Spring Statement: £3bn boost to unlock affordable housing

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Spring Statement
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Chancellor Philip Hammond has announced a “determination to fix the broken housing market” in the latest Spring Statement, as a new £3bn Affordable Homes Guarantee scheme is revealed

The Chancellors statement also unveils £717m from the Housing Infrastructure Fund to unlock up to 37,000 new homes on sites in West London, Cheshire, Didcot, and Cambridge, Hammond said.

The government has said it is determined to fix the broken housing market. Building more homes in the right places is critical to unlocking productivity growth and makes housing more affordable

Within the 2017 Autumn Budget the government set out a comprehensive package of new policies to raise housing supply by the end of this Parliament to its highest level since 1970, on track to reach 300,000 a year on average.

The Spring Statement set out further steps to deliver this ambition:

  • £717m from the £5.5bn Housing Infrastructure Fund to unlock up to 37,000 homes at sites including Old Oak Common in London, the Oxford-Cambridge Arc and Cheshire
  • Through the Affordable Homes Guarantee Scheme, the government will guarantee up to £3bn of borrowing by housing associations in England to support delivery of around 30,000 affordable homes
  • Further progress on delivering growth in the Oxford-Cambridge Arc including £445m from the Housing Infrastructure Fund to unlock over 22,000 homes, and a joint declaration with local partners, affirming our shared vision for the Arc
  • Up to £260m for the Borderlands Growth Deal, which on top of the £102m announced recently for Carlisle from the Housing Infrastructure Fund means up to £362m UK Government funding into the Borderlands area
  • Future homes standard to mandate the end of fossil-fuel heating systems in all new houses from 2025.

In response to the Spring Statement, Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB said: “Today the Chancellor claimed to support housing delivery but actions speak louder than words and the burdensome and poorly thought-through biodiversity targets for developers will bring yet more costs and more delays for builders.

“Just as the environment for SME house builders starts to improve, these measures could end up stalling our progress.

“The Government wants to make developers, large and small, increase the biodiversity on their sites by a whopping 110% and for an average site of ten units, the additional cost could be in excess of £2,000. Needless to say, this would also create delays to projects by adding additional hurdles for builders to negotiate during the already bureaucratic planning process.”

Paul Hackett, chair of the G15 and chief executive of Optivo housing association, commented: “Brexit uncertainty and the deepening UK housing crisis underlines the need for longer-term funding for affordable housing.

“The new funding announced today for the affordable homes guarantee programme is welcome, but our sector’s cross-subsidy model of delivering affordable housing is broken and a new funding deal is imperative if the Government wants to hit its target of 300,000 new homes a year.”

“The Government must invest in this essential infrastructure to give the country the high-quality, genuinely affordable homes it needs.”

Joseph Daniels, CEO of modular smart homes provider Project Etopia, commented: “Supply of new homes remains the country’s biggest problem so the government’s previously declared shift away from Help to Buy towards these new promises for tens of thousands of new homes represents a telling and important shift in ministers’ chosen strategies to solve the housing crisis.

Help to Buy has been a popular and successful initiative to give first-time buyers a leg up onto the housing ladder, but as a demand-side solution it would never have provided the antidote that only building can.

“Recent initiatives to help first-time buyers onto the ladder, including stamp duty relief, only work if there are enough houses for them to buy in the areas they want to live in.”

The Chancellor also confirmed that the government will hold a Spending Review which will conclude alongside the Budget. This will set departmental budgets, including 3 year budgets for resource spending, if an EU exit deal is agreed.

James Prestwich, NHF head of policy, welcomed the Affordable Homes Guarantee scheme, commented: “However, whilst this is an important contribution, we desperately need new money in the next spending review to build more social housing.

“This is more crucial than ever in the midst of Brexit uncertainty – the lack of affordable housing is now pushing hundreds of thousands of working families to the brink – the number is rising year on year, many are living in debt, at threat of eviction or homeless.

“We need to build 145,000 affordable homes every year to house these people – this is not a one off investment, the government must commit billions of pound every year into building more social housing.

“We hope, as the Comprehensive Spending Review approaches, the government will see sense and commit the significant investment needed into social housing.”

Kim Vernau, CEO of BLP Insurance, added: “It is positive that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and Homes England are focusing on land resource and release through much needed planning reform.

“However, there remain critical issues to be addressed, none more so than the Mayor of London’s 50% social housing requirement.

“While the measures announced may bring some short term optimism, the medium term outlook is far from rosy. Concerns persist in respect to contractors, the sustainability of their margins and of course the spectre of a no-deal Brexit.

“All this contributes to the current feeling of unease among investors in an industry that craves an end to uncertainty and a clear course of action.”

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