Of all Government positions, the role of housing minister has been a merry-go-round in recent years, with a new incumbent taking over, on average, every 16 months. Here’s some comments from the latest minister, Kit Malthouse, to help you get to know him fast.
Malthouse has been wearing down his shoe leather at the Conservative Party Conference, under way in Birmingham, appearing back-to-back at panel discussions examining planning, buying, renting, and building beautiful. Less than three months in the post, like predecessors Dominic Raab and Gavin Barwell he seems to have gained a rapid grasp of the intricacies of planning and housebuilding, perhaps down to his background in sitting on planning committees when a local councillor.
One thing that stands out about Malthouse; he doesn’t mince his words. Here are some choice quotes, and metaphors, from the housing minister on a range of topics as he makes his presence felt at the Tory conference.
On enforcing Section 106 contributions: “Councils are going to have to be firm, grasp their convictions with both hands and say to developers ‘sorry boys, you’re going to have to make a loss on this one, you overpaid on the land but Section 106 still needs to be paid.”
On dealing with developers: “They say dogs can smell fear, well, so can developers.”
On the National Infrastructure Fund: “I have £5bn to spend on infrastructure, I’m just looking for eager mouths to stuff with this money, in exchange for building homes.”
On Help to Buy: “It’s become popular to bash Help to Buy in certain circles, but it’s the only Government policy where young people stop me in the street, every week, to thank me for it. If it’s working, the Government will look to continue it.”
On the latest Office for National Statistics population figures: “They’re a bit weird.”
On encouraging owners to release land: “They should sell up in order to build homes, or it’s the ‘get nothing for eternity’ option.”
On Neighbourhood Plans: “There’s actually a clause called the Malthouse Clause in the latest planning guidance, about giving more power to implementing neighbourhood plans, as I think they’re very important.”
On different tenures: “There needs to be focus on volume and variety when delivering homes, so a thousand flowers can bloom.”
On whether councils should return to housebuilding: “Anyone who wants to build, should be building. But I don’t want to place bets on any particular sector delivering homes; we need a big, vigorous landscape of homes, with a big, vigorous landscape of tenures.”
On councils sharing best practice: “Why doesn’t a teacher in a good school look down the road at an outstanding school and say ‘I want to spend a week there’? It’s the same with councils.”
On innovation: “I don’t want housebuilders to be like Kodak; ignoring the signs to move forward into a new format, and now consigned to a footnote in history.”
On housing design: “If you want to get planning for a house through in a metter of days or even hours, put a thatched roof on it. It will be called an asset to the area.”
On revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework: “We’re standardising the ‘what’, giving you flexibility to deliver the ‘how’. But even with revisions, the NPPF is just guidelines, it’s not meant to be a substitute for commanding, authoritative, Local Plans.”
On being surrounded by planning nerds: “You know what Bill Gates said – learn to love nerds, as one day you’ll work for one.”