Lee Rowley replaces ‘disappointed’ Rachel Maclean as housing minister

Maclean, who became the sixth housing minister to be appointed within a year when she took the role in February, and the 15th since 2010, was asked to step down from the role yesterday (13 November).

Rowley, meanwhile, is returning to the post he previously held between September 2022 and October 2022 during Liz Truss’s 49 days as prime minister.

He will work under housing secretary Michael Gove, remaining in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) where he was minister for local government and building safety until the reshuffle.

Before resigning from Boris Johnson’s government in July 2022, Rowley was junior minister at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, where he had responsibility for construction as well as a government whip.

Maclean, who had been housing minister since 7 February after replacing Lucy Frazer in the role (preceded by Lee Rowley), said she was ‘disappointed’ to have been asked to step down as housing minister, adding it had been a ‘privilege’ to hold the position.

Confirming the news of her departure on X (formerly Twitter) yesterday, Maclean wrote: ‘I’ve been asked to step down from my role as housing minister.

‘Disappointed and was looking forward to introducing the Renters Reform Bill to Committee tomorrow and later the Leasehold and Freehold Bill. It has been a privilege to hold the position and I wish my successor well.’

Thanking everyone in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (DLUHC), she added: ‘I will never lose my passion for housing and planning.’

Critics of the move have described Maclean’s departure as another casualty of the government’s ‘revolving door’ for the DLUHC, which ‘for once’ had considered ‘some meaty policies’ under her leadership.

Describing Maclean as ‘hardworking, engaged, and [someone] who took a deep interest in the benefits of good housing’, British Property Federation chief executive Melanie Leech said: ‘The revolving door of housing ministers has turned once more.

‘For a sector that thrives on certainty and wants to see a long-term plan for housing, such discontinuity in personnel is a significant concern and actively undermines investment and long-term commitment across the sector.’

Peter Hardy, partner and co-head of housing at law firm Addleshaw Goddard, said the speed of succession – now 16 different housing ministers in 13 years of Conservative government – was giving ministers ‘hardly long enough to get [their] head around this complex area of policy’.

Hardy added: ‘Maclean has only been in post for nine months, but that’s still a fairly lengthy term by recent standards. For once we have had some meaty policies being considered.

‘Whatever you might think of the Renters’ Reform bill, or the suggestions around reform of long leases for houses and apartments, these are good things to be debating.’

Business secretary Kemi Badenoch responded to Maclean’s tweet, saying she was very sorry to see her go. ‘You were an excellent minister,’ she added.

Since Chris Pincher’s departure in February 2022, the role of housing minister has also variously been held by Stuart Andrew, Marcus Jones, Lee Rowley (for his first stint), and Lucy Frazer.

Rowley, who is from Derbyshire, was the son of a milkman, and both his grandfathers were miners at pits in the area, including the Westhorpe and Shirebrook collieries, both closed by the Conservative government.

Before becoming an MP, Rowley was a banker and in 2006 he was elected as a councillor in Westminster City Council in London. He was re-elected in May 2010 and was appointed as cabinet member for parking and transportation.

Rowley was elected as MP for North East Derbyshire in 2017. According to a ‘fighting inappropriate planning applications’ post on his blog, planning is one of the area’s most pressing local issues, and Rowley says he is dedicated to fighting the area’s ‘pipeline of unwanted and large applications’ in ‘inappropriate places’.

Among the most high-profile casualties of Sunak’s latest reshuffle is Suella Braverman, who was sacked as home secretary following growing public pressure over her criticism of police.

Braverman will be replaced by James Cleverly, while David Cameron will fill Cleverly’s former role as foreign secretary, in an unexpected move from Sunak.

The six Conservative housing ministers since February 2020:

  • Rachel Maclean (February 2023 – November 2023)
  • Lucy Frazer (October 2022 – February 2023)
  • Lee Rowley (September 2022 – October 2022)
  • Marcus Jones (July 2022 – September 2022)
  • Stuart Andrew (February 2022 – July 2022)
  • Chris Pincher (February 2020 – February 2022)

RIBA President Muyiwa Oki responds

It’s incredibly frustrating to see another housing minister ousted after just 10 months in the job – the 16th in 13 years.    

The government has to get a grip on this housing crisis – it demands urgent action. We need continuity, the development of a strategic plan and certainty to ensure homes and places are planned, designed and built to meet the needs of current and future communities.    

Architects stand ready to help create high-quality, connected, inclusive and accessible, vibrant places where people want to live.


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