No new starter homes have been built in England since 2014 - despite government promises

Tuesday, 5th November 2019, 12:13 pm
Updated Tuesday, 5th November 2019, 12:16 pm

A government promise to build 200,000 homes in England for first time buyers has resulted in no houses being built, a National Audit Office has found.

The ‘starter homes’ scheme was announced in 2014 by the Conservative government and was supposed to offer homes at a 20 per cent discount to those under 40.

Former Prime Minister David Cameron committed to the scheme in his party manifesto in 2015, however the legislature was never passed.

Labour called the scheme, which was supposed to help tackle the affordable housing crisis and regenerate local areas, a complete failure.

£2 billion set aside for project

According to the National Audit Office (NAO), £2bn was set aside by the government for the first batch of 60,000 new houses across the country. The homes were supposed to have been built by the end of the decade.

And between 2015-16 and 2016-17, the NAO says that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) spent almost £174 million on buying and preparing land for the new builds.

However, the spending watchdog has revealed that a number of sites in places such as Plymouth, Bury, Stockport, Basildon, Cinderford and Bristol have now been developed for more general housing, much of which is not affordable.

Legislation never put through parliament

The scheme failed because the necessary guidance plans and legislation was never put through parliament, despite the then-Government’s promises.

This means that even if new homes are built to the planned starter home specifications, they cannot be marketed as starter homes as the scheme never came into existence.

Furthermore, the NAO has said that the government no longer has any budget set aside for the starter homes project.

The chairwoman of the Commons public accounts committee, Meg Hillier, said, "Despite setting aside over £2bn to build 60,000 new starter homes, none were built.

"Since 2010 many housing programmes announced with much fanfare have fallen away, with money then recycled into the next announcement.

"The department needs to focus on delivery and not raise, and then dash, people's expectations."

‘Committed to building more homes’

An MHCLG spokesperson said, "We are committed to building more homes and supporting people into home ownership.

"We have a great track record with house building at its highest level for all but one of the last thirty years - with 222,000 homes delivered last year, and 1.3 million in total since 2010, including over 430,000 affordable homes.

"The number of first time buyers is currently at an 11-year annual high, and over 560,000 households have been helped into home ownership through government schemes like Help to Buy and Right to Buy."