Kate Smith: Thoughts on the Spring Budget

7th March, 2024

Kate Smith, Connexus chief executive, shares her thoughts on yesterday's Spring Budget.

I’m an optimist by nature and so I was hoping that there would be more in yesterday’s Spring Budget focussing on affordable housing. There was sadly no mention of it during the Chancellor’s announcement, and the full published budget only points to funding for new housing projects in the north, first trailed in March, and new investment in the capital. 

As a rural housing provider, we were left disappointed. We urgently need more funding and support to be made available to help us to maintain and develop  affordable homes in our areas, which have suffered from a lack of investment historically in housing and critical infrastructure.

For younger people and families this often means it’s harder to stay living in the community where they grew up. But it isn’t just family ties that can be lost, it’s skills and productivity too which leads to less social cohesion. 

The Full Pitcher, Ledbury Portrait

Kate Smith visits an affordable housing scheme under development last month.

I understand the government’s aim with home ownership, and although it’s the dream of many to own their own home – it often isn’t the reality. We urgently need to recognise the importance of offering different affordable options which allow for home ownership if that’s what people choose to do. But we should be under no illusion that it’s becoming an increasingly difficult ask for many people. In rural areas, house prices can be more than ten times average wages. 

When it came to support for the most vulnerable, I was heartened to hear that the Household Support Fund, which provides local authority support for the most vulnerable would be extended. Though, I’m still concerned about the high cost of living and the impact this is having on our customers, and we’ll continue to work with our partners to support wherever we can. 

At Connexus we continue to do what we can when it comes to developing new affordable housing and improving the energy efficiency of our existing properties to make it cheaper for customers to run their homes. Our corporate plan will see at least 200 new homes built each year, and over £23.5 million invested in improvements including new kitchens, bathrooms, heating systems, windows, and doors.  

But we can do only do so much with the limited resources we have available. With a more coordinated approach at central and local government, harnessing the power of local partnerships with housing associations and private enterprise, we could and can do much more to help prevent decline in our rural communities. 

With an election on the horizon, it will be interesting to see how much emphasis the main parties put on tackling the housing crisis when manifestos are published later this year.