Audit office says rate of housebuilding must increase 100% to hit 2016 target of 160,000

The rate at which homes are built in the Thames Gateway must double if the government’s targets are to be met, according to a report on the regeneration area by the National Audit Office (NAO).

The study by the parliamentary watchdog says the build rate needs to increase by 100%, to about 12,500 homes a year, to hit the target of 160,000 homes built between 2001 and 2016. Fewer than 6,000 homes were built in 2005-06, compared with 4,500 in 1995-96. About 23,500 were built between 2001 and 2005.

However, David Corner, director of regions, regeneration and renewal at the audit office, said the government had stopped accurately counting the number of homes being built.

In the report, The Thames Gateway: Laying the Foundations, the NAO criticises the communities department for having no cost strategy. It says the main constraint to development is the reluctance to commit to infrastructure projects. It makes eight recommendations, including developing a marketing strategy to encourage investors, and calls for more private finance through innovative funding mechanisms.

The government took action on two of the recommendations while the report was being written. These were:

  • Establishing a cross-government board of senior officials in March
  • Creating an overall plan to co-ordinate projects and report on progress. This is expected to be published in November.

Judith Armitt, the chief executive of Thames Gateway, said: ”We will publish an overall delivery plan to ensure the provision of 160,000 homes and 180,000 jobs by 2016.”

Edward Leigh, chair of the House of Commons’ public accounts committee, said: “This ambitious vision is looking more and more like an expensive daydream.”