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James Brokenshire announced as the new housing secretary

Words: Laura Edgar
Housing secretary James Brokenshire / Chris McAndrew

Prime Minister Theresa May has announced James Brokenshire, MP for Old Bexley & Sidcup, as the new housing secretary as Sajid Javid becomes the new Secretary of State for the Home Department following the resignation of Amber Rudd.

An MP since 2005, Brokenshire previously worked as journalist on local radio before pursuing a career as a solicitor.

He became immigration minister in 2014, and was then made the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland after Theresa May was appointed as prime minister in 2016. He resigned from this position in January 2018, citing health reasons.

Brokenshire tweeted his reaction to his appointment earlier (30 April):

Brokenshire’s appointment follows the resignation of Amber Rudd as home secretary and Sajid Javid’s subsequent appointment in the role.

Rudd resigned following mounting pressure over the Windrush scandal, after, she said, she “inadvertently misled” MPs over targets for removing illegal immigrants. 

Javid became the housing secretary in 2016, before which he served as business secretary. He was elected to Parliament in the 2010 general election.


John Acres MRTPI, president of the RTPI, said: “The RTPI welcomes James Brokenshire as the new Secretary of State. We look forward to continuing our excellent relationship with the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, and working with Mr Brokenshire, particularly on our shared agenda of encouraging more young people to join the planning profession and in representing the views of our members on the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) consultation.”

The institute said it will be seeking a meeting with Brokenshire at his earliest convenience to discuss how it, and the 25,000 RTPI members, can work with him.

Brokenshire to maintain momentum


Speaking to The Planner, Nick Jones, director, head of strategic communications at planning consultancy Turley, said: “Whenever there is a new Secretary of State, we ask what impact the change is likely to have on government policy. In this instance, whilst we know little of James Brokenshire’s views on current MHCLG policy, we have one loyal member of the government replacing another. Sajid Javid has increasingly been seen as a safe proponent of the Prime Minister’s personal interest in fixing the housing market and we anticipate that James Brokenshire will maintain momentum on the wide range of policy initiatives coming from his ministry.”

‘Disappointing’ to be losing Javid


Melanie Leech, chief executive at the British Property Federation, said: “While it is disappointing to lose Sajid Javid from housing, we welcome James Brokenshire and look forward to working with him to drive forward the government’s multi-tenure approach to new housing delivery and the policy changes to the NPPF. These changes underpin the government’s agenda on so many levels – providing the right homes in the right places will increase UK productivity, economic growth and social well-being in the long term.”

Challenging portfolio  


Dominick Veasey, associate director at Nexus Planning’s Thames Valley office, told The Planner: “We welcome James Brokenshire’s appointment as Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government. However, Mr Brokenshire will certainly need to hit the ground running at Usain Bolt speed if he has any hope in not disappointing the Prime Minister by delivering on the promised one million new homes by 2021 to help address the country’s housing crisis. With housing likely to be one of the important election topics, particularly for the under 40s, James has stepped into a challenging portfolio.

“A key priority for the Secretary of State in the coming months must be to ensure the timely release of the revised NPPF and accompanying practice guidance. Progress on many local plans up and down the country is poised on the release of the NPPF and new housing assessment methodology.”

Critical time


Polly Neate, CEO at Shelter, said: “We welcome James Brokenshire into his new role as Secretary of State at the Ministry of Housing Communities & Local Government. He will be taking up the role at a critical time, in the midst of the biggest housing emergency in decades.

“With the lowest levels of social housebuilding since the Second World War and rough sleeping is its highest for a decade, we hope the new secretary of state will take the bold action needed to fix our broken housing market. We very much look forward to working with him to achieve this.”

Releasing small builders’ capacity


Brian Berry, chief executive at the Federation of Master Builders, said: “Sajid Javid passes the housing baton to James Brokenshire at a crucial time for the sector. We hope that Brokenshire will build on Javid’s good work, both in terms of raising the profile of housing as an issue at cabinet level, and implementing some sound policies aimed at tackling the housing shortage. In particular, we are keen to work with the new secretary of state to unleash the capacity of small local house builders. Last year’s housing white paper and the November Budget statement that followed have given us a blueprint for change but now we need to get on and do it. We stand ready to help Brokenshire deliver the 300,000 new homes per year needed in England alone.”

Hope Brokenshire picks up brief 'quickly'


Mark Farmer, chief executive, of Cast said: “Once again, an unplanned cabinet reshuffle is going to potentially leave the housing industry without strong and contiguous political leadership at a crucial time. As an industry, we can only hope that the creation of MHCLG really was an indication that housing has been pushed higher up the agenda and that the new Secretary of State is able to pick up his new brief quickly, is prepared to learn, listen and engage the housing industry as we face a deteriorating skills crisis, growing concerns around new-build quality and multiple government initiatives in play looking at intervening to fix the broken housing market.”

Other departments take priority


Russell Pedley, director at Assael Architecture, said: “Once again, we have seen a change at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. The point of changing DCLG to MHCLG was to highlight the major issues we have within the housing market at the moment. However, the government’s actions here show that, once again, other departments take a priority over housing. If we are serious about fixing the broken housing market, delivering affordable homes at high volume and transforming the outdated delivery model, then we need consistent leadership at the top.”

'Lack of continuity' should worry sector


Johnny Caddick, managing director at Moda, said: “The housing crisis is not going to solve itself, it will take strong leadership from the government and a consistent approach to oversee the changes needed to build a home for everyone. The lack of ministerial continuity should worry the entire sector, so we hope that James Brokenshire can buck the trend of past ministers and provide stability to the government's housing approach and see through the much needed reforms.

“Sajid Javid oversaw the biggest policy shift towards the rental sector we have ever seen. James Brokenshire must also focus on making renting aspirational, and Moda is delighted to support that effort with a promise of family friendly tenancies, quality homes and a level of management and service that people deserve.”

Hope for stability


Ian Anderson, chief executive at Iceni Projects, said: "Will it be all change or more of the same from the new Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government? We expect (and hope) to see some continuity and stability. James Brokenshire is something of an unknown quantity, with no previous ministerial experience in this department and no publicly stated positions on housing or planning.

"Let's hope that the Secretary of State's tweet on being appointed, in which he commits to taking forward the government's housing agenda, bodes well. We shall soon see, with the NPPF consultation drawing to a close, an upcoming select committee inquiry into land value capture and local plan interventions on the horizon for three local authorities.”

A consistent message


Jean-Marc Vandevivere, CEO of PLATFORM_, said: "Consistency of message and of policy is fundamental to ensure we see the necessary reforms and effort needed to provide a solution to the housing crisis. Sajid Javid’s reality check on renting has been welcome and we hope that James Brokenshire will continue it, while also enacting new policies that support everyone from first time buyers to long term renters get the home they need."

Image credit | Chris McAndrew