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Budget 2014: 'The Government must stop tinkering on housing'

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The profession responds to today’s budget, including the extension of the Help to Buy scheme and the £20million pledge for cathedral repairs

Anna Scott-Marshall, head of external affairs at the Royal Institute of British Architects
‘We welcome the Government’s announcement to take forward our policy on allocating land for self and custom build homes through the Right to Build programme and the promise that the government will finally publish its long promised prospectus on garden cities.
‘However, changes to Help to Buy to deliver 120,000 homes by 2020 and the introduction of the Builders’ Finance Fund will fall short of providing the boost to housing supply we desperately need. The Government needs to stop tinkering around the edges of the housing crisis and start taking serious steps towards solving it.’

Martin Ashley, a historic buildings conservation architect and principal at Martin Ashley Architects
‘Additional help to cathedrals is extremely good news: not only to cathedral communities battling to keep their immense buildings wind and water tight following a winter of storms, but also to the heritage construction industry which has been cruelly punished through the recession. 
‘The heritage sector has yet to show signs of recovery, and the loss of irreplaceable historic craft and trade skills is gravely concerning, as firms struggle to implement training and apprenticeships programmes due to the lack of relevant workload to underpin them.
‘We are anxious to ensure that Government provides greater support to skills training for conservation specialists.’

Simon Rubinsohn, RICS chief economist
‘Helping more buyers to enter at the lower end of the market would have resulted in more movement and transactions, freeing up stagnant property chains and bringing badly-needed housing onto the market.

Ebbsfleet is really just a garden village

‘While plans for regeneration and new homes in Barking, Brent Cross and the new garden ‘city at Ebbsfleet - which is really just a garden village - will contribute a little housing in the South East. These numbers are a drop in the ocean and do nothing to help others in the UK. More importantly, they don’t deliver the mix of homes we need across society, from the private rented sector to affordable and social housing.

‘RICS has long called for an investors’ prospectus for garden cities, which we welcome today. But we need a more ambitious approach than 15,000 homes at a time. To provide investors communities and developers with greater confidence, what we need is a proper political vision for garden cities and the wider economy.

‘Meanwhile, the much trailed extension of Help to Buy to 2020 is not a game changer. While it provides certainty and clarity to the market, creating another 120,000 new build properties is still a modest target. We need over 230,000 just to meet current demand. Much more needs to be done.’

Tim Narey, head of Rail Infrastructure at Woods Bagot
‘There was not a great deal to get excited about from the Chancellor’s speech in terms of transport infrastructure as the big news on HS2 was already in the public domain. That said, it is a positive step that the Higgins report has been endorsed by the Chancellor.  Any plans to accelerate the scope of HS2 should be welcomed as the full benefits of the investment won’t be realised when the line only runs to Birmingham.

‘The strategic extension of phase one to Crewe has logic but simply presents another conundrum : why not take it to Manchester Airport which has extensive connectivity to the northwest region and beyond in a way the Crewe does not. And the discussions around replacing Curzon Street Station with a metro are ones that have been floating around in transport circles for a while.

‘It’s encouraging to see them in the spotlight as they present a more holistic solution for transport connectivity in the Midlands region..’

Duncan Symonds, head of infrastructure at WSP
‘Every Budget and Autumn Statement we get some sort of appendix update about the national infrastructure plan and it strikes me that it would be more informative to know which individual government departments are pulling their weight and which are delaying the delivery of important projects. I suspect the name and shame approach would have more impact in unlocking stalled projects than another updated list of projects and finance initiatives, and of course coming up to election Government performance will be paramount. However the success of such a reporting exercise would depend on there being a consequence for those scoring poorly.

‘The £200m for potholes is a knee jerk reaction, and while welcome because there are urgent repairs needed due to the flooding, if there was better long-term funding we could potentially avoid the problem in the first place. The road repairs backlog already stands at £10.5billion and to avoid it getting worse local authorities need funding to undertake regular resurfacing which will save money in the long-run.’

Iain McIlwee, chief executive of the British Woodworking Federation
‘It was a mixed bag Budget, with political positioning front and centre. Help to Buy is a help to build, but it’s not enough - to make a difference we should be looking seriously at public owned housing options. Support for business investment is also welcome, but we are not encouraging investment in our housing stock. Again, the Green Deal didn’t get a mention, nor the option to reduce VAT on refurbishment and repair work, which at 20 per cent still acts as a disincentive and a dampener on the domestic RMI sector.’

John Alker, director of policy and communications at UK-GBC
‘Any real hope that the chancellor is committed to the green agenda faded long ago but what remains deeply disappointing is that he doesn’t recognise a growth opportunity when he sees one. There continues to be a complete blind spot on the role that energy efficiency has to play in reducing consumer bills over the long-term, and generating home-grown jobs.

‘A one-off £15 cut to household bills will be quickly forgotten – what is needed is long-term incentives to reduce the demand for energy in the first place.

‘Hoped for clarity on zero carbon homes and non-domestic buildings was also conspicuous by its absence. With energy bills £800 less than the average home, you would have thought Government would want to shout about this policy from the roof-tops. Sadly, the future of Allowable Solutions still remains unclear.’

Mark Hurley, UK head of environment, WSP
‘The chancellor is right to focus on energy costs but there are bigger savings to be made than capping the carbon floor price. Government forecasts that home energy bills will be £310 higher in real terms by 2018/19, largely driven by higher oil prices. Capping the carbon floor price will save families £15 a year, but supporting the simplest of energy efficiency measures, such as heating controls, insulation and draught proofing will cut energy use by 10 per cent and save £150 a year- more than ten times the amount from the carbon floor price saving.’

Allan Wilén, economics director, Glenigan
‘Private housing has been an important driver behind the recovery we have seen in the residential construction market over the last year. Accordingly, it is encouraging that the housing market, and specifically increasing new housing supply, was a central theme of today’s Budget.

‘The chancellor announced in advance of the Budget that the Help to Buy scheme for new housing would be extended to 2020. The move provides additional certainty to house builders to bring forward sites for development and is projected to help a further 120,000 householders to purchase a home.

Government is clearly concerned that the housing market may overheat as the economy recovers

‘However, while keen to improve access to the housing market, the government is clearly concerned that the market may overheat as the economy recovers. Mr Osborne has called upon the Bank of England to be vigilant on house prices and, importantly, has announced further reforms to improve the supply of new homes.

‘Over the last two years it has been the larger housebuilders that have had the resources to bring forward new build projects as the market has improved. Therefore it is encouraging that the government is creating a £500 million Builders Finance Fund to help SMEs that have struggled to secure bank lending. This is predicted to unlock 15,000 plots that have been stalled due to difficulty in accessing finance.

‘The government is also establishing a £150 million fund to kick start the regeneration of large housing estates through repayable loans in order to boost housing supply with the creation of mixed tenure developments.

‘In addition, the government is proposing to extend planning reforms, allowing the conversion of a wider range of buildings such as warehouses and light industrial premises to residential use without the need for planning approval.

‘More radically, the government is proposing a new “Right to Build” scheme, giving people who want to build their own home the right to a plot from local authorities, backed up with a £150 million repayable fund to help provide 10,000 serviced plots for custom build.

‘Taken together with earlier initiatives, the measures in today’s Budget underline the government’s desire to boost supply of much needed new homes.’

Ian Liddell, head of development at consultancy WSP
‘Any measures to support house building are of course welcome, but today’s Budget announcement of provisions for 200,000 new homes falls short of demand for the coming year and must be seen as platform for other increases in years to come. Extending the help to buy scheme until the end of the decade will help ensure the housing market recovery continues and spreads beyond London, but the real issue is delivery, specifically the capacity of the industry and its supply chain to deliver on projects.  

‘In terms of garden cities, the creation of a development corporation for Ebbsfleet is positive but early evidence of genuine progress is very important if this is to be a pilot for other garden cities to be brought forward. The benefits of this approach should be evaluated against real housing delivery; it will be interesting to see if it can be an effective model.’

Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of HBF
‘Extending the Help to Buy equity loan scheme is a very positive move. It will mean more homes are built, allowbuilders to get on with planning their businesses and employ the people needed to help tackle the country’s housing crisis.

Help to Buy has reinvigorated the home building industry

‘Help to Buy has reinvigorated the home building industry, contributed to a sharp increase in new housing starts and allowed thousands of First-Time Buyers and second-steppers onto the housing ladder. This in turn has seen the industry recruiting thousands of staff, including apprentices, so providing an economic boost to the country.’  

Mayor Jules Pipe, chair of London Councils
‘The Chancellor’s statement is inadequate in the context of London’s housing crisis. However, finally there is recognition of the acute challenges London is facing. The capital’s population is set to increase to over nine million by 2021, meaning 800,000 homes are needed to meet both existing and future demand.

‘Polls show that affordable housing is consistently the top concern for Londoners. Housing is not only an issue for London’s rising numbers of homeless, or the young families and professionals struggling to rent, but is vital to the UK-wide economy. Business in London is increasingly looking for reassurance that government is tackling its concerns about affordability for their employees.

‘Local government is a key partner in delivering the homes London needs. The failure to devolve real power is hampering local government’s ability to build homes and create jobs and growth.

‘Today’s announcements will only scratch the surface of dealing with the long term and daunting scale of London’s housing shortage. The government needs to do much more.

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