We’ve been teased with a number of speeches, consultations and papers since parliament reconvened earlier this month. When the Autumn Budget takes place on Wednesday 22 November, all eyes will be on Chancellor Phillip Hammond to put the government’s commitment to get homes built faster into action.
Sadly, the day is unlikely to be a commemorative one for housebuilders. Given that we’ve already had a Spring Statement this year, the Autumn Budget is expected to be pretty ‘run of the mill’.
Furthermore, with the Tories in a precarious position having been stripped of their majority since the Spring Statement, Hammond can’t afford to upset backbenchers with any earthshattering policy changes. Hammond will also be facing headwinds from the Brexit legislative programme alongside the European Union Withdrawal Bill.
However, Hammond will also be looking to appeal to young voters wooed by Labour’s promises on housing and capping student loans. The Autumn Budget may not give us much to pin hopes on, but we can expect a few nuggets for the housebuilding industry.
Perhaps the loudest cry has been for stamp duty to be reformed. The biggest bugbear yet to be tackled is the 3% hike in stamp duty for landlords. This didn’t include an exemption for large scale, corporate investors, effectively penalising institutional investment in the UK’s nascent Build to Rent sector.
Given the government’s perceived partiality towards the sector as a means of providing an alternative to home ownership, some sort of concession to encourage corporate investment into the sector would be much appreciated.
There have also been calls to scrap stamp duty for last-time buyers looking to downsize, which would free up property for young families. Another suggestion has been to shift stamp duty to the seller from the buyer in a bid to get the property market moving and drive up stamp duty receipts.
The Secretary of State recently pledged to settle the question of what will happen to social landlords’ rents after 2020. The Housing White Paper promised a new rent policy for social housing landlords for the period beyond 2020 to help them to borrow against future income and plan for future investment in new and existing housing stock.
“We said we’d consult and then set out a formula. We’re going to do that very, very soon,” Sajid Javid said to delegates at the launch of a report on housing need in the north, hinting that an announcement may be forthcoming in the Autumn Budget.
Hammond has been warned not to neglect domestic policy as international affairs threaten to dominate every conversation. This means investing in areas such as infrastructure and skills.
The Spring Budget injected £500m into vocational training, and it will be interesting to see if the Chancellor has anything left up his sleeve which would help ease the construction industry’s acute skills crisis.
Encouraging different routes to home ownership
The industry remains on tenterhooks as the government refuses to confirm whether the Help to Buy scheme will be continued after 2020. The Spring Budget touched on Right to Buy and new measures for shared ownership, sparing us any further details. Perhaps all will become clear in the Autumn Budget.
The planning system
The Hammond previously said there would be measures to speed up the planning system, including a reduction of the number of stages developers must go through to get planning permission, “minimising the delays caused by planning conditions and ensuring the delivery of local plans by 2017”. Cometh the hour…