Chancellor unveils £3bn affordable homes scheme in quiet Spring Statement

Ryan Bembridge

March 13, 2019

Chancellor Philip Hammond unveiled a £3bn affordable homes guarantee scheme to support the delivery of around 30,000 affordable homes from housing associations today.

And – in a Spring Statement very much overshadowed by Brexit negotiations – he announced the launch of a £717m from the housing infrastructure fund to unlock up to 37,000 new homes on sites in West London, Cheshire, Didcot and Cambridge.

He celebrated the fact that the proportion of first-time buyers has risen above 50%, which is partially due to the schemes like Help to Buy but can also be explained by measures curbing buy-to-let investment in the past few years.

Hammond added: “Our ambitious plan to restore the dream of homeownership to millions of younger people is already delivering.

“Planning reform to release land in areas where the pressure is greatest, a five year £44bn housing programme to help raise annual housing supply to 300,000 by the mid-2020s.

“The Help to Buy equity loan scheme, abolition of stamp duty for first-time buyers, which has so far helped 240,000 people onto the property ladder.

“And restored the proportion of first-time buyers to above 50% for the first time in a generation.”

Reaction

Most seemed dissapointed with the lack of significant announcements in the Spring Statement.

Marc von Grundherr, director of estate agent Benham and Reeves, said: “It may seem as though the Chancellor has come out fighting for UK homeowners, but today’s Spring Statement was predictably compiled of regurgitated rhetoric and slightly misleading claims where the property market is concerned.

“Of the 220,000 new homes delivered last year, around 10% were, in fact, refurbs not new builds and we remain light years away from the Government’s magic target of 300,000.

“Help to Buy is arguably the poisoned chalice that has seen prices continue to inflate due to the uplift in demand it has fuelled, while new stock delivery remains inadequate.

“This playing field may be relevelled should we see the £3bn affordable homes initiative bring the expected 30,000 additional homes, but as is often the case, these cash promises rarely provide a notable return.”

John Ellmore, director of KnowYourMoney.co.uk, said: “In truth, the speech was predictably light on substance, which is a shame for people who are trying to manage their financial plans.

“Recent research by KnowYourMoney.co.uk found that 48% of UK adults are concerned about the impact Brexit will have on their personal finances, and while the Chancellor might continue to stress that “austerity is over”, there was little to reassure the public during what has come a somewhat hollow annual announcement.”

Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and a former RICS residential chairman, said: “We are disappointed that the Chancellor didn’t announce anything for the private rented sector because the various measures compromising landlords’ finances introduced over the past few years has led to many, particularly accidental landlords, selling up, at a time when people are renting for longer and buying their first home later.

“First-time buyer numbers may have increased to a 12-year high but even those taking advantage of government schemes such as Help to Buy or stamp duty exemptions are struggling to raise deposits and take those important first steps on the ladder.”

Jerald Solis, business development and acquisitions director, Experience Invest, said: “Unfortunately, the property market was only briefly mentioned in Chancellor’s speech, which means that any meaningful policy reform will have to wait until the 2019 Autumn Budget. This is perhaps most frustrating for property developers and constructing companies, which are the firms responsible for delivering new-builds and generally improving infrastructure.

“To support new-build construction targets, the government cannot be complacent – what the industry currently demands is spending commitments and policy reform that will both support property developers, as well as encouraging commercial and residential real estate investment.”

Paresh Raja, chief executive of Market Financial Solutions, said: “What the market currently needs is creative reforms to ensure more homes are added to the real estate market, be it through a reduction in stamp duty, incentives for renovating derelict homes or making it easier for buyers to access finance.

“Weakening the Spring Statement to a fiscal non-event might suit the Chancellor but does not help the country as a whole. Moreover, overlooking important issues will not suffice, and it is once again up to industry leaders to step up and demonstrate the leadership the property market is clearly calling for by pushing for necessary changes to improve the industry.


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