages’ for house-sharers.
The new homes building industry welcomed the appointment of Prisk as housing minister, but said he had an ‘unenviable in-tray’.
Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the Home Builders Federation, said Prisk needed to take action to address the severe lack of mortgages and development finance, at a time when Britain is building fewer homes than at any time since the 1920s.
Baseley said: “We hope he will offer some radical ideas to transform the current housing and planning systems, and tackle the housing crisis.”
The president of the National Association of Estate Agents, Mark Hayward, said: “The NAEA congratulates Mark Prisk on his appointment to the role of housing minister. His first job is to address the growing challenges faced by consumers, and act swiftly to restore confidence in the UK property market which has reached crisis point.
“Concerns amongst potential buyers about job security, the size of deposits needed, mortgage availability, levels of Stamp Duty and the stability of the market means that levels of home ownership are at their lowest rates for twenty years.
“Whilst the NAEA welcomes initiatives such as the NewBuy mortgage indemnity and FirstBuy schemes, we would like to see more a concrete commitment of support from the Government to kick-start market activity and boost supply and demand levels for new and existing stock.
“We look forward to working with the minister to support him in achieving this aim.”