The revolving door of housing ministers makes the crisis worse

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s recent reshuffle has once again drawn attention to the ever-revolving door of housing ministers, with Rachel McLean the latest victim. Lee Rowley’s appointment marks the 16th change to the position of Housing Minister since 2010. These frequent changes hamper efforts to address the housing crisis by contributing to the lack of a comprehensive long-term strategy.

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The scale and complexity of the UK housing crisis is critical. From thousands of people with nowhere to live, to millions of families on social housing waiting lists, the housing market has failed to meet the urgent need for stable, affordable housing. If we are to boost housing supply, promote higher standards, and prioritize quality and sustainability, we need a strategic, proactive and comprehensive approach. But with frequent changes in leadership, the development of a coherent and sustainable strategy remains stalled.

RIBA Chairman Muyiwa Oke for the Minister of Housing
Muyiwa Aoki, president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, said the change in housing ministers meant a coherent, long-term plan on housing was out of reach. Photo: Evan Jones

The call for a consistent housing minister represents not just a call for political stability, but an acknowledgment of the complex challenges involved in addressing the housing crisis. Each new minister needs time to become familiar with the complexities of the issues in his portfolio, and once he begins to understand the complexities, he is replaced. This lack of continuity hampers the development of a strategic plan that is crucial for an effective and long-term solution to the housing crisis.

In facing these challenges, the role of architects becomes more important. Architects play a key role in designing and building high-quality, sustainable homes that are suitable for the needs of our communities now and in the future. The decreased involvement of architects in inclusive housing has contributed to increased challenges in design standards, with implications for the environment. Many new homes never see the inside of an architect’s studio – and that has to change.

If we are to integrate good design into all projects, there is an urgent need to address the resource gap in local authority planning departments, especially the lack of qualified design expertise.

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