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Government set to miss housebuilding target by almost a decade

The Independent logo The Independent 09/01/2021 Jon Stone
a large brick building with a clock on the side of a road © Provided by The Independent

The government is set to miss its housebuilding target by almost a decade after failing to invest in social housing, a new analysis has warned.

Boris Johnson has promised to increase housebuilding to 300,000 a year by the mid-2020s in a bid to tackle Britain's housing shortage.

But at the rate of increase achieved before the coronavirus lockdown, the government will not reach its target until 2032 – eight years later than planned.

And housing experts have warned that a slowdown caused by the pandemic is likely to push numbers even further off course.

"The government wasn't on track to meet its own targets even before the pandemic hit," said Polly Neate, chief executive of the charity Shelter.

"Now with a potential slump in construction as a result of Covid, the chances of getting the homes we need built are looking even slimmer.

"With over a million households on the social housing waiting list, and many more facing economic turmoil and homelessness this year, we desperately need to get building. We can't go back to business as usual with missed targets and pitiful numbers of social homes."

In the 2019-2020 financial year before the coronavirus lockdown, the government managed to oversee the construction of 6,190 more homes than the year before.

But at that rate of increase, from the baseline of 220,600 homes built in 2019-20, the government will take eight years to meet the target.


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This does not take into account further delays likely to be caused by the pandemic, which has seen high-profile construction projects facing delays and playing catch-up.

The Government’s irresponsible mismanagement of the Covid crisis will mean that housebuilding slows even further next year

Thangam Debbonaire, shadow housing secretary

Assessing the government's progress to the target last summer, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee said prospects for meeting the goal were not promising.

The influential committee of MPs said the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government did not have the mechanisms in place to achieve the target of 300,000 new homes.

Shelter's Ms Neate told The Independent that the only way to meet the target was for the government to invest in social housing so that the houses built would be genuinely affordable for people to live in.

The government has developed a "plan-led system" where local authorities draw up development plans, but has faced resistance from Tory backbenchers and councils, who are often resistant to new homes being built in their leafy areas.

Labour housing secretary Thangam Debbonaire, who commissioned the analysis, said: “This is yet more evidence of the Conservatives making promises they can’t deliver.

“The government’s irresponsible mismanagement of the Covid crisis will mean that housebuilding slows even further next year.

“Building more genuinely affordable, good quality houses will be key to our Covid recovery, but the government seems more keen on pursuing vanity projects than delivering on their promises.”

An MHCLG spokesperson said: “This analysis is crude and highly speculative, and ignores the government’s strong record on delivering houses across the country. We’ve delivered over 1.8 million new homes since 2010 – including 508,000 affordable homes – and over 243,000 additional homes last year, the most in over 30 years.  

“We are supporting local areas to enable the delivery of 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s and announced a £20 billion investment in housing as part of the spending review.”

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