EXCL Government likely to miss multi-million pound housebuilding target, minister admits

Posted On: 
9th March 2019

A multi-million pound government housing project that has failed to build a single home has not been “an enormous success,” a Tory minister has admitted.

Housing Minister Kit Malthouse
Credit: 
PA Images

Kit Malthouse all-but confirmed the pledge, originally made in the 2015 Conservative manifesto, to build 200,000 ‘Starter Homes’ by 2020 will not be met.

In an interview with PoliticsHome, he said the target “would be a challenge for me to hit,” adding: “As they say on Gavin and Stacey, I’m not going to lie to you.”

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In 2016 the Government announced a £1.2bn fund to build the homes that would be sold exclusively to first time buyers at a 20% discount on market value.

Last May it emerged ministers had spent £250m of the cash buying land, but were yet to build a single house through the scheme.

Asked this week how many had since been built, Housing Minister Mr Malthouse admitted: “At the moment, none.”

He added: “It’s a policy which has proven more difficult than we anticipated to get out of the door, but there is significant work going on to try to land it alongside some of the other effectively discounted sale products we are looking at.”

He went on: “We are working on Starter Homes to see where we can get to, but if you are trying to pin me on the fact that we haven’t had enormous success with this so far then you are right.”

PoliticsHome understands the already-purchased land is being used to build houses through other schemes.

Mr Malthouse said despite the failure on Starter Homes it would be wrong to be “pessimistic” about the Government hitting its target of building 300,000 houses a year.

“There is an urgent moral duty to get out there and build these houses,” he explained.

“And so while people are naturally pessimistic about these things, I’m not short of money, we’ve got a new planning system which is streamlined, we’ve got lots of land coming on, credit is cheap, demand is strong.”

He added: “If there were ever a time to build 300,000 houses now is it.”

But Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey told PoliticsHome: “The Conservatives promised a big new programme of Starter Homes for first-time buyers over four years ago, so it's an astonishing admission of failure that not a single one has yet been built.

"Labour would back first-time buyers, with new FirstBuy homes at a cost linked to a third of local incomes as part of a radical plan for a million low-cost homes to rent and buy."

BREXIT DELAY

Elsewhere, Mr Malthouse took a veiled swipe at Theresa May after she promised MPs a vote on delaying Brexit if her deal is rejected but they refuse a no-deal EU departure.

“It seemed to be not brilliant timing from a negotiation point of view,” he said of the announcement.

“It would strike me, as in any negotiation, fundamentally you have to keep all your options on the table. So I would have preferred to keep the element of no deal on the table.”

Mr Malthouse refused to be drawn on whether he would vote against an extension to the Article 50 Brexit negotiation process if the vote comes up next week.

But he warned: “An extension will have to have a purpose. If the purpose is we’ve inked a deal and we need an extension because we need to document it that would seem reasonable.”