Some are calling it the ‘Coronavirus Budget’, but critical as this issue may be, Nigel Sedman argues it’s essential for the national well-being that the Chancellor delivers a boost for housing too
THE new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak MP, will deliver his budget this week, but it remains unclear how heavily housing and social care will feature.
While we seek some clarity on the future direction of housing policy in the first post-Brexit Budget, this is now being billed as the “Coronavirus Budget”, with plans to mitigate the spread of the virus appearing to be very much top of the political agenda.
The Queen’s speech backed up the Conservative manifesto promises and prioritised home ownership – outlining the proposal where, as part of the planning approval, builders will need to offer homes with a 30% discount for key workers and first-time buyers purchasing in their local area.
But there is much more to be done if we are to get more people into the homes they need.
Greater certainty is also needed when it comes to supported housing revenue funding. The Government needs to provide care and support grant funding for extra care and other specialist housing schemes to enable more people to live independently, with assistance.
We know older people living in these schemes benefit from having their own living spaces, combined with the peace of mind of having help on hand if and when they need it. Additional funding would provide greater opportunities for even more people to take advantage of this, which in many cases would help to free up family housing.
We also need to deliver more homes for social rent.
Homes England released figures recently that showed that, since 2016, just 4% of the 90,323 homes funded by its £2 billion Shared Ownership & Affordable Homes Programme have been for social rent. This compared with 52% for affordable rent homes and 44% for affordable home ownership homes.
At the moment, bids for social rent funding are only being accepted from providers that can demonstrate they are delivering homes in areas where affordable rents are being pushed up by local market rent increases. This means affordable rents are not actually affordable and leaves some areas with their hands tied.
Homes for affordable and social rent will improve lives for more people, more quickly. This needs to be balanced against the homeownership push, with many people living in the areas where we operate not in the position to consider home ownership.
Help to Buy funding redirected to fund more affordable developments would be welcome, but may be a big ask.
More generally, housing providers would benefit from further measures to make the planning process more streamlined. This will stop delays in getting new developments off the ground.
Further along the chain, significant investment in construction skills training would ensure we have the next generation of workers to build the homes the country needs.
Nigel Sedman is group director of homes at ForViva.