The curiously short lifespan of housing ministers

Patrick Mulrenan, Associate Professor of Learning in the Social Work, Youth and Community subject area at London Met, questions why housing is such a low priority for the government.

Date: 05 March 2023

The government has just released figures which show a 26 per cent increase in the number of rough sleepers in England, and an increase in people in homeless temporary accommodation. The number of households in this accommodation is now close to 100,000, and there are 125,000 children in temporary accommodation.

Combined with thousands of families in flats with dangerous cladding, and many young people unable to afford even basic private rentals, it is odd that housing seems to be such a low priority. One factor is both a reason for this low priority and a consequence of it. Basically, there is no one in charge.

This month a new housing minister, Rachel Mclean, was appointed. The stand-out feature of this appointment is not who the new minister is, but the fact that she is the sixth person to hold the post in the last year. There have been 15 housing ministers since 2010. To put this in terms of lifecycles in the natural world, conservative housing ministers have an average lifespan of a domestic mouse. The last four have had the average lifespan of a mosquito.

It is no wonder that housing issues seem to be getting worse. Housing ministers hardly have time to get their ID cards printed and find the coffee machine before they are out of the ministry door.

A portrait picture of Patrick Mulrenan