Chris Norris, Director of Policy and Practice at the NLA

 

The inevitable has come to pass. Boris, the archetypal Eton Mess, has been installed behind the shiny black door of 10 Downing Street.

We’re obviously keen to learn more about what this new administration has in store for private landlords and, in the spirit of neighbourly relations, the NLA will be paying Mr Johnson a visit next week to deliver a housewarming gift in the form of all of your #SaveSection21 postcards.

At this stage the new PM has said very little, if anything, about housing policy but we can make some educated guesses based on his track record.

During Boris’ time as London Mayor he seemed to take almost no interest in private renting. He supported the London Rental Standard – to a degree – but stopped short of personally associating with the scheme and allowed it to fail.

He has made various vague statements over the years objecting to over-regulation, and one clear one about rent control stating that “Top down regulation, including rent controls, will only serve to deter investors”. However, he has also demonstrated a willingness to be pragmatic to the point of indecisiveness when it suits his ambitions.

The most important factor in predicting the housing priorities of a Johnson Government will be the team he puts in place around him. His predecessor’s housing advisors have been shown the door, with no direct replacements announced, whilst former City Hall Chief of Staff Sir Edward Lister takes up the same role at Number 10. Sir Edward is currently on a break from his role as head of Homes England, with extensive experience of housing policy and delivery in all tenures.

Dominic Cummings also joins the team as ‘senior advisor’ to the PM. Infamously described as a “career psychopath” by David Cameron, Cummings has no obvious ideological allegiance but a track record of making waves and having no concerns about ripping up the policy rulebook or reversing decisions previously set in stone.

Outside of Number 10, Robert Jenrick has replaced James Brokenshire as Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government. Jenrick is the youngest member of the Cabinet and a relative unknown, having previously served as Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury. He is known for owning a number of homes – but has faced accusations of failure to disclose all of his assets.

When it comes to the rented sector the new Secretary of State is yet to make any official pronouncements, but prior to his appointment he has spoken in parliamentary debates about the dangers of increasing costs for landlords and letting agents, and against mandating longer tenancies.

Likewise the new minister of state for housing (the ninth in nine years) Esther McVey’s opposition to banning letting agent fees may be a welcome by many, but her views on Universal Credit and welfare reform could cause more issues for landlords letting to recipient households.

So what’s next?

Governments don’t stop just because the personnel changes –  just ask the 18 housing ministers since 1997 – but the people behind the desks can make a difference. Nobody truly knows what form this current government will take, or how long it will last, but we do know it will want to be seen to do things differently to its predecessor.

There is absolutely no certainty that recent commitments will be reconsidered, but there is a real opportunity to convince this administration to end the betrayal of aspiration and of private landlords in particular.

 

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8 August 2019 - 2:07pm

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