Philip Hammond to focus on UK housing market in budget

In the run-up to the next government budget there has been much speculation and comments regarding the UK housing market. Despite the fact that details of the highly confidential budget should not be released prior to the day, the Conservative party is already talking about its contents. Again, we have promises of a significant increase in the number of new properties built in the UK. Apparently, Philip Hammond will announce plans to build 300,000 homes a year in the UK. Have we not been here before?

No magic bullet

It is all good and well politicians and governments of the day acknowledging the fact that the UK housing market is under supplied. Everybody appreciates these sky high targets but talk is cheap and only action gets results. Apparently, according to government figures, there were an additional 217,350 dwellings delivered in England during 2016. This will surprise many but only on budget day will we hear details of the small print and what the term “dwellings” actually refers to. The suggestion that 217,350 new houses were built in England in 2016 would seem ambitious by any stretch of the imagination.

Planning permission

It was interesting to hear Philip Hammond talking about sites which already have planning permission and the government’s ambition to speed up the actual building of new homes. He suggested he would use the “powers of the state” to speed up the process but it is not clear how he might go about this. The government has also committed to cleaning up so-called “brownfield sites” and then granting planning permission for new homes. There is even talk that the government will in some shape or form guarantee bank loans to smaller developers thereby potentially reducing the control the larger companies have over the sector.

While politicians are talking the talk, there is no firm commitment as yet about the amount of money the government will invest. There had been speculation of a £50 billion investment apparently demanded by the Communities Secretary Sajid Javid but so far no confirmation. There also appears to be serious in fighting within the Cabinet as different departments demand more money.

Time for action

Those who follow the UK government’s policy on housing, across all parties, will know that politicians talk the talk but very rarely walk the walk. We can only hope that Philip Hammond is able to deliver on his promises although significantly increasing the number of new properties in the UK at a time when the market is struggling may backfire. The 217,350 “additional dwellings” figure has also confused many people but no doubt the fine print will clarify the situation. Does this include social housing? Does it include HMOs?

It would be rather ironic if the UK government was to finally deliver on its promise to increase the number of newbuilds in the UK. You could argue this is perhaps the worst timing possible when you bear in mind Brexit, the recent interest rate rise and a softening UK housing market. Simply repeating promises time and time again does nothing for the actual issue. Now is the time for action, less chat and more building.

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