Chancellor to unveil £1.4bn affordable housing fund as industry makes final pleas for public cash

Chancellor Philip Hammond will announce a new £1.4bn fund for affordable housing in this afternoon’s Autumn Statement.

Hammond will say the fund will help build 40,000 extra affordable homes over the next five years.

The funding will be split three ways, according to reports, with cash going to affordable rent, shared ownership and the trailed new ‘rent to buy’ scheme, where tenants pay a discounted rent and build up equity in a property over 25 years.

The fund will be available for councils, housing associations and private firms to bid for.

Extra infrastructure cash - including £1.3bn of new funding to improve the country’s roads - is also expected to be announced.

Building’s contributing editor Joey Gardiner will be covering the Autumn Statement on live this afternoon, with a live blog covering all the announcements relevant to construction with rolling analysis and reaction. Hammond is due to address the Commons from 12.30pm.

Many observers think the government will focus on “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects that can be delivered within the current political cycle.

The Treasury recently said the chancellor and transport secretary Chris Grayling had “identified the importance of prioritising projects which make an immediate impact”.

In recent days construction industry leaders have made their final pleas to Hammond for a boost in infrastructure investment, faster decision-making, and more control for regional authorities in rail and road spending..

Industry leaders said the government needs to speed up decision making on infrastructure projects to boost the economy and also called for more City Deals and further control to be handed to regional authorities like Transport for the North (TfN).

If government gets started on infrastructure, housing will surely follow

Mark Naysmith, WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff

Mark Naysmith, UK managing director for WSP Parsons Brickerhoff, urged Hammond to renew focus on the “four H’s” of major infrastructure projects - Heathrow, Hinkley, HS2 and Highways.

He said: “Recent government announcements in these areas have been encouraging for the construction industry, and we need to build on this momentum to make sure we get spades in the ground as quickly as possible.

“Public sector infrastructure investment not only boosts growth and productivity, it also helps the 5th H: housing … If government gets started on infrastructure, housing will surely follow.”

Meanwhile, the Civil Engineering Contractors Association called on the government to keep up the momentum on creating City Deals - the brainchild of former chancellor George Osborne - for devolved city regions.

Marie-Claude Hemming, the trade body’s head of external affairs, said: “City Deals have the potential to release economic activity quickly. Their implementation can be exactly the shot in the arm that will deliver local growth and high skill employment to regional economies.”

Richard Threlfall, head of infrastructure at KPMG, called on the government to “commit to giving Transport for the North and other proposed statutory regional authorities, direct control over road and rail investment priorities in their regions.”

He added: “The prosperity of the construction industry over the next few years now depends almost entirely on government policy.”

Chris Pike, infrastructure development director at Arcadis, said: “The government needs to send a clear message to the world that Britain is open for business by progressing vital infrastructure projects at the earliest opportunity.

“Clearly, there are a number of reasons for projects not going ahead on schedule but, all too often, stalling could potentially be avoided or, if the impacts were clearly understood, decisions may be taken differently.”

Liz Jenkins, partner at law firm Clyde & Co, said: “The government needs to speed up decision making if it is serious about driving forward the UK’s infrastructure.”

On Monday Mace called on the government to commit an extra £2bn to upgrade inter-city roads and railways.