Commenting on the announcement, Simon Rawlinson, Head of Strategic Research, said:
Today’s Budget is characterised by big investment in housing and open-ended commitment to underwrite public-sector pay settlements. Hammond’s announcement of a 35% boost to the National Productivity Investment Fund represents a welcome long-term bet on technology, economic regeneration and infrastructure for new homes.
The Chancellor acknowledged that solving the housing crisis is a complex problem and there is ‘no silver bullet’. However, £44 billion invested solely in housing would only deliver around 200,000 homes. This means the way in which this capital fund is leveraged to bring about investment and increase land availability is crucial.
The key opportunities that this funding should be used to unlock are:
- The regeneration of cities, using a focus on high-quality, high density homes
- Creating a stable platform for public and private developers to build rental homes, smoothing out the cycle of boom-and-bust
- Ensuring sites in our towns and cities are used to deliver the homes we need as quickly as possible
- Helping to create new skills and capacity – including investment in offsite – to the potential benefit of 120,000 new jobs in housing.
Aligning these with other initiatives, including the electric vehicle network and the smart cities agenda, will be crucial.
Other announcements including commitments to five new garden towns in areas of greatest need around the UK, along with the Oxfordshire housing deal, will provide an opportunity for the industry. The challenge is whether or not the industry now has the capacity to deliver.
We need to make sure that this £44bn investment in housing is aligned with wider efforts to promote anaemic UK productivity, making our nation more competitive internationally.
“A good and well-intentioned budget for the housing market that, if properly leveraged, will link housing, infrastructure and cities.”
James Knight, Head of Residential, said:
The additional £2.7 billion announced for the Housing Infrastructure fund, as well as £1.1 billion for strategic sites, is welcome. However the mechanisms and ability to utilise this money effectively and in a timely manner can prove a challenge. The government must focus on making this money implementable. The strategic review of the difference between planning permissions and starts needs to identify the delays caused through bureaucracy if it is to have any credibility and, more importantly, impact.
In summary, a good and well-intentioned budget for the housing market that, if it is properly leveraged, will link housing, infrastructure and cities. The industry needs to properly understand what the public want from their housing and concentrate on ensuring that we plan to build better quality homes, where people need them.
Louise Brooke-Smith, Head of Town Planning, added:
In terms of promoting the use of existing land and to reduce the pressure on the countryside and green belt, Councils will gain greater powers over the compulsory purchase of land which has been banked by developers for financial reasons. In addition, there will be a review of land which benefits from existing consent, in order to understand if and why there are delays with implementation. Oliver Letwin will chair the review, and a report will be issued by spring next year, in time for the financial statement.
“Quality connections will have a transformative effect on communities.”
Chris Pike, Director of Rail, said:
We welcome the additional £300 million available to improve connectivity between the Northern Powerhouse, Midlands Engine and HS2. Quality connections with our new high-speed rail network will have a transformative effect on communities. This, coupled with the £1.7bn Transforming Cities Fund specifically targeting cities in the Midlands and the North, including £1 billion of discounted lending for transport infrastructure and £30 million to improve digital connectivity on the Transpennine Route, will close the productivity gap over time.
Unlike previous budget announcements, investments in London transport infrastructure were almost completely absent. TfL funding and the financing of Crossrail 2 were referenced. but with no real commitments to address these challenges. However, there is potential that the 100 percent business rates retention could be re-purposed to tackle these issues in the longer term.
INVESTMENT AND DEVOLUTION
“This isn’t about the money - it’s about realising a clear direction of travel and delivering outcomes with impact.”
Simon Marks, City Executive for Birmingham, said:
Investment is crucial to the UK’s regional economy and devolution is one of the most important catalysts for growth. While we welcome additional funding and commitment, the key issue now is for the combined authority to deliver outcomes with impact - and to do that at pace, with confidence. The West Midlands is a thriving, growing and incredibly investable region, but one that needs investment in transport and housing to really realise its potential.
We need collective agreement with a regional investment and delivery plan that recognises the complimentary nature and characteristics of our individual towns and cities. From the housing crisis to challenges around employment land and labour shortages, we need a strategy in place whereby transport can act as the connector. Infrastructure will support and enable the delivery of housing, employment land and the movement of people, which will drive up GDP to the benefit of the region and the entire UK.
Digital connectivity is also important and embracing new technology will massively improve a city’s potential. From smart ticketing options to the impact of electric and autonomous vehicles, innovation funding is essential for the West Midlands to become a leader in technology and develop the infrastructure and policy to make this a reality. But this isn’t so much about the money. It’s about realising a clear direction of travel – which will come with the new Industrial Strategy – and recalibrating key areas of focus to realise the true economic potential of our regions.
THE TRANSFORMING CITIES FUND
“The UK needs to up its transport game – but it can’t be expenditure for expenditure’s sake.”
Peter Hogg, UK Cities Director, said:
The UK needs to up its transport game. Regional connectivity has to be key, but a truly effective transport system isn’t just about enabling mobility; it also needs to create major economic opportunity and improve the lives of those who rely on it every day. Central government, devolved administrations and city leaders all around the country are embarking on ambitious plans to upgrade our networks and redress decades of previous underinvestment, and we’re already seeing the impact of better integrated transport links thanks to initiatives such as the Northern Powerhouse. But the rest of the UK’s regional cities urgently need to catch up.
Improving connectivity, reducing congestion and introducing new technology can all massively improve a city’s potential, but it can’t be expenditure for its own sake; the improvements have to enable better housing, greater economic and environmental resilience and enhanced productivity for the city in question. The Transforming Cities Fund is a major step in the right direction, but the real question is going to be how this is going to feed into the launch of the Modern Industrial Strategy next week?