Stonewater's response to the Spring Statement

In response to today’s (23 March 2022) Spring Statement, Nicholas Harris, Chief Executive at leading housing provider Stonewater said:

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The cost-of-living crisis we currently face is creating a perfect storm of financial hardship with those least able to withstand its impact, affected most. Stonewater is committed to delivering more genuinely affordable social homes and decarbonisation is at the heart of this as part of our work to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to have an energy-efficient, warm and affordable place to call home. Today’s announcements in the Chancellor’s Spring Statement are welcome but fall short of what is needed to support many families who see the gap between their income and even the most basic of outgoings increasing at an alarming rate.

Supporting customers

Last year, Longleigh, our grant-making charitable foundation experienced a 96% year-on-year increase in the funding provided for its individual hardship grants. In response to an increase in the number requests for support from Stonewater customers who needed our help to make ends meet. As the cost-of-living crisis worsens, it seems that it will once again fall to understanding landlords and charitable organisations, to provide a much-needed safety net for many households.

Energy costs

The fuel duty cut of five pence per litre, as part of a package of measures to ease the cost-of-living crisis is welcomed. But, for many of our customers, especially those that live in rural communities, the soaring cost of petrol and diesel is yet another additional pressure on their already stretched finances. Access to regular and reliable public transport is not always available and those hit hardest by prices at the pumps are the least likely to be able to afford to own a newer, more fuel-efficient petrol or electric vehicle.

We know our reliance on carbon-based fuels for heating our homes and powering our vehicles is not sustainable in the face of the climate emergency.  Longer term, if we are to achieve the Government’s net zero targets, we need the infrastructure, government policy and funding to be in place to support organisations like Stonewater to meet the challenge. Including measures to encourage the reduction in the cost of electric vehicle ownership to support a reduction in our reliance on carbon-based fuels.

Investing in fuel efficient homes

The cut in VAT when investing in energy saving measures recognises the need for immediate action to make homes more fuel efficient. However, housing associations like Stonewater with well advanced plans to retrofit homes at scale need funding from government and clearer policy direction on sustainable energy solutions

Affordability

The Chancellor’s announcement that the National Insurance threshold will increase to £12,570 from July 2022, a tax cut of £330 a year for employees, will mean that 70% of working people will have their taxes cut by more than they will pay in the new Health and Social Care Levy.

However, with inflation today at 6.2%, price rises of basic food items at double digits, the current cost-of-living crisis is biting ever deeper. Although not expected today, we are disappointed not to see an announcement on funding for the provision of more affordable homes. Today’s latest housing  affordability statistics show that the gap between the cost of housing and incomes widens. We urge the Government to not lose sight of the shortage of good quality affordable homes and maintain a focus on the ongoing housing crisis.

Housing associations are uniquely placed providing homes and support to almost six million people around England, but we need to be able to do more. We need the Government to work more closely with the sector to ensure they have what we need and can share best practice on supporting customers through these difficult times.