Housing strategy good value and right to target first time buyers, says communities minister

Communities minister Andrew Stunell has hit out at claims by shadow ministers that the coalition housing strategy, launched today, falls short of Labour’s housing record.

Today’s housing strategy includes an industry-funded mortgage guarantee scheme to enable 95% mortgages, a £400m programme to re-start stalled schemes and £50m to bring empty properties back in to use.

However, opposition figures have claimed that the strategy does little to repair damage done by the halving of affordable housing funding in the comprehensive Spending Review last autumn, from £8.3bn to £4.5bn, and the cancellation of Labour’s £1bn Kickstart programme.

Stunell told Building that the strategy included “new” money for the communities department, negotiated from the Treasury. He said: “Labour’s kickstart programme wasn’t effective or good value for money. What we’re proposing is very  low cost because much of the costs are being born by the industry and lenders, which is enabling us to roll this out on a much bigger scale.”

The government is promising to build 16,000 homes with the £400m Get Britain Building fund, compared to 22,050 homes delivered through Labour’s Kickstart scheme from £716m, before it was cancelled.

Stunell said: “I absolutely don’t accept that criticism from Labour. Labour’s programmes were vastly inflated and oversold, and in some cases not good value for money. We’re now building social and affordable homes for half the cost to the public sector because of the Affordable Rent regime.

“We’re on course to be the first government since 1979 to end our parliament with more social homes that we inherited.”

Of the announcement of the mortgage indemnity guarantee scheme, he said: “The absolute key is getting first time buyers and new buyers in to the market. Right now the loan to value ratios on mortgage is a chock stopping this market getting going. For the point of view of the housing market the priority is unlocking new build homes for new buyers.”