24 November 2017
Reaction to the UK Autumn Budget 2017
Earle Arney, CEO Arney Fender Katsalidis, gives his reaction to the Chancellor's UK Autumn Budget 2017 announcement:
"The Autumn Budget 2017 tabled a number of astute and sensible pledges (£630million small sites fund, £1.1billion to unlock strategic sites, building homes in high-demand areas and around transport hubs, five new garden cities). The most arresting of these being the Government’s £44bn investment in housebuilding and 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s. But the devil will always be in the detail, there is no single silver bullet solution to the housing crisis and if the targets are to be anything but arbitrary or wishful, the Government will need to make good on planning policy reform to speed delivery of housing.
There also needs to be more recognition that the housing crisis is one of supply, not of land shortage – which is something the firmer hand on unused planning permissions and ‘land banking’ may begin to address – time will tell.
A glaring omission was any explicit move to harness brownfield land for housing, particularly around the capital, where need is most acute. The Government should look to establish a Development Authority as part of wholesale planning reform, tasked with delivering mixed use, housing-led communities on the 250 sqkm of brownfield and opportunity sites in Greater London within a defined time frame. After all, there is enough brownfield land to see off the crisis, without destroying the green belt.
Lifting revenue caps on councils in high-demand areas to encourage housebuilding is also positive, especially if matched by the delivery of government-funded (council) housing, as this should not always fall to the private sector as it has done. The government should also pledged to remove the barriers, invest in, and champion innovative construction methods (such as modular or CLT construction) as modus operandi to deliver much-needed housing, quickly.
Another surprising omission was Build-to-Rent, which was largely overlooked in the budget. This is surprising given it is both a necessity and a strategic vehicle the Government should use to tackle the housing deficit. To add to this, the take up of Built-to-Rent homes should be incentivised and encouraged to provide alternatives for private investment, as opposed to private sales.
Although the spectre of Brexit loomed over the budget, there was little mention of its impact on availability of skilled foreign construction workers - aside from a pledge to invest £34m to develop construction skills across the country. Whether this move is enough to stave off a serious impact on the Government’s own housing targets is highly debatable."