Theresa May has appointed Surrey MP Dominic Raab as the Minister of State for Housing, in the newly renamed Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government. Sajid Javid will continue as Secretary of State for the renamed department, which now includes Housing in its formal title.
While Javid will remain the Department’s sole representative in Cabinet, the inclusion of the word housing in his title might be seen as a show of support for ambitions to tackle the housing crisis. The call for the Housing Minister to attend Cabinet in their own right, as an acknowledgement of the importance of fixing the housing crisis, is yet to persuade the Prime Minister.
About Dominic Raab
Dominic Raab has served as Conservative MP for Esher and Walton since May 2010, prior to which he was a competition lawyer. He was re-elected in 2017 with a majority of 23,000.
Raab has previously made few interventions on housing and planning. Since entering Parliament in 2010, the Esher and Walton MP has occasionally submitted written questions on housing, having principally focused on his main areas of policy interest, Brexit and the justice system.
Raab on housing and the greenbelt
Perhaps unsurprisingly to date, Raab’s Parliamentary interventions on housing are dominated by greenbelt protectionism. In July 2011, for instance, Raab submitted a written question to the Department for Communities and Local Government on the arrangements in place to protect greenbelt land as part of the National Planning Policy Framework’s presumption in favour of sustainable development. Likewise, Raab wrote to Elmbridge Council, where his seat is based, in February 2017 asserting that ‘every effort must be made to avoid building on green belt’.
How well he will work alongside Sajid Javid’s more robust approach to housing targets remains to be seen. Under the then DCLG’s ‘housing need’ (cost) based approach, Elmbridge, the District Council that covers the Esher and Walton constituency, could see its annual housing target rise from 474 homes to 612 homes. Elmbridge is current run by a coalition of Liberal Democrats and Resident Association, which may insulate him from some of the upward pressure from local councillors on housing targets, but it will be interesting to see how their relationship and housing policy develops as national policy priorities rub up against local political opposition from Raab’s colleagues in home counties seats.
More generally, tension may arise from the conflicting political attitudes of Javid and Raab. Not only did the pair take opposing sides in the 2016 EU referendum – Raab is one of the Conservative Party’s most ardent Brexiteers – but Javid has spoken at length on the state assuming a much more active role in housebuilding, a course of action which will not sit comfortably with Raab’s libertarian instincts.