Housing leaders: What we want from the autumn statement 2013
Housing chief executives tell us what they want to see in George Osborne’s autumn statement.
Grainia Long, chief executive at the Chartered Institute of Housing
“Improve standards for private renters”
The autumn statement offers the chancellor the opportunity to address our long-term failure to build the new homes we need and to raise standards in the private rented sector. We are in the grip of a housing crisis, with millions of people being denied access to a decent home at a price they can afford. The chancellor can take concrete steps to address that crisis and at the same time harness housing’s potential to boost our economic recovery.
Local authorities would be able to contribute much more to meeting our national supply challenge if government would only give them the tools. Local economic partnerships will be critical in driving forward growth at local level and should look to ensure their plans fully capture the economic leverage offered by housing.
This government has focused on home ownership, but with more and more people living in the private rented sector – including more older people and more families with children – it’s vital that we look carefully at new ways to raise standards. Increasing funding for discretionary housing payments would help support the people who have been affected most severely by welfare reform and support the transition to universal credit.
Paul Tennant is chief executive of Orbit
“Reduce VAT on repairs”
Realistically, the chancellor has limited scope to deliver the kind of major investment in housing we all want, and actually this country needs. But there are several practical levers he can pull. And let’s not forget, housing delivers relatively quick and strong economic returns.
A very practical and previously canvassed option would be to reduce the VAT on repairs to the continental level of 5%– by ring-fencing the savings for investment in new homes the chancellor could deliver a fairly significant increase in supply. Land is a huge issue and can unlock sites, so driving government locally and nationally to release land would go a long way to unlocking development.
Transitioning Help to Buy investment into affordable housing and shared ownership or shared equity products would still deliver the growth he wants and provide some support to the market, while limiting the risk of a bubble and better targeting those on middle and lower incomes.
Finally, while we recognise our duty to pro-actively engage with local enterprise partnerships, a more formal role for housing within them (ideally with some funding) would help us play our role in delivering their jobs and growth agenda.
Mark Henderson is chief executive of Home Group
“Embrace housing enterprise zones”
Housing associations have been one of the UK’s biggest success stories in recent years, leveraging every £1 of public money into £6 of private money to invest in new housing.
The sector has worked closely with past governments to provide tens of thousands of much needed homes each year, and we believe that we can do even more. The autumn statement offers the chancellor a perfect opportunity to consider ways in which developers of affordable housing can be even more effective.
Reducing bureaucracy is one way, reforming planning another. We want the government to embrace initiatives that enable us to deliver social housing at scale.
We have argued for the past year that taking a housing enterprise zone approach – promoting development with a blend of affordable incentives – would enable the government to make a seismic change in supply.
Housing developers, including Home Group, have argued for some time that a housing investment bank would also support developing housing associations that have seen grant funding halved in the past five years.
The message to George Osborne is that our sector is ready, willing and able to deliver many more new affordable homes needed each year – we need to see that ambition echoed in his statement.
Brendan Sarsfield is chief executive of Family Mosaic
“Redefine the role of social housing”
I know what I want to hear from the autumn statement. Recognition of growing inequality caused by globalisation; the role of social housing redefined to support economic growth; the health service becoming more about prevention than treating the ill; energy bill cuts aimed at the poorest; action to help Londoners get homes in an overheated property market; and recognition we need to invest in young people if we are to have a long-term future.
What I fear is an attack on welfare rather than targeted job support for people on benefits, the rising housing benefit bill to be capped rather than dealing with the causes of the increase, the continuation of Help to Buy (even in London where it isn’t needed), stamp duty relief to fuel prices a bit more, and the confirmation of HS2 and no extra funding in better infrastructure projects such as housing.
I hope my fears are unfounded and the chancellor delivers a statement that sets out a long-term post recession vision rather than short-term electioneering.
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