What will a Boris Johnson government actually mean for the property sector?
His brutal Cabinet reshuffle has made it clear that he is not just ruthless – but purposeful.
This reflects his time as London Mayor, in which role he effectively acted as chairman.
He put in place an exceptionally strong team and enabled them to get on with it, while he could concentrate on – well, no one is quite sure, but he seemed to have a lot of fun and City Hall was run rather well.
Can we take this model as an indication of the approach Johnson will have as Prime Minister?
We can take initial clues from Johnson’s first major speech as PM.
It took place in Manchester and the focus was on the renewal of the Northern Powerhouse and a commitment to funding a new high-speed, trans-Pennine rail line between Manchester and Leeds. He also pledged to spend £3.6bn on ‘left behind towns’.
So we can expect to see increased activity for the construction and housing sectors in the north.
Crucially, Johnson’s pick to lead on this major investment is the new Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick.
Robert Jenrick – supports ‘garden’ villages and possibly new wave of ‘council’ housing
Elected in 2014, Jenrick is a new breed of MP without the baggage of previous administrations. Johnson is keen to nurture the new guard, promoting and encouraging them and thereby building up his longer-term support base.
Jenrick came out with his support for Johnson very early on and was active in the media rounds, drumming up support.
During a stint at the Treasury, Jenrick was vocally supportive of new models of infrastructure finance and delivery, particularly across the Cambridge-Oxford arc.
He is seen as a competent reformist who will bring a pragmatic Treasury head to what is regarded as a domestic priority in need of a shake-up.
The new Secretary of State is also very supportive of the new towns/garden villages agenda, set to provide new stamping grounds for estate and letting agents in the months and years to come.
He sees more of these coming forward as critical to housing delivery with development corporations potentially playing a substantial role.
We also know he is keen on fast tracking the disposal of public sector land (not exactly a new initiative, but it will be interesting to see if any further proposals on this actually come forward and what the criteria are).
He has also spoken about the potential for homes built on public sector land to be sold ‘at cost’ to local people under 40.
It sounds arbitrary, but there may be the nub of a policy emerging there.
We should also expect a slightly more nuanced approach to green belt land release. Less contentious is Jenrick’s commitment to the restoration of historic buildings and heritage and he is likely to view this in the round with the emerging work of the ‘Building Better, Building Beautiful’ Commission on new homes.
Other areas of focus have been achieving full fibre broadband roll-out across the country and 5G implementation.
Esther McVey – supports Stamp Duty cuts and wants dream of home ownership to be a reality
Next in the housing pecking order comes former leadership hopeful and TV presenter Esther McVey as housing minister.
She is thought to have fairly radical (and very much in line with Johnson’s) views in terms of Stamp Duty.
She has already evoked the spirit of Thatcher by pledging to make the “dream of home ownership a reality”.
This will play well with the Tory faithful, but one wonders what she will offer Generation Rent. It also puts the emerging build-to-rent sector in an uncertain position.
McVey is also one of the junior ministers chosen to attend Cabinet, which puts housing right at the front of policy-making.
This may be more to do with her Leave credentials than her portfolio, but regardless it still gives the housing ministry portfolio more clout.
Jake Berry – the unknown in the line-up as ministry enters new phase
Jake Berry is another name to get used to, having been announced as another housing minister. It is possible he will be doing some of the ‘heavy lifting’ that Heather Wheeler so publicly did.
We should expect that MHCLG will be entering a new phase.
There are legislative Bills waiting in the parliamentary wings, but we should expect further delay as the new team reviews and makes its mark on all legislation.
We should also expect some highly relevant initiatives in the autumn Budget, which could be as early as next month.
Johnson is keen on metro mayors and regional devolution.
At the same time, it is broadly known that he is not particularly impressed with the delivery record of the current (Labour) Mayor of London and, with some significant planning appeals pending, it will be intriguing to see how the first decisions on the desk of the new Secretary of State are processed and delivered.
A lot on!
It’s important to note that MHCLG had been busy putting out various statements of intent, initiatives, and consultations before the change of Prime Minister.
These include leasehold reform; the regulation, reform and licensing of the entire estate and letting agency sector; reform of the home buying process; ‘Building Better, Building Beautiful’; revisions of general planning guidance; a commitment to ending segregated entrances on new developments; and the proposed ending of Section 21.
Brexit is clearly going to remain the story of the day until at least October 31, and probably beyond.
However, the new Secretary of State has much to address in his first 100 days in office – but of course there is nothing to stop Jenrick tearing it all up and starting again.
* Rebekah Paczek is an experienced political consultant and managing director of Snapdragon at PLMR, an agency based in Westminster