Mixed response to budget

THERE was a mixed response from the construction industry to George Osborne’s final budget of this Parliament.

Dr Diana Montgomery, Chief Executive of the Construction Products Association, welcomed the Help to Buy ISA scheme. “This should stimulate home-buyers’ interest in the near and housebuilders’ confidence in the medium term – a tonic to the flattening demand we forecast for the private housing sector after the uncertainty of the General Election,” she explained.

Scotland’s homebuilding industry also welcomed the Help to Buy ISA to assist those saving for their first property. However, they warned that it would be of little use north of the border unless there is help to build homes in the first place.

Philip Hogg, Chief Executive of trade body Homes for Scotland, said, “The Chancellor has again delivered welcome support for home buyers with this new Help to Buy ISA but unless urgent action is taken by the Scottish Government to address the housing crisis here it could be of little use.

“Whilst there have been big jumps in the number of new homes started in England as a result of radical measures on planning and the introduction and subsequent extension of the Help to Buy shared equity scheme, the picture in Scotland is very different.

“Although the Scottish Government’s Help to Buy shared equity scheme has been an unqualified success and a major boost to the construction of much needed new homes, we face its effective end in just a few months as funding has not reflected need and demand, leaving Scotland’s buyers and builders with an uncertain future.

“As Westminster parties set ambitious targets to increase building ahead of the general election, Scotland lags behind.

“The Scottish Government must get to grips with Scotland’s housing crisis now and take the bold action which is necessary to ensure we have enough homes in the right locations to house our growing population.”

Steve Errington, Chief Executive of Story Homes, also welcomed the announcement that for every £200 saved as a deposit on a first-time home, the government will top it up with £50 more. He said, “Story Homes welcomes the Chancellor’s proposal to introduce a ‘help-to-buy’ ISA. This is good news for homeowners and housebuilders, it will boost confidence in the sector and lead to the construction of new properties.”

However, Steve Murphy, General Secretary of construction union UCATT, was less enthused. He added, “The proposed cuts of up to £30bn to public services and welfare will mean more pain to those that can least afford it. There is precious little to welcome for low paid workers and those in vulnerable employment.”

Andrew Carpenter, Chief Executive of the Structural Timber Association, said, “We fully support the identification of 20 brownfield site housing zones for investment in 45,000 houses, which is definitely needed to address the housing shortage.  I urge the Government to ensure these houses are built using modern methods of construction, such as timber, as the build would be efficient and the houses sustainable – important considerations in today’s climate.”