The Tories have delivered zero of the 200,000 starter homes they promised in 2015.
Official figures released today reveal the £2 billion project to build homes exclusively for first time buyers has resulted in precisely none actually being built.
The commitment was made in the party’s 2015 election manifesto, which said they would 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.
And it was backed up by £2.3 billion being made available to support the delivery of the first 60,000 homes in that year’s Spending Review.
But four years on, the National Audit Office (NAO) said that, to date, no starter homes have actually been built.
Successive Tory housing ministers have claimed work was set to commence on the first starter homes. And none of their claims have proven to be true.
In 2016, then-Housing Minister Brandon Lewis – now an immigration minister – said: “We announced a £2.3 billion funding package to support the delivery of up to 60,000 starter homes.
Of this funding £1.2 billion will – in the first instance – be made available to remediate or assemble brownfield land to deliver at least 30,000 starter homes through the Starter Homes Land Fund.”
No starter homes were built.
In 2017, then-Housing Minister Gavin Barwell – who was later Theresa May’s chief of staff and has now been installed in the House of Lords as Baron Barwell – claimed the first homes would be built “this year.”
He said: “Thousands of new homes backed with financial support will help more first time buyers into home ownership.
“They will be built exclusively for first-time buyers between 23 and 40 years old at a discount of at least 20% below market value. The first wave of 30 local authority partnerships – selected on the basis of their potential for early delivery – will spearhead schemes.”
No starter homes were 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.
But 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.”
She added: “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.”