Within the statement, Hunt outlined a range of measures, including abolishing Class Two National Insurance and cutting the main rate of National Insurance from 12% to 10% from January onwards. He also announced plans to increase Universal Credit by 6.7%, as well as increase the Local Housing Allowance rate to the 30th percentile of local market rents.
He also said the approval system for planning applications for infrastructure projects and business “takes too long” and he assured of reforming the system to allow local authorities to recover the full costs of major business planning applications” in return for being required to meet guaranteed faster timelines.
The Autumn Statement and its contents drew a range of reactions:
David Cracklen, Director of AJC Group, said: “With the current challenges facing the housing industry, and especially the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) housebuilders, we would’ve hoped to have seen more support announced in the budget.
“The UK is experiencing an unprecedented housing crisis and shortage of affordable homes, with no, to very little support for first-time buyers. Changes to Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) would have potentially helped those in a position to buy, however for those who require affordable housing, which has significantly risen in recent years, this would not have the desired effect.
“What needs to happen is reforms to the planning system, in order to enable housebuilders across the board, and especially SMEs, to increase their output. The £32 million that the Government has pledged to speed up planning only applies to London, Cambridge, and Leeds, there needs to be support provided across the country.”
Fiona Fletcher-Smith, Chair of G15 and CEO at L&Q said: “The chancellor’s confirmation that benefits will be uprated in line with September’s inflation figure is very welcome. This will ensure more households are protected from the very worst of the financial pressures they are currently having to bear.
“We are also pleased that Local Housing Allowance (LHA) will be restored to the thirtieth percentile, as the G15 called for. Uplifting LHA rates to current levels will reduce the affordability gap and prevent immediate and avoidable hardship for private renters.
Notable in its absence from the Autumn Statement was any mention of additional measures to support the decarbonisation of Britain’s housing stock.”
Carol Matthews CBE, Chief Executive of Riverside, said: “We are experiencing the worst cost-of-living crisis for 40 years and the most challenging set of public finances since the aftermath of the Second World War. This has had a serious impact on households across the country – feeling the squeeze on their budgets for everyday costs.
“We welcome the Government’s move to unfreeze housing benefits. Maintaining the freeze on the housing allowance was driving more people into homelessness at a time when we have a record-high of 104,510 households living in temporary accommodation in England and councils collectively spending £1.7 billion on temporary accommodation in the past financial year to keep families off the streets.”
Paul Kissack, Chief Executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said: “Taking away the threat of an across the board cut to benefit rates offers some relief as we head into another difficult winter. The Chancellor has said he has taken difficult decisions to put the economy back on track but the decisions are still more difficult for many still struggling to afford the barest essentials.
“By finally ending the freeze on LHA so that it covers the bottom 30% of local rents the Chancellor has recognised how far behind actual market rents housing benefit has fallen. Too many families have been facing an impossible choice between keeping up with their rent and putting food on the table for far too long. However, refreezing after a year means it won’t move with rents going forward, meaning renters will start to face the same issue again from April 2025.”
Adam Scorer, chief executive of fuel poverty charity National Energy Action, says: “The gaps in this Autumn Statement are devastating, especially for the poorest households. While increasing benefits in line with inflation is welcome, it does nothing to directly reduce energy bills or to help millions of low-income households not on benefits. An ‘average household’ is now paying £800 more per year to heat and power their homes since the start of the energy crisis.
“Energy debt is at record levels. Yet, today’s Autumn Statement does nothing to help. It fails millions of the poorest households who suffer, and sadly – in too many cases – die, because of cold and unsafe homes.
Gavin Smart, Chartered Institute of Housing chief executive commented: “We are delighted to see the government listening to the concerns of CIH and the wider sector and announcing the uprating of the Local Housing Allowance.
“This measure alone won’t solve the housing and homelessness crisis. But in the face of rising rents, ever increasing numbers of families living in temporary accommodation, and the lack of social housing, restoring the link to the 30th percentile and the commitment to uprate benefits by the September inflation figure will make a big difference to those struggling the most.”
Helen Moore, Group Director of Orbit Homes added: “The government has not gone far enough to unlock homebuilding in this country, despite the housing crisis. The funding on nutrient neutrality mitigation measures tackles only a third of the homes stuck due to this issue and will inevitably take time to be implemented.
“The party conference commitments to reform planning and invest in planning teams disappointingly only apply to infrastructure projects not new homes. This leaves us with a planning system that remains slow and under resourced, with obstacles such as nutrient neutrality still holding up the delivery of the new homes our country so desperately needs.”