The bald figures on capital funding for the communities department are grim. The series runs from £6.8bn in 2010/11 down to £3.3bn, £2.3bn, £1.8bn and then £2bn at the end of the spending period. That means a drop of about 80% when you take account of inflation.

1 The chancellor said there would be £4.4bn for affordable housing over the next four years. The Homes and Communities Agency spent £5.5bn last year, two-thirds of it on the National Affordable Housing Programme, so this is a big hit.

But the chancellor claimed that this, along with changes to local government funding and changes
to rents, would provide 150,000 affordable homes over the next four years. This raises questions over the definition of “affordable”. It probably means more low-cost homes for sale.

2 The government will be looking for the biggest bang for its meagre bucks, so should we expect a new form of HomeBuy to be a central plank of reforms for affordable housing?

HomeBuy Direct showed how relatively small loans (15% or so of the cost of a home) can leverage significant private funds. 10% of all new homes were provided last year through the scheme. And the money, technically, can be recycled when the homes are sold. And it targets first-time buyers.

Many people in the housing sector will wonder whether this spending review marks the first step towards a complete dismantling of the existing social housing structure. If so, it opens up profound questions for contractors and house builders in how they shape their strategic plans.