Behind on housebuilding?

The starter homes aren't being built


Housing Minister announces new champion for modern housebuilding

  • Construction and real estate expert Mark Farmer appointed as Champion for Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) in housebuilding

  • New Champion will oversee delivery of minister's Advanced Construction Corridor in the North

  • Comes at a turning point for MMC just as the government launches biggest ever investment into an offsite manufacturer to boost production and the UK sets a world record for the tallest modular building

Housing Minister Esther McVey MP has announced a new Champion for Modern Methods of Construction as part of the government's drive to make the UK the global leader in housing standards.

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Has the government failed on housebuilding?

By Joe Harker

In 2014 the Conservatives pledged to build 200,000 starter homes in England by 2020 in an effort to help people get their first foot on the property ladder.

You would expect that the government would have made some progress on the policy even if the Tories are onto their third prime minister and are on course to have their third general election.

However, the National Audit Office has said not a single one of the starter homes has actually been built yet, so either a lot of homes are about to spring up from the ground or a significant goal will have been spectacularly missed.

The Claim:

It's been five years since they made the promise and four since they became the sole governing party of the UK.

In that time legislation to begin the housebuilding hasn't been implemented, so the policy never even got off the ground. The Tories were too busy with Brexit and internal conflicts to get on with it.

Labour accused the government of the policy being a "total failure", having spent almost £174 million on it without any homes actually built. That's a lot of money spent with nothing to show for it.

Toby Lloyd, former special adviser to Theresa May, said the policy had the "kernel of a good idea" but had a number of problems after they weren't thought through very well.

There was confusion from mortgage lenders over selling the houses at a 20 per cent discount. If they were all being sold at a knockdown price then wouldn't they just have the lower value instead? It also raised concerns that someone could buy the house with the discount then immediately sell it on for the actual price and pocket the difference.

He said the Housing White Paper in 2017 knocked the starter homes pledge down from a cornerstone of a new policy to part of a larger Tory agenda to boost home ownership, meaning it was put on the backburners while Brexit swallowed up all the government's efforts

The Counter Claim:

The government insisted they had a "great track record" for housebuilding, and have just appointed a Champion for Modern Housebuilding. Mark Farmer will oversee a "construction corridor" in the North of England.

Meanwhile, the government insisted they were good at housebuilding after 220,000 homes were built last year and 1.3 million were constructed since the Tories got back into government in 2010, with 430,000 of those classed as affordable houses.

The Tories want to be the party that gives Brits a better chance of home ownership but the UK is stuck in a housing crisis as millions are living in unaffordable or unstable housing.

There are always going to need to be more homes built, but supply is outstripped by demand and many are too expensive for most people to actually afford.

The Facts:

Starter homes were intended for people under the age of 40 and sold at a 20 per cent discount to give first time buyers an opportunity to get a home of their own.

The policy was supposed to lead to housebuilding across England as part of a wider plant to rejuvenate local areas in towns and villages.

Over £2 billion was set aside for the construction of the first 60,000 homes and the NAO says the government spent almost £174 million buying sites to build on. That's £174 million spent on a starter home policy with no starter homes to show for it.

The sites the government spent the money on are being used for housing, but general purpose housing rather than starter homes. Only some of the properties on this land are classed as "affordable homes".

The government now no longer has a budget dedicated to starter homes, so the policy appears to be dead in the water.

The National Housing Federation says around 8.4 million people in England are stuck in a housing crisis where they are living in an unaffordable, insecure or unsuitable home.

Around 3.6 million people are living in an overcrowded home, 2.5 million can't afford their rent or mortgage and a further 2.5 million are living in "hidden households" they can't afford to move on from.

Hidden households include adults living with their parents, house shares and people living with a former partner.

Meanwhile, 1.7 million people are living in houses classed as "unsuitable" and 1.4 million people are living in poor quality homes.

There are also around 400,000 people who are either homeless or at risk of homelessness, meaning they are either sleeping rough, using homeless shelters, in temporary accommodation or sofa surfing.

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None of pledged starter homes built, says watchdog

A government plan to create 200,000 new homes in England for first-time buyers has resulted in no homes being built, the National Audit Office has found.

Announced in 2014, "starter homes" were meant to be aimed at those under the age of 40 and sold at a 20% discount.

But legislation to take the project forward was never passed.

Labour called the policy a total failure, but the government said it had a "great track record" for house building.

Former prime minister David Cameron committed to the scheme in the 2015 Conservative Party manifesto as a way of tackling the affordable housing crisis.

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