No homes built under flagship 2015 Tory housing pledge, watchdog finds

Posted On: 
5th November 2019

Not a single house has been built as a result of a Conservatives pledge to create hundreds of thousands of new homes, the independent spending watchdog has found.

David Cameron launched the policy in 2014.
Credit: 
PA

The Tories' 2015 manifesto committed the party to building 200,000 'Starter Homes', to be sold at a 20% discount and exclusively available to first-time buyers under the age of 40.

David Cameron, the Prime Minister at the time, said it would give young people shut out of the housing market the chance to to access "decent, well-built, homes with gardens - places to start and raise a family".

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More than £2bn was allocated to the programme in the November 2015 spending review.

But a report by the National Audit Office found no evidence that any homes had been built under the programme - with the legislation needed to enforce the scheme yet to make it into law.

"No Starter Homes have been built to date," the NAO said. "The funding originally intended for Starter Homes has instead been spent on acquiring and preparing brownfield sites for housing more generally, some of which is affordable housing."

The Ministry of Housing meanwhile "no longer has a budget dedicated to the delivery of Starter Homes", the NAO found, with the department shifting focus in 2017 and instead drawing up a target "to help 200,000 households into home ownership through a range of government-backed schemes".

Instead, the money was reallocated to a wider programme to boost affordable housing and shared ownership schemes.

The watchdog said that while it was possible that developers have built and sold homes that conform to the Starter Home programme, they could not be sold under the discounted scheme because "the exact specifications" of the scheme are not yet defined.

The NAO added: "The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government... expected to introduce the secondary legislation and planning guidance required for Starter Homes in 2019 but it is yet to lay the regulations in Parliament. 

"Developers can, and do, market discounted properties as ‘starter homes’ as part of their contribution to affordable housing, but such properties do not necessarily conform to all the intended requirements of Starter Homes as defined in the Housing and Planning Act (2016)."

'MONEY RECYCLED'

Labour MP Meg Hillier, who chairs the cross-party Public Accounts Committee, 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 MHCLG needs to focus on delivery and not raise, and then dash, people's expectations."

The report was meanwhile seized on by the opposition, with Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey blasting "10 years of Conservative failure on housing".

He added: "The Conservatives’ flagship housing announcement for first-time buyers has been a total failure. It’s clear you can’t trust the Tories to do what they promise."

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing defended the Government's record, however.

They said: "We have a great track record and house building is 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."