UK government fails to build any of the 200,000 homes it promised four years ago

Ben Gartside
Reporter
Britain's housing secretary Robert Jenrick leaves 10 Downing Street in London. Photo: Henry Nicholls/Reuters

The National Audit Office has condemned the government’s failure on so-called “starter homes”, which were promised in 2015.

As part of the Conservative manifesto under David Cameron, the party committed to “200,000 starter homes, to be sold at a 20% discount and built exclusively for first-time buyers under the age of 40”. The party promise made into the 2015 Spending Review when £2.3bn was given to build 60,000 “starter homes”.

In May 2018, the government announced that £250m had been spent on the “Starter homes land fund”, later clarifying that that this spending had been over two projects, and that building was yet to start.

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According to the NAO investigation, no starter homes have yet been built, and even if the government has used the sites to build housing, the properties cannot yet be marketed as starter homes as the legislation is yet to be enacted. Despite the bill receiving Royal Assent in 2016, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, is yet to lay the secondary legislation that would allow the law to be brought into force.

During this period, the department no longer has a specialised budget for starter homes. The 2017 Autumn budget saw funding reallocated to the £9bn Shared Ownership and Affordable Homes programme and the Land Assembly Fund (LAF), and a policy change away from starter homes to a target to help 200,000 households into home ownership through a range of government-backed schemes, including starter homes, shared ownership, right to buy and help to buy products.

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Despite the lack of result from the policy, a significant amount of money was spent. Between 2015-16 and 2017-18, the housing ministry spent almost £174m preparing sites originally intended for building starter homes.

The ministry also spent £151m under the Starter Homes Land Fund (SHLF), but the spending has not supported the building of starter homes either.

John Healey, Labour’s shadow housing secretary, said: “The Conservatives’ flagship housing announcement for first-time buyers has been a total failure. It’s clear you can’t trust the Tories to do what they promise.

“Conservative ministers pledged in 2015 to build 200,000 cut-price homes for first-time buyers, but the National Audit Office confirms they haven’t built a single one, despite wasting four years and spending millions of pounds.

“After nearly 10 years of Conservative failure on housing, the country needs a Labour government to fix the housing crisis.”