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Darling announces £1 billion housing boost

Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling has announced a £1 billion emergency housing package to kick-start the UK construction industry as part of yesterday’s Budget (22 April).

As the AJ went to press, it was revealed that Darling was planning to unveil a number of rescue policies, including providing cash to developers for schemes where work has stopped because of funding problems and a separate pot for construction of new council houses. Financial help is also to be offered to the private sector through new joint-equity schemes, where houses have been built but cannot be sold because of falling prices.

Extra funds will also be made available for a mortgage rescue scheme to help those who have lost their jobs and face repossession. Furthermore, the government plans to extend the stamp duty ‘holiday’ on properties over £175,000 until the end of 2009.

The RIBA’s head of public affairs Anna Scott-Marshall said: ‘The proposed £1 billion boost to move housing projects along should be very worthwhile, particularly if this initiates a start-up in new houses being built. Architects working on both private and social housing have seen a huge drop-off in their work and anything the government can do would help hugely.’

Darling’s announcement came as figures released by monitoring body Glenigan confirmed the number of construction projects in the UK has plummeted since March last year – an overall drop of 35 per cent across the industry (AJ online 17.04.09).

The fall represents a 21.3 per cent drop compared with the average number of projects starting in 2006.

Other figures reveal a huge slowdown in housing starts that have dropped 52 per cent over the past 12 months. Non-residential schemes have also fallen by 39 per cent. The outlook for the second quarter of 2009 remains gloomy, with the number of new projects expected to be 25 per cent down on the same period a year ago.

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