THE CHANCELLOR, Philip Hammond has announced in his Spring Statement today that the government will guarantee up to £3 billion of borrowing by housing associations in England to support delivery of around 30,000 affordable homes through the Affordable Homes Guarantee Scheme.
He also announced that net gains for biodiversity will be mandated on new developments in England aiming to deliver an overall increase in biodiversity, and a Future Homes Standard will be implemented by 2025, with targets on carbon heating and energy efficiency.
Maintaining the target of building 300,000 new homes a year, the Spring Statement also pointed to the consultation on Infrastructure Finance, as well as continuing infrastructure development for up to 37,000 homes at sites including Old Oak Common in London, the Oxford-Cambridge Arc and Cheshire, Carlisle and the Borderlands area.
Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive at UKGBC, said: “We welcome the commitment to a Future Homes Standard by 2025 and new requirements for low carbon heat in new homes. It is vital that this is accompanied by truly world-leading energy efficiency standards, in line with the CCC’s recent recommendations.
“We also welcome the intention to mandate net gains for biodiversity on new developments in England in the upcoming Environment Bill. Our recent open letter to the Chancellor, signed by leading construction and property businesses, highlighted the importance of this issue and their call for legally binding environmental targets.
“Whilst the measures announced today are very welcome, there remains a pressing need for plans to address the shortcomings of our existing building stock. Today’s Call for Evidence on an SME energy efficiency scheme is a small step towards this, but Government must go much further and make the energy efficiency of all our existing building a national infrastructure priority. Only then will we stand a fighting chance of tackling climate change.”
Mark Dyason, managing director of development finance specialist, Thistle Finance, commented:“The housebuilding sector as a whole will have applauded the Spring Statement.
“The introduction of a new £3bn Affordable Homes Guarantee scheme will be music to the ears of developers, as the target of 30,000 additional affordable homes could further drive activity levels across the sector.
“That said, some might argue we need to be closer to hitting the Government’s current affordable housing targets before piling more pressure on the development market, which is already struggling to find enough skilled workers.
“Of course, even a Guarantee scheme may not be enough to convince some developers to change their investment decision in the current environment.”
Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: “Today the Chancellor claimed to support housing delivery but actions speak louder than words and the burdensome and poorly
thought-through biodiversity targets for developers will bring yet more costs and more delays for builders. Just as the environment for SME house builders starts to improve, these measures could end up stalling our progress. The Government wants to make developers, large and small, increase the biodiversity on their sites by a whopping 110 per cent and for an average site of 10 units, the additional cost could be in excess of £2,000. Needless to say, this would also create delays to projects by adding additional hurdles for builders to negotiate during the already bureaucratic planning process.”
Berry concluded: “Rather than hampering the building of new homes, if the Government wants to be ‘more green’, it should focus instead on retrofitting the more than 24 million homes that have already been built and which account for around one fifth of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. This will not only help reduce the UK’s carbon footprint but will also tackle the scourge of fuel poverty.”
Andrew Carpenter, Chief Executive of the Structural Timber Association (STA) said: “We welcome the introduction of the Future Homes Standard, but have to question why wait until 2025 and miss the opportunity to take these important steps now?
“Fortunately, we do not have to invent the solutions to develop energy efficient, low-carbon homes. We just need to make better use of what is already available. Structural timber technology is seriously reducing carbon emissions across our housing infrastructure and reducing energy bills for home owners and tenants. The ecological clock is ticking – we have no time to waste and would urge Philip Hammond to stop dithering and start delivering.”