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House builders furious as government admits to building no starter homes

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  • 11/03/2019
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House builders furious as government admits to building no starter homes
The government has admitted it has built no starter homes in the past three years and will fail to reach its target in 2020 despite committing £1.2bn to the programme.

 

The revelation prompted the National Federation of Builders (NFB) to bemoan a lack of trust in the government and its house building strategy.

The Conservative Party made the promise to build 200,000 starter homes in its manifesto ahead of the 2015 general election.

Less than four years on, the government admitted that, not only would it fail to meet the target, but that it had built none of the promised properties.

In 2016, the government allocated £1.2bn to the ‘starter homes’ programme, which aimed to build 200,000 properties exclusively for first-time buyers at a 20 per cent discount on their market value.

A year later, it admitted its target of 200,000 was too ambitious and said it would let councils decide how many should be built in their areas.

“The number delivered will depend on what local authorities consider most appropriate to respond to housing need in their area,” said then housing minister Gavin Barwell.

Now Kit Malthouse, the current minister of state for housing, has come clean about the level of the government’s failure. Asked how many starter homes had been built since 2016, Malthouse said: “At the moment, none”.

The NFB said it was “not entirely surprised” at the failure of the starter homes programme. It said that, since its inception in 2015, it had asked ministers and civil servants how it could deliver homes under the starter homes scheme and received no response or support.

 

Lack of transparency

“Although we appreciate Malthouse’s clarification that the scheme is a failure and has built no homes in four years, the lack of transparency remains worrying and feeds into wider concerns that developers have with the government and local authorities, who do not appreciate how damaging lack of certainty is to SME house builders,” the trade body said.

The NFB said that the starter homes programme could have delivered planning certainty, as it would have added work to local pipelines. But Malthouse’s admission explained why developers were not sure how they could get involved with starter homes.

 

Poor level of trust

Richard Beresford, chief executive of the NFB, said: “This is bad news for the UK’s housing market and exposes the poor level of trust in relations between the Government and SME house builders.

“The government must rethink how it should work with the wider industry, and not just a few volume house builders. It must figure out whether it really wants to build affordable homes or just win plaudits for acknowledging the problem and appearing to try.”

Rico Wojtulewicz, head of housing and planning policy for the House Builders Association (HBA), said: “The government has let SMEs down by promising a scheme that we were best suited to deliver but never engaging with us to deliver it.

“As refreshing as Malthouse’s honesty is, it comes too late particularly as starter homes were included in the most recent revision to planning policy.

“House builders are doing everything in their power to fix the housing crisis. It would be great if the government shared our commitment.”

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