Residential development was at the heart of the Chancellor’s pragmatic approach to building a ‘country that works for everyone’, in an Autumn Statement that sought to stabilise the post-referendum housing market.

Paul High Orbit

With the Chancellor echoing the commitment of both the Prime Minister and Communities Secretary Sajid Javid to help more people into home ownership, developing housing associations, like Orbit, have a clear mandate to play a key role in delivering the Government’s target of one million homes by 2020.

In an extremely positive move by the Treasury, housing has been placed firmly as a cornerstone of the country’s infrastructure to provide much-needed homes for those ‘just about managing’ families. The Chancellor’s drive for productivity through targeted and sustained investment signals a step change in how we can further develop skills and infrastructure needed to tackle the housing crisis. House building is central to stimulating inward investment, with every affordable home built in the UK generating an additional £106,000 into the economy and creating 2.2 FTE jobs.

Reinstated commitment to housing

The Government’s funding announcements see a reinstated commitment to providing a greater range of products that, along with shared ownership and rent to buy, will support people in their transition from renting to homeownership. An additional £1.4bn announced in the Autumn Statement will help the development of a further 40,000 homes which, subject to further detail in the forthcoming Housing White Paper, are expected to include a rent to buy model of homeownership.

This greater flexibility of tenure is a welcomed move as we strive to provide homes to meet customers’ needs and aspirations.

As the second largest developing housing association, Orbit built more than 1,750 new homes in 2015-16. This included selling 332 shared ownership homes, which is over 85% more than the year before, and we expect to see the numbers double again next year. With house prices continuing to outstrip wages in many parts of the country, we are seeing a growing demand for shared ownership homes. In October alone we received more than 3,000 enquiries about shared ownership homes, resulting in 465 applications in one month.

Housing associations have a key role to play in filling the gap between increased demand and supply, especially at a time when many PLC builders are reaching build capacity. We must now step up to the challenge of providing the much-needed homes this country needs.

While we await further detail in the Housing White Paper, the Autumn Statement provides encouraging announcements that government has a clear agenda to address the housing shortage. With this comes a new opportunity for the housing sector to maximise this traction by continuing to work together to deliver our shared ambitions. 

Paul High, executive director of property investment, Orbit