Kit Malthouse named UK Housing Minister

Clay Technology magazine
,
16 Aug 2018

The relatively unknown Malthouse is now the eighth Housing Minister in as many years. Khai Trung Le looks at his political history.

You’ll have read this anecdote by now, but it is presciently fatalistic, it bears repeating. When then-Housing Minister Dominic Raab was appointed Brexit Minister, David Orr, outgoing Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation, responded, ‘When I met him just after I’d announced my retirement [in January 2018], I said that I’d probably outlast him. Please, can we have a housing minister who really wants the job and wants to make a difference?’

The fatigue is palpable. Raab left the position after just six months, and the appointment of Kit Malthouse, MP for North West Hampshire and an otherwise unknown entity, has done little to assuage concerns. Malthouse is the eighth Housing Minister in eight years, and the third in just over a year.

Two days after his appointment, Malthouse issued a brief statement. ‘I am delighted to be appointed as Minister of State for Housing. Building the homes this country needs is a top priority for this government. I am keen to build on the real progress that has been made and start working with the sector so we can deliver more homes, restore the dream of home ownership, and build a housing market fit for the future.

‘I’m also committed to continuing the important work of supporting those affected by the Grenfell Tower tragedy and ensuring people are safe, and feel safe in their homes’.

Leanings

Malthouse has 20 years experience in local and nationwide government. Initially a local councillor in Westminster in 1998, serving as Chief Whip of the Conservative Group and Chairman of the Social Services Committee, he retired from Westminster City Council in 2006 to successfully run for the London Assembly in 2008. He was appointed Deputy Mayor for Policing by then-London Mayor Boris Johnson after two days, and in 2012 was made Deputy Mayor for Business & Enterprise. In May 2015, he was elected to Parliament.

Voting aggregate website, They Work For You, summarises Malthouse’s voting history as ‘consistently voted against laws to promote equality and human rights’ and ‘almost always voted against UK membership of the EU’, having abstained from two votes.

Malthouse’s voting history does not reveal a commitment to the UK housing sector, although in the months leading to his appointment, he became increasingly vocal. This includes statements in September and December 2017 loosely supporting the government’s housing plans.

He has been more present on his Facebook page, and has had his first appearance at Parliamentary Questions. But what many saw as Malthouse’s first major test, the release of the Social Housing Green Paper that has now passed through three Housing Ministers, has been postponed until after parliament’s summer recess.

Counterintuitive and cruel

Since his appointment, Malthouse has come under repeated fire for one of his nosiest actions as Deputy Leader of Westminster Council in 2004, where he operated a zero tolerance drive to move rough sleepers away from the area – police were deployed to wake homeless people and street cleaners used to hose the area. He later defended the decision to the London Assembly in 2008, saying, ‘We certainly instituted a policy of making life – it sounds counterintuitive and cruel – more uncomfortable, that is absolutely right.’ Malthouse also claimed the removals pushed rough sleepers towards receiving support.

While Malthouse has not responded to renewed criticism, a spokesperson for the Labour party said, ‘In her desperation, Theresa May has appointed a new Housing Minister whose callous disregard for the lives of homeless people should immediately rule him out of the job.’

County Finance

Malthouse has retained his position as Director of County Finance Group, a loan company he co-founded in 2001. His role as director boosts his earnings by £50,000 a year, and Malthouse is the only MP with a ministerial job to simultaneously hold a paid directorship.

Again, at the time of writing, Malthouse has declined to comment, but Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey said, ‘Fixing the housing crisis is not a part-time job. With home ownership at a 30-year low and homelessness spiralling upwards, the country deserves a full-scale commitment from the new Housing Minister.