BARRATT HOLMES, our housing correspondent, reports on a manifesto commitment which the government’s Nimby housing minister now says won’t be kept
Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell, in his role as the housing minister, has confirmed that the Tory government has already broken one of its manifesto pledges from 2015, with not a single one of the 200,000 “starter homes” promised by the Conservatives two years ago having been built, and with the commitment quickly proving to be another empty promise.
In the brief time that he has been a minister in unelected Prime Minister Theresa May’s government, Barwell has already presided over a delayed and underwhelming housing White Paper, “Fixing Our Broken Housing Market”, which even senior officials in his own Department for Communities and Local Government are publicly admitting won’t fix anything.
And now, according to a report in the latest Private Eye, Barwell is the Nimby presiding over the housing portfolio when owner-occupation has fallen to 62.9 per cent, the lowest since 1985, and the proportion of more recent home-owners (those buying with a mortgage) has fallen below 30 per cent for the first time since 1981 – so much for the Thatcherite wet dream of a “home-owning democracy”.
The promise to provide the 200,000 starter homes for first-time buyers under the age of 40 was repeated no fewer than five times in the Conservatives’ 2015 election manifesto. Barwell’s Tories said that they would “build 200,000 new Starter Homes – 20 per cent below the market price, for first time buyers under 40”.
They also said that they would: “Build more homes that people can afford, including 200,000 new Starter Homes exclusively for first-time buyers under 40.”
The manifesto clearly states the 200,000 figure is just for starter homes, and promised a further 275,000 additional affordable homes by 2020 on top of that figure.
It went on to say that the 200,000 figure was a “clear objective” and was at the “heart” of the party’s housing plan.
So it might be true after all: Tories are heart-less.
Because this week Barwell started back-pedalling faster than a Tour de France peloton after sighting the approaching drug testers when he said that the discounted starter homes will only make up “part” of the 200,000 figure.
In a written answer to a parliamentary question from Labour’s Shadow Housing Minister John Healey, Barwell said: “Starter homes will form an important part of our programmes to help over 200,000 people become home owners by the end of the Parliament.
“The number delivered will depend on what local authorities consider most appropriate to respond to housing need in their area.”
Healey told the Daily Mirror, “In their 2015 manifesto the Conservatives made a clear commitment to build 200,000 ‘starter homes’ for first-time buyers by 2020, but two years on not a single one has been built, and now the housing minister has confirmed to me that the pledge has been dropped.”
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