Chancellor’s promises on housing get mixed reaction in East Anglia

New council houses are being built at Widgeon Close, but not enough to please borough leader David E

New council houses are being built at Widgeon Close, but not enough to please borough leader David Ellesmere. Picture: IPSWICH COUNCIL - Credit: Archant

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond put housing at the heart of his Budget speech on Wednesday – but his proposals divided local politicians along party lines.

South Suffolk Conservative MP James Cartlidge welcomed the help for first-time buyers and the abolition of stamp duty on starter homes.

But Labour politicians in Ipswich, the town’s MP Sandy Martin and council leader David Ellesmere, said the lack of support for council homes meant little was likely to happen for most people looking at their first home.

Stamp duty is to be abolished for first-time buyers on properties up to £300,000. The cut will come into force immediately, Mr Hammond said, as he set out plans to build 300,000 extra new homes a year by the mid 2020s.

He said: “This is our plan to deliver on the pledge we have made to the next generation that the dream of home ownership will become a reality in this country once again.”

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Over the next five years Mr Hammond pledged a total of at least £44 billion of capital funding, loans and guarantees to support the housing market.

He said that councils in some “high demand areas” would be able to have the limit the government places on new local authority homes lifted.

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But Mr Martin said: “The Chancellor’s plans were more of the same really. They do not really make a great difference to the situation – and won’t really help young people.

“Removing stamp duty will only put up the price of homes – making them even more unaffordable for many people.”

And Mr Ellesmere said: “I doubt whether Ipswich will be in one of the areas where the ceiling (on council house building) is lifted. We’d like to be able to build many more homes for the people who need them, but it doesn’t look as if that is going to happen.”

But Mr Cartlidge said the abolition of the stamp duty, combined with the support for infrastructure, would help to get new developments built.

And he welcomed proposals to force developers to build out once they had obtained planning permission: “One of the major constraints on the housing market is the number of development projects that have planning permission but where builders are not going ahead. There will now be a commission to investigate that practice.”

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