Even a minister as capable as Gove cannot maneuver our broken housing market

Even those who disapprove of the various things Michael Gove has set out to deliver cannot deny that he has been one of the more effective and probably the most electable Cabinets of this era of Conservative government.

(Admittedly, this may not be the highest bar in the history of British politics. However.)

He is particularly adept at directing stories on his own terms. The story this week was Gove against bad landlords:

“As part of a wider crackdown on poor standards, the Housing Secretary will also block any housing provider that breaches the Regulator’s consumer standards from new AHP funding until they make improvements. Michael Gove will also consider scrapping existing AHP funding providers unless construction has already started on the site.

Given the poor state of the Party’s wider proposal on housing at the moment, it would be difficult for any Housing Secretary to stay on the right side of the headlines. For now, Gove seems to be doing just that.

Whether this translates into good policy is another question. He has a habit of drawing bright dividing lines between good and bad, which makes for a good story but can get in the way of real policy delivery.

Gove’s famous “Blob” when he was Education Secretary is a nod to this. It certainly describes a real phenomenon (at least to some extent) and it has helped address the issue of education, which the Tories have traditionally neglected (at least as long as they are in post).

But as an actual strategy, divide and conquer was the exact opposite of the classical maxim. Instead, Gove combined every possible critic in what he attempted to be a massive opposition cannon, which probably helped make him unpopular enough in the end that David Cameron moved him on.

Even if landlords hold the whip hand over British politics more broadly, it’s harder to see that happening with landlords, who aren’t exactly a popular group.

But there must be serious question marks over whether any of Gove’s pro-tenant reforms – including not just the latest on social housing, but also a wider package of measures in the Tenant Reform Act – can really amount to anything in the face of so much ill health. . housing market.

Set aside the prospect that piling on additional rights to tenants could simply repeat the problems that led to the abolition of the old regulated and assured tenancy system, which I have written about before.

Even if all the changes are a good idea, unfortunately when demand for housing is as fierce as it is in London right now, it’s very difficult for anyone to stand up for their rights. A landlord can always find someone willing to put up with things you won’t, and if all that is expected is a series of bidding wars and interviews that end in higher rents, one is less likely to move out of unacceptable accommodation.

From renters’ rights to building standards, a lack of supply is at the core of almost everything affecting the national housing situation. Unscrupulous landlords can offer shabby apartments and cowboy developers insufficient housesbecause they know their customers have nowhere to go.

If Gove really wants to help the beleaguered masses of English renters, let alone speed them into home ownership, he should follow the example set by Robert Jenrick and Nicholas Ridley: use the Housing Secretary’s powers to start approving what’s happening on the left. , right and center.