The number of affordable homes started by the UK government fell last year

There was around 1,500 less affordable housing starts in total even though there were more shovels in the ground overall

The number of affordable homes started by central government in the past 12 months has fallen by four per cent.

New housing agency Homes England made 42,652 housing starts in 2017-18 – up by four per cent on the previous year when shovels were in the ground on 40,940 housing starts.

But the number of housing starts that were classed as affordable fell by four per cent overall with 27,905 made compared to 29,130 last year.

Despite the decrease, the report, released today, found that 65 per cent of the total number of housing starts were for affordable homes. These broke down as 17,159 homes for affordable rent – down 22 per cent from the 22,113 started in 2016-17 – and a further 9,337 for intermediate affordable housing schemes, including Shared Ownership and Rent to Buy. This is up 54 per cent from the last year’s 6,067 starts in that sector. Social rent made up 1,409 of the affordable housing starts – a rise of 48 per cent on the 950 began the previous year.

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However, the number of social rent housing starts has fallen by 90 per cent since 2010 – when 28,859 homes were underway – and this has been the target of criticism from John Healey MP, Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary, following the release of the statistics.

“A year since Theresa May admitted that the Conservatives haven’t given enough attention to social housing, it’s clear ministers are still not building the homes the country needs,” he said.

“After eight years of failure on housing, the Conservatives should back Labour’s long-term plan for a million new genuinely affordable homes.”

It is a similar story for completed homes, with 33,471 delivered through Homes England last year, up from 31,057 12 months previously. But there was better news for completed affordable homes, which made up 77 per cent of the total. The government completed 25,841 homes, representing a 13 per cent rise on the 22,885 affordable homes delivered in 2016-17.

The figures do not count London for all programmes, unless they were administered by Homes England on behalf of the Greater London Authority over the same time period.

The completion stats are reported by MHCLG while Homes England is in charge of the Help to Buy scheme in the country.

The rises are part of the government’s pledge to build 300,000 homes every year by the mid-2020s but campaigners have identified the need to build the right kind of homes to meet demand.

However, Minister of State for Housing Dominic Raab insists the latest figures are encouraging.

“It’s good news to see affordable housing starts and completions rising,” he said.

“We are ambitious to do much more to build the homes Britain needs, and to make them more affordable for those on low and middle incomes.”

North of the border, Housing Minister Kevin Stewart MSP announced that the Scottish government would be building 1,000 more affordable homes after confirming £47.5m loan to regeneration group Places for People to build mid-market homes for rent across the country.

“This investment will support people on low and modest incomes to access high quality rented accommodation at affordable rates and is one of the many ways in which we are delivering on our target of 50,000 affordable homes by 2021, backed by over £3 billion,” he said.

“Affordable housing is about more than just bricks and mortar. We want everyone to have a safe, warm home and schemes like this will help to create a fairer Scotland, while delivering great economic benefits.”