by Richard McPartland
As widely expected today’s Autumn Budget saw a commitment to build 300,000 new homes a year (an amount not achieved since 1970) in the UK by the mid 2020s.
The government pledged an additional £15.3bn in financial support for housebuilding over the next five years – including £1.2bn for government land buying and £2.7bn for infrastructure that will support housing. The chancellor cited a total package of £44bn.
The Housing Infrastructure Fund was doubled and it was announced that the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) caps for councils in high-demand areas will be lifted.
Changes to the planning system will also be made to encourage better use of land in cities and towns with the aim of ensuring more homes can be built while the green belt is protected. A review is expected by Spring on the issue of land banking with intervention promised to make sure land cannot be retained for commercial reasons. Five new ‘garden towns’ will also be created via public-private partnerships.
The chancellor also moved to spur the housing market with the announcement that stamp duty land tax would be abolished on homes under £300,000 for first-time buyers with immediate effect. Usual rates of duty will apply above that figure up to £500,000.
Education received a boost too – with £64m earmarked for construction and digital training courses. £34m will go towards teaching construction skills like bricklaying and plastering, £30m towards digital courses using AI. A National Retraining Scheme will also be launched.
Changes to the planning system will be made to encourage better use of land in cities and towns with the aim of ensuring more homes can be built
Elsewhere, there was investment in new technologies – with an eye on self-driving and electric vehicles, and a commitment to add electric car charge points to new homes. An advisory body for artificial intelligence will be established to set standards for use and ethics of AI and data.
Infrastructure also received a boost – with £1.7bn for transport improvement in English cities including a promise to contribute £337m to a new fleet of trains on the Tyne and Wear Metro replacing 40-year-old rolling stock. The National Productivity Fund was upped to £31bn. There was also a pledge to invest £320m in the former steelworks site in Redcar, on Teesside.
The chancellor also provided a headline view of the economy – downgrading growth by half a percentage point to 1.5% this year, with GDP downgraded to 1.4%, 1.3% and 1.5% over the next three years before hitting 1.6% in 2021-22. Current forecasts suggest CPI inflation will fall from a peak of 3% to 2% later this year.