The Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a series of ‘green’ housing initiatives including a new Green Homes Grant in an attempt to spur housing’s recovery from COVID-19.
Among the headline announcements in the Chancellor’s ‘A Plan for Jobs’ ‘mini-budget’ included a temporary stamp duty tax cut, the new £2 billion Green Homes Grant and a Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund to help social landlords improve the least energy-efficient social rented homes.
Sunak’s statement also confirmed the government’s £12.2 billion five-year Affordable Homes Scheme and new legislation geared towards ‘radical’ reform of the planning system.
Announcing the measures, Sunak said: “Our plan has a clear goal: to protect, support and create jobs.
“It will give businesses the confidence to retain and hire. To create jobs in every part of our country. To give young people a better start. To give people everywhere the opportunity of a fresh start.”
Homebuyers will welcome the stamp duty cut, which will see a temporary increase to the nil rate band of stamp duty from £125,000 to £500,000 until 31 March 2021 – effectively relieving stamp duty from the vast majority of homebuyers in England and Northern Ireland.
The government’s new £2 billion Green Homes Grant will enable homeowners and landlords to apply for vouchers to make their homes more energy efficient.
The scheme will cover up to two thirds of works to a maximum of £5000 per household, fully funding measures of up to £10,000 per household for homes on lower incomes.
The new Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund will start with a £50 million ‘demonstrator’ project this year, while the government will also extend its Home Building Fund for small- and medium-sized housebuilders.
Sunak also re-confirmed several measures the government outlined in its spring Budget, such as its £400 million Brownfield Housing Fund for mayoral combined authorities and its new Affordable Homes Programme, which will be spent over five years and will feature a 1,500 unit pilot of its First Homes scheme.
As expected, the government also outlined plans to reform the planning system to make it easier for commercial buildings to be brought into residential use. These plans will be outlined in a policy paper later this month.
The National Housing Federation (NHF) welcomed Sunak’s drive to make social housing more energy-efficient after it had previously called for a national retrofitting programme.
The housing association body said it hopes the government’s proposals are ‘just the beginning’ of a longer-term commitment to decarbonising social housing.
Rob Ford, head of policy at the NHF, said: “The sector was promised a £3.8 billion ten year retrofitting fund in the Conservative manifesto in December and it is only through investment of this scale that we can take on the climate crisis.
“Residential housing is responsible for around a fifth of all UK carbon emissions, so making homes energy efficient is key to meeting the UK’s legally binding target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.”