LITTLE more than 1,200 new social homes were started across England last year, a fall of 12% on the previous 12 months, according to the latest statistics from Homes England.
Even so, the agency boasts of an increased delivery of “affordable” homes, with starts in 2018-19 at their highest for nine years and completions hitting a four-year high.
Between 1 April 2018 and 31 March 2019, 45,692 new houses were started on site under programmes managed by Homes England, while 40,289 houses were completed.
Of the homes started on site, 30,563 (67%) were for “affordable” homes. This represented a 10% increase on 2017-18.
Meanwhile, 28,710 (71%) of housing completions in 2018-19 were for “affordable” homes, an 11% increase on 2017-18 figures.
A total of 17,772 “affordable” homes started in 2018-19 were for Affordable Rent – a 4% increase on the previous year – and 11,560 were for schemes including shared ownership and rent to buy – a 24% increase on 2017-18.
However, the tenure generally regarded as the most genuinely affordable – social housing – declined 12% on the previous 12 months, with only 1,231 started on site in 2018-19.
When it comes to the “affordable” homes completed, the figures how that 18,895 were for Affordable Rent – representing a 4% decrease on the previous year, whereas the 8,854 completed under “affordable” housing schemes including shared ownership and rent to buy represent a 75% increase on 2017-18.
Meanwhile, 961 homes for social rent were completed in 2018-19, a 1% reduction on the 970 completed in 2017-18.
“At a time where the average house costs around eight times the average income, these are positive signs that the delivery of homes, and particularly affordable homes, is on the up,” said Nick Walkley, Homes England’s chief executive.
“However, there is still a huge amount of work to do to make sure this trend continues. We’re just getting started and need the sector to join us in our mission to make sure we continue to deliver homes across the country for the people who need them the most.”
The figures on social housing were met with an outraged response from Labour’s shadow housing secretary, John Healey MP.
“This is a disaster for the more than one million people on council waiting lists. The Government’s failure to tackle the housing crisis is now more obvious than ever,” he said.
“Deep cuts to investment mean the country is now building 30,000 fewer social rented homes each year than we were when Labour was in government. Households now have to pay higher rents, and as a result the housing benefit bill is higher too.
“After nine years of failure on housing, it’s clear the Conservatives have no plan to fix the housing crisis. They should back Labour’s long-term plan for a million new genuinely affordable homes, which will include the biggest council house building programme for nearly 40 years.”