Autumn Statement a big step in the right direction on housing

23 Nov 16

It’s safe to say housing is back on the agenda and today’s Autumn Statement is a welcome step in the right direction, but there is more to be done

The government has backed up its promise to increase housing supply and affordability with significant new funding and more flexibility – both of which we asked for in our submission.

It does genuinely seem that Philip Hammond recognises the wider economic value of housing. Housing was, quite rightly, at the centre of today’s announcements. If we are really to build ‘a country that works for everyone’ then we quite simply need more affordable homes from which individuals, couples and families can flourish and prosper.

The new focus on creating homes of all tenures and the investment announced today represents a crucial change in approach for this government; an important shift away from its sole focus on home ownership.

We also saw a welcome change on welfare policy in the form of scaling back plans to cut Universal Credit.

That’s the good news.

The not so good news is that we still believe there are a significant number of individuals, couples and families that will struggle to afford a decent home.

Though the commitment to deliver more affordable homes is good, and the change to Universal Credit a positive one, what we didn’t see was a wider rethink of the welfare policies Philip Hammond inherited from George Osborne.

Hammond pledged to use all of the tools at his disposal to tackle the housing crisis and the welfare system is one of his important tools.

Recently our research revealed that the lower benefit cap, introduced last month, will hit 116,000 families across the UK with some of them losing out by up to £115 a week. Elsewhere the imposition of local housing allowance cap on tenants in social housing threatens to leave many more with significant shortfalls between their rent and the cost of their housing.

So while today’s package of measures to support the building of more housing of all kinds is extremely positive, there is a wider issue to look at here – how we make sure the people can afford to access the housing they need.

We will not do that with welfare measures which make significant parts of the country inaccessible to families who are out of work or by capping the amount of money vulnerable people receive towards their rent.

Today has been a good day for housing, but there is still much more we need to do.

  • Housing is a political priority for the government, but it is vital that ministers do not just focus on homes to buy. Boosting supply across all tenures can people can choose the right option for them at a price they can afford
    Terrie Alafat

    Terrie Alafat is the chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing

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