Osborne could have done more to help housing market, say builders

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The Chancellor could have done more to revitalise the housing market in his Autumn Statement, according to a national builders’ organisation.

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) said George Osborne had missed an opportunity to take extra measures beyond those already trailed ahead of yesterday’s speech, which reaffirmed a £400 million fund to kickstart stalled building projects.

Brian Berry, FMB director of external affairs, said: “The Government is in a very tight financial position but there are a number of measures that the Chancellor could have taken which would have had significant economic benefits for little, if any direct cost, by extending existing policies and delaying the introduction of others. In addition to making more credit available at reasonable rates, as they have already committed to doing, the Government should have extended the stamp duty holiday for first time buyers for property transactions under £250,000 which expires in April to help get the housing market moving again.

“It could also have reduced the burdens on SME (small and medium enterprise) house builders by providing a blanket exemption from the soon-to-be-implemented Community Infrastructure Levy which will add around £43,000 to the cost of a building a two-bedroom house in some parts of the country.

“The Government also missed an opportunity to delay implementation of its ‘zero carbon homes’ policy until the housing market has recovered sufficiently to support the extra costs.”

A spokesman for the House Builders Association applauded housebuilding playing a key role in the Government’s strategy. He added: “This is welcome, as are the proposed planning reforms and the extra investment in stalled sites, new building and infrastructure. However, with house prices unlikely to rise in the next few years, the Government must start to tackle existing and planned increases in regulatory costs.

“In next year’s Budget, the Chancellor must start to deliver on the Government’s pledges to reduce the regulatory burden on the housebuilding industry, not now just for the sake of the industry, but for the very survival of his own jobs and growth strategy.”

The £400m Get Britain Building funding pot aims to deliver up to 16,000 new homes on sites that already have planning permission, but have been shut down because of economic conditions.