While civil engineering contractors broadly welcomed the chancellor’s autumn statement, SME builders and the housebuilding sector appear less warm to the proposals.
FMB chief executive Brian Berry said: “The chancellor should have taken the opportunity to support the government’s own Green Deal energy-efficiency initiative by introducing more incentives, including a lower rate of VAT on housing repair, maintenance and improvement work to encourage homeowners to take advantage of the Green Deal . Local building companies are best placed for this type of work, but are reluctant to jump through the hoops involved without stronger market demand."
Mr Berry said: "The £5bn for capital investment is good news and clearly shows the government recognises the positive impact a growing construction sector has on the economy. However, the chancellor should have done more beyond the measures to support 120,000 new homes already announced. That is just half the number of new homes needed each year to meet current demand.
“Industry forecasts show public housing activity is likely to fall further between now and the next election in 2015. If the government cannot find additional funding for affordable housing it must redouble efforts to improve access to mortgages so the private housing market can help deliver a significant increase in the total number of new homes being built,” he added.
Mr Berry concluded: "Efforts by the government to bring forward new sites for development quickly by releasing public-sector land and investing in infrastructure are welcome, but too often these measures don't benefit smaller house builders. The funding to unlock stalled sites needs to be readily available for use on smaller scale developments, so that the thousands of small and medium-sized firms can boost the industry's production capacity."
These views were supported by Stephen Teagle, managing director affordable housing & regeneration at Linden Homes, who said: “To tackle the desperate shortage of housing across the country the government must act quickly to accelerate the release of publicly-owned brownfield land.
“It is encouraging to see the statement contains commitment to fund the accelerated release and de-risk public sector land. Hopefully this includes a commitment to resource the HCA to take centre stage in brokering land deals.
“Ultimately, this would allow the HCA to use its platform of existing development partners to shorten the procurement process and ensure land releases are quickly translated into housing supply; a far more efficient system than the traditional route taken by government departments.
“Local authorities are the biggest owners of public land and unlocking sites would create thousands of new homes, as well jobs across the construction sector – providing a significant boost to the wider economy right across the country.
“We would like to see a cross-departmental capital fund and a role for local economic partnerships created which is centred around growth, employment and housing and used directly to incentivise local authorities to release public land for development.
“Alongside these measures, we believe the government and industry must continue to work together to educate buyers about the many different affordable mortgage options available to not only first time buyers but those with little or no equity within their homes.
“Over the last 12 months we have worked with a range of high street lenders to bring a number of 85%, 90% and 95% deals to the market and we must continue to make people aware that owning a new home is more affordable than ever.”
Davis Langdon head of residential Ben de Waal commented: "Given the urgency for new housing there was a distinct absence of any measures capable of delivering the sort of transformational change that is needed to respond to growth in households. In addition, the chancellor overlooked the key role the residential sector can play in delivering economic growth."
Royal Institute of British Architects president Angela Brady said: "We do not believe the autumn statement goes far enough to tackle this housing crisis. The commitment to fund 120,000 [new homes] is welcome but significantly short of the mark; we need to be building 300,000 new homes a year to meet current demands and solve the housing shortage."