Autumn Budget 2018: what does this mean for architects?
The Chancellor Phillip Hammond delivered his Autumn Budget in the House of Commons on Monday 29 October. In our response, Ben Derbyshire set out the RIBA’s views on a budget that while well received, has left a number of questions unanswered. In particular, we remain concerned that the budget does not deliver the certainty needed for businesses in the event of a no-deal Brexit. This issue aside, there are a number of welcome announcements for housing and the architecture profession.
A focus on housing – and more money
The Chancellor confirmed that, the government would lift the cap on the amount of money local authorities in England can borrow to build housing – the Treasury’s estimate is that we will see an extra £4.6 billion investment between now and 2024. The RIBA and others have consistently called for the housing borrowing cap to be lifted and are pleased that the Government has now listened and acted on this.
In a speech at the Stirling Prize last month, the Secretary of State for Housing James Brokenshire hailed architects as the “guardians of quality” in the built environment. The government’s decision to lift the HRA borrowing cap provides the profession and clients with opportunities to continue to demonstrate this and deliver high quality, well-designed, affordable homes.
The Budget also contained further funding announcements for housing:
- Housing Infrastructure Fund: £291 million funding will go towards 18,000 new homes in East London through improvements to the Docklands Light Railway.
- Housing Associations: The government will provide £653 million to 2021-22 for strategic partnerships with nine housing associations to deliver over 13,000 homes.
- Home Building Fund: £75 million will be allocated to St Modwen plc, to fund infrastructure to build over 13,000 new homes.
- Five-year strategic plan for Homes England: the plan demonstrates long-term priorities towards incorporating design quality assessments across Homes England programmes, a strategy that the RIBA has been calling for and will look at working closer with Homes England on.
High Street Rejuvenation, Building Upward & The Letwin Review
With growing signs of a real crisis brewing on the high streets, we are starting to see action from the government. £675 million funding was announced for high streets to improve transport links, re-develop empty shops in to homes or offices and restore and re-use old and historic properties. Also announced was the launch of the government’s consultation on new permitted development rights to allow upwards extensions above commercial and residential properties. The RIBA has previously expressed strong reservations about the impact of increasing the use of permitted development due to the lack of oversight. We will be working hard to press home the message that while the policies themselves are welcome, a repeat of the wave of poor quality homes delivered through the permitted development of office to residential housing needs to be avoided at all costs.
Sir Oliver Letwin’s review of build out was recognised by the Chancellor in the Budget and provides recommendations towards reforming the housing market. The Letwin Review positively references the RIBA’s newly published report ‘Ten characteristics of places where people want to live’. The RIBA report endorses Sir Oliver Letwin’s approach towards increasing quality and supply through better placemaking and sets out the necessary conditions which must be in place at a local level to achieve high quality design.
And finally, the impact of the budget on business
General announcements in the budget include a rise of the tax-free Personal Allowance to £12,500, and a rise of the Higher Rate Threshold to £50,000 as of April 2019. In addition, growing concern about the impacts of Business Rates was recognised through the decrease of Business Rates for smaller retailers. We expect further action over the coming months.
Although the announcements present opportunity for the profession, the uncertainty surrounding the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit is significantly concerning. The RIBA has recently published guidance for practices on a no deal Brexit.