14 March 2019
Despite reiterating that the economy remained “robust”, during the delivery of the Spring Statement on 13 March 2019, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond MP emphasised that the UK is currently shrouded in a “cloud of uncertainty”.
The National Federation of Builders (NFB) remains unconvinced by the chancellor’s latest announcements on housing and planning which include an Affordable Homes Guarantee Scheme and the use of the forthcoming Environment Bill to mandate biodiversity net gain for developments in England.
As we approach the 2020 deadline by which the Government had pledged to deliver one million homes, including 200,000 starter homes, it is becoming increasingly clear that both targets will be missed.
Now, it appears the Government’s solution is to throw money at the challenge – up to £3 billion for the delivery of 30,000 affordable homes through housing associations, to be precise.
Firstly, those figures make no economic sense. If the Government, its agencies, such as Homes England, and planners had been developing sustainable relationships with lower volume house builders to deliver the numbers of homes we need, it would not be in a last-minute panic.
Further, a stumbling block to increasing demand for, or the provision of, affordable housing is the cost. As long as the cost of affordable housing is set in legislation at £450,000, it will continue to remain unaffordable.
The House Builders Association (HBA), the house building division of the NFB, expresses concerns about the chancellor’s announcement that biodiversity net gain will become compulsory for developments across England. Rico Wojtulewicz, head of housing and planning policy for the HBA, said:
“With biodiversity net gain in its infancy and the consultation barely completed, there is a real danger that mandating it, without thinking about its real world consequences, makes it a tax and not a positive outcome for the environment. For that reason, it is a serious concern that a timeline for implementation has already been set.”