Shelter says more than 300,000 homes with planning permission not yet built

More than 320,000 homes across the country exist on paper only, according to new research by housing and homelessness charity Shelter.

An analysis of government and industry statistics reveals that just 68% of homes in England with residential planning permission have been completed over the past five years. 

The calculation, which allows for a one year time lag between a home being given the go-ahead and the build being completed, reveals a shortfall of 324,315 homes.

Dubbed ‘phantom housing’ by campaigners, the problem is at its worst in London. 

Around one in two homes with permission in the capital have not been built – representing 106,968 properties that remain unbuilt.

The current housebuilding system encourages developers to hold onto land and deliberately drip feed new homes so as to keep prices high, according to Shelter.

It is calling on the government to take a tougher stance on developers and give councils powers to tax those who are not building quickly enough.

Anne Baxendale, head of communications, policy and campaigns at Shelter, said: “Housebuilders are trickling out a handful of poor quality homes at a snail’s pace.” 

She added: “Time and again we hear the ‘red tape’ of the planning system being blamed but the real problem is a system where developers make more profit sitting on land than they would by building homes.”

But the Home Builders Federation has hit back at the findings. 

In a statement, David O’Leary, the organisation’s policy director, said: “Many of these so called ‘Phantom Homes’ will be plots on sites where construction is underway but it obviously takes time to actually build out all the homes.”

He added: “Oversimplified and ideologically driven analysis distracts from the efforts of builders large and small, public and private to tackle the housing crisis.”

Planning permissions are an indication of the intention to build but the majority of land is not yet at a stage where construction can start, according to O’Leary.

A spokesperson for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “The government has been clear that we want to tackle barriers to stalled developments, so we are investing £2.3 billion to deliver the infrastructure needed to support new homes.”

He added: “We know the build out of sites remains slow, that’s why in our housing white paper we’ve set out a number measures to speed up delivery including a new housing delivery test to ensure new homes get built on time and give councils a range of tools to make this happen.”

Shadow housing minister John Healy rebutted the government’s position. “This latest research shows that even after seven years Tory Ministers are still failing to get a grip on the housing crisis, with one in three potential new homes not being built despite being given the go ahead,” he said.

“Housebuilding is still falling far short of what the country needs.”