November 5, 2019 12:01:00 AM
The Government has failed to deliver any of its promised tens of thousands of new “starter homes” despite setting aside more than £2 billion for the project, the Whitehall spending watchdog has said.
The Conservative Party’s 2015 manifesto committed to building 200,000 homes in England to be sold exclusively to first-time buyers under the age of 40, in a bid to help young people take their first step on the property ladder.
Although the Spending Review of that year set aside £2.3 billion to support the delivery of the first 60,000 properties under the scheme, the National Audit Office (NAO) said that, to date, no starter homes have actually been built.
While the Housing and Planning Act 2016 created the statutory framework for the project to go ahead, the NAO said the relevant sections of the legislation has yet to come into force.
However, it said the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) now no longer has a budget dedicated to the starter homes project.
Funding which had been earmarked for the scheme has instead been spent on acquiring and preparing brownfield sites for housing more generally – some of which was “affordable” housing.
Between 2015-16 and 2017-18, the MHCLG and its agencies spent £174 million preparing land originally intended for starter homes.
The NAO said that, while it was “possible” developers had built and sold some properties which met the starter home criteria, legally they could not be marketed as such until the MHCLG had put place the necessary secondary legislation.
The chairwoman of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, Meg Hillier, said: “Despite setting aside over £2 billion 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.”
Shadow housing secretary John Healey said: “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.”