Chancellor announces plans for ‘a housing market that works for everyone’

Philip Hammond has delivered his first – and now to be the last – Autumn statement as Chancellor. With the aim to create ‘a housing market that works for everyone’, he told the House of Commons the Government was facing a “challenge of delivering the housing where it is desperately needed” and said it needed to focus on investing in infrastructure to support the building of more housing.

The Government will invest £2.3billion in a Housing Infrastructure Fund for 100,000 new homes in areas of high demand in addition to the £1.4billion for 40,000 affordable homes.
The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) says it supports the announcement commenting that the Chancellor was right to double the housing spend. Sarah McMonagle, director of external affairs at the FMB, said: “The £1.4 billion announced for 40,000 affordable homes is welcome, as is the £1.3 billion for roads – the latter will help improve the UK’s infrastructure and make our economy more competitive.

“The Chancellor’s £2.3 billion Housing Infrastructure Fund is welcome and could go some way to solving the housing crisis. The burden of funding local infrastructure for new homes should not fall entirely on private house builders – however, as council budgets have been stripped back, local authorities have increasingly looked to developers, including even the very smallest developers, to plug these funding gaps. Heavy demands for Section 106 and Community Infrastructure Levy can make many small developments unviable. Key to the Fund’s success will be to ensure that it focuses on unlocking large numbers of small sites and not just small numbers of large sites. The Chancellor wants a ‘housing market that works for everyone’ and central to this is empowering small local house builders.”

The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) has also positively responded to the Autumn Statement saying that the commitment to a new £23bn national productivity investment fund, £3.7bn to build 140,000 new homes and £1.8bn to support local infrastructure, home building and skills needs will help to bolster confidence amongst employers to invest in skills and training.
Stephen Radley, director of Policy at CITB, comments: “The announcements offer more certainty for the pipeline of work ahead, not just nationally but at a regional and local level in infrastructure and housing.

“This will help to boost business confidence following the uncertainties thrown up by Brexit. The local and regional investment should help bring more small firms into the supply chain, where much of the training takes place.

“With action on several fronts to boost homebuilding, it’s vital that we have the workforce in place to deliver the extra homes.”

The Solar Trade Association (STA) on the other hand has questioned what wasn’t mentioned, including climate change, The Paris Agreement and renewable energy.
Speaking in Parliament the Chancellor reconfirmed the Government’s commitment to tax breaks for oil and gas firms, to drive investment in those areas. However, there was no mention of removing the proposed business rates increase for commercial solar installations. The STA believes only modest interventions are needed, including dropping the business rates hike, to unlock £1billion of investment in solar over this Parliament.

Leonie Greene, STA head of external affairs, commented: “Only the week after the UK ratified the Paris Agreement, the Chancellor made no mention of climate change. It is deeply frustrating at this point in time that we have to battle against a tax regime that is rewarding investors in fossil fuels over solar energy. Very modest intervention is needed to unlock a billion of investment in solar over this Parliament. The UK economy, as well as the climate, urgently needs this investment.”

The STA sees this Chancellor’s first financial statement as a missed opportunity to get a jump start on the UK emissions targets and climate change goals.

The UK Green Building Council (UK-GBC) is also critical of the Chancellor’s lack of focus on the subject of energy efficiency, saying that the Government must do more to ensure our homes are cost effective to run in the long term.

Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive at UK-GBC, said: “If the Government is serious about delivering ‘a housing market that works for everyone’, new homes must be built to higher energy efficiency standards, to prevent us having to retrofit them in the future. The Government must also do more to support energy efficiency measures in existing homes, making them cheaper to heat and healthier to live in.”