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Flagship government housing plan fails to deliver a single home in three years

Exclusive: Officials admit it is still an ‘ambition’ to deliver any of the 200,000 homes promised under David Cameron's Starter Homes initiative

Joe Watts,Benjamin Kentish
Tuesday 21 November 2017 10:59 GMT
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Flagship government housing plan fails to deliver a single home in three years

A flagship government programme to deliver 200,000 discounted new homes to first-time buyers is yet to see a single one built.

The 2014 Starter Home initiative was touted as part of “a major push” to help people on the housing ladder, but officials admit delivering any properties under the scheme remains an “ambition”.

It promised to achieve its target by pushing councils and developers to bring forward unused land and build on old industrial sites, measures that Chancellor Philip Hammond will again pledge to carry out as he makes housing a key plank of his Budget on Wednesday.

Budget 2017: All you need to know

The Starter Home initiative’s lack of concrete progress also comes as Labour claimed Conservative spending plans since 2010 have stripped some £20bn out of UK housebuilding projects, robbing the country of an extra 280,000 homes.

It was just before Christmas three years ago that David Cameron announced the Starter Home project, promising to build 100,000 properties and offer them to young people at a 20 per cent discount.

At the Autumn Statement in 2015, then-Chancellor George Osborne said a £2.3bn fund would help boost the number to 200,000, “in addition to those delivered through reform of the planning system”.

None have been built despite officials in 2014 saying work would begin on the homes the following year.

A spokeswoman from the Department for Communities and Local Government said Starter Homes are a part of an “ambition” to build more.

She said: “Since 2010 we’ve delivered over 1.1 million new properties, and Starter Homes form an important part of our ambition to go further, as we set out in our Housing White Paper.

“We’ve consulted on a minimum 10 per cent of affordable properties for major sites and other planning reforms to deliver starter homes.”

In 2014 The Starter Home project promised “innovative changes to the planning system” to “allow housebuilders to develop under-used or unviable brownfield land and free them from planning costs”.

But three years later the ongoing housing crisis is thought to be part of the reason young people flocked to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour at the election – leading Mr Hammond to make a fresh push on the issue in his Budget on Wednesday.

He will promise to launch an inquiry into the still unresolved issues around developers land-banking and councils blocking development, to push councils to bring forward unused land, to pay to clean up old industrial sites for development, to build new roads to unlock land for housing and to guarantee bank loans to small housebuilders.

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Labour’s shadow housing minister John Healey highlighted data suggesting the number of homeowners under 45 has fallen by 904,000 since 2010 and the number of low-cost homes to buy has halved.

He said his party’s plans to offer “first-dibs” on new homes for local people, a new generation of discounted FirstBuy Homes, and a cut in stamp duty on a first home were the answer.

Mr Healey added: “If hot air built homes, Conservatives ministers would have fixed our housing crisis.

“Three years after they pledged a big new programme of Starter Homes for first-time buyers, not a single one has been built.

John Healey criticised ‘hot air’ from Conservatives on housing (Getty)

“Young Brits looking for a first home will take more talk of housing from Tory ministers with a big pinch of salt.”

Figures out on Thursday show the number of new homes in England has risen by 15 per cent in 2016/17, to more than 217,000.

But Labour claimed on Tuesday that if the Conservatives had not cut spending on housebuilding since 2010, there would have been an extra £20bn in the system for development equating to an extra 280,000 in the past seven years.

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Grants to local councils and housing associations to invest in new homes has been cut from £4.1bn in 2010 to £764m last year, a fall of 81 per cent.

Mr Healey said the data showed that housing investment has been “cut to the bone”.

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