Is £600 million housing boost enough to deliver the homes a growing economy needs?

Chancellor Sajid Javid’s recent announcement of an additional £600 million to support the building of 50,000 new homes via the Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) sends an extremely positive message. Scratching beneath the headline, it signals an inspiring first move, not least to those eager to see where Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his new cabinet are taking housing and regeneration policy.

UK Housing Grant Announcement

The Placemaking Chancellor

The Chancellor understands HIF and, having introduced it during his tenure as Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, the initiative lies understandably close to his heart. As such, it is not surprising to see him push it as a route to unlocking housing delivery.

However, the selection of HIF and the wording of the announcement is interesting. It indicates an expectation from Government that housing delivery targets will be met when it is made easier for the private sector to deliver, rather than looking at mechanisms that encourage local authorities and Registered Providers to increase their delivery. It also suggests that the Chancellor’s time at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government rubbed off; he is genuinely committed to making the sort of successful places that only come with appropriate and well thought-through infrastructure investment. 

If George Osborne was ‘the Devolution Chancellor,’ is it too much to hope that Sajid Javid could become ‘the Placemaking Chancellor’?

A practical approach, but economy needs more than just HIF 

It was also interesting to note how specific the Chancellor was in allocating these additional funds. At Arcadis, we are currently engaged in three of these schemes – the North Essex Garden Communities, Beaulieu Park in Chelmsford and Meridian Water in Enfield, North London - and have close associations with the other two, in Biggleswade and East London. It is therefore reassuring to see the extent to which funding has been allocated to well-developed, viable housing schemes where focused investment really will bring additional housing forward quickly. As a politician, it must always be tempting to ‘share the love’ and allocate funds where it is politically expedient rather than practically useful; in this case the Chancellor has chosen to be practical.

The practicality, however, may be a double-edged sword. The schemes selected are all in either the South East of England or the East of England. Whilst no one would disagree that this is where the housing shortage is most acute, we should not forget that the economic growth and social renewal that so many of our communities need requires good quality, infrastructure-backed housing schemes across the length and breadth of the UK. 

In this round of investment, the Chancellor can be given the benefit of the doubt in choosing to support schemes that will quickly deliver housing numbers where they are needed most. Moving forward, it will be important to see a greater balance across the UK with the Chancellor being ready to pull more levers than just HIF grant to deliver the homes that a growing economy and an equitable society need.

Peter Hogg

UK Cities Director Ask me a question
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