Chancellor Phillip Hammond on Monday said that the government would contribute an additional £500m to the Housing Infrastructure Fund to “unlock” up to 650,000 new homes and stated he would extend a stamp-duty relief scheme for first-time buyers. In the 2017 budget, Hammond announced a five-year £44bn housing programme, and abolished stamp duty for first-time buyers on properties up to £300,000. Yesterday announcement means that the scheme will be extended to all first-time buyers of shared ownership properties valued up to £500,000, and that this relief would also be applied retrospectively to any first-time buyers who made home purchases since the last budget.
The £500m funding boost to the Housing Infrastructure Fund, a government capital grant programme, will allow local authorities to provide additional grant funding for new infrastructure, with the goal of encouraging housing development in areas of high housing demand.
The Chancellor also announced new strategic partnerships with nine housing associations, with the goal of delivering 13,000 homes across England, and up to £1bn in British business bank guarantees to support the “revival of SME house builders.”
Additionally, he announced that consultations will take place on simplifying the process for the conversion of commercial properties into new homes.
A further development is that up to 500 neighbourhoods will be provided with funding to allocate housing to local people at a discount. “We want to see parishes and neighbourhoods enabling more homes for sale to local people to buy at prices they can afford,” he said.
Whilst the injections of cash into the sector must be welcomed, there is clearly still much to do to revive house building. The Federation of Master Builders, representing construction firms, said Mr. Hammond had taken "positive steps" to address the housing crisis. Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, estimates as many as 300,000 to 400,000 new homes could be created by making use of empty space above shops on High Streets. However, the Chancellor’s announcements come after research this year concluded that house-building across half of England was slower than it was before the 2008 financial crash.