Stonewater Budget response

Nicholas Harris

Key points:
- ‘Coronavirus is rightly a priority, but essential housing work must continue’
- Stonewater has a plan in place to keep customers, colleagues and contractors safe
- Key that £12.2bn Affordable Homes Programme spending supports a range of affordable homes
- ‘Affordable housing is a vital part of national infrastructure that can help level-up the economy’
- Increased Living Wage and welfare support access good news for our customers

Responding to today’s Budget statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nicholas Harris, Chief Executive of Stonewater, said:

“Tackling coronavirus is rightly a national priority and this is reflected in today’s Budget statement. At Stonewater, the wellbeing and safety of all customers, colleagues and contractors is our first priority. We are monitoring the situation with coronavirus extremely closely and following all advice issued by the authorities.

“But our essential work as housing providers must continue. Boilers still need to be serviced, homes still need to be built, support services still need to be provided. To ensure we continue delivering for our customers, we have identified four key areas and agreed our attitude to risk in each area: Customers, Colleagues, Contractors and Finance.”

Nicholas added: “On 2 March, our board signed-off our coronavirus policy, based on these four areas. Our teams are fully aware of the specific steps they need to take to keep themselves and customers safe, minimising the chances of spreading coronavirus. We are continuing to do the best job we can under difficult and challenging circumstances.”

Commenting on the £12.2bn announcement of AHP spending from 2021, Nicholas said:

“This government was elected on a platform to ‘level-up and spread opportunity across the UK’. We see affordable housing as a vital part of national infrastructure and are very pleased to hear the chancellor agrees in his Budget statement today.

“The £12.2bn AHP from 2021 looks like an increase on the current £9bn programme so that is particularly welcome and something we will be keen to bid on once we see the details.

“As a developing housing association with a footprint across England, we are already playing our part in helping level-up the housing market. We are pushing ourselves to build 1,500 affordable homes every year by 2022/3 and stand ready to work with the government do even more to tackle the housing crisis.”

Nicholas continued: “A key point will be ensuring a range of affordable housing tenures are funded to meet our customers’ needs – this includes affordable rented housing. We look forward to further detail of the increased investment in affordable housing and the upcoming publication of the 30-year National Infrastructure Strategy. We will use this as a springboard to do even more for communities in the North and Midlands, as well as elsewhere in the country.”

On the impact of the Budget on Stonewater customers, Nicholas said:

“The announcement of welfare support in the Budget for customers affected by coronavirus is welcome. As is the increase in the Living Wage to £10.50 an hour by 2024, and the increased national Insurance threshold. This will help many of our customers.”

On £650m rough sleeping funding, Nicholas said:

“The announcement of extra investment to prevent rough sleeping, takes the total to £650m, following other recent announcements. This should provide accommodation for 6,000 rough sleepers and support services for a total 11,000 each year. As a leading provider of housing support services, Stonewater wholeheartedly welcomes this investment.”

On the contribution the housing sector can make to hitting the net zero-carbon target by 2025, Nicholas said:

“The chancellor has rightly recognised the opportunity for the nation’s homes to lead the way in helping cut UK carbon emissions to net zero by 2050. Stonewater stands ready to support the response to the global climate emergency and work with the government to hit the 2050 target.

“We are challenging ourselves to deliver for our customers on new and existing homes. As a key part of this, we are developing a plan to make our new and existing housing stock net zero-carbon. This will be a significant undertaking, but we recognise it is the right thing to do. We are willing to make investment in our homes; however, we will need the support of the government to provide additional funding and help to stimulate the supply chain to support things such as whole-house retrofitting.”

Nicholas added: “In decarbonising heat within our existing homes, we need to be mindful that the solutions we adopt to replace gas central heating are not counterproductive in our attempts to prevent our customers experiencing fuel poverty.”