Lee Rowley the new Housing Minister

  • The widely reported fact that Lee Rowley is the 16th Housing Minister since 2010 remains problematic. He has less than a year to do anything, and this isn’t much time.
  • Is housing a big priority for the current PM – the fact that Sunak didn’t mention it in his conference speech and hasn’t made it one of his five key priorities is also an issue.
  • There are two Bills in the King’s Speech which deal with housing in general but they are both about existing homes – the Renters (Reform) Bill and the Leasehold and Freehold Bill. Although they are not politically contentious in what they do, there will be attempts to make them do more.
  • Major changes to the planning regime can’t be done without a Bill but Rowley may be able to do more tinkering through secondary legislation – to remove red tape and extend permitted development.
  • He can start setting up development corporations just using secondary legislation. Sunak announced one for Euston station but he could go looking for others.
  • Labour’s decision to position itself as in favour of big housebuilding (and to gently question green belt protections) gives Rowley a bit more room to pose as being in favour of sensible and popular development which doesn’t destroy the countryside and which local councils control – if that’s how he wants to be seen.
  • It’s possible an opportunity may come up to have another vote on relaxing the nutrient neutrality rules – that allowed the Conservatives a nice chance to undermine Labour earlier this year.

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