Chancellor’s economic statement today will confirm £3bn for green home upgrades

A stamp duty holiday for house purchases under half a million pounds and a £3bn plan to boost green construction jobs are expected to feature heavily in an economic statement by the chancellor later today.

Rishi Sunak’s (pictured) statement at lunchtime today is expected to amount to a mini-budget designed to stimulate the economy in the wake of the coronavirus lockdown.

Budget 2020 - Rishi Sunak - Credit House of Commons : Parliament Live TVScreen Shot 2020-03-11 at 15.10.11

Source: House of Commons / Parliament Live TV

The Treasury yesterday confirmed the chancellor will announce a £3bn green jobs fund, to include £2bn of grants for homeowners to carry out energy efficiency retrofits on their homes and a £1bn public buildings retrofit programme to include £50m specifically for innovative social housing projects.

However, the Treasury has not commented on persistent reports Sunak will announce a temporary stamp duty holiday on house purchases worth up to £500,000 designed to boost the housing market.

Some reports have suggested Sunak was originally considering making the tax cut in his autumn Budget, but that the leaks have forced him to bring forward the measure, amid fears the prospect of a cut in future would have stalled transactions now.

Currently stamp duty is levied at 2% above £125k, and 4% above £250,000, meaning a temporary cut could save buyers up to £12,500.

Some economists have said the move will provide an effective economic stimulus, however former chancellor Philip Hammond said it risked simply bringing forward economic activity from later rather than providing a genuine economic boost. Yesterday the Halifax reported that house prices had fallen for the fourth month in a row, though demand had picked up from the lows experienced during the height of lockdown.

The Home Builders’ Federation, which has campaigned for a stamp duty cut, has already welcomed the reports. Executive chairman Stewart Baseley said: “Creating a better functioning housing market will reduce the barriers people currently face to finding homes that suit their needs and so stimulate activity. Improving fluidity and increasing transactions would deliver significant economic benefits and help support the UKs recovery.”

Some green campaigners have reacted angrily to the news of a £3bn green jobs fund, which they say falls well short of the measures needed to set the UK on a path to net zero carbon, as well as being well below the Conservatives’ manifesto promise to spend £9bn on improving the energy efficiency of homes, schools and hospitals.

Campaign group Plan B, which successfully challenged plans for a second runway at Heathrow earlier this year, said it is considering legal action over the plans.

Reports also suggest Sunak is considering launching a £2bn “kickstart” job creation scheme which will fund six-month job placements for an estimated 350,000 18- to 24-year-olds.