The Chancellor announced guarantees of £1 billion to SME house builders, plus funding for more than 650,000 new homes in the 2018 Budget announcement.

Presenting the Autumn Budget to the Houses of Parliament, Phillip Hammond said that £1 billion of British business bank guarantees would be awarded to help small and medium enterprises build houses, he would also provide funds for up to 500 neighbourhoods to allocate land for housing and sell the homes to local people at a discounted price.

Hammond promised £500 million to the Housing Infrastructure Fund, which is used by local councils to fund house building. He estimated that this would help build 650,000 new homes. He also confirmed that the cap on councils’ ability to borrow money to build council houses would be scrapped.

He allocated £653 million to partnerships with nine different housing associations with a view to build 13,000 new homes in England.

Hammond confirmed that smaller firms that train apprentices would have their contribution to the apprenticeship levy halved from 10% to 5%. The government will pay the remaining 95%.

He also announced a £1.5 billion boost to the UK’s struggling high streets, with £675 million going towards helping councils transform their retail zones.

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders, called the announcements “positive steps to address the housing crisis”.

He said that repurposing the empty spaces above shops could create 300,000 – 400,000 new homes.

He said: “Retail will always be an important element of vibrant high streets, but there is plenty we can do on a small scale to help convert unused and under-used space in to attractive residential units.

“This will both boost the supply of new homes and help breathe new life back into our high streets.

“What we must avoid is perfectly good space lying empty and achieving nothing in terms of boosting the local economy or housing individuals.”

Berry also said that he was “pleased” by the SME housebuilding funding, because “many small-scale house builders continue to experience real difficulty in accessing the finance they need to build homes, and it is often the smallest scale builders that experience the greatest problems”.

He said: “This new funding will help to speed up the delivery of homes and lead to a more diverse and resilient housing supply.”