A missed golden opportunity for housing

The chief executive of Leeds-based housing association Unity Homes and Enterprise has expressed his disappointment that Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak did not include renewed investment in genuinely affordable homes in the Government’s package of economic measures announced today.

Sunak who delivered a Summer Economic Update at lunchtime, pledged to support the housing industry by removing stamp duty on properties up to the value of £500,000 in order to counter the “uncertainty [which] abounds in the market.”

He added that the country needs the housing market to “be thriving” as it will “drive growth, that will create jobs.”

However Ali Akbor OBE who heads up Unity Homes and Enterprise said:

“The Chancellor had the chance to place a new house-building programme at the heart of the Government’s pandemic recovery plan, but he failed to take it.

“The housing association sector has never been shy in calling on successive Governments to tackle the national housing crisis by building the many genuinely affordable homes the country needs.

“Given his desire to keep people in work and create more jobs in the wake of the economic damage inflicted by Covid-19, the timing was never more appropriate than now.

It was a golden opportunity that the Chancellor has wasted.”

However, in other areas of the industry the changes to stamp duty were welcomed, not least by home builders.

James Thomson the CEO of affordable housing developer Gleeson Homes said:

“Today’s stamp duty cut will make a huge impact on a property market which was at risk of grinding to a halt. Now, more people can move and spend, while contributing to the UK’s post-Coronavirus economic recovery.”

Gemma Smith, managing director of Strata Homes said: “Today’s announcement to increase the stamp duty threshold to £500,000 is a very welcome intervention and will no doubt really help to boost the housing market and the economy.”

Tim Beale, chief executive officer at Doncaster-based Keepmoat Homes commented: “I was pleased to see home building acknowledged by the Chancellor today as major contributor to the UK economy and one of the most important sectors for job creation. I welcome his commitment to stimulating confidence in the sector by announcing that there will be no stamp duty payable on properties up to the value of £500,000 in England until 31 March 2021.”

However, Thomson cautioned that the Chancellor’s announcement was not a silver bullet in addressing the challenge of home ownership. Adding: “Today’s announcement falls short of addressing the concerns of thousands of aspiring home owners, who are due to lose out on their Help to Buy homes because of Coronavirus related setbacks to construction, and the impending deadline on the policy.

“The majority of our customers are hardworking young first-time buyers and keyworkers who are keen to put down roots and have a stake in their local community, but some of them are at risk of losing out through no fault of their own.

“It’s important that we continue to help more people realise the dream of home ownership throughout this crisis, and we urge the Government to review extending the scheme, to ensure that hard working customers who are already in the process of buying are not disadvantaged.”