Chancellor Philip Hammond used his first spring Statement as an opportunity to provide an update on the government’s ambitious plans to tackle the UK’s housing crisis.
Although there were no announcements on any major new policies, Mr Hammond said that the government was on track to meet its building targets for new homes.
In the Autumn Budget 2017, the Chancellor announced an investment programme worth at least £44 billion over five years with a target of building 300,000 homes on average each year by the mid-2020s.
In today’s spring Statement, Mr Hammond confirmed that London would get £1.67 billion to build 27,000 more affordable homes by the end of 2021/22. Some 215,000 new homes are also scheduled to be built in the West Midlands by 2031. The Housing Growth Partnership, which provides support to smaller housebuilders, will also be doubled to £220 million.
Furthermore, the government has said that it is working with 44 areas which have submitted bids to the Housing Infrastructure fund, to make sure that only those homes that are needed are being built.
Mr Hammond also said that some 60,000 first-time buyers have benefited from the abolition of stamp duty on homes under £300,000, a policy which was also announced – and came into force – on the date of the 2017 Autumn Budget.
‘Only time will tell if these words will actually equate to action’
Commenting on today’s speech, Jeremy Leaf, an estate agent in North London and former RICs chairman says: “We welcome the Chancellor’s reiteration of the importance of the housing market and how tackling the housing crisis is key to all other economic policies, with particular reference to longer-term building projects and trying to address capacity issues by giving further assistance to apprenticeships.
“However, at grass roots level what we are really lacking is supply and transaction numbers. If these were to be improved, on the one hand it would keep property prices in check and on the other it would generate real benefits for not just the housing market but for the economy as a whole.
“The stamp duty concessions have definitely prompted more interest among first-time buyers, who are often taking the place of investors at the lower end of the market. But further help is needed to make a real difference, not just at the bottom end of the market but right through to the top end if we are to achieve genuine growth.”
Russell Quirk, chief executive and founder of property portal Emoov.co.uk, was also cynical as to whether the government would be able to meet its building targets. He says its “reaffirming to see the Chancellor yet again covered the hot topic of housing, but we still haven’t seen the delivery of promises from previous budgets, so only time will tell if these words will actually equate to action”.