Housing's Big Role in Autumn Statement
There has been a mixture of expectation, anticipation as well as worry, and sure enough, housing played a big role in George Osborne’s Autumn Statement this week. At least if you interpret housing as buying homes it did. I’m not sure from the early analysis that there is much direct benefit for tenants that don’t wish to buy their homes.
Help to Buy got an extension and the London scheme offering loans up to 40% of the property value if you have a 5% deposit saved. £4 billion has been pledged to help build shared ownership. Starter Homes got £2.3 billion. There is an interesting £200 million put aside for homes designed to be market rented but earmarked for sale after five years. Designed to help tenants save for a deposit, these could be really interesting so long as market rent rates remain sensible enough for people to save.
The area that I considered most interesting is the commencement of Right to Buy, in the form of a pilot. This is a good idea, allowing policy and procedure to be refined in an incubated style. London & Quadrant, Sovereign, Riverside, Saffron Housing and Thames Valley Housing are the five chosen associations that will help to trial a project that could completely redefine how housing associations operate. Opting for a pilot over a full roll out also gives the Government a less painful u-turn opportunity if they feel that the policy doesn’t increase housing supply or, just as importantly, won’t be a vote winner. I think the policy will be judged a success, and will roll out.
The challenge will be ensuring that it genuinely helps. The Housing Minister, Brandon Lewis MP, was quoted in Inside Housing as saying “If you take a Starter Home and link it with Help to Buy, it does provide an opportunity for people, even right down to those lower incomes to afford to buy.” I can see how it creates opportunity for aspiring working families to buy their homes and I think that’s fantastic. I can also see how it could deflect attention from helping those struggling to rent if all we are focussing on is those struggling to buy. Is it not those people facing homelessness, reliant on financial help and facing unsecure tenancies that need the most assistance?
What do you think? Is there a silver lining in the statement for tenants on social rent? Does Right to Buy really give housing associations a big opportunity to develop more homes? I’d be interested to hear your perspective.
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