Meet The New Housing Minister

What do we know about the new housing minister Alok Sharma?

Who is he? 

Alok Sharma has replaced Gavin Barwell as the new housing minister following the snap general election in June, and if previous track records are anything to go by, it’s looking like it could be a tough gig. He’s now the sixth housing minister since 2010, a post that those before him have held for an average of just 14 months. 

Before politics, Sharma worked as a chartered accountant in corporate finance, and has virtually no background in housing. So far in his political career he has remained mostly silent on housing policy, however in the instances where his voice has been heard, we know he has campaigned previously against major developments in his constituency, such as a 74 home Bellway scheme, a 120 unit Thames Water development and a 750 home Blue Living Project. 

What does this mean for new build homes?

The Housing White Paper was published in February 2017 and acknowledged the broken housing market. For many young people it is extraordinarily difficult to get onto the property ladder - not surprising when the average house costs almost eight times average earnings. 

Nor is the situation any brighter when it comes to renting properties, with many having to fork out sky high monthly rent payments whilst also experiencing fewer rights as tenants. In total there are more than 2.2 million working households with below average incomes, meaning that a third or more of their disposable income is spent on housing. 

As such, their money can rarely be spent on other things and the notion of saving up the kind of money needed for a deposit falls well outside of what is realistically possible. Those who do own their own homes are also finding it hard, struggling to make payments on their mortgage and save for later life, whilst also worrying about how their children and grandchildren will be able to afford homes of their own in the future.  

The Housing White Paper therefore outlined a number of reforms the government planned to introduce to reform the broken housing market and increase the supply of new homes. However with the change over to Sharma, questions have arisen about whether these reforms will go ahead. Many are hoping to see him build on The Housing White Paper, yet there are those with concerns about whether the new result will see the government stick to implementing much of what was outlined in the paper. Many are also worried about how housing policy will fair against the issue of Brexit. 

Whilst Sharma gets to grips with his new position, it’s likely that housing policy will take a backseat in the short term. However if Sharma can last longer in the position than his predecessors and make progress to tackle the imbalance of housing demand and supply, his time may well be considered a success. 

Publish date: 25/07/2017