- By: susiesinden
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Described as ‘make or break’ for the chancellor, the autumn budget included some positive announcements for the housing industry. Touching on key issues surrounding the housing crisis, it indicated there was quite a lot for the industry to get excited about. There’s been a lot of post-budget discussion, and as a whole it’s fair to say we are left feeling ‘positively optimistic’.
This is also backed up by the NHBC’s announcement that builders registered nearly 38,000 new homes across the UK in Q3 this year – the highest Q3 since the recession, according to their statistics and a 6% increase on the same period last year. Interestingly, most of this growth is driven by the private sector, rather than affordable housing which actually saw a 5% decrease on Q3 2016. This is encouraging, and as NHBC are the leading warranty insurance provider for new homes in the UK, a reliable indicator of the UK’s new homes market.
But, even with this level of growth and the optimistic announcement of 300,000 new homes by 2020, are we still faced with the on-going issues of delivering these targets?
What the budget says?
The main points to note that affect the new homes industry are the pledges to provide £44bn capital funding, loans and guarantees over 5 years to build 300,000 new homes across the UK by 2020. In addition to support the market, it was announced that £1.5bn new money will be made available for the ‘Home Builders Fund’ and relaxed borrowing caps for councils in high-demand areas. Other areas of interest noted the exemption of stamp duty for first time buyers on properties below £300k, ‘Housing First’ pilots in Liverpool, Manchester & West Midlands, with the intent to half homelessness by 2022 (and eliminate by 2027) and ‘Build to Rent’ schemes to support long term investment.
What it means?
Well, of course this is all very positive on the surface, but many experts feel that enough has been done to address the immediate issues we face about how we will build the right homes in the rights places, and how we ensure they remain affordable and open to everyone:
Housing is increasingly a point of division in society. Addressing the negatives depends on tackling affordability and choice for the homeowner, including the availability of alternatives to traditional rent and ownership options, for example the option for shared ownership. Hopefully, pledges such as the removal of stamp duty and increased investment/ borrowing levels for local authorities and housing associations will empower the building of more affordable housing across the UK. This also ties in the with urgent issue of homelessness. The targets are bold but unless immediate steps are taken to establish a Task Force and work with local government, will we really be able to address these issues fast enough?
The biggest factor impending growth is the on-going labour & skills shortages. Only a meagre sum was announced for training and with some Brexit-related uncertainties still in place, rising workloads are a major concern for suppliers. Training and apprenticeships have always been part of The Profix Group’s long-term employment strategy and we have successfully trained and grown a number of our team from apprentices through to fully-fledged operatives, and beyond.
And finally, as with everything, it comes down to money. Although the plans to relax the cap on borrowing for local authority building, alongside the pledge to provide extra support for small building firms, should result in a surge, they’re too small to make a real dent in the issue of under-supply. Concrete plans in infrastructure to support this growth also remains a concern that needs to be addressed.
Overall, small but positive steps have been taken to tackle the UK’s housing shortage – although many would have preferred an almighty shove, rather than a few gentle nudges in the right direction. While the experts continue to debate, we’ll continue to service our customers to deliver well-built, efficient housing.