Budget: difficulties remain for affordable housing sector

22/11/2017

Responding to the Chancellor's Autumn Budget statement, Jonathan Turner, head of housing at the law firm Bevan Brittan, said: 

“What the Chancellor told us today about solving the country’s chronic housing shortage is only half the picture – and the sector will be waiting eagerly for much more details from the Communities Secretary Sajid Javid shortly on how the Budget proposals will work in practice 

“The headline financial package of £44 billion in government support, loan guarantees, skilling up and resourcing the construction and building sector – and creating 300,000 new homes annually by the mid-2020s - is of course welcome.

“What’s not clear is how support will be directed at social and affordable housing, and those who need homes at social rents – where there is still uncertainty and acute shortage of homes.  Local authorities want to build new properties for homeless and those in housing need in the areas in the places and local areas they serve, and housing associations and other housing providers will be uncertain about how the Budget measures will help them.

“Lifting HRA caps in areas of high demand will help. Local authorities will be invited to bid for increases in their caps from 2019‑20, up to a total of £1bn by the end of 2021‑22.

“But why not lift the cap nationwide, so allowing councils to borrow the money they need for building and investment? There’s also still no news on whether or not councils can keep more of the money from sales of ‘right to buy’ homes.

“Authorities will need to adapt quickly to a new housing environment in which Government is keen to secure selected local investment deals - such as the £215 million project in Oxfordshire – which align with its policy aims around more home ownership, quality of place and sustainable development.

“It is likely the same investment principles will apply to the five new towns being planned, where homes can be delivered at scale and perhaps not fall foul of green belt planning objections.      

 “Local authorities may also need to adapt to a new policy to permission land outside their plan on the condition that a high proportion of the homes are offered for discounted sale for first‑time buyers, or for affordable rent. But it’s still unclear how compulsory purchase schemes involving land banked by developers for financial reasons would operate in practice.”

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