It is heartening that the Chancellor is ranking housebuilding high on a national scale, even if some of this is imprecise and difficult to quantify. The key issue is the execution of such schemes. BSRIA understands that a blueprint for 400,000 new homes has been unveiled.
First-time buyers aged under 40 are to be offered a 20 per cent discount on new homes to help them onto the housing ladder. And a string of new measures to bolster the ability of private developers to construct affordable houses will be at the centre of a ‘bold plan’ to back families who aspire to buy their own home.
BSRIA is encouraged that Ministers are to change planning rules to release land specifically for developing starter homes. And developers are to be offered cash from the government to construct starter homes and regenerate ‘brownfield’ land. The Chancellor has pledged 135,000 new ‘shared ownership’ homes where buyers will be able to buy an initial stake in a new property and increase their share over time if they can afford to do so. This equates to £4bn being pumped into the scheme to provide properties for households earning less than £80,000 (or £90,000 in London).
BSRIA welcomes the announcement by Treasury officials that the package represents ‘the largest programme of affordable housebuilding by a government since at least 1979 and the biggest ever programme of government building of homes for sale. Now all he has to do is deliver it.
Today’s announcement could lead to thousands of new jobs and apprenticeships being created in the sector but we must, therefore, ensure that industry can indeed find the much-needed qualified and experienced construction employees to meet this demand. We must not let a labour shortage in this field impede progress.
On the apprenticeship levy:
A new apprentice levy of 0.5 per cent will be introduced for employers by 2020 which will raise £3bn a year to fund three million apprenticeships. However, for construction and building services, the priority must be delivering high quality apprenticeships, viewed positively by employers. And although we finally have clarity over the threshold of the apprenticeship levy, it will trouble corporate businesses who will have to pay what is, in essence, a payroll tax. It is important that the delivery of the levy doesn’t dent other types of vocational training, which could be better suited to some businesses in the industry. Otherwise this is simply another example of ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ on behalf of business that will not have the desired result.”
On further education:
BSRIA is reassured that the Chancellor will safeguard adult skills funding for FE colleges. Now he needs to invest in Further Education as a whole. A strong further education sector, which meets the industry’s needs, is vital to boost productivity and ensure firms get access to the skilled staff they need for the future, especially in the STEM subjects. Let this government not be the one to let down another generation of ambitious youngsters.”
*BSRIA is a non-profit distributing, member-based association, providing specialist services in construction and building services. More information at www.bsria.co.uk