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The Big Issue responds to the 'broken promises' on starter homes

The National Audit Office found that the 2015 Conservative pledge to build 200,000 new starter homes with £2.3 billion funding has turned up nothing

Empty Homes

The failure to build starter homes despite “broken promises and empty pledges” is a sign of why we need to think about the impacts on future generations, says Big Issue Foundation CEO Stephen Robertson.

In the run up to the 2015 general election, the Conservatives pledged to build 200,000 new starter homes and set aside £2.3bn for the project.

The National Audit Office (NAO) dug into just how many homes had come from that investment and the results they released today were damning: not one has been built so far.

The Westminster watchdog found that the cash had since been spent on acquiring and preparing brownfield sites for housing generally, but only a portion of that has been used for affordable housing.

We need to act today to prevent the problems of tomorrow

Robertson, the CEO of our charitable arm, insisted that the findings show a need to move beyond “populist short-termism” to truly tackle the housing crisis and end homelessness.

Broken promises and empty pledges litter our political landscape,” he said. “The serious shortage of affordable homes and high rents are proven causes of homelessness. The Government’s 2015 manifesto commitment to build 200,000 ‘starter homes’ for first-time buyers under the age of 40, if enacted, would have been contributing now to a longer-term reduction in the number of people who do not have a meaningful place to call home. Instead zero of these new ‘starter homes’ have been delivered.

“It is time for politicians to break free from populist short-termism and follow the lead set out in John Bird’s ‘Future Generations Bill’; we need to act today to prevent the problems of tomorrow. And that starts with building the homes that are so desperately needed.”

It is conceded by the NAO that some developers may have built and sold homes that conform the starter home specifications – but legally they cannot be marketed as such because the legislation required to do so never came into force.

Even though the Housing and Planning Act (2016) received royal assent in May 2016, the secondary legislation has yet to come into force and had been pencilled in to do so this year.

But the regulations have not been introduced into parliament yet and, with the current parliamentary pre-election upheaval, there is little sign of it.

And, in fact, the government no longer has a budget dedicated to the delivery of starter homes, instead the funding earmarked for them was reallocated in the 2017 Autumn Budget, packed into the £9bn Shared Ownership and Affordable Homes programme.

There was a shift in targets, with MHCLG helping 200,000 households into home ownership through starter homes, shared ownership, Right to Buy and Help to Buy as opposed to just starter homes – with the policy effectively dead.

In that time, MHCLG spent £174m preparing sites for starter homes but did not build any homes.

Meanwhile, the UK remains trapped in a housing crisis with just 6,434 social rent homes delivered last year while 21,500 homes were lost through sales, conversions and demolitions, according to Shelter research released today.

News of the NAO’s investigation was slammed as a “total failure” by Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey while an MHCLG spokesperson responded by saying: “We are committed to building more homes and supporting people in home ownership”.

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