Many unanswered questions from the Autumn Statement

There are some welcome announcements from the Chancellor – but also many unanswered questions that will be troubling local authorities and those responsible for social care.

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Philip Hammond has rightly connected the negative impact of the lack of affordable housing with a need to invest in the country’s infrastructure.

There will be disappointment nothing was said about social care which impacts on authorities across the country – and whether or not the debt cap which is preventing councils developing more affordable housing through the housing revenue account (‘HRA’) will be raised.

A new £2.3 billion fund to deliver infrastructure for up to 100,000 new homes in areas of high demand, and £1.4 billion to deliver 40,000 additional affordable homes must be welcomed – together with an acknowledgement this funding may be used to support the delivery of a wider range of housing types.

But access to these funds will be critical – and the government needs to make sure that obtaining grant is not blocked by an overload of applications (which is likely) and that the grant available is directed to the most needed regions rather than those which are most expedient.

The good news for the regions is there will also be a £3.15bn of affordable homes investment for to London to deliver 90,000 homes.

There are further question marks over the plan to fund the extended right-to-buy from the sale of high value homes – which may not be introduced in 2017 if there’s going to be a further pilot for Housing Associations.

The emphasis on ownership has also been diluted by an acknowledgement that there needs to be a wider range of housing types with funding for all tenures – which points to the emphasis on Starter Homes being reduced.

This is a good starting point but it is not enough. We will have to wait for the Housing White Paper to see if further more structural reforms are going to be introduced – such as planning reform – which will be needed to enable local authorities and other stakeholders to raise the money they need to address the housing crisis.

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