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What can housing expect from the autumn statement?
Guardian
8 November 2012


The chancellor will announce his plans for the economy on 5 December. What impact will this have on the housing sector?

Now that the party conference season is over the autumn statement on 5 December is the next important date in the political calendar. With one month to go, it's worth considering what might be in store for housing.

The chancellor conventionally uses the autumn statement to set out the most recent economic forecasts and his plans for the UK economy. The plans can include policy measures, but will also include details of specific spending and taxation measures. So how might housing fare in this year's autumn statement?

Housing remains high on the political agenda and policy and investment announcements are likely, either in the autumn statement itself or in related plans this winter. Government remains keen to see significant improvement in the supply of new homes and for the sector to play a key part in returning the UK economy to stable growth. Despite significant recent attention from Whitehall, housing supply remains in the doldrums. Completions are steady at about the same rate as when the government took office, but construction starts, a key leading indicator, are down by nearly a third. Homelessness is also up by about a third.

The government's big idea in the September package of housing announcements was £10bn of government guarantees to support investment into both new affordable and private rented homes. It has been busy working on the detail behind the idea and I hope it might take advantage of the autumn statement to at least signal a direction of travel in this important area and pin down the detail of how the guarantees will work.

Elsewhere, it will be interesting to see whether the government uses the statement to identify any additional investment into housing (which would be very welcome) or to announce further tinkering with the planning framework (which would not be). The system needs to be allowed to settle down after such major reform before being further tweaked.

We may also see more news about universal credit, perhaps including detail about the amounts payable to claimants. And there is hope for news about lifting restrictions on local authority borrowing within the housing revenue account – something the Chartered Institute of Housing has been calling for.

In all these areas, the key test will be the degree to which government can hit two competing targets simultaneously. The first: the need to put in place the necessary reforms to see the fundamental reform of our dysfunctional housing system. The second: to find measures that can have an impact now on our failing housing system.

So what will make George Osborne's autumn statement?

Here's a quick guide to what you can expect to hear – and what we hope should be included.

Almost certain to be included:
Detail on universal credit, including the amounts payable to claimants

Might make the cut:
Further reductions in spending on welfare
Measures to tackle rising homelessness


Really ought to be considered (but unlikely to appear):
Amounts payable for universal credit ensure that low earning households are better off than they would have been under the welfare system as it was in 2010
Immediate action to help households currently affected by increasing B&B use and rising homelessness
Commitment to a thorough appraisal of options for social and affordable rent setting after 2015 Support for local authorities to work effectively within the revised planning system
Changes that allow local authorities to make better use of housing revenue account reforms
Further action to encourage home energy efficiency improvements


Read full article on Guardian.co.uk

 
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