Altair’s Steve Douglas responds to the news that housing could be set for a significant budgetary boost
The Community Secretary, Sajid Javid’s interview on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show this week drew headlines for its boldness in making a bid for additional funding for investment in housing.
The housing sector applauded the sentiments expressed but many, cynical and weary, felt it was both long overdue and adjudged that they had heard it all before. In this case as recently as the spring of this year, with the launch of the Housing White Paper, which was intended to fix the broken housing market.
However, there are some positive signs that Ministers have genuinely got the fact that that long term investment is the only way to address the long term, systemic failure in our housing market.
If Javid is right, the budget could be quite interesting for housing. Let’s hope it’s not another missed opportunity
Firstly, for a minister to say confidently that there will be ‘new investments and there will be announcements’ in the run up to a budget, he is either reckless or certain. The fact that this follows a housing summit called by the Prime Minister herself, and involving housebuilders, contractors, housing associations and local authorities, with a specific objective, to come up with solutions, suggests that once again housing is high on the political agenda.
Secondly, it makes sense that with interest rates still at an historic low, investment in infrastructure can provide both a strong economic boost, at a relatively cheap cost, and if the supply is in part targeted at the young and first time buyers, it also plays to a vote that all parties are concerned about.
Thirdly, far from this being a suite of new ideas and initiatives from the umpteenth Housing Minister, this is a pledge from the sponsor of the Housing White Paper. And with its architect, the former Housing Minister, Gavin Barwell now an insider at Number 10, and still very interested in housing, these ideas have already had some coverage and might just get real traction. May’s October 2017 conference speech and the indication of £2billion to build 25,000 social homes, looks as though it is genuinely new money and that there is an appetite to do more.
If this is the case, we should watch out for investment in infrastructure to fund housing; for initiatives such as rent to mortgages; ideas on reforming planning; and support to local authorities and SMEs building. There will of course be initiatives to increase home ownership, but could also be to support the private rented sector and a mix of tenures, which plays to the Prime Minister’s sense of redressing social injustices.
If Javid is right, the budget could be quite interesting for housing. Let’s hope it’s not another missed opportunity.