Autumn statement

The government announced major investment to boost house building in today’s Autumn Statement.

I’m sure many of you will have followed today’s Autumn Statement from George Osborne, particularly following the implications of the July Budget announcements.

As most of you reading this will already be aware, our world changed significantly when the government outlined plans in July to reduce rents by 1% for the next four years. Following that decision we knew that in order to secure our long-term future, and to ensure we can continue to fulfil our social purpose, we needed to modernise, adapt and make savings. We are not alone in this – every sector is affected, not just housing.

Indeed, before the Budget, we were already working towards becoming a more efficient and commercially-minded business with a strong ethos by focusing on our core activities.

We suspected that the reduction in rents - along with other welfare reforms and the proposed extension of Right to Buy - might not be the only new policy the government might announce that could affect us.

And - although not an announcement from the government or one that it was even expecting - the ONS reclassification creates further change for us.

For the time being though, there has been no more difficult news in today's Autumn Statement.

Today’s announcement is largely good news for housing, and the work Aster has been doing in recent months means that we are ready to deliver. The steps Aster has already taken to increase efficiency and innovation in our business put us in a strong position to achieve our vision that everyone should have a home. Investing £2bn per year in house building across all tenures until the end of the decade, and doubling the national housing budget, is certainly a major boost for housing. Aster welcomes this as a positive step towards helping to increase housing supply.

In order to achieve that vision, we will need to be bold. This could include increasing the development of new homes for open market sale to generate maximum profit, which could then be used, through our corporate social responsibility programme, to fund the development of new affordable homes.

This would help us to become masters of our own destiny and less beholden to government policy and changes.

As always, we won’t be making rash decisions but will take a balanced view and wait until the implications are clear before we act.

However it still remains apparent that now more than ever we have to be open to doing things differently. We can’t continue to do some of the things we’ve always done.

While I don’t have all the answers today I can reiterate that our vision is not going to change – we remain committed to everyone having a home. In addition, and through our corporate social responsibility work, we will always have a social purpose and we remain committed to making improvements to continue attracting and retaining talented people.

As I’ve said, it’s our vision that everyone should have a home, and the pledges the Chancellor has made today do support the delivery of new housing. So we are confident we remain well-positioned to play our part in providing the homes that are so badly needed across all tenures in the areas we work in.

Bjorn Howard, Aster Group chief executive

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