“Never in the history of housing policy, has so much been announced by so many, whose achievements are so few”, as Winston Churchill never said.
The first announcement was the new job title for Sajid Javid, the Cabinet member responsible for housing, who went from being the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government. Could it be that the purpose was to celebrate that Mr Javid is responsible for the worst housing crisis in living memory.
On a similar note, Mr Javid’s department, the Department for Communities and Local Government, which has always been responsible for housing, is now to be called the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government. Please, please someone, tell me that this is more than mere window dressing, that the policies responsible for the 60% increase in homeless households since 2010/11 will change.
Receiving less publicity, and not noticed by anyone other than housing anoraks like me, was the change in the name of the Homes and Communities Agency, the government quango responsible for social housing development and regulation. It is now to be called Homes England.
At its launch this week, Sajid Javid said: “This government is determined to build the homes our country needs and help more people get on the housing ladder. Homes England will be at the heart of leading this effort.”
Actually, that was the key purposes of the Homes and Communities Agency. But at least we are being presented with the appearance that something is being done. Perhaps he is hoping that we will not notice that nothing is changing at all.
Lastly, the social housing regulation function of the Homes and Communities Agency is forthwith to be known by the cunning title ‘the Regulator of Social Housing’. Where do they get this talent?
At least Fiona MacGregor, the Executive Director of Regulation, has the honesty to set out the huge anticipated impact of these changes when she wrote in a letter to housing associations this week: “This change is to the regulator’s operating name only and does not alter our regulatory framework, approach or powers and we will continue to promote a viable, efficient and well-governed social housing sector able to deliver homes that meet a range of needs.”
Lots of people in Westminster and Whitehall have been very busy this week, earning their salaries by making sure that, at the end of the day, nothing is changing other than a few letterheads, business cards and signs outside government departments and quangos. God forbid that they do anything meaningful to tackle the housing crisis.