In other issues relating to housing, the chancellor did not announce any alterations or dilution of the Help to Buy scheme, but confirmed that the Bank of England will carefully monitor the housing market. It is our view that the Help to Buy scheme must continue to be supported and we would like to see some long-term commitment to this from the government.
The announcement to help development sites in the north of England has been particularly encouraging though with the introduction of billion pounds of loans “to unblock large housing developments on sites in Manchester and Leeds and across the country”. The housing revenue account borrowing limit is also being increased by £300m.
“If we want more people to own a home, we have to build more homes,” chancellor George Osborne told a packed House of Commons. “The good news is the latest survey data showed residential construction growing at its fastest rate for a decade. And our hard-won planning reforms are delivering a 35% increase in approvals for new homes. But we need to do more.”
The National House-building Council (NHBC) Chief executive Mike Quinton reacted positively to this news: “We welcome today's Autumn Statement highlighting measures to support house-building in the UK. As our new home registration statistics show, the number of new homes being registered continues to improve on last year’s figures with an overall 24% increase for the rolling quarter August to October compared to the same period in 2012, but this recovery has been from a very low base.
“It is therefore crucial that the government delivers these policies, such as the £1bn loans to unblock stalled housing developments and continued support of Help to Buy, to help the UK get back to producing the volumes required to meet the demand for quality, new homes.”
Construction Products Association chief executive Diana Montgomery shares our view on the uncertainty over Help to Buy:
“A missed opportunity was the absence of clarity around the future of Help to Buy, the main driver in our industry’s resurgence this year. This, together with the recent diminishing of government support for ECO – one of the only effective initiatives helping to improve the performance and energy efficiency of the existing housing stock – leads us to believe that this important sector both for construction and the wider economy is being ignored at great cost.”
Despite the fact there always could have been more encouraging news, it is still good to see that the housing and construction industry remains high on the government’s agenda for economic recovery.
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