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Audit Office reveals government’s failure on Starter Homes


A new report from the National Audit Office (NAO) has revealed that ‘no Starter Homes have been built to date’ despite a pledge made in 2015 that 200,000 such homes would be delivered by 2020.

In April 2015, the Conservative Party manifesto committed to “200,000 Starter Homes, which will be sold at a 20% discount and will be built exclusively for first-time buyers under the age of 40.”

£2.3billion of funding had been allocated to support the delivery of the first 60,000 homes, yet the NAO discovered that  the funding ‘has instead been spent on acquiring and preparing brownfield sites for housing more generally, some of which is affordable housing’ and that the ‘Department no longer has a budget dedicated to the delivery of Starter Homes.’

The framework for Starter Homes was set out in the widely-criticised Housing and Planning Act 2016. At the time that the Act was introduced, Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs said that the Act ‘presents a real threat to Tower Hamlets as a community, not just to its social housing tenants.’

Social housing was the most common affordable housing tenure for new homes being provided until 2011/12, following which the policy of successive Conservative/Lib-Dem governments has greatly reduced the numbers of new social housing. New statistics out this week (20th November 2019) also reveal that the downward trend in new social housing continues.

New figures from the Greater London Authority (GLA) show that City Hall has been much more successful at delivering affordable homes, with the number of affordable homes started in London in the first six months of 2019/20 doubling compared with the same period last year.

Leader of Tower Hamlets Labour Group, Mayor John Biggs said: “These are shocking figures from the government’s spending watchdog which show that despite a manifesto pledge, none of the promised 200,000 Starter Homes have been delivered. Even worse, the Department responsible for the homes doesn’t even have a budget for it.

“This is further evidence of the government’s utter failure on housing, and vindicates our warnings that the Housing and Planning Act is a really damaging piece of legislation.”

Councillor Rachel Blake, the Labour Group’s Cabinet Member for Planning, Air Quality and Tackling Poverty, said: “The downward trend in new social housing is really disappointing and shows just how badly local councils have been hampered in their efforts to provide new homes. Here in Tower Hamlets we’re doing our bit to buck the trend and we’re well on our way to meeting our pledge to have 2,000 new council homes in delivery by 2022. Just last week we secured planning permission for new council homes, showing our commitment to providing new council homes for the homeless and people living in overcrowded housing.”