Budget 2018: Housing and ‘The end of austerity’

Chancellor Philip Hammond has delivered his budget, during which he cheerfully announced the ‘end of austerity’ (though that, of course, very much remains to be seen).

But what did ‘Spreadsheet Phil’s’ (as he jokingly referred to himself, along with an equally hilarious line about the Tories’ 1922 Committee) financial ramblings mean for housing? Well…

The HRA cap will be abolished from today in England, which will, apparently, enable ‘councils to increase house building to around 10,000 homes per year’, while the Welsh Government is taking steps to abolish the HRA there.

Meanwhile, the Housing Infrastructure Fund will be boosted by ‘£500 million to a total £5.5 billion, unlocking up to 650,000 new homes’.

In more new homes good news, Hammond announced ‘£653m for strategic partnerships with nine housing associations to deliver over 13,000 homes’.

Additionally, ‘the British Business Bank will deliver a new scheme providing guarantees to support up to £1bn of lending to SME housebuilders, AND £291m from the Housing Infrastructure Fund will be used ‘to unlock 18,000 new homes in East London through improvements to the Docklands Light Railway’.

That’s a lot of houses. We shall see.

On top of all that, the chancellor announced the publication of an ‘independent review’ about land banking, by Oliver Letwin, which has ‘found no evidence that speculative land banking is part of the business model for major house builders, nor that this is a driver of slow build out rates’. Well, well, well.

Ok, what next? First time buyers! The abolishment of stamp duty for FTBs is to be extended – that’s on properties worth up to £300,000 or £500,000 on shared ownership homes.

Talking of FTBs, from April 2021 the Help to Buy scheme will be extended for another two years, before coming to an end in March 2023, and will only be available to FTBs during the period – as well as being capped at 1.5 times the current forecast regional average FTB price, up to a maximum of £600,000 in London.

There are no plans, at present, to introduce a further Help to Buy scheme after March 2023.

Universal Credit

The chancellor praised Universal Credit (UC), and poured particular adulation on one of the spluttering system’s chief architects, Iain Duncan Smith.

Anyway, henceforth ‘the amount that households with children, and people with disabilities can earn before their UC award begins to be withdrawn – the Work Allowance – will be increased by £1,000 from April 2019. This means that 2.4 million households will keep an extra £630 of income each year.’

Additionally, if I understand this correctly, Hammond’s found £1bn over the next five years to smooth the delivery of UC, AND another £1.7bn to make payments more generous. I may review this later as things become clearer to me (if they do).

Elsewhere, the rumoured £2bn increase in the country’s mental health services materialised, part of which will form a new NHS crisis hotline, the chancellor said, though that’s by 2023-24 – which is awkward, as mental health services are pretty much on their knees right now.

Wow. Ok, I’m exhausted. There simply must be more of relevance in the 200 or so pages of budget bonanza I’ve just sped-red. Will add more later, pending a long lie down. Hope you enjoyed #Budget2018!




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