Homes England have announced a marked increase in new homes commencements in the last six months – however they have been criticised by Labour over the number of these homes that are for social rent.
Between 1 April and 30 September 2018, projects managed by Homes England saw construction start on 15,766 homes, and 15,704 completions, according to the latest official housing statistics – a rise of 15% and 31% from last year respectively.
Commenting on the figures Chief Executive of Homes England Nick Walkley said:
“These latest figures show the overall number of homes being built continues to rise, reflecting the hard work being carried out by the housing industry to build better homes faster.”
Whilst there has been a large increase in the number of affordable homes being started on Homes England sites, social rent housing accounted for just 493 of the affordable homes built across this period. This does however mark a 63% increase on last year’s figures for social rent homes.
Although the number of social rent homes being started has increased, Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey criticised the numbers, branding the total of 493 new homes for social rent as “shameful” when over a million households are on council waiting lists. The figures were released a few days after it was revealed that the construction of homes for social rent has dropped 80% in the last decade.
Mr Healey also reiterated Labour’s ambition to build a million new genuinely affordable homes over ten years, with the majority to be social rent.
While criticising Homes England’s record on the completion of social rent homes, Mr Healey found an unusual bedfellow in Housing Minister Kit Malthouse, who agreed that the current percentage of social rented homes being built was “not enough.”
Mr Malthouse was however quick to make the case that the Government’s decision to remove the Housing Revenue Account cap in the October Budget will “kick-start a new generation of council houses, in particular that are social rent.” Whether local authorities have the expertise required to make the most of their revived borrowing powers is, however, still very unclear.