‘The figures on starts are terrifying’. What’s really happening to the Affordable Homes Programme

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The government has admitted that it will not hit its development targets. Joey Gardiner asks what’s really going on and looks at how the situation can turn around

“We do not believe there is any funding gap.” So said junior housing minister Baroness Scott last month, pressed by MPs on the housing select committee over the government’s troubled £11.5bn Affordable Housing Programme.

The social housing sector might take some convincing. Even if delivering fully, the government-funded programme, equivalent to around 30,000 homes a year, would produce just a fraction of the 145,000 new affordable homes assessed by researchers as necessary each year to meet need.

But the programme isn’t delivering fully. Housing associations are setting about a sharp contraction of development in the face of overwhelming economic, financial, and policy headwinds. It’s not a threat: The latest official data on affordable housebuilding show that grant funded starts of social rent, affordable rent and shared ownership properties collapsed by 60% year-on-year in England the first half of the 23/24 financial year.

The Baroness admitted that the affordable homes programme (AHP) – originally conceived to deliver up to 180,000 homes between 2021 and 2026 – will now deliver fewer homes than planned – but refused to say exactly how many. So, what is really about to happen to affordable housing delivery, and can anything be done to turn the situation around?

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