First-time buyer homes failure: not a single ‘starter home’ started by government despite earmarking more than £2bn for project

The Government failed to deliver a single home under one of its flagship policies for first-time buyers, despite allocating more than £2 billion to the scheme. 

The Conservative Party manifesto of 2015 committed to building 200,000 homes in England each year to be sold at 20 per cent below market value to first-time buyers aged under 40.

The Spending Review of that year set aside £2.3 billion to support the delivery of the first 60,000 properties under the scheme.

But a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) found no starter homes had been built to date. 

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.”

Additional reporting by PA

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