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Government to miss 2020 housing target by five years, says watchdog

A National Audit Office report found the Government had no supporting evidence behind its target in 2016 and had made ‘limited improvement’ since.

Homes built on sold-off public land are too expensive, Labour warned
Homes built on sold-off public land are too expensive, Labour warned

The Government is likely to miss its 2020 housing target by at least five years, a watchdog has said.

A National Audit Office (NAO) report has found the sale of public land is not expected to have released enough space for even half the target number of homes.

Instead of 160,000 homes, the Government expects to be able to have space for just 65,000 – 41% of the target – and does not expect to reach the 160,000 target until after 2025.

If this Conservative Government can’t even get homes built on the land that it owns, then there is no hope that ministers can fix our country’s housing crisis. John Healey

Although the Government has so far failed to find enough land to build the promised homes, the report said, it will still meet a target to raise £5 billion through the sell-off of public land.

The NAO said the Government had “no supporting documentation or economic evidence” behind its housing target in 2016, and it still “has not published any information on new homes built”.

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Public Accounts Committee chairwoman Meg Hillier said the situation is unacceptable (PA)

Labour MP Meg Hillier, chairwoman of Westminster’s Public Accounts Committee, labelled the situation “unacceptable”.

She said: “Not only is its programme highly unlikely to meet its target by 2020, it is also unable to provide basic information about the number of affordable homes, and homes for key workers, being built.

“It is also unacceptable that the Government does not have a national picture of where the proceeds from the land sales have gone.

“The Government must get its act together if it is to deliver much needed new homes.”

Housing minister Kit Malthouse said: “The latest figures show us delivering 222,000 new homes, more than in all but one of the last 31 years.

“Government departments have identified enough surplus public sector land for 160,000 new homes and our development accelerator Homes England is providing expert assistance to get these properties built more quickly.”

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Shadow housing minister John Healey has criticised the Government’s housing policy (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Labour’s shadow housing secretary John Healey said there was “no hope” of fixing the housing crisis if the situation persisted.

“If this Conservative Government can’t even get homes built on the land that it owns, then there is no hope that ministers can fix our country’s housing crisis,” he said.

“The homes that are being built on former public sites are too few and too expensive, with housing built on former NHS land that nurses can’t afford to live in.

“Labour will ensure that public land is used for public benefit, setting up an English Sovereign Land Trust to spearhead our plan to build a million genuinely affordable homes.”

Local Government Association housing spokesman Councillor Martin Tett said it was “vital” to “build more of the right homes in the right places”.

He appealed to ministers to “empower councils to speed up developments and set planning fees locally” through the Spending Review in order to support house-building.

PA

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