Autumn Budget and Spending Review 2021 response

Nicholas Harris – Chief Executive

Stonewater Portraits 282

While it's good to see measures designed to mitigate some of the pressures caused by rising costs, we know it won't go far enough for many of those already at a tipping point. Nearly 8,500 of our residents receive Universal Credit, many of whom are in employment, the cut in the Universal Credit taper rate that will see working families keep 8p in the pound more of what they earn.  Whilst the rise in National Living Wage will go some way to easing the pressure on households struggling to make ends meet, as a Real Living Wage Employer, we know that this won’t address all of the financial challenges but every penny counts.

The increase will, for some, be partially negated by the rise in National Insurance contributions from April 2022 and we hear first-hand from many customers the impact of rising inflation and in particular soaring energy costs. It is vital for the government to continue to look at ways to increase earnings in real terms.

To provide immediate support to those in most need, our charity partner, Longleigh Foundation continues to offer grants that make a huge difference to people struggling with severe financial hardship. During this financial year, applications for grants from Stonewater customers increased by 100% and the amount of grants settled increased in value by 3000%, totally £400k for year ending September 2021.

Helping people rough sleeping or homeless

We welcome the £640m a year announced to help tackle rough sleeping or homeless in our communities. This continued certainty of funding allows housing providers such as Stonewater to deliver more projects, such as the recently awarded funding by West Midlands Combined Authority to seven providers across the West Midlands to provide 28 one-bed homes for rough sleepers. No one should be forced to sleep rough in a modern society and if we could address this during a pandemic we should be able to solve this problem every year.

Energy efficiency of existing homes

Stonewater is committed to improving the efficiency of homes and we are pursuing a carbon-neutral approach to new developments. We’re also leading the way with retrofitting and energy efficiency through projects such as the Oxford Energy Superhub and our work with Passivhaus.

Today’s announcement of R&D tax relief for green technology companies will hopefully accelerate the availability of more affordable ways to support the sector as a whole to decarbonise existing homes, and provide residents with warm, comfortable more affordable homes to heat.

Delivering more new affordable homes

The government’s continued commitment to delivering new affordable homes with today’s reiteration of £11.5bn for the Affordable Homes Programme (AHP) is vital.

Having worked in partnership with Guinness and Homes England over the past three years, we know first-hand how certainty of grant funding through AHP can support us with working towards our vision of everyone having a place to call home.

The funding allocated to Guinness and Stonewater will enable us to continue entering longer-term commitments to buy additional land and target areas of greatest housing need with £484m of funding to build 8,680 high-quality, affordable homes by 2029.

We’re pleased to see the government support the regeneration of brownfield sites that are often more costly to develop. Taking this approach will support housing providers to breathe new life into derelict sites, using available land in established communities, playing a key role in meeting local housing demand, whilst creating opportunities for local people.