Social housing sector responds to Chancellor’s mini-budget

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PARTS of Rishi Sunak’s recovery plans following the coronavirus pandemic are welcomed but more investment is needed, social housing executives declare.

The Summer Statement announcement on Wednesday included a total of £3bn to improve the energy efficiency of buildings, a £2bn Grant scheme for domestic energy efficiency measures, such as insulation and £1bn for the improvement of public sector buildings.

A further £50m will be used to trial early-stage technologies, such as heat pumps, in the social rented homes considered England’s least energy-efficient.

Kate Henderson, Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation – which represents social landlords to more than six million people, commented on the news: “It’s good to see the government announcing a really comprehensive package of support for young people and others facing unemployment.

“Social landlords are the biggest investor in employment support and skills after the government, and sadly since lockdown they have been supporting many young people get financial help and claim Universal Credit.

“We’re pleased to see the government have listened and the extra funding for some of these schemes announced today is very welcome – we know they make a real difference.

“But helping young people into work alone is not enough to give the next generation a fresh start.

“We have known for years that the severe shortage of social homes is stopping young people get on in life.

“Waving stamp duty will help some people, but it doesn’t solve the problem of the shortage of homes or help those who are really struggling.

“Earlier this week we welcomed the government’s confirmation that funding for the Affordable Homes Programme will go ahead and the funding for a social housing retrofit pilot.

“But significantly more, long term funding, from the government is needed to kickstart a building boom of social homes at the scale we desperately need.

“This is the only way to create enough affordable homes, rebuild left behind communities across the country, create local jobs as well providing young people with access to enough training and employment support.”

One of Wednesday’s announcements affecting social housing industry a temporary increase to the Nil Rate Band of Residential SDLT (Stamp Duty) from £125,000 to £500,000 until 31 March 2021, which aims to drive growth and support jobs across the house-building and property sectors.

According to the government, in England and Northern Ireland nearly 9 out of 10 people getting on or moving up the property ladder will pay no Stamp Duty at all as a result.

Chartered Institute of Housing’s chief executive, Gavin Smart called the Chancellor’s announcement ‘a good start’ that has potential to create much-needed jobs, but that much more investment was needed.

Mr Smart commented: “This must be the first step in addressing the climate change emergency and has the potential to reduce fuel poverty.

“Government must ensure it is followed quickly by a clear plan and resources to get the housing stock up to the targeted energy efficiency levels by 2035 – and meet the Government’s firm commitment to achieve that enormous task.

“We’re seeing just the first instalment of a promised £9.2 billion investment in the Conservative manifesto and we now look to the Spending Review in the Autumn for the Government to demonstrate a clear commitment to delivering a zero-carbon future for the nation’s housing stock.

“The temporary cut in stamp duty might provide an opportunity to stimulate the housing market but, without increasing supply, this is likely to lead to an increase in already high house prices.

“That’s why we need to see housing – and homes – at the heart of Government’s plans for economic recovery.

“The Chancellor’s Autumn Budget and Spending Review will provide an early opportunity for government to invest in new homes, including the 90,000 homes at social rents needed each year to solve our acute housing crisis.”

Ali Akbor OBE, Chief Executive of Unity Homes, told HQN: “The Chancellor had the chance to place a new house-building programme at the heart of the Government’s pandemic recovery plan, but he failed to take it.

“The housing association sector has never been shy in calling on successive Governments to tackle the national housing crisis by building the many genuinely affordable homes the country needs.

“Given his desire to keep people in work and create more jobs in the wake of the economic damage inflicted by Covid-19, the timing was never more appropriate than now.

“It was a golden opportunity that the Chancellor has wasted.”