There were some positives for housing in the Autumn Statement – but we can’t build the houses we need without the skills base to do it.
My immediate reaction to the chancellor’s speech was that this Autumn Statement could be very good news for construction.
It’s encouraging to see £2.3bn pledged to housebuilding in high-demand areas alongside a £1.4bn injection to aid the delivery of 40,000 affordable homes – while relaxing restrictions on the types of properties that can be built with these funds.
All positive actions that needed to be taken.
Periods of feast and famine
I hope that this Autumn Statement represents the dawn of a longer-term plan, regardless of who’s running the country, because what we don’t need is four years of feast followed by four of famine.
The construction industry needs to have certainty to be able to plan ahead and invest in its workforce, which means there will be challenges that arise in the detail.
“Housing is not driven by how quickly you can build homes, but by how fast you can secure infrastructure works”
We need to understand how delivery of new homes will be supported, so it would be great to have visibility of proposed housing projects early so that we can plan and mobilise.
It was great to hear the chancellor focusing on the importance of workforce productivity, and linking it to housing, transport and infrastructure.
It was also positive to learn of plans to invest in local housing infrastructure. This is important as housebuilding programmes are not driven by how quickly you can build homes, but by how fast you can secure utility works and other infrastructure work.
A crucial question going forward will be how to balance managing planning applications, roads and sewer adoptions for housing projects in local authorities, with the call on resource to support the spend on major infrastructure projects, such as improvements to roads and railways.
This could be our first bottleneck and will require the right skilled workers to push things through on time and within budgets.
There are lots of challenges that will have to be met head on and we need transparency in order to manage the process properly. But this was a very positive step.
Duncan Williams is regional director for housing at Seddon Construction