Can the new housing minister make a difference before the election?

lee rowley portrait

The past nine housing ministers have come and gone in the time it takes to get a large project to site, says Joey Gardiner. So what are the chances that the latest incumbent in the role can do what is required to pick the industry up off the floor?

It takes an average of five years, according to consultant Lichfields, from submitting and validating a planning application on a large site to completion of the first homes. So, with the appointment this week of Lee Rowley as the Conservative government’s 16th housing minister since 2010, it turns out that you could have seen out the last nine ministers to hold the office in the average time required to get a big project from the drawing board to delivery.

Given this shockingly rapid turnover at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), it is perhaps not surprising that Rachel Maclean’s sacking this week in prime minister Rishi Sunak’s reshuffle, a day before she was due to introduce the Renter’s Reform Bill to committee, has been greeted largely with irritation rather than enthusiasm.

The RIBA president Muyiwa Oki says the lack of continuity was “incredibly frustrating”, while Peter Hardy, partner at law firm Addleshaw Goddard, says it arguably does not matter who the replacement for the well-liked Maclean was, given how little time ministers are given, and that “the next incumbent will inevitably be gone, too, in a matter of months”.

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