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Following the recent General Election, a new housing minister was appointed to replace Gavin Barwell, who lost his Croydon Central seat.
The position of housing and planning minister is still not considered important enough for a cabinet position by the government, despite the majority of politicians admitting that there are serious housing issues that need to be addressed.
The decision to omit the role from the cabinet seems even more questionable when you consider some of the issues which are given cabinet status. We have a cabinet minister for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and one for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Surely housing merits parity with these other important issues?
In recent years, the role of housing minister has been passed around like somewhat of a hot potato. Most ministers have held the role for around a year, with some only staying in position for a matter of months.
The latest appointment is the 15th since 1997 and the sixth since the Conservative administration came to power in 2010.
Our new representative for housing and planning is Alok Sharma, Reading West MP. But who is Sharma and how will he tackle the UK’s housing issues?
Here is our fact file on the new minister:
Alok Sharma is 49 and was previously a minister at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
He is a qualified chartered accountant and was also appointed by David Cameron as infrastructure envoy to India.
The new housing minister has been the MP for Reading West since 2010. At the recent General Election, he held on to his seat by a majority of almost 3,000 votes.
He has also served on the Treasury and science and technology select committees.
Prior to his political career, Sharma worked in the corporate finance sector.
It appears that he has no previous experience of the housing industry. However, it has been noted that he campaigned against the development of a 750-home scheme in his constituency.
Sharma was born in India and grew up in Reading.
The minister is known to oppose Brexit and support the expansion of Heathrow airport.
Upon accepting the role, Sharma tweeted: “Honoured to be appointed Minister of State for Housing & Planning to work on building the homes Britain needs @Communities UK.”
Sharma’s main task will be getting to know his role and implementing the policies outlined in the housing white paper which was published in February.
The property industry has broadly welcomed his appointment and he will be required to work closely with trade bodies and organisation throughout his tenure.
If Sharma can stay in the role for longer than some of his predecessors and start to make progress in the fight to address the housing supply/demand imbalance, then his time as housing minister will be considered a success.
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