The work of the Housing Secretary is often in the property news, and not only at the moment when a new cabinet has just been appointed by the new Prime Minister. Many people (including us!) might wonder what the Government’s Housing Secretary actually does. So we’ll take a closer look here.
Housing Secretary has become something of a controversial position in recent years due to the sheer number of postholders .... and the frequency with which they move on. There have been 10 holders of the post in the last 10 years, including four in the last year alone!
The current holder of the post, appointed just this week, is Simon Clarke. Simon Clarke was previously Minister of State at the then Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
What is the role of the Housing Secretary?
There’s no formal title of Housing Secretary as such. The correct name for the post is the
Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
The Housing Secretary is a minister of state and a member of the cabinet reporting directly to the Prime Minister of the day. Officially they are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. Currently this position is ninth in the ministerial ranking of seniority.
The Housing Secretary heads up the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities or DLUHC as it is known for short. They are responsible for its overall direction and leadership.
The DLUHC was originally created, in a different format, in 2006. It assumed its current format in 2019 when it was handed the responsibility of pursuing Boris Johnson’s levelling up agenda. DLUHC is a ministerial department with a budget of around £50 billion a year and employs around 4,000 people. It comprises agencies such as Homes England and the Planning Inspectorate.
What does the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities do?
It’s quite hard to find out exactly what the job description of Housing Secretary – or the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities for that matter – is. It’s probably fair to say that it is quite fluid, and to some extent a bit vague, and can change with each successive administration.
The DLUHC’s website simply says: ‘The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities supports communities across the UK to thrive, making them great places to live and work.’
It adds: ‘Our work includes investing in local areas to drive growth and create jobs, delivering the homes our country needs, supporting our community and faith groups, and overseeing local government, planning and building safety.’
DLUHC also publishes statistics relating to deprivation, housing and homelessness, local government finance, planning performance and land use.
It’s clear to see therefore that the work of the Housing Secretary is more than just about housing. Indeed, the position is now sometimes referred to as ‘Levelling Up Secretary’ too.
A closer look at the housing-related work of the DLUHC, based on information from the National Audit Office, shows that the work of the department and so of the Housing Secretary covers a number of key areas. These include: Housing targets and housing delivery. Planning policy – the Secretary has the power to ‘call in’ planning applications. Social housing. The PRS and rental reform. Leasehold reform. Standards for rental homes. Building regulations and building safety. Homelessness and rough sleeping. Home purchase schemes, such as the Help to Buy scheme. It also provides funding, support and guidance to local government including via programmes such as the Towns Deal and Levelling Up Fund. This work can indirectly impact the housing market too.
Lastly it’s important to note that many powers relating to housing have been devolved to the Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Northern Ireland Executive. They have similar officials to the Housing Secretary but are organised very differently. So the UK Government’s Housing Secretary generally only speaks for England.
At the end of the day, of course, the cynical amongst us might say that the Housing Secretary doesn’t do very much at all. Perhaps because they never seem to be in the job long enough to really get to grips with it.