The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has used his Autumn Statement and Budget to announce a “multi-year housing settlement” of £24bn.
Part of that is the previously announced £11.5bn Affordable Homes Programme and £1.5bn brownfield land funding, revealed earlier in the week but lower than the £1.8bn previously thought.
Sunak said the brownfield fund would help to “unlock 1,500 hectares of land” and the whole investment programme will help build one million homes.
Part of the £24bn was also “£300m locally-led grant funding that will be distributed to Mayoral Combined Authorities and Local Authorities to unlock smaller brownfield sites for housing and improve communities in line with their priorities”.
It also includes “an additional £65m investment to improve the planning regime, through a new digital system”.
The Chancellor also announced a £5bn pot of funding to “remove dangerous cladding”, partly made up of the Residential Property Developer Tax for developers with profits over £25m, at a rate of 4%.
It was previously announced that housing associations would be exempt from the tax. However, if they are deemed to be making additional profits, the consultation document says: “The government has decided that this exemption should be complemented by an exit charge, which will apply where a corporate body benefitting from the exemption ceases to qualify for it”.
Going further, it adds: “Such an exemption is not justified on the grounds that the development of affordable housing with a view to making a profit from that activity, is clearly the development of residential property.”
However, the cladding announcement was quickly batted down by residents.
There was also “an 85% increase in spending compared to 2019” for rough sleeping and homelessness, with £640m per year being committed.
The Chancellor has announced that the universal credit taper rate will be reduced from 63p to 55p.
Calling it a “hidden tax on work”, Rishi Sunak said the policy would be “introduced within weeks, no later than 1st December”.
Many also hoped that the £3.8bn Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund as promised in the Conservative manifesto, would be delivered.
Before the Budget, only £800m had been allocated as part of the Heat and Buildings Strategy and that is how it stayed, with the Budget confirming the funding announcements from the Heat and Building Strategy.
In the Budget strategy document, there was also the announcement that “government will bring forward exemptions to the Shared Accommodation Rate for victims of domestic abuse and victims of modern slavery, from October 2023 to October 2022. These vulnerable claimants will be able to claim the higher 1-bedroom self-contained Local Housing Allowance rate.”
Responding to the Budget, Katie Schmuecker, Deputy Director of Policy & Partnerships at JRF said: “This is a tale of two Budgets for families on low incomes. For those in work, the change to the taper rate and work allowance, alongside the National Living Wage increase, are very positive steps, allowing low-paid workers to keep more of what they earn.
“Together these measures improve our social security system for working families and demonstrate a serious intent to turn the tide on the pre-pandemic trend of rising in-work poverty.
“But the reality is that millions of people who are unable to work or looking for work will not benefit from these changes. The Chancellor’s decision to ignore them today as the cost of living rises risks deepening poverty among this group, who now have the lowest main rate of out-of-work support in real terms since around 1990.
“Among the people in our society who cannot work are cancer patients, people with disabilities and those caring for young children or elderly parents. Their energy bills and weekly shop are going up like everyone else’s and they face immediate hardship, hunger and debt in the months ahead.
“The Chancellor had an opportunity to support families on the lowest incomes to weather the storm ahead, and he did not take it.”
Rick Henderson, CEO at Homeless Link, said: “Everyone deserves a stable place to live and the support they need to keep it. Therefore, we are pleased that Rishi Sunak has clearly listened to the concerns and needs of our members in the homelessness sector, giving them the stability of funding to provide meaningful support to people experiencing homelessness as we leave the pandemic behind, with many of our members reporting that rough sleeping is rising again.
“While the £640m pa announced towards tackling homelessness and rough sleeping is £110m less than the spend for this year, it is still a marked rise on pre-pandemic levels of investment.
“The full details of the money announced are as yet unclear, and there’s still a lot of work to do and measures to bring in for the Government to meet its target of ending rough sleeping by 2024, but today’s budget is a welcome confirmation of their ongoing commitment. We look forward to working together with Government to make its target a reality.”
Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB said: “The Chancellor has missed the opportunity to give householders peace of mind about how they can tackle the net zero challenge. With nothing on retrofit for owner occupiers in last week’s Heat and Buildings Strategy, I’m struggling to see how the country will reach its legally binding net zero targets by 2050 if it doesn’t fix the UK’s 29 million leaky homes.
“However, I’m also glad to see further investment in housing, and warmly welcome the grant funding for local authorities to free-up small brownfield sites for housing given that land availability is the major obstacle to SME house builders.”
Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, said: “The good news is that a truly brownfield first approach does have the potential to breathe new life into those forgotten and derelict parts of our villages, towns and cities that local people want to see regenerated. Brownfield homes are a win-win for nature, climate and the affordable housing crisis.
“But to really bridge the gap between words and action, we must see these commitments backed up by a firm urban ‘brownfield first’ policy when the government revises the National Planning Policy Framework next year. Otherwise, we’ll continue to see poorly designed greenfield developments with no public transport links that siphon off a lot of public money.”
Matthew Walker, Chair of PlaceShapers, said: “The Chancellor said he was not prepared to add to the squeeze on families’. That squeeze comes in many forms – from not having secure housing through to worries about paying bills in the climate of rising inflation. So the figures from today need to translate through into what matters to people: homes, places and jobs.”
The organisation also called for “easier access to the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund” and said that despite the taper changes to universal credit, it “won’t make up for losing £1000 and for the cut but it will at least ease the financial strain and worry for some.”