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Michael Gove has been appointed the new Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, with Robert Jenrick being shuffled out.
Gove will be pushing through the levelling up agenda and will also retain the ministerial responsibility for the Union and elections.
It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson is undergoing a cabinet reshuffle, with several high profile changes. Former housing minister Dominic Raab has been made Deputy Prime Minister with the Department of Work and Pensions keeping Thérèse Coffey as Secretary of State.
The sector will now be hoping that Coffey pulls a last minute change of heart over Universal Credit, despite her launching a staunch defence of it in the national media.
And while we've come to expect it, Gove's record on housing and welfare shows that he constitently sided with the whip, voting to reduce welfare benefits and in favour of the bedroom tax.
On housing, he has previously voted for Pay to Stay and to end lifetime secure tenancies.
However, in more positive news, in his Conservative leadership campaign he called for more social rented homes to be built. He's also got knowledge of the brief, having been a shadow housing minister back in 2006.
Speaking on Twitter, Jenrick said: "It’s been a huge privilege to serve as Secretary of State for Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
"Thank you to everyone at the department for their hard work, dedication and friendship. I’m deeply proud of all we achieved. I will continue to support the Prime Minister and the Government in every way I can."
Jenrick had been in post since July 2019 and has been criticised for not getting a handle on the building safety crisis.
He did oversee the passage of the Fire Safety Bill and released the Social Housing White Paper, but was again under the spotlight for not doing enough to push through culture change in the social sector.
The planning reforms he unveiled upset a fair number of Conservative backbenchers, and he was under pressure to retract some of the policies.
Other criticisms included his dealings with Conservative Party donor Richard Desmond.
In a statement from 10 Downing Street, Jenrick was praised: "Robert Jenrick has led crucial work over the last two years, most importantly driving reforms to build more houses so home ownership becomes a reality for many more people."
Reaction has now started coming in from the sector...
Rick Henderson, CEO at Homeless Link, said: “We would like to warmly welcome Michael Gove to the role of Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.
“The appointment comes as we find ourselves at a crossroads in the goal of ending rough sleeping. After the great success of Everyone In, it is worrying that many of our members are reporting rising numbers of people sleeping on the streets, many for the first time.
“The coming spending review represents a chance to properly invest in the sector through a simplified, multi-year funding programme, whilst looking to the longer-term solutions, like Housing First, which we know are effective in ending homelessness for good.
“Homeless Link and our members support the Government’s target to end rough sleeping by 2024. To achieve this, we need to be ambitious and innovative, working across departments to change the system. We look forward to working alongside Michael Gove to make sure this target becomes reality.”
Cllr James Jamieson, Chairman of the Local Government Association, said: “This has been an incredibly difficult period for councils and communities and we thank Robert Jenrick for the support he has given to local government during the pandemic. We wish him all the best in the future.
“The COVID crisis has shown what can be achieved when government empowers councils to innovate and create new services locally.
"We look forward to working with Michael Gove as our new Secretary of State at MHCLG to build on this and ensure councils are backed with the resources and freedoms they need to build back local from the pandemic, level up communities and deliver more for our residents and communities.”
Ben Beadle, Chief Executive of the National Residential Landlords Association said: “We welcome Michael Gove to his new position and look forward to working with him to ensure the rental market works for responsible landlords and tenants alike.
“Key to this will be addressing the supply crisis in the sector by developing pro-growth policies that recognise the vital contribution it makes to housing millions of people across the country.”
Alicia Kennedy, Director of Generation Rent, said: “Michael Gove inherits a housing market that is destroying voters’ faith in the system. A safe and stable home is the foundation of a successful life, but millions of people don’t have that, because their landlord doesn’t need a reason to evict them.
"Frequent unwanted moves in the private sector make it impossible for renters to settle down or save a deposit on their first home. Renters have been waiting nearly two and a half years for the government to fulfil its promise to end unfair evictions – getting older and seeing their dreams crumble in that time.
"To give renters control over their lives and a stake in their local communities, Mr Gove must seize this opportunity to remake the private rental market as a provider of long term homes.”
Michael Voges, Executive Director of ARCO said: "Mr Gove will need to draw on all of his reforming instincts to bring about the radical change needed in UK housing delivery. We are hopeful that the new Secretary of State will make a clear commitment to increasing provision for our ageing population through innovative solutions such as housing-with-care.
“At a time when more older people than ever before are seeking suitable housing options where they can access care and support if they need it and enjoy their retirement to the full, the UK has been falling badly behind other countries in provision.
“Making a clear and public commitment to work across Government to expand housing-with-care for older people will benefit us all, saving the health and social care systems billions and freeing up hundreds of thousands of family homes.
“Millions of older people, many of the UK’s largest housing associations and major investors in the sector will be watching for a sign that the Government is serious about rising to this challenge.”
Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, said: "We welcome Michael Gove as the new housing secretary at this watershed moment for planning. With his past experience as environment secretary, we hope and expect him to champion local communities, nature and climate as his department drafts the new Planning Bill.
"That means securing the voice of local people in planning decisions, holding developers to affordable housing targets, ending land banking, and protecting our local green spaces and countryside by reusing previously developed land first."
Nicholas Harris, Chief Executive at Stonewater, commented: “With housing being such a critical part of the Government’s levelling up agenda, it’s imperative to have continuity of focus on the promise to ‘Build Back Better’ and the implementation of the social housing white paper.
“Appointing Mr Gove, who is one of the more experienced members of the cabinet and held the shadow role more than a decade ago, should underline the Government’s ongoing commitment to placing housing as a priority.
“The pandemic has highlighted the vital importance of everyone having access to a safe, secure, affordable home – and the urgent need to build more high-quality affordable homes to tackle the housing crisis. Continuing investment in the sector will also support jobs in the construction industry and aid the nation’s post-pandemic economic and social recovery.
“We look forward to working with Mr Gove to ensure the sector’s expert voice is able to support the Government in addressing the myriad of challenges – including planning reform, building safety, net zero targets and long-term investment – where a cohesive approach is so central to finding effective solutions.”