As with every budget, the Chancellor’s speech last week was followed by a flurry of reaction and views about how it helped or hindered different sectors.
Compared to recent budgets, as well as last November’s autumn statement, the statement was light on housing announcements, so much so that the Chartered Institute of Housing decided to scrap its usual ‘What you need to know’ guide due to a paucity of material.
We can assume that the budget didn’t focus specifically on the supply challenge because of the recent launch of the housing whitepaper, which demonstrated that the issue is on the Government’s long-term agenda. As a result, perhaps counterintuitively, we should welcome this quieter budget rather than complaining that the chancellor ‘neglected’ or ‘ignored’ our sector.
The raft of changes in recent years, such as Help to Buy and starter homes, as well as grant cuts, rent reductions, Right to Buy extension and welfare reform affecting social housing, have altered the sector landscape hugely. But in our view, the changes have had some positive effects too, creating more efficient and self-sufficient developers.
Nevertheless, implementing such shifts takes time and effort – and unavoidably, some level of uncertainty - for all involved in housing delivery. Many developers have changed strategy, while some have adopted new financing models and others have remodelled their teams to shore up expertise.
Now, a period of relative calm should be welcomed by the industry – and investors – as an opportunity to continue to acclimatise to the new operating environment and capitalise on the opportunities it creates.
To offer just one example, this will allow us to benefit from the Government’s new approach of supporting alternatives to home ownership, such as shared ownership, which continues to mature as a tenure.
Of course, this doesn’t mean policy improvements in future budgets and spring statements aren’t welcome – but this must be balanced against giving the market certainty and stability to deliver.
For the time being, we know the task at hand and have the tools to deliver.
By Amanda Williams, group development director at Aster Group.
This piece originally appeared in Estates Gazette