Government gives green light for thousands of new starter homes

This year will see the first starter homes being built on brownfield sites across the country, housing minister Gavin Barwell confirmed today in the government’s second major housing announcement in a week, following their earlier unveiling of garden village sites.  

The government hopes that thousands of new homes backed with financial support will help more first time buyers into home ownership. The homes will be built exclusively for first-time buyers between 23 and 40 years old at a discount of at least 20% below market value.

The first wave of 30 local authority partnerships – selected on the basis of their potential for early delivery – will spearhead schemes. The partnerships have been established under the government’s £1.2bn Starter Homes Land Fund which supports the development of starter homes on sites across England.

It is hoped that the new developments will also support the wider growth and regeneration of local areas, including some town centre sites. The first places will begin construction later this year along with sites supported by the Homes and Communities Agency.

Housing minister Gavin Barwell said: “This government is committed to building starter homes to help young first time buyers get on the housing ladder. This first wave of partnerships shows the strong local interest to build thousands of starter homes on hundreds of brownfield sites in the coming years. One in three councils has expressed an interest to work with us so far.”

The Starter Homes Land Fund was set up to prepare suitable land for quality starter home developments which can be built on by developers or through accelerated construction by 2020. Each local authority partnership will work closely with the Homes and Communities Agency to identify and take forward further land opportunities for the fund.

Questions have been raised about the feasibility of the starter homes plan. Speaking to the BBC’s Today programme, Christine Whitehead, emeritus professor in housing economics at the London School of Economics, said: “The timescale is much too short, it's not that easy to build on land that quickly, and we are anyway short on skills". 

John Healey, Labour's shadow housing secretary, said: “These so-called starter homes are a symbol of the Conservative record on housing. Ministers launched them in 2014 but will only start to build the first in 2017, promised they'd be affordable for young people when they'll cost up to £450,000, and pledged to build 200,000 by 2020 but no-one now believes that's possible.”

In addition, the Homes and Communities Agency has also issued a call seeking expressions of interest from local authorities who are interested in using their land to deliver homes at pace through the £1.7bn accelerated construction recently announced. According to the Department for Communities and Local Government, this will see up to 15,000 homes started on surplus public sector land during the life of the current parliament. 

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