Changes to Universal Credit – The seven day wait will be removed from the start of a universal credit claim, which effectively gives claimants an extra week’s money and reduces the amount of time they will wait. They will also continue to receive housing benefit for two weeks, which will help prevent tenants falling into arrears. This is still nowhere near enough, as new claimants will still have to wait five weeks for any money – far too long for people who have nothing.
Voluntary Right to Buy (VRTB) – There’s confirmation that a large-scale regional pilot of VRTB in the Midlands will continue. Although, no further detail provided on the exact process, for example if local authorities will still have to sell high value voids to fund it.
Government housing programme – This includes £15.3bn of new investment and support, consisting of:
- Confirmation of an extra £2bn investment in affordable housing, including social rented homes
- £1.1bn for a new Land Assembly Fund
- An extra £2.7bn for the Housing Infrastructure Fund
- A further £630m for infrastructure and remediation on small sites
- A further £1.5bn for the Home Building Fund targeted at SMGEs
- The creation of £8bn worth of new guarantees to support a range of housebuilding
- Up to £1bn more HRA headroom for councils in high demand areas
This, together with other commitments made, brings its support for housing over the life of this government to £44bn in the form of grants, loans and guarantees. The CIH has pointed out that 80% of the government’s investment in housing is for market sale housing; for instance, it was announced that stamp duty will be abolished for first-time buyers on properties up to £300k.
In addition to extra investment and support, the Chancellor indicated a renewed focus on ensuring the planning system is supporting the delivery of new homes. However, improving access to land remains the key priority in significantly increasing housing supply and no new steps were announced on active government involvement in identifying and releasing land.
Much of what the NHF had called for in their budget 2017 Submission had already been confirmed prior to the budget i.e. the rent settlement from 2020, an additional £2bn for affordable housing and the scrapping of the LHA cap.
More widely, there were the following changes announced:
- Good news for some local authorities in that the Housing Revenue Account cap is to be lifted in high demand areas, which could include Cambridge and South Cambs
- Oxford – Milton Keynes – Cambridge corridor targeted for growth
- Five new garden towns promised
- Further re-vamp for the HCA to become Homes England – with increased planning powers
- Guarantees and Home Building Fund could create helpful opportunities for partnerships between small and medium builders with RPS
- Potentially useful planning changes:
- Presumption of consent for land outside local plan if offered for rent (could be market) or discount sale
- Minimum densities for urban centre/transport hub developments
- Changes in way developers contribute to infrastructure and affordable housing
National Living Wage will increase to £7.83 per hour from April 2018 – which will put further pressure on care providers.