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Who is James Brokenshire, the new Secretary of State for Housing?

Here's our low-down on the incoming Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government boss.

Nigel Lewis

james brokenshire

The new Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government has been better known as a mover and shaker within the Home Office since he joined it as a Parliamentary Under Secretary in 2016, rather than a housing specialist.

So what qualifies the aptly-named former lawyer to lead the government’s efforts to fix the UK’s ‘broken’ housing market?

Tenant fees ban

The 50-year-old, remain-supporting MP, who was recently diagnosed with lung cancer and stepped down from his position as Northern Ireland Secretary in January this year to fight it, voted against Labour’s original 2014 attempts to ban fees paid by tenants to letting agents, a policy the Conservatives have subsequently adopted.

But his biggest role in the housing sector to date has been a controversial one.

Right to rent

Brokenshire was instrumental in introducing and implementing the Right to Rent regulations that many agents and landlords now deal with on a daily basis, receiving plenty of criticism for his involvement, although the Association of Residential Letting Agents has been largely supportive of Right to Rent, although the Residential Landlords Association has not.

But the legislation is often said to have made agents and landlords de-facto ‘border guards’ for the government, and has been criticised for encouraging discrimination by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.

Brokenshire’s first big test came yesterday when the Old Bexley and Sidcup MP was thrown in the deep end in parliament during questions from both the Liberal Democrat spokesperson Wera Hobhouse and her opposite number on the Labour benches John Healey, who both grilled him about why DHCLG last year underspent on affordable housing by £800 million.

The new Secretary of State, who replace Sajid Javid following his departure to the Home Office, said 41,530 affordable homes were built last year, 27% more than the year before. And given the other technical questions thrown at him by several MPs and his well-informed responses, he had clearly done his homework.

May 1, 2018

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